By Chuck Klosterman on June 13, 2003
Whether he's embodying the Antichrist, morphing into an asexual alien drug advocate, or merely dressing like a dandyish goth vampire, Marilyn Manson never stops keeping it unreal. His own existence is his most singularly creative outlet: More than any other mainstream artist, Manson tries to live life as art itself--he sees no division between the characters he creates for entertainment and the lifestyle that is supposed to come with them; when Manson tells kids he likes to eat drugs and consort with freaks, he feels a social obligation to do exactly as he says. His persona is a fabrication he lives for real. It's been a rough few years for Mr. Manson. Ever since his music was blamed for the 1999 Columbine school shootings, he has struggled with commercial failure (2000's Holy Wood album sold poorly) and personal complexity (he endured a public breakup with actress Rose McGowan and the departure of longtime musical collaborator Twiggy Ramirez). But one thing about Manson has not changed--he's still really, really funny. Whether he's talking about his new album, The Golden Age of Grotesque, explaining what it's like to have sex with conjoined twins, or theorizing about smoking his own penis for hallucinogenic purposes, Manson continues to be--if nothing else--the least-boring rock star on the planet.
Is The Golden Age of Grotesque still moving your aesthetic toward nihilism, or are you moving away from that concept?
This record spits in the face of nihilism. I feel like I've already directed and confronted my ideas against the outside world, and I think closing that chapter and trying to look at things in a different way is what I'm doing now. This album is meant to be about relationships, some of which are personal and some of which deal with the relationship between chaos and order. I took a lot of influences from Berlin and decadence and censorship and fascism and Dada. It's antiauthoritarian in a simpler sense.
Is the song "(s)AINT" about Rose McGowan? Everyone will certainly make that assumption.
[Laughs] Some people will definitely assume that, yes. I think there are pieces and shards of a lot of relationships in that song. It's really more about me. I will no longer define myself by other people's views of perfection. There have been a lot of people in my life; she doesn't deserve all the credit. And that song isn't exclusively about women, either. It's also about men I've come into contact with.
Why did Twiggy Ramirez leave the band? Did he quit, or was he fired?
I made a very clear statement in the press that his departure was my decision. It was something I had to do for the benefit of everyone involved. His level of interest in Marilyn Manson [the band] was not the same as ours, and I don't know why. He felt he had to choose between his personal life and Marilyn Manson, and I pointed out that Marilyn Manson should be his personal life. It was amicable, but we don't see each other anymore.
What is this "grotesque burlesque" thing you're doing in Los Angeles? Is it basically a freak show?
That's something I want to do in as many places as possible. We're going to display collaborative work I've done with artist Gottfried Helnwein--large multimedia images. There is my painting. There are giant absinthe glasses with women inside them and conjoined twins and black elephants. Whatever I can find, really. And then there's the music. I'm trying to leave people with a piece of my brain.
You mention absinthe--is it safe to say that The Golden Age of Grotesque is the first "absinthe-fueled" album of the modern era?
Well, it's not the first record I've made while drinking absinthe, but this album does embrace the release of imagination that absinthe taps into. Listen to the title track: That song was completely written and recorded in 12 hours, on one bottle of absinthe. That song sounds like absinthe.
Would you say your life is less sleazy than it was five years ago?
Well, I just finished watching a film I made of myself having a threesome with conjoined twins, so I would say no.
Was it real sex, or was it staged?
I don't know what "staged" means. When you have sex with anybody, it's staged, isn't it? You're worried what they're thinking; they're worried what you're thinking. But I had to worry what two people were thinking. And I had to film it.
At what point do things move from "dirty" to "sleazy"?
It's when you start to feel ashamed of yourself. Shame feels sleazy to me. Now, dirty is okay--but not in a Christina Aguilera sense. That's not what I'm referring to. For the past three years, I've been involved in a relationship where there are no limits to the fantasy world that takes place in my home. And I'm not ashamed of any of it, and I'll share it with anyone. Sleazy things are things you do when no one is looking. But some of that sleaze builds your character.
What is something the average person might classify as "sleazy" that you would classify as "character building"?
When I made this album, I created a song called "Para-noir," and it has a lot of different women's voices on it. I had an open audition, and I told the girls to say whatever they imagined might be a reason for fucking me over. And the people who didn't know who I was--whether they were prostitutes or just nameless individuals--they were not really aware of what I was doing. I wanted to see what their moral boundaries were, so I got them to do things that were somewhat sleazy. That whole experience made me feel like I had to take a bath, even though I didn't touch any of them.
So if you define sleazy things as things that make you feel ashamed, what did you convince these women to do that was shameful? What was the most extreme thing someone did?
None of it was that surprising, except one girl lit her breasts on fire.
Who's the sleaziest rock star you've ever partied with?
If Courtney Love was still a rock star, I'd say her. She had razor bumps on her bikini line, and that almost made me vomit. She was always bruised and dirty, and at least in the beginning, there was a lot of charm to it. To her credit, she probably wears that crown really proudly. I don't dislike her.
Didn't you and Trent Reznor live a deeply decadent lifestyle during the making of Antichrist Superstar, or was that exaggerated?
It was decadent. I think he felt unable to deal with it, and it crumbled our relationship. I would go to bed at 7 p.m., wake up at 4 a.m., and then begin drinking and doing drugs. The funniest point--which is something I just watched a videotape of--was a day when I wore only a blond wig, a Burger King crown, and a paper-towel tube around my penis. I walked around like that in broad daylight. To me, that's true rock'n'roll, and I'm not afraid to go there again.
Who were sleazier in 1972: the Rolling Stones or Led Zeppelin?
I gotta say the Rolling Stones, because I don't really like Led Zeppelin. There are parts of my house that were used in the filming of [the never-released Stones movie] Cocksucker Blues. Anytime you name your film Cocksucker Blues, you win.
Who was sleazier: Dr. Hook or GG Allin?
Dr. Hook. The people in that band are depraved freaks. And what's great about them is not just that they have all those songs about doing drugs and wanting to be on the cover of Rolling Stone and having sex with teenage groupies; what's great about Dr. Hook is that I asked one of the guys from that band to perform at my birthday party, and he refused because he believed in God and he thought I was evil. But then he asked how much I would be willing to pay him! He wanted $450, and I was only offering $400.
Who were sleazier: Duran Duran or Def Leppard?
Duran Duran, because they confused a lot of young boys into thinking they were gay.
Who were sleazier: Black Sabbath at their craziest, or Marilyn Manson at their craziest?
I gotta give it up to Ozzy. I was with him on New Year's Eve, and I don't think I can outdo him. Ozzy has snorted ants. I once snorted Sea-Monkeys. What's the barometer on that? I have no idea.
In your autobiography [The Long Hard Road Out of Hell], you talk about smoking human bone. How does one acquire powdered human bones for the purpose of getting high?
Go to New Orleans. When it rains down there, you can find bones in the poorer cemeteries. We broke into one of the cemeteries and dug up some bones, and we carried them around in a shopping bag for quite a while. And when we toured through L.A., we were staying at the Sunset Marquis hotel. I saw some Hollywood types that I didn't like then, and I still don't like now, and I convinced them to smoke the human-bone chips I put in their pot pipe. It made a terrible smell, and I was greatly amused. I took a little puff of it myself. It's not good for you--I got a terrible headache. But why not try? If someone ever asked me, "Why smoke human bones?" I would quite easily respond by saying, "Why not smoke human bones?"
What would be harder for you: to never be able to have sex again or to never be able to consume drugs, alcohol, and red meat for the rest of your life?
I'd shoot myself.
That's not an acceptable answer. There's no death option. You have to pick.
[Long pause] I suppose I'd cut off my dick and smoke it. That's the only thing I could do. Get the ultimate high and then bleed to death.
You have a song on this album titled "Slutgarden." What's in a slutgarden?
Well, what do you think is in a slutgarden?
Well, besides the sluts.
Let me put it this way--what would you find in a normal garden?
Oh, I don't know--carrots, potatoes, maybe flowers....
Flowers. Yes. Flowers. And dirt. And a gardener. So there you go.