Marilyn Manson has been no stranger to controversy in his 15-year career. He's been blamed for the deaths in the 1999 Columbine High School shootings. He was banned in Utah for ripping up The Bible onstage. More recently, he took the heat when a Louisiana teen pointed a gun at his teacher's head, telling her to say the words "Hail Marilyn Manson" before a failed suicide attempt.
He's often made to play the supervillain, a role that he's accepted and embraced over the years. But ironically, Manson's most successful and memorable work came out before anyone pulled guns out in his name or anyone besides the fans and conservative churchgoers paid much attention to him.
He recently reunited with his former partner in crime Twiggy Ramirez, who co-wrote several of his biggest hits to date, including The Beautiful People and The Dope Show. Although it might be a stretch for most to call this a match made in heaven, the chemistry the two share musically is undeniable on their latest effort The High End Of Low.
We caught up with Manson as he prepared to headline this year's Rockstar Energy Mayhem tour in Phoenix Friday, July 17.
What's the biggest difference between the Marilyn Manson who wrote 1994's Portrait Of An American Family and the guy who wrote this year's The High End Of Low?
"I could have taken all my experiences and they could have made me jaded or cynical, but I think I still appreciate the idea that there's one reason that you become an artist and do rock and roll and it can be simplified as you wanting to communicate with somebody. If you want break it down, rock and roll is about saying what you can't say in normal life to girls so you have to say it in songs.
In between making my first record and making this record, a lot of things were lost in the shuffle and this record is very much about loss. I couldn't have written a record about loss when I made my first record because I had not experienced getting all the things that one would like to keep when you have the world in front of you and what it's like to lose them and appreciate them.
With this record, we tried to get the same people who were involved in making Antichrist Superstar and Mechanical Animals to work on the record. All I care about now is the people around me thinking what I am doing is good. If I play the record for my girlfriend and she likes it, then I don't care what some record label exec thinks about it."
When you said that you lost everything by being blamed for Columbine, what exactly do you mean? Unfortunately, it seems like that might be the defining moment of your career and it really has nothing to do with you.
"I lost all my money, and I started separating myself from the people who cared about me, including Twiggy. I've always said that if you are going to say something or present yourself in a certain way that you have to take responsibility for it. I can't say that I didn't have anything do with it, but if they are going to blame me, I at least want some sort of Grammy or something. I've got nothing to lose now. Making music is about art, not money. I can live in a box with my girlfriend and my cat as long as I have cat food, absinthe and drugs. That's what rock and roll is about. If you believe in what you're doing, you're going to make money. When you question it, you won't."
How has it been working with your new bassist, Phoenix native Andy Gerold, and how come you didn't give him a stage name?
"He is obviously qualified for the job, but he fit in because he is sarcastic and he comes from the same place we did when we first started the band. I think we are just past that point of stage names, and it became what everyone expected us to do."
Over the years you've had a lot of line-up changes. Which line-up do you think is/was the strongest?
"The current line-up because we are all excited about being in the band again and really appreciating that it's a privilege for us to get to be doing this together. I am now emotionally attached to everyone in the band, including Andy. This is just the start, and I think the next record will come out a lot sooner than the last one did."
Why do you think Twiggy and former bassist/guitarist Tim Skold couldn't co-exist in the band together?
"Twiggy writes songs from the heart, and Tim Skold writes from his checkbook."