The High End Of Low Interviews

Suicide Girls Online Blog

Marilyn Manson
2009 Jun 10

There's nothing half-hearted about the new album from Marilyn Manson, The High End Of Low, which explores love, hate, revenge, loss and despair.
Off stage, many find Manson's passion disconcerting, but the singer/songwriter considers anything that veers towards apathy to be inherently "worthless." It's therefore not surprising to hear that during the recording process Manson pushed himself and his band to extremes, the resulting album returning him to the kind of form he's not seen in a decade.
Very personal lyrically, and more melodic than past efforts, the album is the result of the much-anticipated reunion of Manson and Twiggy Ramirez - the pair's last studio collaboration being the concept album Holy Wood, which came out in 2000. The lineup for the album was rounded out by longtime Manson drummer Ginger Fish and producer/drummer/keyboardist Chris Vrenna of Nine Inch Nails and Tweaker (who joined the band in 2004 when Fish was injured and moved from drums to keyboards upon his return to health).
The reunion with Twiggy wasn't the only emotionally charged ingredient in The High End Of Low mix however, the period of recording, from November 2008 to January 2009, also coincided with the very public disintegration of Manson's relationship with Evan Rachel Wood, whom he dated following the failure of his marriage to Dita Von Teese.
The 15 tracks on the album, which appear in the finished product in the order they were written, therefore chronicle Manson's emotional journey during this gut-wrenching time.

SuicideGirls caught up with Manson on the eve of a European tour to promote the new release. When asked about the album during our interview, it's hard for Manson to separate the music from the emotions and events that lie behind it. He also talks very candidly about the identity crisis that was sparked by this emotional turmoil, and his battle to figure out exactly who Marilyn Manson is.


I've been reading in interviews that this is a more autobiographical album. Did that make it harder to write?
"Well, it was very difficult getting to the process of writing. Twiggy and I getting back together was probably more dramatic than we even realized... Because we were best friends, brothers, we lived together. I've never lived alone. I went from living at home to going on tour and hotels and rats and crack and Twiggy and New Orleans, and then a series of unmentionable, nefarious women people. And I think that there was an enormous void in both of our lives.
It wasn't even really a fight that we got into, it was something very silly, and one of us probably expected the other to call the next day to resolve it.
But I think everything happens for a reason...
We ran into each other at a hotel completely randomly and I could see in his face that he looked like I felt a year before that.
The last record, EAT ME, DRINK ME, was very much about a broken person. In fact it's not that I don't like it, or it makes me sad to listen to, but it's a record that we're probably not going to play anything off of. We might play If I Was Your Vampire because I think it's the record that's the most confident on the album, even though it's first [on the CD], because it was written last.
The difference between that and the new album, besides all of the personal things, [on] the new album, the songs appear in the order they were written. I don't know how that compares the two because there's a lot of differences, obviously, starting with Twiggy and I [being] back together.
He did things that were great, I think. He learned to be this musician. I mean he's always been a guitar player but no one's ever seen him as a guitar player because he's always played bass [live]. No one realizes that he wrote the guitar riff for The Beautiful People or The Dope Show.
But anyway, he was just playing this music that was eventually intimidating to me because he had become a different type of musician while away from me. As a guitar player I felt, why wasn't he always the guitar player? What were we thinking? And, for me, I think there's nobody that plays bass better than him. His bass guitar sounds like he's playing it with his dick. It's the best bass that I could ever imagine. No one else can have that sound.
He just shines as a guitar player, and it took me a long time to get to the singing part. I had a bit of a disintegration, one world ended and another sort of began. It was probably inserting Twiggy into a situation where I had built a lifestyle now that was very isolated, very dependent on another person.
It wasn't the same way that I look at relationships now. There's big difference between weakness and desire, between love and dependence...
The person that I really needed in my life, and I think that it threw some kind of disastrous monkey wrench in, but if I was actually given the choice to pick, which I should never have to pick, I wouldn't know what to say - it's an unfair thing to say. But the first and foremost thing that stood out to me that was important in my life was that I saw my friend that I hadn't seen in seven years and he needed me. It didn't matter about the music, he needed me, and I wish that I had had him when I felt that way, when my life was falling apart and I got divorced, and all that garbage happened. I was just glad to be there for him because he's like a little brother to me, and I finally got to the point of making the first song."

You talk about Twiggy being like a brother. You often hurt the people closest to you. That's what families do, they argue and then they come back together.
"Well, you're right about that. The other part of it is, and this was advice that I got from one of my idols Alejandro Jodorowsky, a director who had great influence on me. He said to me, because he's always read my tarot, and I mistook what he said...
I even quoted it a lot of times in interviews, because he read my tarot and he said, 'This year you will come together with your twin.'
I mistook that for the wrong relationship because at the end of the year there was Twiggy. That was what he meant. He even told me that when I saw him again after that. It was my foolishness and my projection, what I wanted to see, and Twiggy is that.
But you can have both. I can be married to my art but you can love more than one thing, and there's different types of love. It takes finding the right person that is able to make you stop thinking about your work, if you want to even use that word. Because it's hard when you're an artist; When does it turn off? Who knows? But it should turn off when you're with the person that you're romantically involved with. That's the point that I'm trying to be at now in my life. And that's a different point that I've never been at.
And it took me living alone, because I'd never lived alone. From November to January 5th is when I sang and wrote the lyrics. And that signifies something that the record's actually about. It's about that experience for me. It's not about any one particular thing, but it's about loss, it's about understanding loss.
When someone doesn't appreciate the concept of... If you call someone and say, 'I need you', and they say, 'Well I'll be there when I can', that's someone who doesn't understand loss. Because 'when you can' - that might not happen 15 minutes later, and the only way you learn that, the way I learnt it, is when someone dies, or you lose something, you lose your money, you lose everything.
I've got nothing to lose now so in one way I have nothing to be afraid of, and that makes me feel really dangerous. And in another way that makes me value the things that I do have more than anything, and I'll fight and kill for them with no hesitation. The only thing that stops me from that is that I don't want to go to jail because it would prevent me from being what I want to be, and I don't want to be ass-raped on a daily basis. It's really that simple."

You talk about how you're expressing loss, but you do it in a very angry way...
"You hear it as angry?"

I think over much of it you're raging, and raging hard.
"Just out of curiosity which part of the record do you find angry? The first half, or the center, or the second?"

Well the first half is much more angry than the second half. Does that represent the emotional journey you went on?
"Well that's unusual for me. Because the first half to me feels, well, I can see where you see it's angry. I feel it's bitter in a weak way. I feel like it's, you know, the easiest thing to do first is to give up in the Shakespearean sense of 'Oh, I will love you forever, the world doesn't accept us let's die.' That's cowardice to me now. That's what I was coming off of going into the record. Going into Devour, that first song, that's me establishing the fact that I learned the lesson that I can go there, and I chose not to - and that's a true story. That song's not about anybody but me. That song's about the fact that I'm willing to go there.
If someone says 'I love you 'til we die' - OK, then let's do it. But I think that's cowardice now, so that's not the same person that sings track 15. I definitely changed, and I changed essentially over the course of the record.
I understand that you hear the first half as angry, I guess maybe I should look at it in a different way. I hear the second half of the record as threatening. The first half of the record is kind of angry, but it's bitter and it's weak and it's uncertain, which is where anger comes from, which is not where threatening comes from. There's a confidence that starts to rebuild itself, and I think that it starts right about the point of WOW. That song sticks out to me enough that I got it tattooed on my wrist. I wanted to do a song that was everything that I had to remember represented who I am and why I started this in the first place.
It's funny to me because the first time I played the song, without any singing on it, because the music is so absurd. We just started recording it and I refused to let anybody try and do what they're supposed to do. I said, 'Just hit record.'
I made Twiggy play keyboards, and I started playing guitar with one string on it, and I had a microphone and we got done and the first thing we said was "Wow."
Well that's what it is. It's like the Macarena of nonsense and confusion, and it really represents something that we always strive to accomplish.
You cannot fake a record like The Idiot, which is one of my favorite records. I mean, I don't wanna go to Berlin and become a heroin addict, which is essentially the backstory that everybody knows about with The Idiot and Bowie and Iggy Pop and Brian Eno. But that record has such a feel to it that is real - and that's what this record had to become. I had to allow it to be real. I stopped questioning or fine-tuning."

You talk about the second half of the album after WOW being threatening, but before WOW you have a track called I Want To Kill You Like They Do In The Movies. That's a song where, if you'd written the lyrics down in a note and sent it to someone, it would have earned you a restraining order.
"Absolutely. What's interesting about the lyrics is that I did not write them down before I sang them. I had maybe scribbles of ideas. I would go into my room and I would have this chair that I referred to as the cockpit - not in the phallic sense although it did earn that. It was like an airplane seat. I'd lean back, I like to sing on my back, and hold the microphone - it's not supposed to be held - but that's like me I'm not supposed to be held.
And Chris Vrenna, who was recording everything, had headphones. He and I were the only two people listening to me recording... Chris, he was assigned the job of writing down my lyrics. I would tell them to him, and they didn't make sense to him.
That song, to be specific; I Want To Kill You Like They Do In The Movies, I sang it twice. I sang it once in November. The original version of it, which I'd like to put somewhere, is 25 minutes long. It's uncensored, and it's unedited, and it's just what came out of my head at 3.45 AM until 25 minutes later.
It got to the point where we'd finished the record and we decided we don't want to make a double or triple record. There's not enough room on a CD for a 25-minute song but I've refused to edit it because there was a purity about what I did because it was almost channeled. It's completely right out of my head. I actually never listened to it again. I'd only listened to it the time I sang it.
We finished the record, we finished track 15 on my birthday, and later that night, still on January 5th [I asked] how many minutes do I have left on this CD that they're going to put in Wal-Mart or Target or wherever the fuck they're going to try and put it, which is a waste of time. And it was 9 minutes.
I said, 'Roll it, and I'm going to sing it.'
And I sang it, and what appears on the record is one exact performance. I went back and I spoke on top of it. But it's the exact first thing that came out of my mouth. I never listened to the first one and they're slightly different words.
I felt like this record was something I had already sung and it was something I had already done. By no means is it off the cuff or frivolous or cavalier, like I just said whatever. These were ideas that spent a lot of time in my head, I just didn't do it in the same way I had done it in the past where it was more calculated, where this is the verse, this is the chorus, this is the part that's going to upset just about everyone. I didn't care when they said, 'Well do you really want to put a 9-minute song on the record?'
I said, 'What are they going to do? Return it? I don't really give a shit. It doesn't matter to me. This is the song that I wanna do.'
It was liberating to get back to that point."

It seems like such an honest album, in a way it's almost like you're listening to a diary. Obviously what you've been through has been very public so it's not like people don't know what it's referring to 'cause it's already out there. Was it cathartic for you? I mean, one of the reasons people write diaries and put their thoughts and emotions on paper is that whole better-out-than-in thing - it helps people to move on. Did you have that experience?
"Not exactly. I'd never kept a diary because I always felt like I didn't know what would happen to it when I was dead. I have never been able to keep a diary. Making this record I filmed and recorded everything, every phone conversation, everything. I was like Howard Hughes but without the money.
You think the record's honest, I think the record could just as easily be looked at as a lie... because it's so focused where my head was on cinema. It's partly the fact that I almost gave up music and tried to focus all my energy on making a film. I tend to surround myself with, my friends are either actors or directors, or people involved in that, and it becomes a question, am I acting on the record? Am I directing?
And if I'm acting, it's so method acting you can't even understand which person is real - the character or the actor? It really becomes confusing. I don't even try and question it.
I think if I play the record for somebody, and, like you said, if it was on paper, printed out, there's two options; It's either you meet a girl who finds it to be terribly romantic or you get put into a mental hospital, which both seem fun. But I'm going to go with the romantic thing because I don't like the smocks that they have in mental hospitals. Your ass hangs out - and the foods not good. I've been there before."

Yeah the robes with the back slit and ties aren't very attractive. It's not a good look.
"Yeah. I prefer to self-medicate. I don't like doctors telling me what to do."

Do you separate yourself from the character of Marilyn Manson? And when your cameras rolled, was it you or the character you created that they were filming?
"You know I've thought about it, I was watching this show that I got kind of attached to, it's called The United States Of Tara and it was about someone with MPD, multiple personality disorder. I was amused by it. It's weird because this person has different personalities and they dress up in different outfits and they talk differently. It's so weird. And now I caught myself saying that, and I thought, 'Woah, I do that.'
...So I started to contemplate the idea of, yeah, maybe I am a little crazy, but whatever. You can't really have one without the other. You can't have whatever it is that people like about me, or people hate about me, without the part of me, the other side of me that is so complex that I have to fight with that to keep the other part in charge.
That's the struggle in life is to find somebody who understands that and isn't afraid of that. I think the mistake that I've made in the past is I've met people that pity that, or I've met people that are similar, and then no one's in charge. It's like the short bus, when they open the door and everyone's running wild. It's crazy. I'm in such a different place and it was really so much about making this record. I don't really care how that comes across when it's written down in print. It sounds like the type of thing some stupid band would say about the catharsis and the importance of the art and all the bullshit, and all that. It's real simple, it's not even a challenge, if I'm going to be a rock star it's balls deep. That's the only way that it goes.
I want to respect and try and grow from all of my influences and I want to be something that makes a dent in the world. I want to be a villain. Everyone wants to say, 'What's it like being a role model?'
It's a lot harder to be a fucking villain. Role models are mannequins, villains make problems and problems are what changes the world. All artists are villains, and that's what I like to be.
Besides the fact that I think just normally in relationships I've found that I don't like to be an asshole to girls in relationships. But I think just the danger factor of what I am, I don't know what it is that I say such terrible things and it comes across as cute and charming. But it always amazes me because I've tried to make myself very un-likeable - it just backfires on me."

You say that you try to make yourself un-likeable. But to some extent are you trapped by your own persona? Marilyn Manson is is such a strong and defined personality...
"...I'm trapped by my insecurities, my self-esteem, and that's the reason I had to create something... I created the name Marilyn Manson, and I created the band without even having a song. I had an idea of what I wanted to get to, and that idea was just as powerful as what it ended up getting to."

But there must be a side of Marilyn Manson that does stuff that's not 'in character', that loves organic gardening or I Love Lucy re-runs.
"Of course. I'm sitting next to my cat, Lily, and it's the one girl, and she's the only virgin I know, and she loves me. I've had her for seven years. And I like to watch movies. I'm romantic. For whatever reason girls like the things that I have to say. It amuses me and amazes me, and I feel lucky sometimes. I feel like what I do is I write. I tried to be a writer for journalism, it just didn't suit me. So somehow I ended up writing songs. And I like to paint. These are two things that I feel like I can do best to communicate with people.
But I understand the persona thing...
At some point I think I lost track of who I was before I made this record, and that's a really big problem. It's not as simple as if you're just someone who has one identity, then OK, you have an identity crisis. If you're someone who has two, one is for strangers and people you don't know, and also the people you do know, and the other one is only for the people that you know personally. Then, at that point, you don't know who you are. That's almost what destroyed me because I didn't know what to be. I didn't know which one to be.
What I realized was, I'm all of it. I can't be described as one or the other. It can't be on stage or off stage, it can't be Brian Warner or Marilyn Manson, it's all of it. It's just everything. It's one big movie. There's parts of it that are stupid and boring, there's parts of it that are exciting, pornographic and violent, there are parts of it that are dramatic and heartwarming, there's all of that. It's just a movie, and that's the only way I can deal with it.
I can't try to define myself on other people's terms because it's impossible and it ends up destroying me and breaking my heart to try and be something that is really the opposite of why I created being me. I just didn't feel like I fit. And I'm not the ultimate outsider. I'm not trying to be that.
The record is ultimately about somebody who is falling from grace, and I have in so many ways. Whether it's with family, enemies, fans, personally, lovers, career, art, whatever it is. And then you want to fit back in and you feel like, maybe I should give up my wings. Maybe I should give up who I am and then I'll fit in. And then you find yourself completely unlovable. You're worthless above and below and that's where I was in the record towards the end of the record.
I realized, it, and was very angry. I almost gave up and became everything that I thought I represented the opposite of. Instead of being that person, I wanted to give up and kill myself. I can't take it anymore. I was Nero wanting to burn the city down. Instead of that it became redemption...
If you want to find out who your real friends are, sink the ship. The first ones to jump aren't your friends."

It's interesting that you talk about wanting to fit in because that's the antithesis of what Marilyn Manson is perceived to be about. Your extreme look, the extreme things you say, that's the trademark of someone that doesn't care what people think.
"Right. Maybe that's the wrong way of saying it - fit in. I wanted to be accepted, to be liked - and that doesn't mean by everyone. There's a difference also that I want to clarify; When people say 'I don't give a shit what other people think' - that's bullshit. I give a shit what everyone thinks. I won't be judged by other people. I care what people I don't know think. I want them to think that I fucking hate them or I want to change their opinion, but to say you don't care, that's apathetic, that's worthless. But I don't live my life in judgment by them. I didn't mean I was trying to fit into that.
I was trying to find a place to exist, I felt completely like the book Stranger In A Strange Land, or The Man Who Fell To Earth. I felt lost. I felt like I couldn't be like what everyone wanted me to be, and it was because I stopped being me. It's something that everyone can relate to. It's not some kind of complex metaphor, and I'm not someone so completely complicated everyone can't [understand]. I'm human. I'm normal. I'm as fucked up as anyone else. I don't have all the answers. I just try and sing about it, and for whatever reason I've managed to communicate that in a way that people identify with it. And that's something I want to hold on to. I want to deliver that. I don't want to cater to it, I want to give them what they want. They want me to be me, and this is me being me more than I've been able to in the past."

We'd talked previously about multiple personalities, and you talk about how you have difficulty marrying the Manson that you are with your friends and the Manson that you are in public. One of the ways I know psychiatrists try and deal with that is they try to bring the two personalities closer together, so they slowly become one. Is that a process that you've been through?
"I personally feel that the world began to end at the dawn of psychiatry and the questioning of relativity.
When we started to unravel and question things, when people started to have too many question marks to where they started to doubt themselves - people already doubted themselves, that's why religion was invented. Psychiatry, technically, I think for the most part, was simply a very clever attempt at replacing religion for financial purposes, in my opinion.
I'm not talking about psychology, I'm talking about psychiatry. Because psychiatrists, I've gone to a psychiatrist before and a psychiatrist [asked] me, 'Why are you here?'
And I said, 'Well, everyone told me I was crazy, and my mom's in a mental asylum, so I guess that's what I'm supposed to be here for.'
And he said, 'Well, what are your problems?'
And I said, 'Well, I can't deal with the stress of being under the scrutiny of the public so it's hard for me to go out around people, it's hard for me to connect to people.'
[The psychiatrist said,] 'OK, well that's always going to exist, so that's incurable. What else are your problems?'
[I said,] 'Well, I'm obsessive. If you put something in front of me, if you put a big bag of dicks in front of me, I will sort them out and check the foreskins. If you give me a pair of tweezers I'll pluck every hair out of my body. If you give me a big, giant bag of drugs I'll do them all. Whatever it is I'll stick to it. What I want to keep that in is art. I want to keep me creating.'
He said, 'Well, that's incurable too. So what you need to do is you need to not go anywhere and create art.'
That was the summation of my psychiatry experience.
Then I went to AA after that. It was kind of a weekend of fun for me, and I got asked for my autograph and so it wasn't anonymous. I think Alcoholics Anonymous should be a ski mask and a bottle of whiskey and you get in there drunk and you're anonymous, and you're like, 'I'm drunk and it's anonymous.'
That's what I think it should be."

Yeah the name Alcoholics Anonymous is false advertising. It should be replaced with Alcoholics Unanonymous. If it's anonymous, why do you have to stand up and say your name?
"Correct."

You talk about how it's hard to be in the public eye... Well no, I want to clarify that, because what I realized was, when people always ask me is there a difference between you as Marilyn Manson or Brian Warner.
"What I came to understand is that when I go on stage I'm singing my most personal feelings to strangers, and a lot of times I've written those feelings to people that I know. So there's just two worlds and I don't know how that defines me. But that's the difference between those two different worlds.
I don't think you can really shut off who you are, and there's varying levels. If someone says, 'Well it's an act'.
I think, what isn't an act? Everything is an act, it's just a matter of if you want to direct, you want to star, you want to be an extra. What do you want to do with it? And at this point I'm just trying to live every day where it's more happy than it is sad.
And I figured out the secret to life: Do drugs and drink when you're in a good mood, not in a bad mood. [laughs]
It's a little bit simple."