Salvation / solution – process
Interviews with Marilyn Manson aren’t an easy undertaking. While the master of provocation hardly allowed any conversations with the media regarding his previous album “Eat Me, Drink Me” this time there’s at least the possibility of a phone interview from the far Los Angeles, where Manson manages the whole public relations from his property. After several postponements at the first attempt, which finally end in a refusal, plus other delays at the second attempt (Manson tends to overrun his interviews) the American enfant terrible number one finally is on the phone and ready to talk about his new album “The High End Of Low” – he's doing it like a waterfall, without stopping once, full of verve. After all Manson has been over a drastic private crisis which he handled successfully through his new album. Although the name Evan Rachel Wood isn’t mentioned once during the interview, it is assumed that the breakup with the attractive actress, who he has loved passionately in the video to “Heart-Shaped Glasses”, has left big scars, which – with the aid of art – have to be digested.
The interview starts with a question about the last album “Eat Me, Drink Me”, which showed Manson from an unusual rocking and reduced side and wasn’t exactly enthusiastically welcomed by a lot of fans, and reveals the first controversy. “I’d rather consider “The High End Of Low” than “Eat Me, Drink Me” as a low-key Rock’ n ’Roll album, even though it’s disconcerting to characterize your own productions because an artist or producer is never really impartial”, says Manson who immediately proceeds from the musical to the personal motifs. “It’s very difficult for me to listen to “Eat Me, Drink Me” these days, since I wasn’t involved to this record in the same way as I am in the actual album – namely at 100%. In a similar manner I wasn’t much involved in life in general at that time. I don’t really know how to look at this record in retrospect. Admittedly I like the album, since some songs are fantastic, but others make me cry and or I don’t understand them anymore, because I’m no longer the same person. You can rate it as a Rock ’n’ Roll album. But I don’t think, that it really contains any of those painful emotions, which I tried to express. That’s the great difference to “The High End Of Low”.
Another striking difference between “The High End Of Low” and “Eat Me, Drink Me” is the lineup, whereas the last album was composed, produced and recorded with Tim Skold this time the former band member Twiggy Ramirez rejoined the band and helped Manson out – a Reunion that Manson declares as his biggest luck of the last years. “I didn't hesitate for a moment, as Twiggy and I fatefully met each other last year”, he explains. “It was frivolous and foolish that I let him leave the band back then and that I allowed Tim Skold to take his place. But I brought him back immediately, as we talked about the possibility of making music together again after such a long time. It was bound to happen.”
But the separation wasn’t all bad, since Ramirez, who’s real name is Jeordie White, gained valuable experience between 2002 and 2008 when he played for A Perfect Circle, Nine Inch Nails and Goon Moon. “During our separation Twiggy did a lot of things he’s proud of. He learned a lot and became musically a different person. He was a guitarist in the past and then played bass for Marilyn Manson. What most people don't know is that he used to record guitars for Marilyn Manson in the studio all the time. However, I think that he wasn’t able to show the world – or at least me – his paces before now.”
The new-found harmony between Manson and Ramirez is mirrored in an unconventional manner of composing, which was characterized by a great spirit of optimism and at the same time by that Fuck-off- attitude which characterized the band in the early days. “We directly started the songwriting for “The High End Of Low” after we played a few shows together, without even having unpacked our bags”, the singer remembers. “We tried to approach everything the way we did it in the early days - without any maturity, regret or knowledge, which often tied us up later. We realized that there are a lot of people who surround artists just because it’s their main intention to make money with them. They aren’t interested in creativity or art. That doesn't make them bad, but they destroy so many good artists and many artists also destroy them self like this. This time we didn’t want to pay attention to who’s going to pay us. There were only some guitars and microphones and we casually started to write songs. Twiggy exactly played the music I always wanted to hear. Out of it the record we always wanted to make suddenly came off, and we didn’t understand at all why we didn't always do it that way.” Life can be so easy.
For the sake of completeness it has to be mentioned, that “The High End Of Low” wasn’t a pure two-man-project. “Also involved was Chris Vrenna, who was the “adult” in the situation, since Twiggy and I are quite chaotic.”, Manson lets us know. “Chris also wrote songs and was able to hold us back a little because we throw overboard all the rules, for example in terms of the mode of production. A good example is “Four Rusted Horses”, a song which stands in place of eight, nine other tracks on the album. They all have been recorded just as they sound right now. The record is very rough and I like it that it isn’t overproduced. We had the ambition to record rough music that contains as much first takes as possible rather than correct every single detail, which others count as mistakes, but in my opinion represent the charm and the personality of the record. You often get manipulated by record labels, because passionate artists tend to by influenced by others. This aren’t necessarily things that go completely against your grain, but if you go to sleep at night, you think, nevertheless, that this is no longer the vision you originally had – if only you had made it like this or like that. On concerts you often observe the difference and realize, that the music of the particular band contains more spirit, power, rage or sex when they play live. This time I’ve realized very quickly, what we lacked, because we just came back from a tour.”
The album has been produced by Sean Beaven, who already played a major part in the success of “Antichrist Superstar”. But previously it was necessary to find a concept. “I don’t know if all musicians do this when they write an album, but we lock ourselves in and try to internalize what kind of story we want to tell and how we want to do that”, the artists refers further and recounts how music, lyrics and an imaginary movie in his head in the following become united. “I started filming in my house and tried to reconcile the events: on the one hand the rebuild of the relationship with Twiggy and on the other hand – at the same time but not necessary related – the resolution of the romance with my ex-girlfriend and the confusion that goes hand in hand with it. I didn't know anymore if I’m the director of the movie or just an actor.” And if you believe Marilyn Manson his house indeed looked like a film set during the development of the record. “I’ve got fog machines and movie spotlights in my house”, he assures.” They look great in pictures and movies but also in real life. I know it’s unusual and ridiculous and exactly what you would expect from me. But it’s real. Yes, I seem to be completely insane to certain people, but you can’t unveil this form of creativity without the despair and passion I have inside me.”
And how does that concept behind “The High End Of Low” look like concretely?
Twiggy had made similar experiences like me and we tried to find out how we can find our place in this world. I wanted to make a record about us, falling from grace and then find back into life. It’s also about how someone like me can ever find love in this world. Again and again people make the mistake to give up their independence. It’s like the story of Lucifer. Nobody is gonna love you, if you’re not being yourself. It’s not easy to see that, when you’re writing it down, because the distance to your own life is missing.”
So “The high end of low” is just like its predecessor a completely autobiographic album, maybe the most personal record in Manson’s discography so far, because it is about the last 2 turbulent years in the musician’s private life. “The album is the story.”, he says. “If somebody asks me what happened to me in the last few years, I’ll tell him about the events on the album. But I tell them in a different way than I did on ‘Eat me drink me’, because this time the events/happenings are portrayed in a strange canalized way.” Many things occured through the isolation and lonelieness Manson had to take after the split with Evan Rachel Wood. “I went to the recording room every night from november ‘till january and recorded my vocals.”, he remembers. “This was the first period in my life I was living completely alone. This may be nothing special for some people, but I moved out of my parent’s house to start a Rock’n’Roll band and be on tour and live in hotels most of the time. Then I was living together with my best friend Twiggy, but I lost him.
After that I had 3 longer relationships with women, and so I was in a situation which was completely new to me. So I was faced with many things. But I think the darkness comes before every light.” The last 3 songs on the album describe this period in epic wideness. The final is introduced with the meaningful title “I have to look up just to see hell”. “It starts with the bitter knowledge, that it is impossible to find love in this world.”, Manson says. “You just have to look at the world and the television program. Everything sucks here in America. It goes on with the anger, that I let it come so far (?), that I gave up everything. Me, who started his career with pissing into everybodie’s faces.” He’s talking about “Into the fire”, a dramatic half-ballad with piano part, which sounds unusual for a Manson song. “It needed a musical assembly of Ginger Fish, who plays the drums in the other 14 songs, but here the piano, Chris,Twiggy and me, to express this. It wasn’t a typical Hollywood happy ending, but it’s very cinematical (?) and I couldn’t imagine a more dramatic final for the album at first. In my opinion – and I think many people will agree – the guitar solo Twiggy plays in that song is the most exciting solo I’ve ever heard. But I won’t tell him, because his ego would grow too much. (laughs) But I’m very proud of him, and after that song I thought the album was complete. It was the third of january I think. The ending wasn’t very hopeful. I decided, okay, I’ll survive this hard time. But I don’t have to destroy everything ‘cause I’m tougher now. I will be cold and won’t have any feelings. So I wanted to tell everybody how I handled this crisis. This is my pride, my anger and that’s me – like I was in the beginning, only more cruel and hopeless.” But after a while Manson didn’t want to leave the ending unchanged. “Then I listened to the song again and noticed, that I was not saying this. By the way, right now I’m sitting in my room and looking at the lyrics of “Into the fire” which are written on my wall with lipstick. Much is smeared and I don’t remember how I got so high to write it there, I guess I was standing on something. I spent christmas and new year’s eve completey alone. The only character I was in touch with was my cat, the only woman I love and I have my dream-relationship with. (laughs) She’s also the only woman who isn’t a beast. So there is strangely a woman living together with me, who is still a virgin.” Again and again Manson gets off the point and makes confusing statements.
But it’s clear, that he wanted to shape the ending of “The high end of low” different and so made the very experimental song “15”. “There was something missing, and on the 4th of january - the day before my birthday – I went to the studio at about 11 pm to record some more. The conclusion of this musical film couldn’t sound more dramatic, but it really happened just like that. ‘15’ is a song about salvation, and if you realize this, you get your independence back. The number 15 is significant for several reasons. My year of birth is 1969 and 6 and 9 equals 15. My name, Brian Hugh Warner, has 15 letters and 15 symbolizes the tarot card of the devil (?). The first words floating out of me are on that album – the melody and the words were simply there. My approach was, that the story shouldn’t end with me complainig and crying. The story which started with EMDM and I expected to be (?) romantic and lasting ‘till death. I was sick and wanted to give up, if I couldn’t get the love I wanted. But when I recorded/ sang 15 I was no longer this person. I didn’t want that this story was all/only about me, I wanted to tell it as an author, though there isn’t a better character it could be based on than me and the people around me in my life. Because this was a real opportunity/event and a real transformation, which cannot be compared to anything I’ve ever talked or written about. And I don’t have to explain it, because I want the people to listen to it and associate their own experiences with it, because it’s a story that can happen to everyone.” So this alternate ending had the target to make the songs universal construable and don’t make them a processing of a failed relationship. “At the ending of the album I want to tell a person, who feels hurt in her vanity, that this isn’t about her – though she hurt me and I hurt her.”, Manson says and you can imagine which ex girlfriend he’s referring to. “With 15 I want to make sure that I survived this drama on my own and that I won’t cry. I just tell a story and hope, that the people feel something about it. I didn’t do that before and I’m very proud of it. When I’m listening to the album now, I feel good.
After Manson talked about his purpose for the creating of this new work, the official interview-time is already over. But allowed is the question if a rebellious shock-rocker can create credible music at the age of 60, or if he’d try other kinds of art, like writing or painting. “There are 2 aspects in music, and they relate to what I said about the creation of this record: composition and performance”, Manson says. “I don’t know if it will always be part of my role in this life. Again and again I get to a point where I do things which are possible in my own limits and strength. So I create things I love or don’t do something if I feel better without it. I sing songs in a special way, because I have to do it like this. If it’s adequate (to me), to perform music at the age of 60, because I love it and it is what I want to do as an artist, I will do it. But either way it won’t keep me from writing music. You can be a composer without presenting the music live.” True, especially since he feels strong and motivated like never before, after he withstood the crisis and once again knows what he wants. The 40 years old Manson doesn’t seem senile. “ I can ensure that this, what the people see in me today and what the people saw in me in the past, is back. I mean the fire I got back because of the reunion with Twiggy and the creation of this album. I mean the benedictive potency/ power to make music that beautiful women like. Now I’ll be what I was at the beginning of my carreer, only better. I will never be completely happy, but I got my faith back, that the good and the bad times balance each other. And it pushes me on/ animates/drives me, that I’m never content, because I never rech a point where I think that I couldn’t do better. “
And before Manson goes on with the next phone-interview, we ask him if his consumption/ use of alcohol increased because of his own trademark “Mansinthe”. “To be honest, I drink other absinthes more than my own brand ‘Mansinthe’, because I think it’s too strong for my (kind of) lifestyle.”, is the surprising answer. “I drink a lot of absinthe, and ‘Mansinthe’ has the strongest content of alcohol – so children under the age of 3 shouldn’t drink it. (laughs) I think it should be used for creative purposes. I learned something you cannot learn on a psychiatrist’s couch or on a meeting of the alcoholics anonymous. Drink and take/use drugs when you’re in a good mood, but not if you feel bad! That makes you life better. It’s really simple but effective. Wise words from Marilyn Manson.”, he says, laughs and leaves a strange silence in the telephone circuit/line...