Interview:1996/04/01 Marilyn Manson, Satan's Sweetheart
|Marilyn Manson, Satan's Sweetheart
|Interview with Marilyn Manson
|April 1, 1996
|MTV news staff
- Marilyn Manson is one scary motherfucker. Fronting the shock-rock band of the same name, the tall, scrawny Manson affects what he calls an "undead, burn victim, prostitute-from-the-future look," sporting fetishwear that barely covers his tattoos and the scars from his onstage self-mutilations. A serious makeup abuser ("What seems ugly to other people seems beautiful to me"), Manson's big, bloody, lipstick-slashed mouth vocalizes every taboo in the book: child porn, sodomy, Satan. He seems obsessed with pushing everything to the limit, just to see what will happen. Often stoned and out of control as he forces his rapt, angst-filled teenage audience to face its own worst nightmares (and live to tell), he's a veritable poster boy for the nihilistic 90's -- We're all going to hell anyway," he seems to say, so let me be your guide. It's enough to make any self-respecting parent freak the fuck out, and all those right-wing Christian types can hardly wait to put him in jail for flouting everything they consider decent.
- I've seen the band Marilyn Manson several times, most recently at their New Year's Eve blowout at the Academy, when they were in absolute self-destruct mode. Having worked with Nine Inch Nails for most of last year, I'd heard a lot of interesting tales about Marilyn, but hadn't had the chance to really connect. So I was a little surprised when the person I met recording a new album with coproducer Trent Reznor in New Orleans was soft-spoken, thoughtful, intelligent and media-savvy. His anger, which has changed over the years and tempered to the point of apathy, still seems to be the driving force in his art -- a reaction to the stiff, Christian, white-trash world and phony, self-righteous values that he feels most Americans swallow all too willingly.
Although his band has only been around for six years, Manson and his cohorts have become quite the cult idols, with record sales and slavish fans to match. Designer Stephen Sprouse featured him prominently in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Costume Collection, and Family Circle magazine asked for his opinion on violence in the mosh pit. Now, as he is set to tour with the legendary Ozzy Osbourne this month, Marilyn Manson is also at work on Antichrist Superstar (Nothing/Interscope), a conceptual project about Manson's life in which he predicts his own end, and recently released an EP called "Smells Like Children." While the EP is an ode to his sexually deviant grandfather (we'll get to him later), the new album is a tribute to Friedrich Nietzsche (the two men who seem to have had the most profound effect on his life). The obvious question about the band is why they have chosen names that are half cultural icon, half serial killer: Marilyn Manson, Twiggy Ramirez, Daisy Berkowitz, Madonna Wayne Gacy and Ginger Fish. "Our names are representative of the dichotomy between good and evil, a synthesis of the two; a balance between chaos and order," says Manson. "We choose not to take a side, but the best of both worlds." Also, as a kid, both Marilyn Monroe and Charles Manson made a big impression on the future singer. Wait a minute: he's been discussing Hegel, Nietzsche, Alistair Crowley -- this guy's pretty smart and well-read for a freak. I realize that only makes him scarier -- and more dangerous -- to the dysfunctional America that really pisses him off. Manson thinks of himself as payback for the ills of bourgeois, middle-class U.S.A. Here's the message from the liner notes of the band's 1994 debut, Portrait of an American Family: "You spoon-fed us Saturday-morning mouthfuls of maggots and lies disguised in your sugary breakfast cereals. The plates you made us clean were filled with your fears. These things have hardened in our soft, pink bellies. We are what you have made us. We have grown up watching your television. We are a symptom of your Christian America, the biggest Satan of them all. This is your world in which we grow. And we will grow to hate you."
Well, that about says it all. Here, we can begin to glimpse what drives this bizarre yet galvanizing rock star who plays throbbing, mesmerizing, anarchy-inducing music dressed in his underwear; who cuts himself onstage and spits into his wounds and openly plays with his genitals, sometimes performing fake (or occasionally real) sex and gets arrested for it; who's an ordained minister in Anton LaVey's Church of Satan; an unapologetic guy who performs fellatio onstage while his parents are in the audience....
All this rage seems to have originated in Canton, Ohio, where Manson (then probably named something more regular) attended Catholic school. A skinny kid with no friends, he developed an interest in music. "Black Sabbath, Kiss, Ziggy Stardust, Iggy -- it was all I had to identify with. My school didn't approve of that kind of music, so I wanted to fit in with the public-school kids, who thought I was a little prick from private school and would kick my ass." Manson offers that he has no animosity about his childhood because it only made him stronger.
Another major, life-altering influence was his grandfather, the man who introduced him to sex. With a distorted, barking voice that was the result of cancer, Grandpa used to spend all his time running toy trains in the basement. Manson and his cousin discovered him "masturbating -- using the noise from the trains as cover -- with really deviant sex mags: bestiality, enemas, that kind of stuff. To me, sex was ugly and still is -- [it's] about fucking pigs and putting douche bags up your ass."
After living in Ohio, Manson moved to Boca Raton, Florida, with his mother, a nurse, and his father, who owns a furniture store. He started to write music, put a band together and was sort of discovered by Trent Reznor when Nine Inch Nails passed through Miami. Reznor put the band on his Nothing label and became his coproducer. "Trent and I are like long-lost brothers," Manson says. "Maybe it's because we're both from Ohio." The two bands went on the road together last year, and that's where the blow-job incident comes in. It was the last night of the tour, and Robin (from NIN) ran onto the stage, "misbehaving. I just grabbed him, turned him around and put him to good use," says Manson, whose parents were in the audience that night. "Let's just say that the subject never came up at the dinner table," he laughs. "My mom is my biggest fan, and my father is always supportive. Maybe it's because they feel responsible for the way I turned out!" Ready to hit the road with Ozzy for five weeks, a flattered Manson, whose show has been called a "three-dimensional stage nightmare," is excited to be working with this rock myth, who made a definite impact during Manson's formative years. Calling their part of the tour "Rehab Is for Quitters," Manson pledges to drag the supposedly sober Ozzy "back down into the dregs of drugs, alcohol and sexual abuse," he says, half-kidding, half-daring. "Ozzy used to bite the heads off bats -- he's not going to have a problem with us."