Interview:1998/09 The Hardest Working Antichrist in Hollywood

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The Hardest Working Antichrist in Hollywood
Photo ©
Interview with Marilyn Manson
Date Sept 1998
Interviewer Gabriella

After the enormous success of the Antichrist Superstar album, Marilyn Manson toured, wrote his autobiography The Long Hard Road Out of Hell and contended with countless media attacks and law suits. Somehow he also managed to put together the stellar new album Mechanical Album revealing a new glittery, glam-rock image -- to the surprise of critics and fans alike.

Ever inured to stress and turmoil, not even the recent switch in Manson’s ever-changing line-up seemed to phase him. Guitarist Zim Zum, the latest of the Manson family to leave (that is, be fired) claimed he’s not in the mood to tour another 18 months with Manson: “For me it was a creative prison!” Manson claimed, however, that Zim Zum didn’t show up for work because “he got wrapped up in the whole Hollywood thing.” Zim Zum’s current replacement is John Lowery, former David Lee Roth and Two guitarist.

Despite the roller-coaster line-up, Manson (aka Brian Warner or more recently, Omega) and bassist Twiggy Ramirez remain not only close buddies who share a house in LA, but the main creative force behind the band. Onstage, the show revolves around the duo infernal, while the other band members hold mere guest roles. Perhaps, as a result, the number of ex-band members has been growing like a weed: before Zim Zum it was Gidget Gein, Daisy Berkowitz (currently in litigation with Manson) and Sarah Lee Lucas who packed it in.

Surprisingly, the personnel changes do not appear to be a matter of personality clashes or egos (Manson’s far from an egomaniac) as much as the inability to withstand the pressure and hard work: long, draining tours, fanatic Mansonites, and furious -- often vicious -- propaganda. The hysteria surrounding the band seems maddening and yet Manson remains as calm and pleasant as ever...

NY ROCK: Zim Zum left, how are you handling the change in personnel?

Marilyn Manson: Actually Zim Zum was the temporary replacement for Daisy and originally he was only hired for one tour but we got along and he stayed. It's sad and I would lie if I say that it's anything less than inconvenient, very inconvenient, but life goes on. One of the most important things I learned in the past few years is, that good art, great art, is born in great pain. Art is a combination of pain, craziness, confusion, drugs and/or sex.

John Lowery is now pretty busy practicing and he's got to learn our whole back catalogue and on top of it he had to record a lot of overdubs for Mechanical Animals. It was a lot of stress but he was coping really well with it.

NY ROCK: How do you cope with the pressure of the press, your fans and enemies?

MM: It has to be your lifestyle. You have to live it and can't just pretend that you live it. If you're not really into it and believe less than 100% in what you do, then it's impossible. We're not a freak show where you put on a mask and the rest of your time you live a nice suburban lifestyle. You have to feel, breathe and live it. If you're not 100% in it, then you create a monster that comes back to haunt you.

NY ROCK: Another problem was drummer Ginger Fish's delicate health. He suffered from a break down and you had to cancel a long-planned six-week European tour that would have helped you to try out new material live for Mechanical Animals. A break down as the official explanation for the cancellation of a tour always sounds slightly suspicious, if not fishy...

MM: You don't know how much we're missing to be on stage. Well, at least I really do miss it. I love playing live and giving a performance. We didn't play any gigs for almost 10 months. Of course I miss it, but I have to confess that the unexpected break also did us good. We just needed to relax and recharge our energies.

NY ROCK: What happened between you and your old friend Trent Reznor? You don't seem to be on such great terms anymore...

MM: Since the book was published I didn't hear from him. Maybe he's pissed off. So what? I'm not going to back off and claim that I didn't mean what I wrote. I'm still behind it all. Anyway, it was time to free myself. I had to step out of his shadow. His work as a producer was very important and it was really great but at the same time he really limited me and I had to break out.

NY ROCK: Weren't you one of the first journalists who interviewed him? What was that like?

MM: Actually it wasn't so exciting but we got on well. He's pretty different from Anthony Kiedis [Red Hot Chili Peppers]. I interviewed him a couple of times and he always was an asshole, or at least he acted like one. I might dedicate The Dope Show to him.

"They love you when you're on all the covers. When you're not they love another..." [lyrics of The Dope Show]. Sums up the music biz pretty well... It's a pretty cold and sarcastic song and he's playing with all the cliches of a decadent musician or rock star. It's a hymn for the modern rock star, or for Anthony Kiedis.

NY ROCK: Wow, quite a grudge you're carrying there. Does he still remember when you interviewed him?

MM: I don't think so. I looked a bit different way back when. He's all over me now, all smiles and kisses, but I don't engage in that friendliness. I won't forget that he treated me like shit.

NY ROCK: What about Michael Stipe [of R.E.M.]? Still checking into hotels under his name?

MM: Oh God, no, I don't anymore. Ha ha ha, I grew really bored with it, but it was a lot of fun.

NY ROCK: I never really understood why you did it anyway.

MM: That's really simple. Michael was calling me a lot. He kept calling me and I just decided I needed to shake him up a bit. You know he takes everything far too seriously. He needed to ease up. I liked the idea that whenever he called the hotels and wanted to talk to me he had to ask for himself. That's pretty hilarious, isn't it? I just can't resist it. I need to shake people up, need to make them see the funny side and stop them from taking everything seriously -- especially themselves.

NY ROCK: Concerning your book, Billy Corgan [of Smashing Pumpkins] claims that most of the stories in it are fictitious...

MM: He's also one of the guys who needs to let go a bit. When Billy is in town I drag him around and I make him take drugs. He doesn't admit it, but I swear he's having a lot of fun.

NY ROCK: You're living in LA now. That's a pretty crazy town and you seem to fit right in.

MM: I moved to Hollywood and it's really not what you think it is. I'm trying hard to make it livelier, to spice it up a bit. Everybody thinks Hollywood is this decadent place but it's terribly conservative there. The people all act so bourgeois. They're hiding behind the proper front. You're not allowed to smoke in restaurants. Nobody would admit that they're taking drugs...

NY ROCK: The drug and sex stories in your book were rather long and explicit. No one tried to sue you?

MM: You can't sue somebody for telling the truth. I think the drug chapters were just an excuse for the cops to search my house from bottom to top and vice versa, but apart from that I didn't have any problems... so far.

NY ROCK: Not even with the search warrant they had? Did they find anything?

MM: Do you think I'm stupid and would keep anything in the house after I published a book like mine?

NY ROCK: Your looks have changed and in Mechanical Animals you sound like a different person from the one who recorded Antichrist Superstar...

MM: I guess you're right, Antichrist Superstar was something like an act, a role I played. I had to play to be able to deal with my own hatred and the hatred of others. On Mechanical Animals I had to get away from it. I wanted to be somebody else.

NY ROCK: There are obvious traces of Bauhaus especially in a few of the songs like the title track "Mechanical Animals," "The Last Day on Earth" and "Disassociative"...

MM: That's right and I won't even try to deny it. Why should I? It is obvious and I don't have a problem with it. The '80s weren't bad, they weren't bad at all. Nothing happened afterwards except grunge.

NY ROCK: Your music and your lyrics have really changed...

MM: I think in the past our music was lacking feelings. It was harsh but not melodic and that was OK. It was suitable, but this album is far more personal. It's more vulnerable. The music and the lyrics have to go together so the music had to follow the lyrics, otherwise it wouldn't have worked at all.

What I really like about this album is that it will shut up a couple of critics, all the guys who claimed we're just shock rockers without talent will be rather quiet or they might end up looking like fools. I think we shocked them with this album. How's that for shock rock.

NY ROCK: So Mechanical Animals is the beginning of a new era?

MM: That's for sure. For me, Antichrist Superstar was kind of an experiment, a study. A study about the abuse of power, how power can be abused in politics, religion, music.

The whole thing about it was to put your emotions aside and become as powerful, as mighty as possible. To leave your feelings outside.

NY ROCK: The experience was successful and now?

MM: And now it's another experiment: What happens when you get your feelings back?

NY ROCK: I don't know; you tell me?

MM: It's like being on another planet, in another universe, in an atmosphere you don't belong to. Well, actually Hollywood is ideal for that.

NY ROCK: Because the people there are from another planet?

MM: Ha ha ha, that too. But what I meant was more the view from my house at night. I'm living in the hills and when I look down at night I see all the bright city lights and the loneliness out there. It's like being in outer space.

NY ROCK: And that was part of the theme for Mechanical Animals...

MM: It was. Basically, it's about a person who's trying to fit in and it isn't easy. A person who is torn between two worlds, but earth and space are just metaphors of my own life and who knows anything about my real ego? Who knows what goes on inside of me?

NY ROCK: I guess nobody, but it's frightening that you only seem to know three kinds of girls: sluts, porno queens and super models...

MM: (Laughs.) Hey, I was only writing about my experiences. Not my fault if I meet the same types over and over. I don't claim that there are only three types of women. By the way, "girl" is a sexist term; you shouldn't use it. Ha ha ha, but I experienced those three different types of women.

NY ROCK: Are you talking about American girls?

MM: Difficult to say. With most of the other nations, there's the language barrier, you know. It's pretty hard to communicate if somebody doesn't understand what you're saying. I had a German girlfriend once, but we broke up after a couple of months. She didn't understand my sarcasm. Actually, we had no common ground, nothing to talk about. Whenever I was cynical, she didn't understand what I meant and so we had to split.

NY ROCK: But now you're happy?

MM: Oh yeah, I'm very happy.

NY ROCK: In a relationship?

MM: In a relationship.

NY ROCK: Maybe that's the reason you seem to be far more mellow...

MM: I don't really know. I don't try to find out why I'm happy, but this relationship with Rose [McGowan, the actress] is different and, yes, I think it influences my music. She adds a positive element, a glimmer of hope.

NY ROCK: Wow, a romantic Marilyn...

MM: Hey, that doesn't mean that I have turned or will turn into one of the idiots who walk hand in hand through shopping malls, glued together. God, no!

NY ROCK: But you found your female counterpart?

MM: No, we're not alike. She went through worse things than anything I ever went through, but that helps her to understand me. For her, I'm not the notorious outcast, the notorious weirdo.

NY ROCK: How long are you going to be the American nightmare?

MM: Hey honey, I just started! This is only the beginning of the true nightmare, ha ha ha.

NY ROCK: I'm afraid to ask what that means...

MM: I'm an entertainer. There's nothing I enjoy more than making statements with my performance. My show is going to become far more extreme -- more extreme than you can imagine.

NY ROCK: It's not like you were boring before...

MM: And it's my aim, my goal, never to be boring.

NY ROCK: You're really looking for trouble, aren't you?

MM: I just enjoyed the whole confusion my last show created. The majority didn't understand it at all and it set their little brains in motion. Thinking is something that most Americans have forgotten how to do. That's a reason why I absolutely have to go on.

NYROCK:: How do you view your future?

MM: Oh, maybe I'll end up in Las Vegas as a crooner, like Frank Sinatra, singing easy listening versions of "The Beautiful People". That would be fun. On the other hand, I might end up in jail or in the electric chair. I haven't got a clue. Life is full of surprises.