|Interview with Marilyn Manson
- Five days, three gigs, several insane fans, a handful of religious protestors and a beautiful model. It can mean only one thing.
- Marilyn Manson is in town.
"I GUESS there’s something we should talk about first," croaks Marilyn Manson, by way of an introduction. "I broke up with my fiancée the other day. Basically, to sum it up, the strain of touring was too much. It wasn’t an ugly break-up, and when you know somebody for so long and care about them, hopefully those feelings won’t change."
It wasn’t supposed to go like this. Five minutes before I’m lead into a day room in the swanky Metropolitan Hotel on London’s Park Lane to meet up with Manson, the band’s UK publicist takes me to one side to pass on a little friendly advice.
It turns out that literally a few hours before the singer boarded a plane to fly over to the UK for his first British dates since that ill-fated showing at the Big Day Out 18 months ago, he split with long-time girlfriend Rose McGowan. According to reports that have filtered through, the vocalist is "gutted". The official line is simple: anyone mentions the break-up and he’ll get up and walk out of the interview.
There is, however, an explanation for this about turn. It seems that on his arrival in the UK the night before, Manson discovered his erstwhile other half had issued a statement to the press; a statement which, in the words of a source close to the band, made him "look like a bit of a berk". And if there’s one thing the God Of F**k doesn’t like, it’s that.
And so, contrary to reports, Manson — sitting in a darkened room, clad in regulation black threads, flying saucer-sized shades and a suspiciously expensive-looking black hat — doesn’t come across as a man crippled by heartbreak.
"It just got to the point where it wasn’t working anymore," he concludes with a faint smile. "That’s it. So here I am, ladies. Please form an orderly queue."
WELCOME TO the first day of the European leg of Marilyn Manson’s ‘ Guns, God And Government’ tour, a travelling musical carnival based around a concept no-one fully understands but which rocks big-style anyway.
Actually, it’s Day Zero, as Manson has flown in to the UK 24 hours ahead of the rest of his band. Over the next five days, he’ll play three gigs, cause uproar among Britain’s religious community, be photographed in a limo with "a mystery woman" (‘The Mirror’), stop the traffic on London’s Oxford Street, take up residence in the Met Bar with his friend Katie-Jane Garside of Queen Adreena, and force one unfortunate fan’s face into his crotch in front of 10,000 people at London’s Docklands Arena.
But right now, he’s commandeered this third-floor hotel room to talk to the UK press. And by Christ, can he talk.
"By the time we finished for a few days off at the beginning of the New Year, we were falling apart at the seams," he explains of the US leg of the tour, as the interview gets underway. "I was covered in cuts and bruises, I had a bruised rib that I thought was broken and Ginger (Fish, drummer) had a broken collar-bane which is still mending even though he’s playing every night, but it has still been fantastic."
Beginning at Milwaukee’s Orpheum Theatre in late October 2000, the ‘Guns, God & Government Tour’ — which takes its name from one of the key tracks from last year’s ‘ Holy Wood (In The Shadow Of The Valley Of Death)’ opus — is currently in full swing. These three UK shows lie somewhere in the midst of a five-month slog that will see the band crawl through all the major European countries, before hitting Russia and winding up in Tokyo in late March — a heavy schedule by anyone’s standards.
"Yeah, but we’re having the most enjoyable time that we’ve ever had," says Manson. "On this tour we feel very strong, we’re very much a family, so that kind of lessens the pain of other, outside relationships. At least on tour —without wishing to sound sappy —we have each other."
And then there’s Russia. With rumours of the Russian Mafia demanding huge backhanders from every Western band to play the former Soviet Union, the prospect of Marilyn Manson in Russia will certainly be an interesting spectacle. How does it feel to be visiting a country that was, until very recently, seen as The Enemy Of Democracy?
"I’ve never been there and I’m looking forward to it," he says democratically. "We’re thinking about possibly shooting the video for ‘The Nobodys’ in Russia because the atmosphere, the desolation, the coldness and the architecture would really suit the song. We’re pretty excited."
Still, the Soviet shows are weeks away. Right now, Manson is playing the exact same set every night right down to every last rabble-rousing speech, and memories of last week - let alone last year - are already fading as the ‘Groundhog Day’-style repetition of touring begins to kick in. "The last show we did before we came here was in LA and I really don’t remember much of it," says Manson. "It was a strange and tumultuous evening and I don’t have a great recollection of anything other than the crowd being fantastic and at some point I was naked in the audience. My parents were there too, sitting next to Gene Simmons."
He pauses, smiling at the absurdity of Ma and Pa Warner meeting the original God Of F**k(ing). "My parents got on quite well with Gene," he adds. "I don’t think he tried to f**k my mom. Although he’s quite welcome to..."
FAST-FORWARD 24 hours. Deep in the backstage labyrinth of Birmingham’s cavernous NEC, Manson and his band are recovering from an afternoon shopping in Camden and a night out at notorious London fetish club The Torture Garden, and they’re currently squeezing themselves into corsets in preparation for this evening’s show. Or at least I imagine they are — no-one from the media is allowed within shouting distance of the band in the hours leading up to the show.
Outside, in the NEC’s vast entrance hall, various Rolling Stones classics are pumping over the PA, entertaining the crowd of Manson disciples who have turned up early in an attempt to catch a glimpse of their hero.
For these fans, today’s date has been etched onto calendars and in diary pages for months. For many of them, it’s a chance to kick back against the ridicule and abuse that your average Manson fan is forced to endure when he or she is fully dressed up (or, if you will, down). There’s plenty of nervous chatter. "I’m quite scared actually," confides 18-year-old Sophie from Derby. "But then that’s half the fun isn’t it?"
"As long as he plays ‘Sweet Dreams’ I’ll be happy," adds Holly from Leicestershire, one hand clutching a ticket the other cuffed to her friend Deborah. "We’ve been waiting three years. He’d better be good... or else!"
She needn’t worry. The Marilyn Manson roadshow, honed by the best part of four months playing the enormodromes of America, is the greatest spectacle this side of a New Year’s fireworks display. Part gig, part circus, part (anti-)fashion show —Mazza’s costume changes include everything from ironic archbishop’s get-up to a fantastic fetish skirt that raises him 40 feet in the air and back down to the ground again — this is rock n’ roll reinvented as grand theatre.
And the crowd is equally dramatic. Easily the most outlandish — a compliment by the way — audience the UK has seen since, well, the last time Manson trolled around the country, the masses gathered in the NEC cover every single base imaginable, and quite a few that aren’t: there are boys dressed as girls, girls dressed as Manson, androgynes dressed in not much at all, and a fantastic array of customised outfits. "I would describe this look that I’m sporting tonight as ‘Psychotic Nun’," says a cheery Daniel from Leicestershire, enjoying a quick drink before the show. I got the outfit from a fancy dress shop especially. Manson was the first big band that I really got into so I thought that I’d make the effort. Why not?"
"I THINK we’re back into the ugliness again," Manson says later, after a regulation two-hour post-show cool-off period. "It’s almost like the last day of school every day for us, there’s no care for tomorrow. We’re united in our hatred for everything else other than our band and our fans."
What type of operation is a Marilyn Manson tour? How many people are on the payroll?
"I have no idea," he admits, shrugging, clearly not giving a shit. "There’s quite a few people involved. If I start thinking about those things it distracts me from my job, my performance." Given the mixed response to ‘Holy Wood...’ surely everyone involved must feel vindicated by the tour’s success?
"I don’t usually look at things on that scale," he drawls. "I always try and make something that I can be proud of, and I think it’s just great that the fans stick behind something and they’re always there to learn some-thing new and if we grow and change they’re willing to grow with us. You know, I’m happy if some jack-ass who doesn’t buy CD’s says .~ that it was a great record, but the opinion if someone who has spent their hard-earned money on my album and loves listening to it, I will always value more."
IF YESTERDAY was Sunday, then today must be Monday, which means we’re in Manchester. And if Birmingham was a gloriously luminescent shade of black, Manchester — at least the city itself — is closer to a drab gun-metal gray.
Manson and co are due to play the spacious Evening News Arena later today, and already the heavens have opened in anticipation of his arrival, throwing the proverbial cats, dogs and several other less pleasant creatures down on our heads. Still, one man’s name is on everyone’s lips. Well, almost everyone’s.
"Marilyn Magic?" barks our cab driver as we head towards the venue. "Never heard of him. Talks about the devil does he? Hell, any bloke who gets married knows all about that, fair play to him, I say. Bet he’s quids in..."
If only everyone was as open minded to his arrival. Outside the venue stands a 50-strong crowd of gawping Christians doing their best to save our souls from damnation, armed only with a guitar, a few candles and God’s guidance. In all honesty it’s a more unsettling sight than anything that takes place onstage. Unfortunately, God appears to have slipped in early to catch opening band Godhead’s set because as the Bible-bashers prepare for another rousing rendition of ‘Kum By Ah’, the sky cracks, the downpour turns torrential and the group soon disperses leaving nary a whiff of brimstone behind.
Marilyn Manson, unsurprisingly, remains unfazed by either the weather or the protectors.
"It’s always amusing to me," he says. "Recently, the most amusing incident took place in Santa Barbara, where the Christian protestors were handing out pizza to the fans. I found it very odd that they were trying to spread the word of Christ through a Domino’s stuffed crust." Maybe Christianity is finally becoming hip.
"Well personally," smiles Manson, "I thought that it was diabolical that they took communion with pepperoni and tomato sauce, rather than wine and wafer, heh heh. Highly blasphemous."
Speaking of Christians, Manson recently locked horns with spiritually-inclined techno guru Moby.
"Yeah, it seemed like there was going to be a dispute between Moby and I, but it was all the fault of the media," he explains. "They took an old quote of his and I assumed it was recent so I stood my ground and let hEn know that he would receive a severe ass-whipping if he needed one, but he just sort of cowered in fear and went back to eating vegetables or whatever it is that he does."
MARILYN MANSON likes Europe, and he likes to talk even more.
At the moment he’s revelling in the pleasures of being "in tour mode".
"You always fall into a routine at home, but I’m also fond of staying in hotels," he says. "Maybe it’s because I’ve done it so much, or maybe it’s because when I wake up and am too lazy or hungover to walk to the bathroom, I can always piss on the floor because it’s not my house. On tour I only need movies, music and clothing. There’s not too much stuff that I rely on so I can function pretty well on the road."
What are your first memories of playing the UK?
"My memories of our first UK shows?" he ponders. "I remember the Archbishop Of Something-Or-Other was trying to stop us from playing, and I recall that as a result we ended up having a bigger audience than we originally expected. because the venues in London kept changing. Looking at it that way, it’s really unbelievable to go from playing a small club to playing arenas, because it really shows that if you take every fan in every country seriously and treat them as equally as you would in America, the support and response will be fantastic."
Unlike many touring musicians, Manson hasn’t fully descended into a haze of drugs and perversity yet. He’s still knocking back the absinthe at a frightening rate, but he’s also turning his mind towards the future in general and the next album in particular "I’m already thinking about it and am beginning to write new stuff once again because it’s been over a year since we started on ‘Holy Wood..’," he reveals. "I think that we’ll probably put out an EP some time this summer, possibly with some of the songs that we didn’t put on the album and some interesting things such as the piano piece that I did on my recent webcast. I feel a bit freer to explore something new," he adds with a shrug. "But what that is I haven’t yet decided."
TUESDAY. THERE’S no show tonight which means a day of rest for the Manson family. Unfortunately for them, their definition of ‘rest’ differs quite considerably from that of the rest of the world. Today consists of a handful of interviews, a TV appearance or two, one high-profile in store appearance at the Virgin Megastore on London’s Oxford Street and a guest spot on ‘The Radio 1 Rock Show’.
Despite the best efforts of the protestors, the Manchester show — like Birmingham the previous night — was a triumph. Consequently, Manson is in a strangely affable mood when he turns up to pre-record an interview for ‘The Big Breakfast’, though whether that’s down to the fact that he’s not yet actually been to bed isn’t clear He chats amiably with presenter Paul Tonkinson, even playing along with the joke when the latter raises the topic of ‘The Wonder Years’ — the show which Manson was rumoured (falsely) to have starred in as a child.
Oddly, the four days Manson has spent in the UK have, on the surface, been largely sleaze-free. Yet hints of some good ol’ rock piggery are beginning to surface. Pictures of Manson with a black-haired beauty apparently seen "comforting him after his break-up" appear in today’s tabloids — she’s actually model [[Dita Von Tesse], who was spotted scantily-clad with legs akimbo behind John5’s guitar amp during the Manchester show. Then there’s the fans in attendance at this evening’s instore appearance at the Virgin Megastore. People like Joe, Sean, Jamie, Sarah and Dean from Aylesbury, who are near the front of the queue clutching some uniquely British gifts, such as a ‘Bob The Builder’ umbrella and a warm can of cheap beer As you do.
With five hundred ticket holders in attendance, the Megastore is buzzing with security guards and a phalanx of paparazzi photographers, all vying for space closest to the table where the band will be signing merchandise. At 7pm — nearly an hour late — the five members enter the store through the back door, led by Manson, who sports a striking, peaked WWII hat.
"The band have definitely been enjoying some classic rock chick action," says one fan, 21-year-old blonde Jamie, who then proceeds to share various unprintable stories concerning various members of the Manson camp. "I met Pogo the other day and he was wearing a chain-mail hat, which was nice."
Things soon begin to kick off. As the band take their positions at the back of the store, the gaggle of photographers and news crews jostle for space and try and get individual members’ attentions. Interestingly, few of the media representatives here seem to have an understanding of what the band are about. "Is it true that Marilyn had breast implants, but then got them removed?" one hack asks me in all seriousness. "What do they sound like anyway?" asks a TV presenter, before she tries to blag an interview. "What do his wife and kids think about all of this?" says a third.
Some fans slowly go to pieces as the queue edges forward, others try and engage a placid Manson in conversation, and more still pose for the cam-eras and inform bemused news hounds that "Manson is the one true God".
Two hours later and the five men in black have certainly done their bit to fuel the Manson myth. All it takes is a few well-aimed stares and some well-applied make-up to satisfy the bustling tl media throng, who dash off to file B their copy for the next day’s edi- v tions. Manson himself disappears p around the corner to the BBC F Radio Building, where he’ll be cor-nered by Kerrang! Editor-In-Chief Phil Alexander for a "swift chin-wag" about booze, the Beatles and his new found love of the sin-gle life.
Still, every job has its downside...
THE END is in sight. The blitzkreig is nearly over. Tonight, Manson bids farewell to Britain with a show at the Docklands Arena, just down the road from Canary Wharf in East London.
Vague plans to get smashed after the show are being hatched, but there’s a heavy schedule to stick to for the time being. Word from the Manson camp suggests that the singer is uncharacteristically nervous about tonight’s gig. Not nervous enough, however, to prevent him from claiming credit for accidentally swinging the recent farcical US presidential election campaign.
"Strangely, it’s quite possible that I’m responsible for George W Bush being in office because he won by such a small amount, and particularly because it was in Florida," he says as we catch up at the venue. "Who’s to say there weren’t a couple of our fans who took my sarcasm seriously and voted for him?"
So you weren’t really backing the anti-abortionist, cowboy-boot wearing Texan buffoon, then? "No. I think it worked out for the best though, because the more conservative he is the better, as it gives people like me more of a reason to do what we do. They love to take my comments out of context, but what was most amusing was that George Bush Jr’s press people issued a statement saying that they didn’t want Marilyn Manson’s support. I thought that was cool."
Cool or not, you’re unlikely to hear other rock stars making such bold claims, It’s hardly front-page news to say that, alongside Eminem, Marilyn Manson is one of very few figures who can genuinely influence people’s lives.
‘Everything has become such a product now that angst and heaviness are just as packageable as fake tits and boy bands," Manson sneers. "Nothing against fake tits, of course. Bands like us and Slipknot haven’t exploded in the same way as Limp Bizkit or even Papa Roach have, and that’s the way a band like Marilyn Manson should always be. Rock music has crossed over and while some of the lowest common denominator music has really caught on, I’m glad to say that the real, genuine, challenging music has remained honest and Out there."
OUR TIME is up. It’s 11pm on Wednesday night, and the show is over, deemed a success by most in attendance. The band manage to pull off headlining on a big-time stage in London, and like he says, finally do seem like a band — with a shrewd and highly entertaining megalomaniac playing ring-leader.
Afterwards, as 12,000 fans try and get on a two-carriage train, a few people filter through into the lig that’s being held in one of the backstage rooms. While the likes of Gary Numan and Primal Scream frontman Bobby Gillespie mill around, Twiggy Ramirez is spotted on the verge of sleep on a settee, looking more than a little spent.
Manson is nowhere to be seen.
In a couple of hours, as many of - the fans continue their journey across the continent, the band will board the bus and drive on to the next country, their leader constantly pondering his next move.
Five days earlier, in his dark-ened Metropolitan Hotel room, Manson mused on the literal and metaphorical gulf between Britain and his home country.
"The support for Marilyn Manson in the UK is probably bet-ter than it is in America right now," he stated. "A lot of bands don’t appreciate Europe, they think it’s a pain in the ass, but I like coming here. I’m more and more tempted to move here. I don’t know where yet because I haven’t seen all of it, but it’s a possibility.
"Coming to Europe the first time gave me a better perspective on what’s good and bad about America and it gave me a different outlook on how people respect music and religion. Everything is looked at quite differently here, so Europe gave me a better understanding of my role in the world and in culture, and it enabled me to open my mind. I also learned that wherever you go there is always a McDonalds. Incidentally, I’m just wondering if Mad Cow Disease came about because somebody had sex with a cow? That’s how everything comes about: somebody f**ked something that they weren’t supposed to."