Interview:2020/09/09 Q&A: Marilyn Manson On His New Album, Merging Art And Music And The Need For Hope In Art
|Q&A: Marilyn Manson On His New Album, Merging Art And Music And The Need For Hope In Art
|Interview with Marilyn Manson
|September 9, 2020
Marilyn Manson will release his eleventh album, We Are Chaos, this week. The masterful 10-song collection, which was recorded with producer Shooter Jennings, is broken into a traditional side A and side B like old-school vinyl Manson tells me.
The album marks multiple firsts for Manson, from painting the album's cover picture, "Infinite Darkness," to writing several tracks on piano. He also points out proudly that he stretched his vocal range on this record so much that when he played one song for former band mate Twiggy Ramirez, Ramirez asked, "Who is that singing?"
"So that made me happy," Manson says. Forget what you think you know about Manson. He is one of the smartest interviews in rock. And in this fascinating conversation he takes me through the making of We Are Chaos, how influences from David Bowie to Salvador Dali shaped the record and finding hope.
Steve Baltin: What was the timeline these songs were written and recorded?
Marilyn Manson: I suppose it becomes an album probably after two songs. Shooter and I met I think for the first time, I was supposed to do a song with him for Sons Of Anarchy. And I ended up being on the show rather than doing the song because we didn't really like what they were asking from us at the time. But as fate would have it, it turned out I would be on the show and it was my father's favorite show. So that was like a gift to him before he passed away, so I enjoyed that. And Shooter and I, for his album, we did a "Cat People" cover. That was the first thing we did. And both of us started to go on tour and so it made it a little difficult for us to have time to record. But once we did start focusing in I think the very first song that we wrote together was "Half-Way & One Step Forward." And it was so strangely different than anything I'd done before it was exciting to me. The next song we wrote was "We Are Chaos." "We Are Chaos" is probably a year and a half old as far as when we wrote it. So when the record was finished, probably in January or so, we had planned on going on tour with Ozzy. And this was before the pandemic hit, so obviously everything changed. But I think it's strange that the song now takes on a different identity because of what's happening now. At the same time I was really singing about my mental health and my relationship to identifying with other people and how they're feeling.
Baltin: When did the direction of the album take shape?
Manson: He and I started forming it in the sense that once we had three or four songs done, which started with piano and vocals for the greater part, sometimes acoustic guitar, we figured out together that there was a certain thing with me singing to piano that was something I had not tapped into in the past. Maybe dabbled with it, but not in the same way as having someone who plays piano in the way Shooter does. And we both had a great love for the Diamond Dogs [David Bowie] record in addition to many other records of his. He wanted to try to get me to sing in a more baritone way and just in a different way. I think of it as a book, this record.
Baltin: Take me through your recording process.
Manson: We usually started around for the most part 10 or so, sometimes earlier. Shooter said my best singing time is three AM, that's my magic hour of my voice, probably cause it sounds most banged up at that point. But we had started making it. And we realized four or five songs in this had to be a LP style in the traditional sense, not about the vinyl, but a side A and a side B. So we started forming it into that. That's why there is a distinct line after the obvious title of "Half-Way & One Step Forward," track five. And then the next side is "Infinite Darkness," which I had just painted the cover of the album. And I had never done that intentionally before for an album cover. But I sat down, or I kneeled down, I paint on the floor on my knees, and I woke up the next day, I had black-stained hands and knees. And I almost forgot about painting it. I was in a mode when I had done it. I had taken pictures of it and I sent them to him that morning. The painting was still drying. And I went into the studio with him and started on that song "Infinite Darkness." At that point it really developed into something and at times we used his band, which is predominantly traditionally country. And at times we used my band, for the most part my drummer, Brandon Pertzborn. We weren't afraid to mix the two together when we were making the songs. It flowed quickly, there were no extra songs. There was no fat to cut off the music
Baltin: I was a big fan of the Dark Ribbon record. So how much do you feel the collaboration of you two led to this conceptual piece?
Manson: Completely, I think it's what we bonded off of. He did not know that I used to walk on stage to "F**k You I'm Famous," which was in Californication, where I first heard it. And I had not even met him at that point. He then told me when I did meet him that he learned some of his guitar playing from Antichrist Superstar. So we had our initial flattery, ass-kissing, friendship development when we first met. But then we became so much in the same brain. There's a lot of synchronization between the bass and the drums and the piano and the guitar and my vocals. So very much like two children in a playground making music. And we didn't play any of the songs to the label until it was probably one song closed to being finished. And I didn't even play it to my manager of 30 years in its entirety until it was finished. It was us wanting to keep it true to what we wanted. We'd play it to other people here and there just to get a feel to what people responded to. I remember I played "Paint You With My Love" to Twiggy [Ramirez], who I had not spoken to in a few years, and he loved it. But when it first came on he asked me who was singing. He didn't recognize my voice cause he had never heard my voice in that key. Shooter helped to expand what I could do. So we got into what ended up being an incredible friendship and collaboration that who knows what will happen next with it. We've already started writing a new record during quarantine because we don't really have much else to do.
Baltin: Will there be an opportunity for you guys to tour together in the future and use his band to bring this album to life?
Manson: Well yes and probably in a different way. We were meant to do this farewell Ozzy tour, which got canceled because of his illness. That was disappointing and also concerning about his health. But also I really wanted to do it. Then it wouldn't have been able to happen anyways because of what happened to the world. But we'd intended for Shooter to come on tour and play piano cause it's impossible to do these songs without Shooter's involvement at the very least on piano. I think the others, it depends on how many of the songs we would do, but everybody always wants to do new songs when they put out a record and everybody dislikes the concept of going to a concert and only hearing new songs, they want to hear old songs. But I feel like there's a certain element to this record that the songs are so easy to grasp onto in the same way that when I played Antichrist Superstar and no one had heard it, and it was my only material that I could work off for the most part on tour, I had to rely on confidence, presentation and just the power of what it was. And I don't think that's an impossible thing. I'm sure that we'll figure out a new way to make things happen. I don't think you can ever recreate a live concert.
Baltin: What were your favorite things about concerts growing up?
Manson: I remember when I was a kid, I went to concerts to meet girls. The girls went to the concerts to f**k the band so you would try to like get lucky and meet a girl that would kiss you or something, that went there that didn't get to f*k the band. But now when you're in the band it kind of puts you in a quandary at the same time. Somehow we will figure out how to make this all work. As an artist you have to have hope. Otherwise there's no point in making art.
Baltin: Have you been doing a ton of painting and are the two mediums fueling each other a bit?
Manson: I found that in the past I did not embrace the qualities of Salvador Dali that I admire most, not just his paintings, but his hi-jinks and other works of insanity that he'd done. I found to be very inspiring his writings, his photography, everything that he did. And that always was something that I felt like I wanted to do, but never really did it. So I never really wanted to mix the two worlds because I wanted to be taken separately as a painter and a musician. And not have it be, "Oh, he does that as a hobby." And then I have an art book coming out this year right after the album pretty much of all my paintings as well.
Baltin: So at some point will you turn that into a gallery or museum show?
Manson: Yeah, I have had several museum shows. Gallery shows are amazing also, but they're more of a thing to sell art, whatever it might be. I felt like it was time to combine those two together cause I didn't want just a picture of me on the cover or something else. I wanted it to capture something that was completely different and hopefully I accomplished that. For me, I feel like I did as far as my satisfaction. Other than that I'm getting ready to shoot the next video this week for "Don't Chase The Dead." It's gonna be the second one and it's gonna be quite different than the first one.