Interview:Axcess • Marilyn Manson Interview

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Marilyn Manson
Interview with Marilyn Manson
Date 1996
Source Axcess Magazine
Interviewer Brian F. McCaughey

Marilyn Manson: I've been told by the label that they predict it to be a very big record, and I wouldn't want anything less.

Brian F. McCaughey: Says Mr. Marilyn Manson about his band's newest album, the much anticipated Antichrist Superstar.

I've put a lot of hard work into it, and I feel like the more people that hear it, the better. I don't think that cheapens it, I think that really adds. Not only does it fulfill the prophecy that the record has laid out, but it also just adds more fuel to the fire to keep things burning.

The fire of which Marilyn Manson speaks was sparked back in 1991, when he began gathering ideas and concepts for what eventually would morph into the band of the same name. The most important of these inspirations was the thesis/antithesis experiment of combining the names of pop culture celebrities Marilyn Monroe and Charles Manson. As others joined his musical congregation, they too traded in their common names for those of serial killers and stars. Before long, they had a band consisting of Daisy Berkowitz on guitars, Twiggy Ramirez on bass, Madonna Wayne Gacy on keyboards, Sara Lee Lucas on drums and Marilyn Manson himself on vocals.

We were all just kind of experimenting and we started writing some songs together," explains Manson, "It was more than just me musically because at the time I was approaching it from a very amateur point of view and then I sort of turned it into a band. I took the initiative to make it happen and then the rest just kind of went from there.

Not long after that period, Marilyn Manson played a show as the opening act for Nine Inch Nails. Trent Reznor became so fond of this angry little shock troop that, when he started his own Nothing Records label, he immediately contacted Manson to talk about making them his first act. Marilyn Manson was now signed! But that didn't exactly put them on easy street.

The time came to record their first album, 1994's Portrait Of An American Family. Reznor, already busy at work putting together The Downward Spiral, enlisted producer Roli Mossiman (Foetus, Machines of Loving Grace) for the task of getting the atmosphere and music of Marilyn Manson down on wax. After months of work, they were less than thrilled with the finished product.

"He did a very poor job." says Mr. Manson. "I expected it to be something much more exciting than it was. He took off all the edge that we were about. Because I liked the stuff that he worked on with (J. G.) Thirlwell, the Foetus stuff and things like that, that's what I had in mind - that it was gonna be raw. He tried to make it very commercial and polished. And it wasn't us. It didn't sound like us at all. It wasn't worth putting out, so we re-did it. And we re-recorded everything."

Manson and Reznor then took on the laborious job of re-recording and producing the album themselves. Around that time, Interscope Records became very hesitant about releasing it because of the sensitive subjects it addressed (suicide and incest, to name a few). The irony lies in the fact that this occurred only months after Interscope spent a great deal of money defending the freedom of speech of their subsidiary, Death Row Records (home to Snoop Doggy Dogg and Dr. Dre). While 'gangsta rap' can be aggressively offensive, there are some subjects its artists would never dare touch upon, such as the topic of child molestation, hinted at in Organ Grinder.

"It's my way of expressing myself on subjects that have troubled me in the past." explains Manson. "I'm not making any suggestions to anybody. In fact, a song like Organ Grinder is taking a jab at people's misinterpretation of what I say - the line how your father doesn't want to hear what I have to say, because what I'm saying is about him in some ways, and that's why it scares him. And that's the exact type of person who would react against the song and think that I'm promoting or encouraging something that I'm not. I don't spend too much time considering what people are gonna say about what I write, because I would be censoring myself. So I just express what's on my mind and then people can draw their own conclusions."

Needless to say, Portrait was eventually released, disturbing lyrics intact. During an extensive tour for that record, Manson began conceiving his next diabolical adventure in music - a record which would feature some remixes, some rewrites, and a few unprecedented covers like Sweet Dreams, the band's first commercial hit single. What his ideas eventually transformed into was the highly successful Smells Like Children EP.

"We actually recorded a couple of B-sides for Dope Hat," Manson says "cos that was gonna be a single. It ended up being so much material I had in mind all along that I wanted to make a children's record of sorts that wasn't for children. But it was reminiscent of the things that I used to listen to when I was a kid - from the imagery of the Wonka-esque elements and the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang elements.

"Everything we've (covered) has been songs that were favorites of mine. Sweet Dreams of course... I love the lyrics, their look at relationships. I Put A Spell On You has always been one of my favorites songs. Screaming Jay Hawkins is like a pioneer in theatrical music. The song, to me, is like a voodoo love song. It believes that if you want something bad enough, you get it in a relationship. I always liked that aspect of it. Rock 'N' Roll Nigger was always a great Patti Smith song. It seemed like nobody else would really take the chance and cover a song like that these days, but I felt like somebody had to."

That wasn't the only chance that they took. Tony Wiggins, a former country singer turned bus driver for Marilyn Manson on the Portrait tour, was featured on the first version of Smells Like Children on a track aptly titled Abuse Part One. (Note: A censored version of Wiggins' acoustic cover of Cake And Sodomy did remain on the final version of the EP). The track is a disturbing live recording of Wiggins performing a sadomasochistic act with a hopelessly submissive woman.

"That was the way I wanted to present that EP, and unfortunately I wasn't allowed to." Manson confesses "But, ironically enough, the record company actually printed several thousand copies of that and distributed it themselves. A lot of people suspected that there were diabolical forces at hand, and I can't say that there weren't. But they did it themselves."

In between the recording of Smells Like Children and Antichrist Superstar, Marilyn Manson faced a bit of hardship in the form of lineup changes. The first to go was drummer Sara Lee Lucas, who was replaced by Ginger Fish. During the initial stages of recording Antichrist, guitarist Daisy Berkowitz was given the boot, leaving the remaining members to write the album's guitar parts. His replacement, Zim Zum, wasn't brought in until after the album was recorded.

"I've always tried to maintain a real integrity to anybody that's in Marilyn Manson," explains Manson, "And if I think anyone is compromising what the band is about or what it stands for what it has to offer, I don't think they should be in the band anymore. Sara Lee Lucas, musically, wasn't holding up his end of the bargain. Physically, stamina wise, he couldn't maintain. He couldn't keep up his job. And Daisy Berkowitz, creatively and from the beginning, has never really considered Marilyn Manson anything other than a job. So it was always an insult to me, because I have always embraced this as my lifestyle, and he wasn't interested in making that same type of a commitment."

Also disposed of was the band's cartoonish image, which had been prevalent throughout their first two releases. Every aspect of the band became darker. Visuals of lunchboxes, toys, and Manson sucking on lollipops were all replaced with gritty Corbijn-esque photographs of him as a worm metamorphosing into the Antichrist Superstar. Those photos serve as visuals to accompany the story that is being told throughout the new record.

"It's basically autobiographical." Manson says. "I used the metaphor of a worm to represent the more vulnerable period of growing up and the transformation into this more realized winged metaphor of an angel - much like the caterpillar into a butterfly, but that not being the final process. Antichrist Superstar (is) the third and final cycle that really devours everything before it. The worm has a lot of references to different things in literature, from Darwin's idea of man as a worm to Milton's The Undying Worm to Revelations in The Bible. I always looked at the worm as something that people underestimate, but has more power than they expect it to. So that's really where that metaphor is based. And I've also always been fascinated with the story of the Antichrist throughout history because, as a kid, it was something that scared me. I was constantly being told that the end of the world was coming, and when it didn't, I think at some point I decided that I wanted to be (the Antichrist) and I wanted to bring that very thing about. So it's a lot of different things that went into me using these types of images. There's a lot of talk in some of the other versions of The Bible, the Hebrew versions, and things about the end of the world not being a punishment from God, but being an invitation from mankind - that mankind has to invite (its) own destruction. And I think that's very true, and it's almost very American. I think that that's the type of society we're in and it's people's very fear of an Antichrist that has created it."

On Antichrist Superstar, Marilyn Manson has taken a more experimental approach towards music. On Portrait, they were almost blatantly minimizing the use of electronics in what seemed like a deliberate attempt not to sound like Nine Inch Nails. Whereas on Children, they opened the door to being interpreted as Reznor-ites while still maintaining their own identity. With Antichrist, Marilyn Manson have come into their own and let themselves be whatever the song demands, whether it's the funky high-hat programming and sequenced bass lines of Dried Up, Tied and Dead to the World or the serene piano lines of Man That You Fear. Even Rock n roll-orientated songs like The Beautiful People have some type of unusual sonic element thrown into them.

"Well, to get sounds," Manson reveals, "we did everything from play the whole mix of a song through a boom box and mic it, to singing vocals through a telephone intercom system, as well as all the various other techniques we've used for inspirational measures like the things that I've spoke about in the past: the pain threshold techniques, sleep deprivation, drug experimentation and that sort of thing."

Perhaps the most interesting technique of all is Marilyn Manson's ability to record songs in the future. Irresponsible Hate Anthem, the first track on Antichrist Superstar, is listed as having been "recorded live on February 14, 1997". "Going into this record with the different experiments that we did with opening the subconscious," Manson explains, "there came a point where time was very irrelevant to us - where time became very interchangeable, and this record (is), in many ways, a piece of the future. Irresponsible Hate Anthem is a piece of the future that was captured as such. It's a musical prediction. And the significance of the date is the irony of it being Valentine's Day, and the irony of the song discussing everything but that. It's something that people will have to wait on that day and see what happens, but I think that everyone will stand back and remember that day for a long time."