Interview:Circus Magazine Interviews Marilyn Manson

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Marilyn Manson Interview
M Circus May 96 Cvr.jpg
Interview with Marilyn Manson
Date May, 1996
Source Circus Magazine
Interviewer J. Letkemann

The leader for this wild ride is Marilyn Manson himself. Mr. Manson, a real-life version of Willy Wonka, and his cast of characters are back once again with a new EP Smells Like Children. Smells Like Children is a brilliant combination of Marilyn Manson originals as well as some great re-workings of classic songs from the likes of The Eurythmics, Screamin' Jay Hawkins and Patti Smith.

The controversial singer, who with fellow members Twiggy Ramirez, Madonna Wayne Gacy, Daisy Berkowitz and Ginger Fish, are not only to here to entertain you but want to tempt and take you into their three-dimensional nightmare for the ride of your life.

Circus Magazine: Knowing about the band and seeing the video for Dope Hat, I see we're both huge fans of Roald Dahl's writings.

Marilyn Manson: Yeah. Most people have just seen Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory over the holidays but it's not really the children's tale everyone thinks it is. I always thought it was a darker story and Wonka wasn't always such a hero. He had part villain in him too. I've always identified with the villain in stories growing up because they were flawed and they had more character. Wonka is very flawed and I thought that was the point about him.

I think there's a lot of underlying themes in that movie. I think Willy Wonka is a bit of a archetypal devil character tempting the kids. I just relate to him in a lot of ways. I've always wanted to grow up and be like Wily Wonka.

Do you see yourself as a kind of modern day Pied Piper, taking straight-laced suburban kids and watching them let go?

I guess I can agree with that. The Wonka-isms really came out in the video for Dope Hat.

Was the concept for the video yours?

The director Tom Stern and I came up with that together. It was something that I had wanted to do and then I got the treatment from him and it was the same wavelength so that's why I chose to work with him.

MTV has only been airing that video late nights. Is that something that you assumed was going to happen once the video was done?

I know they had to edit a lot and cut out a lot of stuff. It thought it was pretty tame when we made it. We were trying to be a little bit satirical of ourselves in that we're considered so dangerous to America's youth. We thought it would be ironic to present a video in the form of a children's TV show. I thought that would be ironic. It was subjected to a lot of things that I considered to be very acceptable that I wasn't trying to shock anybody with. It's just really hard to decide what MTV likes. I just like to make a video and if I'm happy with it then that's all that really counts.

Speaking of concepts, how did the whole idea of Marilyn Manson, both you and the band, come about? Everyone is named after a serial killer, how does that all tie in?

I was very much into the idea of combing opposites and taking things that don't belong with each other and putting them together. Five or six years ago when Marilyn Manson sort of came to mind, I thought it's that balance between left and right and give and take, good and evil. I thought that was the best way to describe what I was writing about and my own personality. I thought in America, the strongest way to represent this was with Marilyn Monroe and Charles Manson.

At the same time, it being a new identity that I was sort of involving myself in and becoming and it being part of show business. I'd take two names that were not real names to start with. Marilyn Monroe was not her real name and Charles Manson wasn't his real name either. I thought that made it stronger, made it tie together. If it was going to be a fake name, to be the fakest of it all, thereby making it absolutely real.

I know it's been probably over asked but people first discovering the band wonder how you and Trent Reznor hooked up.

I called an escort service for a male escort and they sent him over. [laughs]

Good answer. Served me right. That's a new one (laughs). The next single off Smells Like Children, Sweet Dreams, is most likely going to be a huge hit. If it is, you guys should be thrust into the mainstream. Is that something you are going to embrace?

The problem is the more dedicated fans always resent the fans that catch on later. The important thing to remember is if people are really understanding what this band is and are trying to accomplish as far as spreading any kind of message of individuality or of anti-social thing. As long as people are finally catching on, I think that's what's important. You can't judge your fans by who was there first and things like that. That's feeding into what everybody is against and what they hate. People hate the way society looks at them and then they want to turn around and look at other people in the same way and I think they should keep that in mind.

Was it your vision or plan all along that you were going to get to this point where you would explode upon mainstream America and do it on your terms? You haven't had to compromise your image or art at all. Is that something that you are excited about?

I guess so. Maybe I take it for granted but that's the only way I would want to do things. If I couldn't do it that way the solution for me is that I would probably not do it. I only want to do what I like to do and if I can't have it that, I would probably just do something else.

Are you afraid that people aren't going to look past the image and see that this band also makes some great music? In other words, are you ever afraid that your image might take away from things?

If it did, we'd probably have no reason to have this conversation. I think that it's very easy to look a way that society would find shocking. It's very easy to shock people. It's very easy to be offensive. I could be a lot more offensive than I am. The important thing is we do have songs to back up what we do and this is the way we like to live.

Everybody has an image. Ours just happens to be a bit more flamboyant - [laughs] - to society. We don't really rely on that. It's just that it's what makes us more happy. There's plenty of bands out there that have much stronger, much more offensive images than us but nobody cares because they don't have any songs to support it with.

Do you feel more or less that people are just going to be looking at you saying, "What are these guys trying to do. I just don't get it?"

I think both and both is good. If people ask questions then I've done something right on any kind of scale. There's just so much music that doesn't leave you to ask any questions. That was what was exciting about growing up and liking bands like The Stooges, Ziggy Stardust, Alice Cooper, KISS and Black Sabbath. There was a question mark there. There was that mystery and you wanted to know. Just for my own enjoyment I try to bring that back to music in the 90's.

How would you describe the person that is Marilyn Manson. I'm sure a lot of people have these misconceptions about you. Is there anything you want to clear up?

No, I don't think so. There's nothing anyone can say about me that would make me mad. It's always interesting to see how people react and what people think of me. I think that's always part of what I do because I like to see people's reactions. It helps me to understand myself better.

Some people may consider me to be a strictly negative person. Not many people have seen extreme positive and extreme negative put together in a way that I live my life, so they only view it as a negative because I don't think people know what extreme positive is. The things that I care about and that make me happy, I feel very strongly about and I love, and it's equal. I don't think a lot of people see the other side.

Musically with Smells Like Children we introduced a transition before we get involved in our next record which has a lot of different sides than Portrait showed. I thought for me to do something shocking and out of the ordinary for myself was I Put A Spell On You or Sweet Dreams. Those are love songs in certain ways but I don't think people expect that of me but that's a part of my personality.

How do you feel Portrait, Smells Like Children and the forthcoming album, Antichrist Superstar, are different in your opinion?

Dynamically, Portrait was very full throttle. Smells Like Children showed a bit more dynamics so far as emotionally and sonically. Antichrist Superstar will be a combination of the two. It's more mature in some ways but still tries to hold on to the naive attitude we used when we did the first record. I've never been a trained musician or singer and I like to do things the way I think they sound good. If they're not right, that doesn't matter to me. I just like it because it works. It's more of a depressing record. It comes to terms with a lot of my anger and maybe it seems kind of hopeless in a lot of ways.