Interview:Metal Edge Interviews Marilyn Manson

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A Controversial Conversation With The Irreverent Reverend
Interview with Marilyn Manson
Date 1995
Source Metal Edge Magazine

Marilyn Manson (the band and the man) almost had to happen. In the past several years, a lot of underground music became mainstream. As we all know, Alternative isn't alternative anymore, and whenever that occurs in any form of artistic expression, something really different must come along to shake people up. Since its 1990 inception, the Florida-based outfit - bassist Twiggy Ramirez, keyboardist Madonna Wayne Gacy, guitarist Daisy Berkowitz, and Ginger Fish (who replaced original drummer Sara Lee Lucas) - fronted by Mr. Manson has done an excellent job of stirring things up.

Debut album Portrait Of An American Family, co-produced by Trent Reznor, completely lived up to the band's macabre and androgynous look (sort of an update on Alice Cooper). Sporting fiercely rocking anthems like Cake and Sodomy and Lunchbox, it offered twisted views of American life that hit home with a lot of people.

Last year's EP Smells Like Children took the whole MM shebang one step further with perverse covers of Eurythmics' Sweet Dreams and Patti Smith's Rock 'N' Roll Nigger alongside American Family remixes and some rather disturbing between-song stuff. In September, MM plan to release their second full-length album, Antichrist Superstar. Meanwhile, the band will tour with Ozzy Osbourne beginning this month (April). We spoke to Mr. Manson in February during a break in touring. He held forth candidly on topics that are sure to raise that hackles of many readers. Continue at your own risk.

Metal Edge: You're relaxing between tours right now?

Marilyn Manson: I don't know if I can ever relax; I'm sitting around not doing much.

Are you going to be working on Antichrist Superstar before, during, or after the Ozzy tour?

All of the above; we're going to work on the album a little bit, go out on tour, come back, and finish with the record.

Do you have everything for the new album already written?

Everything's been written and there's a definite skeleton for the whole thing, but I think we're going to experiment with a lot of different things when we get in the studio. This record's going of be a lot more experimental.

In what way?

The idea behind the album is kind of a look into the future and into the past and how the two are the same. The first record asked a lot of questions. This record kind of answers them. Musically, I think the first record was songs that we performed live and we went in and recorded an album. These are songs that are going to begin as concepts and we're not going to concern ourselves so much with how they'll be performed live. Kind of like - I don't know know if this is a good example or not, but The White Album by The Beatles, those were songs that were never performed, they were written in the studio. Attitude is that way we're looking at this record.

Is Trent Reznor going to be working with you again?

Yeah, the team is going to be me, Trent, and Dave Ogilvie [Skinny Puppy].

Is Trent one of the few musicians that you respect in this business? You don't strike me as someone who'd embrace a lot of bands.

He's probably the person I respect the most, but there are different bands that I like, appreciate what they do. But he's the one person that I know and trust, and he knows how to bring out my ideas, so we work well together.

Are there any other musicians you admire that you'd like to perform with at some point?

It's hard to say, it'll be interesting to get to go on tour with Ozzy Osbourne. I'd love to some day do something with Iggy Pop or maybe KISS or Alice Cooper.

Are all those people childhood idols of yours?

Yeah, and David Bowie, Black Sabbath."

You just finished making a video for Sweet Dreams. How did that go?

I don't think I've ever been put through so many physical tortures to make a video, so I hope it makes it more worthwhile in the end. I was put in a lot of different situations, different types of animals and insects, risking my life in dangerous burned out churches, things like that.

Where was it shot?

In East LA which was a danger in itself (laughs). It was pretty interesting, great director (Dean Karr) that had a lot of ideas, just let him do whatever he wanted.

You've made a few videos before this...

This was our fourth.

Have you ever thought about putting out a home video?

Yeah, we're working on that, we have a lot of live footage from our Smells Like Children tour...

You write all the lyrics, right? Were you a writer before you were a musician?

Yeah, for a while I considered wanting to be a writer, writing stories or being a journalist, but I thought that I really had things I wanted to say. I didn't want to write about what other people has to say, and I didn't want to write fiction because I thought I'd rather create my own story and at the same time be the main character in that story. My life right now, I pretty much write it how I want it. I don't feel like I have to limit myself to being one person or fitting into someone's idea of what I'm supposed to do, so I can write every day how I like it and I can sometimes go into the future, read a couple of chapters ahead, flip back.

That's an interesting concept: writing the script to your own life. How many people can say they've done that?

I think maybe it's a responsibility that a lot of people are afraid to take. It's very easy to go with the flow and be told what to do, but it's harder to decide for yourself what you want to say and be.

You said once that if Marilyn Manson at one point was an act or a persona, now it's your life. Is that true?

I imagine it is. It's hard to remember things any other way; this is really all that I have. I can't turn off the way I think, I can only change the way I look so much and I just can't be anything else... Maybe some day as I evolve or decay, which it may be, maybe I'll turn into something else, but I don't think there's any way I could go back to what I was before this.

And would you want to?

I don't think so. A lot of people you haven't seen for years tell you that you've changed, I think they mean it in a derogatory way, but I wouldn't want to stay the same; I always want to be evolving.

Is that something you've always admired in David Bowie as a performer: his ability to evolve?

Absolutely, as well as somebody like Madonna.

When you were a rock-loving kid, who if anyone was your Marilyn Manson?

I think when I was really young it was KISS, then when I got older it was David Bowie and Alice Cooper, then Iggy Pop, then when I started becoming a teenager I guess I wanted to go on to do my own thing instead of wishing to be something else.

How do you feel about the KISS reunion?

I think we need to open for them if they do it.

Your song Lunchbox is about wanting to be a rock and roll star. Has that been your one true goal?

I guess it was the first time I stepped onstage when I realized it wasn't a joke, it was something that really felt like home to me, felt like I didn't want anything else. I walked offstage after that show, threw up. After that I think I was ready.

How do you feel now about stardom? Is it OK with you, you have some problems with it, or do you not understand why people have a problem with it?

A little bit of everything. In rock 'n' roll today it's a very popular trend to not be a rock star and to not have an image and to not do drugs and to not say things to piss people off, and all these things are sort of definitive of rock 'n' roll as far as I'm concerned. I don't think I would want to be any other way. What people don't realize is that all these performers that try and present themselves as just one of the guys, that is their image, that is the way they present themselves. These are the same people who call what I do and the way I looks a gimmick to succeed, but the thing is, what I do isn't what's popular right now. If I wanted a gimmick to succeed, I would look like an everyday guy. That's what seems to work best. I do what I want to do because it makes me happy. I don't know how to do it any other way. I think it started when I was 14 and I started to put on my mom's make-up, walking around with a Halloween mask all year round, things like that.

That was a pretty young age to decide you wanted to be different.

Well it was so much being part of a private Christian school and everybody had to wear a uniform and they just wanted everybody to be on the same playing field. It never made sense to me because America had always been about capitalism, about being who you want to be. I think there's a problem in there because it's a mixed message. They tell you everybody's equal but at the same time they tell you if you work hard enough you can be better than the next guy. Which is it?

Have you run into any Marilyn Manson clones yet? Is it too early?

I don't know; I see hints here and there in a lot of things that everybody does, but I don't flatter myself too much because you can't do anything new. Almost everything's been done, you just have to be the best at it. That's the most I can hope for is to be the best at what I do.

Judging from interviews I've read, you seem to be a lot more psychologically balanced than most people would imagine you to be, or than a lot of people actually are.

I think so only because so many people go most of the way, but when you go all the way I think you become completely sane. When you go most of the way I think it leaves you very unbalanced and very insane. I think most people would think that going all the way is insane, but it's not the case. If you embrace all of your fears, you take everything on, and you go as far as you can go, you kind of laugh yourself into becoming very real.

How did you hook up with Anton LaVey? You obviously knew about him and the Church of Satan? Did he know about you guys too?

Yeah. I'd always mentioned him as being an influence to my way of thinking and I guess after a year or so of doing that, he had heard about us and wanted to meet me. I'd always wanted to meet him so we got together, and we agree on so many different terms that he wanted to invite me to be a part of the Church Of Satan. But a lot of people misconceive me as being a spokesperson for him. I think what I have to say is very positive for what he has to say and I think it turns a lot of people on to his ideals, but at the same time I'm sure there are a lot of things I do that he doesn't agree with. I'm sure he can't support everything I do.

I think LaVey along with Nietzsche and Crowley have all been great influences on the way that I think and they've all been antichrists in their own right and I think I'm just kind of filling the shoes that they have in the past. Each age has to have at least one brave individual that tried to bring an end to Christianity, which no one has managed to succeed yet, but maybe through music we can finally do it...

Well, we'll see about that, but music is a powerful medium and you're also getting to the youngest part of the population.

I think I could probably be almost a cartoon character that you'd find in a Christian comic book of everything that evil can be for them because obviously I've got the attention of their youth and I'm saying everything that they could possibly disagree with. I think the biggest thing they're afraid of is the message of individuality because anybody who doesn't want to fit into the program isn't going to fall in line and listen to their stupid rules and become, in the end, just a consumer, because that's all I think Christianity breeds Americans to be. Someone who has blind faith in anything that you show them on TV and they're going to be willing to dish out their money for whatever they might want to sell you.

You seem to have a fascination with childhood. Is that something carried over from your own?

Smells Like Children kind of refers to my loss of innocence and need to regain that because I think I've seen so much. I regret it because I wish there was somewhere I could start over again, but I'm finding that in my own way. I just think as a kid there's a lot of things that get mixed up with morality because if parents were more truthful instead of trying to hide the world from their kids, then when the kids grow up and find out the truth they won't feel so cheated. People I know my age grew up feeling cheated, lied to. There was a lot of terrible things in my childhood but its still something that you cling onto. I still like a lot of children's things. I'm easily amused by toys and I like cartoons. I like animals, stupid things like that... I sat around all day playing with a rat, so I'm easily amused. [laughs]

How much do you think you and your band are a product of geography, being that Florida is so sunshiney and pleasant?

Florida is definitely a catalyst to making this band come about. It's something that I always wanted to do but I don't think it would have actually happened the way it did if we weren't in Florida because it's very phony, it's all shopping malls, very tourist-oriented, the Mickey Mouse thing. It's in place like that where you find the most deviant and darkest things kind of lurking beneath the surface because of how fake it is on top. And at the same time it's very, very conservative here. This band came out of 2 Live Crew being arrested and all those things taking place in Florida at that time, that kind of helped develop our attitude, kind of put a chip on our shoulder. I think at first I tried hard to do anything to get into trouble, so anything that was offensive, and later as the band grew, my attitude changed. Now I do things that make me happy in the way I feel I have to express what I have to say. It's not really shock value for me. On the one hand, the things I do, I don't realize how other people see them because if this is the only way you live, it's very normal and acceptable to you, it's hard to put yourself outside of your own little world, see how the rest of society looks at what you do. On the other hand I know that I have to do things my way which is sometimes by hitting you in the face because otherwise people won't pay attention.

You guys are obviously into sexual ambiguity. Do you think in general people emphasize too much being either gay or straight?

Yeah, I think people want things spelled out plainly because everyone's used to having thing being spelled out so plainly and that's why I guess I felt the need to be Marilyn Manson, because it's not black or white, it lives in the gray area. That's what I think is so important about it. Why should I have to fit into some program that I didn't make up when I can make up my own. I guess that goes for everything including sex.

How much interaction with fans do you actually have? For instance on the last tour, did you actually get to talk to them after shows?

I do sometimes and I really love our fans and they probably don't think that all the time because I don't like to talk to people too much after shows because I really spend everything that I've got onstage and I don't have much to say afterwards and it's hard for me to have conversations. I try and leave it at that, basically let the music say what I have to say, but if people want me to sign autographs and things like that, I'll try to do it if time permits.

How do you feel about your inclusion in the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame costume exhibit?

I thought it was really flattering because we're such a new band and we were right along side David Bowie and Iggy Pop.

Do you think it was a fair representation of yourself?

They made me really big and muscular, which I'm not. Other than that, I don't want to complain.