THE WORLD VERSUS MARILYN MANSON

Metal Hammer [February 1999]
by Alfie Crippen

WILL THE REAL MARILYN MANSON PLEASE STAND UP...

Not dazed by the all-glittering reputation, Alfie Crippen embarked upon a search for the truth about Marilyn Manson and his merry band of cross-dressers.


What we can believe in, despite the proliferation of entertaining lies and half-truths in Manson's autobiography, The Long, Hard Road Out Of Hell, is that he is a reaction to his upbringing by a puritanical society, a response to an environment that is easily shocked yet privately likes nothing better tahn indulging in a spat of coprophilia if no one is looking.

The vociferous public 'defenders of morality' are the same clandestine voyeurs of the Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee love show. This ethical duality is both the fuel and essence of Manson: he knows how to (mis)guide the media, how to antagonise people, how to use his insecurity to undermine other people's and how to shove the visual truth about our sexual 'sin' down our own, er, throats. Isn't it fitting that the most God-fearing USA states in the Bible belt also have the highest percentage of incest, Manson asks?

Still, there is nothing for guardians of family values to worry or be alarmed about, for no musician - and he should be afforded thsi attribute - has ever changed anything. And as Manson himself knows only too well, all these 'attacks' merely add credibility. To target him as being worthy of attacking only inflates his value further. In his service to the performing arts, the Manson show is an amalgam of great rock moments, an encyclopaedia of concert clichés. We have Ziggy's off-the-shoulder glitter number, making him look like Tarzan in drag, a dose of the Alice Coopers, a pinch of teh Iggy Pops, a touch of Skinny Puppy (those stilts), a slice of Pink Floyd (a pulpit for pontification and rally-like background drapes), all topped off with Michael Jackson-style genitalia grabbing. Phew, you almost feel like applauding the researchers alone!

The end result is not a rock-macabre show but the opposite; this Brian-man is rather innocuous. Like the remake of Psycho, Manson is a translation of a standard with new lingo for the MTV generation. How long can it go on with the endemic increase in ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) among rock devotees? He is also an incredible opportunist who wouldn't cite anybody as an influence; he merely sees it as returning a compliment. Until Boy George stated that he admired the Cleveland boy, there had been no mention of Culture Club from Manson's lips. Now, however, pop's Liberace is one of his main inspirations! Who next? Kylie Minogue? In short, Manson is fact and act. He acts until it becomes a fact, then discards it when he's found a new image to wave and flog. So will the real Marilyn Manson please stand up...

How much of this Marilyn Manson rollercoaster ride is guided by market forces and how much is your real, and dearly-held, creative statement? Marilyn Manson: "There is nothing pre-meditated about this band, it is all instinctive. It's natural and there's bound to be a development with every new record. There were expectation after 'Antichrist Superstar', but I wasn't taking any notice. This band has its own life, its own destiny and we are trying to fulfil it."

Has your ambition increased with the realisation of how much you can achieve?

MM: "My ambitions have increased, but I've always had big plans for this band. Maybe I've become more aware of the ways in which to achieve what I want. I've seen the true potential of ourselves in thsi industry, compared to only seeing the possibility of what might be prior to 'Antichrist...'"

You appear to be frequently misunderstood. Has this ever provided you with sleepless nights?

MM: "No, not at all; people who are supposed to understand it do so, and as for the rest... You know the old cliché of 'You can't satisfy all the people all of the time'? Personally, I think that the opposition is rather good. Causing certain hostility among others is very beneficial to us."

There are a lot of rumours about you. Do you often laugh at them?

MM: "I do about the ones I'm aware of, because it would be impossible to hear all of them. There are some stories which are so absurd; how people can believe them is beyond me! But I know it's better to be talked and written about than be ignored. You struggle and fight to establish yourself. Once you're up there you realise you can generate publicity without doing anything. Bad publicity is better than none, that's for sure."

...Generously augmented by your autobiography, one presumes?

MM: "Maybe, but all I tried to do was be honest and tell my story. Ever since we started out we were causing very strong opposition; we used strong images to cause a reaction, but nothing of this magnitude. But that's the true nature of rock 'n' roll. We're happy that there are still things that can cause controversy. Everything has become too safe, too sanitised and it's necessary to shake up the world a bit, to wake it up from its television-interpreted reality. "Everything has been pale for far too long, so unhappening that the world needed a band like us to shake it up again. In a country like America, that is supposed to be free, you're told what to eat, what to like, how to think, how to behave by the media, and the TV specifically. I felt that that needed challenging because it's directly against freedom of choice, thought and expression. "There have always been challenges to order and the norm: Elvis shocked by shaking his hips, The Beatles had long hair, Bowie dressed up..."

You can't deny that you have certain influence over your audience. Do you feel any responsibility?

MM: "My only responsibility is to entertain. That's all I'm concerned with. The rest is beyond my control as I can't control the way that a song is going to be heard, understood and interpreted by individuals. I do what I do, then present it in the most entertaining way I know how. That's all.

"I don't feel I can take the responsibility because it's really not me who is doing it all. I'm only re-stating the questions, everything had been written a long time ago and defined by our forefathers. I ask the questions that need answering, again, maybe because the standpoints have changed.

"What people have always been afraid of is facing their dark side. I have no problem with it. If you do, then you avoid looking the truth in the eyes.

"Music presentation has been very dull for a long time. We're the ones who've brought the fun back to it all. There's reallynothing worse than seeing a rock band watching their guitar strings and nodding their heads like donkeys. You need something big, something out of this world, something really theatrical, and that had been missing from music for far too long.

"Look at it this way: grunge killed stardom, all the musicians wanted to be ordinary people, just like their fans. We are the complete opposite; we wanted to bring the glamour and personality back, the showmanship. Grunge never interested me. I wanted theatricality, a big statement and that required an image that had to be extreme to emphasise the visual side and to make a point."

Doesn't it distract from the pure power of music?

MM: "Not at all. I totally believe in the power of music, but on an individual level. I definitely don't believe - like in the old days - that music can bring a 'revolution' or a major change in anything. There are moments when that happens but it's hard to see it happening again in a big way. "I do believe that we are capable of doing it, but whether the environment is suitable for it, I don't know. Still, that is not my main aim. I'm here to present challenging music in a different way."

How original do you consider yourself to be?

MM: "A fair bit, although nothing is really ever new. It's a reinvention of a kind, as everything is these days. Everything comes back eventually, but whatever trend is reinvented it's always with a different angle. What worries me is that there will come a time when grunge and facelessness will re-emerge when we helped it to be put away."

Having seen you live, I haven't noticed much alteration to the musical presentation post 'Antichrist...'?

MM: "It must be new to some extent, but when Zim Zum joined we were still like a new band. It was easy for him to put a stamp on our live sound. It's a bit more difficult to alter our sound now because it's more settles and defined, but there are bound to be new elements in it. We'll just wait and see if it does [change]."

Could it be that the essence of the band hasn't changed?

MM: "I've always considered this abnd to be me and Twiggy; the rest are only musicians who help us bring our musical and stage vision to life. We've had a lot of personnel changes over the years with people leaving or being fired, so it's a question of staying power, having a belief in the band, and faith in being able to deliver what we set out to do. It's better to ghave a change sometime, rather than be stuck in an unhappy situation."

How important is the attitude of the band members and do they have to conform to your ideology?

MM: "The attitude of the band members has never been very important; it was always something that was understood, quietly. The whole concept of this band is mine and people get used to it while working together. There is nothing deliberate like lessons in Marilyn-isms. "Early in our career we had a little questionnaire which people had to fill in. It wasn't serious, but we wanted to see where people's heads were at. It was rather interesting."

Twiggy once told me that Kiss were 'always fake'. Can't the same 'false idol' charge be laid at your door?

MM: "No, we are very real, this is us, this is our true selves. It might not have started like that, but we have grown into these characters you see onstage, being photographed, on television. I know that the other members feel that these once alliterative egos have taken over a bit to the expense of their true selves."

When everything is said and done, it's still only entertainment though...

MM: "Of course it is. I think it's also wrong to think kids emulate their rock idols, or attempt to kill themselves because of a song. They react to not being understood by their parents. People pass on the guilt to somebody else, so they don't have to face their own responsibilities.

"My take is that we give our fans a sense of liberation. They can feel free to be themselves [for a couple of hours] which they can't do every day. They can do it without feeling guilty about it."

But Brian Warner must take off the public image of Marilyn sometime presumably?

MM: "I'm never anything but Marilyn Manson, this is me. This is my reality and not just a stage persona. This is real and there's nothing fake about me. This is it and nothing else really matters to me. And it shouldn't to our fans either.

"It might appear as an image, but it's reality. Image has become reality. Even if the other members take their stage personalities off, that is not important. We are what we are as Marilyn Manson and out of it means really nothing. But these are not masks, just performing faces; it is the only aspect of us that matters. Outside of it there is nothing really, it has no meaning to anybody. What we do is very real and we are not putting it on just for shows."

Vinnie Paul of Pantera told me how nice a man you are offstage, but he could understand your 'evil' stage act that is hot with the younger fans...

MM: "Which is just fine, thanks Vinnie. If you are to affect any change it has to be from an early age as people have formed their tastes by the time they reach their late teens. If you influence people at that age it remains with them for a long time. Maybe fro the rest of their lives. Pantera is not my kind of a band, but I respect them for what they've done and how they've stuck to their guns. Not many people do that and it's very disappointing for rock music."

You once said, "Everything is a lie, you just pick up the one you like the best"; does that include yourself?

MM: "The whole of showbusiness is such a massive lie. It's a lot of pretending and it gives no solutions. It's not concerned with truth; it's only about entertaining. But being unreal can start appearing to be real. So we are just as guilty of the showbusiness aspect.'

A lot of the media people are fundamentally challenging you now abou how actual all of this really is

MM: "It is and it isn't real; it doesn't matter. It can be taken both ways and still be equally valid. As long as you're asking yourself questions, the effect is the same. The question is not whether it is us acting when we do things or simply because it's who we are - it all adds up to the same thing."

TWIGGY RAMIREZ

Twiggy Ramirez wasn't a member of Marilyn Manson when their debut album, 'Portrait Of An American Family', was made - it being a supposedly 'live in the studio' recording of a band at the time. However, he has since become the band's main co-songwriter.

You came in after the first album. Since then the band has continued to replace guitarists as soon as they've finished a record. It's all a bit Spinal Tap, isn't it?

Twiggy Ramirez: "What happened to us is something that just happened, history repeating itself. I came in to tour 'Portrait...', and appeared on the sleeve, but I wasn't involved with the writing or recording of that album.

"At the time of 'Antichrist Superstar', Daisy Berkowitz was gone, and then again, after completing his guitar parts, Zim Zum had to pack up. I don't think there's a pattern emerging, it's just a coincidence, and I don't see Spinal Tap developing. Hopefully by the next album we'll not have one guitarist recrd it and another tour it."

How much input have you had in creating this Manson monster?

TR: "A fair bit. It's like a science project for Marilyn and myself. We created all this and remodelled our characters so that they've come to replace our own identities. Our true selves have somewhat disappeared and now we are Marilyn Manson."

Although you operate under the band's name, the spotlight is on Marilyn, which makes the rest look like rank-and-file. Does that cause any friction?

TR: "This is Marilyn's own baby; it's been like his dream for such a long time. The only way for us is to follow his lead and work within it. We used to refer to him as 'Antichrist...' and the rest were the Four Horsemen."

The change of image has become expected because you have to re-evaluate it to maintain its shock value. Was there any pressure to do so?

TR: "No, it was a natural progression to go on with the new musical direction. If we started complying with the public's wishes and only rehash what they expect and really want, then we would be cheating ourselves. We're not like that. Everything we've done has been different to what went before. We are very honest in our work and have never given any answers, but leave it up to listeners to decide.

"Each of our records is very honest and represents what I felt when I was writing music and Marilyn was writing lyrics. It is only a reflection of the moment of creation and it is developing. I have no idea where it is going to go next."

Does the recent spate of hotel trashings and the chaos that surrounds you still mark Marilyn Manson as a band capable of causing moral panic?

TR: "I'm glad that there is stuff left in rock 'n' roll to challenge society. You can drive people crazy just by questioning their basic beliefs.

"When you do that you actually question the essence of life. For instance, 'Antichrist Superstar' was not anti-religious, it was about being your own antichrist and about the world; the way you view it - it is different for everybody - and the way that you destroy it. On the personal level, not the global, not anybody else's and how you then rebuilt it..."

The music recorded on 'Mechanical Animals' is the kind that parents of your core fans used to listen to. Are you trying to win over over the previous generation in your quest for world domination?

TR: "I don't know if that was what we were aiming for. Our original influences were The Stooges, David Bowie, Bauhaus, Black Sabbath and even Slayer and Iron Maiden. This time a different set of influences became dominant. Maybe we wanted to show the parents that what we were doing is not controversial, that it's not corrupting their children. All the people criticising us actually promote to the world what we are doing, they are adding fuel to the fire, explaining what we are trying to explain.

"The truth about this band is a lot more extreme than the stuff that's been watched, written or made up about us."

THE ROCK WORLD ON MANSON

Vinnie Paul Pantera

"We played with them on the Ozzfest in the States, some seven shows, and became really good friends. They are totally different from Pantera, more into shocking and hyping, but if you are 14 years old today it would probably be your favourite band. It is exciting, new and different to these kids. And I understand it because my favourite 'new' band was Nirvana; I used to love their songs!'

Mike Dirnt Green Day

"A lot of people would say what Marilyn Manson does is really fucking bad. I don't like the music. I think he is hyping himself too much and making a big deal out of it, but, yeah, he is filling a niche. Somebody, somewhere out there likes them. They were voted The Best Band In The World, so there you have it."

Mark Ann Mudhoney

"I think he's funny. He sounds like heavy metal with make-up. Still, I think he's got the best mind since David Bowie. I've never been a huge Bowie fan either, but I have to admire him because he was doing theatre in rock. If you are a young teenager or a religious person, especially from the Southern American States, you're gonna find MM offensive. But, he doesn't really concern me."

Tony Iommi Black Sabbath

"He appears to be the hottest property in rock right now and he's got a gimmick which he is playing to the limit. He toured with us in America for a while and he was a nice chap, but his career is based more on an image and a live show. I think he still needs to prove himself musically. I don't know whether we like a band like his, but it seems to be getting over very well; causing controversy and anything that gets in the media so much is bound to cause mass interest. His outrageous act appears to be attracting a lot of attention... Being socially dangerous is something that is totally blown out of proportion, pure hype."

David Yow Jesus Lizard

"I think that he is really contrived and very fake. Somebody once described us as rock's Hannibal Lecter while he can't even be Freddy Krueger. But if you are 13 years old, then it looks like he's the most dangerous man around. It is formulated in a way and too old-fashioned sounding. It makes you wonder about the public and what they want from music."

Brian Molko Placebo

"I've known Marilyn for a while. When he's in London he'd call me up and we'd go out for a drink... I think that Marilyn is very much trying to move away from this kind of psycho, baby-fucking goth thing, this Satan thing. I think he and his band have made a very calculated image change [for the 'Mechanical Animals' album]. It's certainly not about the way we lead our lives; it's not about the way we choose to portray ourselves. So I never thought we were similar, nor do we play similar music. Marilyn Manson have taken the lead role for the glam revival thing, and he's taken that full on."

Chino Moreno Deftones

"Whatever you think of his music, Marilyn Manson shrewdly spotted a gap in the market and has been exploiting it ever since. He's intelligent, smart and very crafty to be making a lot out of people's insecurities or lack of understanding of what he stands for. The funniest thing is that what he does is not really dangerous... And, it's nothing new because Madonna used the same technique and screwed up everyone's mind! Then she turned into a spiritual person, especially after giving birth... Which I doubt will happen with this man calling himself Marilyn!"

Chris Robinson The Black Crowes

"I haven't heard the music much, but he's the public relations success of the decade, alongside the Spice Girls. When people ask me if I've heard his music, I feel so old because I listen to the music that had to say something original. When you listen to Manson's new album you can clearly hear David Bowie's 'Fashion'. Marilyn Manson has the ear and what he is saying kids are listening. Trouble is, he's talking about himself, fame and money. Game show hosts have money and are famous: that's boring. I don't feel like criticising him because I don't listen to his music. He is a rock star who is too self-involved and that is utterly uninteresting to me. We all work within one tradition and you have to respect and love that without limits. That's my case and of a lot of people's, but there are some current stars who do it like it is a job."

Johnny Santos Spineshank

"The new album isn't as good as the previous one cos the boss didn't work on it. Trent Reznor is a genius and he was the one that gave 'Antichrist Superstar' the edge. Marilyn Manson as a band, they are almost like a comedy act; but people love them and what I think doesn't matter that much."

Burton C Bell Fear Factory

"I can see his appeal, but all the fuss? I can't understand it because it is not shocking and people are really behaving like all of it is for real. True, he is just an entertainer and you really have to be religiously blinded or morally stuck-up not to understand the humour or irony behind it. I do what I do; he doesn't intrigue me, but he is very good at what he does. So, all power to him but I only really wonder how long it will last because it is so visually based. The music is almost a side-value and if you want to make a career in music you got to have music; images get used up and one look becomes so boring."

Logan Mader Soulfly

"It's not something I find myself interested in, but he appears colourful. Musically, he's not as bad as Hootie & The Blowfish, a band that Max Cavalera is so fond of pointing out as the most useless band in the world, but I don't know... Who are the people buying these records? It's not heavy and it's not at all shocking; it's just something to look at. I don't really feel it's being controversial at all.'

Alex Hellid Entombed

"I can say that hardly anybody in this band is fond of his music, but you have to admit that he has an incredible image and the change was even more striking. He's got several things going for him: he knows what he's doing and is well aware of an effective way of doing it. Also, there will hardly be any people who'll try to imitate his image which makes him rather unique. That's very rare these days!"

Josh Homme Queens Of The Stone Age

"I love him because he is dangerous, dangerous to American people who are easily scared; they panic quickly. I think he is great, but it's not my trip. I can't do it, I'm not built that way but I'm glad he's around. Somebody needs to be angry in rock 'n' roll, or it's not worth it. I don't like my friends' mums to listen to my records, I want them to hate my records. I'm young and I'm still kinda pissed off. I wanna take drugs, sleep with fine women and play rock 'n' roll; that's an extremely stereotyped, basic level for rock 'n' roll. But it's gone into these weird directions and people are playing music and feeling guilty about it. It's become so homogenised that Marilyn Manson is like a new tornado. No mums will like his records."

Derrick Green Sepultura

"I think he is good for this time period, being something totally outrageous. He allows people not to be so uptight and kids to be kids, wear make-up if they want and dress up and do all sorts of crazy things. He is creating wild imagery, but musically I'm not really into it. As far as the theatrical aspect of it goes, it's brilliant entertainment and we definitely need it. He shakes the music scene from becoming bland and boring. But I don't even affiliate him with heavy metal."

Kerry King Slayer

"Marilyn Manson hasn't changed music at all. He is influential because he is an enigma. He is Iggy Pop in a Ziggy Stardust costume; on this album ['Mechanical Animals'] he sounds like T.Rex [1970s glam band]; on 'Antichrist Superstar' he sounded like Nine Inch Nails because Trent [Reznor] produced it and made it his album. So he might have a show, but that's about all."

Lars Ulrich Metallica

"There are real rebels in music - the true rock stars, like Axl Rose and Liam Gallagher. Marilyn Manson is not unpredictable like them, we've never been like that, and it is an act. Axl is out of his mind, in a positive way. Marilyn is a really nice guy but more calculated, more contrived, more like that on purpose. Axl was never like that; he is out of his mind. Marilyn is a little more deliberate in what he does. He does it well, but it is really not genuine."

Blaine Cartwright

Nashville Pussy "I just read the book and, man, he hardly mentioned music! I liked the book, but I read a lot of music biographies and they all talk about music. He hardly wrote anything but that he liked Iron Maiden when he was a teenager and then dance music. He doesn't get technical, just that he wrote five songs here, some there... He is more of a writer, he is clever, but not really rocking. The President of Mercury Records, Danny Goldberg, summed him up completely when he said, 'If Marilyn Manson had songs, it would be the biggest band in the world!'"

Marilyn Manson on Marilyn Manson

"I say what most people are afraid to say in America. I'm the paradox, a combination of extremes, beauty and ugliness; good and evil, God and demon, are part of the same thing, our own selves, our souls. I'm free to be me. I'm one of the few people to be my own true self."

Transcribed by LSD

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