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