Interview: Marilyn Manson


Love him or loathe him, you just can't ignore him. That old cliche certainly rings true with Marilyn Manson. Rap might have thrown up its first genuine white rapper, Eminem, to get up the establishment's nose, but metal has the ghoulish Goth freak, Manson, to take care of the other nostril.

His latest album Holy Wood is a concept album from the dark side of the human condition, from the man who was raised in the Episcopal church and was made to learn by heart, Biblical passages that gave him nightmares about the Apocalypse.

On the surface the two M&Ms may appear to be polar opposites in the MTV-dominated musical spectrum, but they have a lot in common, in the sense that both are brazen publicity seekers who exhibit an ability to manipulate both the press and the public. But in this writer's view, it is Mr Manson who has a certain chilling edge over the white trailer-trash rapper, an edge that doesn't come from his schlock-horror theatrics nor heavily stated anti-Christian views. It's more that his music has a real sense of disturbed and disturbing, sickly claustrophobia at its very heart, something the tall, spindly, softly-spoken Manson touched upon when I caught up with him on his recent European tour.

"The nature of art has to be evil because it challenges the status quo and what the moral majority regard as beautiful or moral or ideal. I suppose I wanted to represent chaos as a force which can loosen and free people from everyday restraints and routines that trap people. That's a war that I'll never stop fighting. Well, for as long as it takes."

He speaks with the fervor and intensity of the highly moral, showing that his is no cynical attempt to bait the media. I wonder how he'll respond when I touch on the raw nerve of the Columbine High School Massacre that has become so much part of the band's mythology since the media blamed those tragic deaths on the band's influence on two of its young fans, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, the infamous 'Trenchcoat Mafia.'

"Columbine wasn't my war to fight. It was a wake up call that said, 'You're not listening to your kids.' I was singled out but I was no more guilty than any other person in America."

Manson freely admits that the savage media attacks and countless death threats that followed really shook him up.

"It was really unbelievable. It was something that was very difficult to get away from. It confirmed, for me, just how ignorant and stupid so many people can be. And it was a feeding frenzy for the American and World media."

Manson's way of dealing with the pressure was to cancel his band's tour and lock himself away in an attic for three months, where he wrote the band's fifth studio album, Holy Wood. His experiences probably had a lot to do with Holy Wood's dark and suffocating vibe. Not surprisingly Columbine seems to be at the center of the storm. In The Nobodies he sings: "We are nobodies, we wanna be somebodies/ when we’re dead, they'll know just just who we are."

Other themes include the impossibility of faith, misunderstood and unloved youth, and society's need for scapegoats and sacrifices.

Often accused of being anti-religious, Manson counters that his venom is directed more at the moralists and hypocrites "who use religion as a tool for their own ends." In fact, Manson claims that much of Holy Wood's story takes its inspiration from the Bible.

"The story is very traditional and very symbolic. It's inspired in a weird way by the Bible. My view of Christ is that he was a sort of revolutionary and the first celebrity. To the Romans he was this guy who had very different and very dangerous ideas. Look what happened to him. He was crucified, he was sacrificed and became merchandised into something that would hang on your wall."

So, does this mean the 'Prince of Darkness' sees himself as having some sort of affinity with Jesus?

"Well, you could put it like that," he responds. "I suppose we share that same sense of being on a mission, of having something to say, yeah, and maybe even of dealing with hostility and ignorance."

He also takes this opportunity to present himself as the savior of

"I suppose what I do makes me feel a little isolated but it's up to me to carve out a place for it. Everything now seems to be loud and angry, but in a self-conscious and contrived kind of way. It's not a good phase for music these days. If it's not some bunch of rehashed generic hip-hop/ metal, then it's just this bland, hollow kind of pop. Holy Wood has genuine emotion that I needed to get out of my system. I tried to create something that's maybe heavy and yet tries to incorporate a little bit of irony and intelligence. I've had time to digest, get used to the songs and I think I've achieved those aims."

Fair enough, but how do you react to all those people who dismiss you as a poseur who just likes to shock for the sake of it? Manson's voice rises, clearly irritated by the implication within the question.

"I've always had a desire to be provocative and to make people confront things, to make them think, but it wouldn't be of any interest to me to simply shock. It might start like that but it doesn't stop there for me. It would be easy for me to be much more shocking, believe me. I don't waste time wondering how can I be more shocking or outrageous. I've simply evolved into the monster I created, and I’m more than content with it."

MM are coming to Japan in mid March to play six gigs from Fukuoka to Tokyo. Is the self-proclaimed 'God of Fuck' looking forward to it or is it simply a case of another gig, another day?

"It's never like that, man, performing means that you get to see and meet the people that put you where you are. For some it's just entertainment and maybe for a lot of others it's more than that. It's been said many times that I attract a lot of disturbed fans. Well, I'll keep out of that argument. At least they know they're not alone. I love it over there. Nobody has to dye their hair black!"

Mark Liddell
Japan Times
25th February, 2001
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