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Marilyn Manson

Marilyn Manson

By Aaron Detroit

Jul 23, 2007

Marilyn Manson says his new record, Eat Me, Drink Me (out now), saved him from an identity crisis. The controversial singer -- recently hailed as “The Last Rock Star” by Spin magazine -- chatted with Aaron Detroit about Slayer fans, getting his mojo back by making a record while lying on the floor, his directorial debut Phantasmagoria: The Visions of Lewis Carroll, and the last gasps of record industry.

Aaron Detroit: Hey, how are you?
Marilyn Manson: Hey, you’re not a girl!
AD:
No, I’m not.
MM:
[laughs]
AD:
[laughs] How have the European shows been going?
MM:
We just finished eight weeks and now I’m in New York having a little break for a few moments and then we start in Florida next week.
AD:
And that’s for the co-headlining tour you’re doing with Slayer?
MM:
For the Slayer, yes.
AD:
Slayer fans are kind of notorious for not being super kind to the bands that play with them. How are you going to handle that?
MM:
Well, I think that, quite honestly, people are not so motivated to be assholes. People now appreciate working for the money to buy a concert ticket. I think the two crowds are going to come together. I think that there’s a shared sentiment in that both bands have never backed down in what we believe in or what we stand for. There’s all these bands that want to adopt the trappings or the aesthetics of things that I’ve done or [Slayer’s] done but [those bands] don’t have the visceral element to back it up and I think we really need to represent the evil in rock and roll as literal as that needs to be taken. Bringing Satan back.
AD:
Do you think there are any new bands that are carrying that torch at all?
MM:
Well it’s in different ways. You know, it’s so hard to say things that I’ve said in the past now because it’s so pointless. I won’t even compliment myself by taking credit for even a percentage of them but I think that the world has really finally caught up to the really obvious ironies that I have pointed out for my entire career. So there’s no point to really attack the world and that’s what led me to the point where I wasn’t sure if I wanted to make music anymore. I didn’t understand who I was supposed to be. I didn’t understand if I had anything left to say. I didn’t understand what I was doing when I made this record, but now, looking back, I can see, I had yet to turn the microscope onto myself, and I think that that’s the only way you can relate basically what I’ve always been saying, which is about believing in yourself. It’s about self-preservation, it’s about standing up for what you believe in and not caring if other people disagree with it, but at this point instead of wasting your time commenting on religion and politics the only thing people talk about is an infomercial on MTV. I think that basically I was able to, not even intentionally, make a record that said that to me because I needed to hear it the most. I didn’t, I wasn’t certain of who I was and I made this record and it made me feel strong again. I think that’s maybe the only simple way you can communicate that message with people now. I don’t think that people need to hear about the obvious that’s right here in front of them.
AD:
Okay, so basically, through making a more personal record you feel like you’re commenting on things in more subtle ways?
MM:
It’s hard to be objective because it’s a little bit too recent but when I try to look back at it and figure out how things came about it’s hard to say if it’s more personal because I always put so much of myself into everything I do, but I think in the past, I always, I suppose, put my feelings into a metaphor of some sort. Whether it be a persona or a character or a story or something that was a little bit more of an armor for me. I think that I really had to learn how to let my guard down. It was at a point where I didn’t know who to trust and I didn’t know if I could feel anything. I didn’t really know if I had a reason to live. I wasn’t even motivated enough to kill myself because I didn’t have that much dedication. I really was on the verge of giving up and I think that starting to make this record I ended up having the first true collaboration musically. With Tim [Skold]. Not at any point did I have to tell him, “This is how I want the guitar to go. I don’t want this sound.” He was almost scoring whatever he was seeing me go through. I don’t know, maybe he knows me that well, maybe it was obvious. I’m not sure.
AD:
So you gave Tim a lot of room on the record?
MM:
Well, it was different than that. I mean, that would be the old way of doing things. It would be like if there was somebody that I worked with in the past and I was letting them do what they want. Like there was some sort of gesture or some sort of act of magnanimous collaboration. This was a situation where Tim was playing these pieces of songs and it sounded like what I needed it to sound like. If nothing else it made me feel challenged, like, “I haven’t done that yet.” I thought that I was at a point where, “Why should I bother?” The first song we did was “Just A Car Crash Away” and it was, for me, it was probably the slowest, the most mellow, I suppose, on the record and it was the first one I really tried and I sang it once. I write very scattered, maybe fifteen, twenty notebooks at a time because I’ll lose one, so I’ll have to write in another one. So I’d write one thought that goes across a couple notebooks and I just lay them all out there and I sang most of the record laying on the floor on my back with a ribbon microphone, which isn’t supposed to be held in your hand, so it was technically improper, but who gives a shit? It sounded the way that it sounds and I liked it. That was the first song, I sang it once just to check my levels and then I sang it again and put it on the record. I wasn’t trying to prove a point or anything but I didn’t feel like it needed to be sung again. I played it later that night for a couple of people and one person cried. It made me feel like suddenly I could make somebody feel something and that made me feel something.
AD:
What are your feelings on the current political climate and where do you see the country heading in the next few years?
MM:
Well, you know, a lot of people misinterpreted my comment about Bush saying I was advocating him to be in office, which wasn’t true. I was just saying, simply, that if he was that it would be a time that maybe artists would strive for more because you’re put into boundaries. Little did I know that it was going to be as bad as it’s been, in fact I think that it’s now reached the point where there’s this absurd, sort of almost Nazi, Berlin, McCarthy-era Hollywood where people lose their jobs for saying just random stuff where, I remember when Bill Mahr, his show got canceled because he said something about 9/11 and it’s just reached like a real absurd level. But, if you turn on the real world there are people fucking each other in the ass and getting drunk - the world is really fucked up and backwards. It’s gotten to the point where I think it’s almost the same as when I started the band and why I came up with the name Marilyn Manson. I think it’s different, but in a way it’s the same. It’s really strange how things go in circles and it’s, ultimately, the people who are not artistic, who are not creative, they’re not architects, they’re not writers, they’re not speech makers, they’re not musicians, those people have historically been terrified. Take Nazi Germany, for example, and the McCarthy era, they’ve been terrified of the people who are creative and they’ll do everything they can to suppress them, although without them they wouldn’t have anything. Do we go to bed at night thinking about the politicians and religion? Most of the time you go to bed thinking about a song or a movie you saw or the room that you’re in that somebody designed. It’s never going to be cured so I’m not going to try and be the hero that tries and makes it happen. I think at least we’re all trying to catch up, but then you have to combine that with the fact that anybody can be famous now.
AD:
Yeah. 15 minutes.
MM:
You’ve got something that’s a little bit different than Andy Warhol’s tradition now and I think that the important thing to point out is I believe that this will create a greater era. Whatever it is, music, or writing or movies, I think that it’s going to create a situation where record companies are ready to cut their throats because they can’t make any money. Of course, that means I make negative money because they take all the money as far as record sales go, but suddenly they’re not necessary. It becomes a situation where, however the other side of it is, everybody, and including SuicideGirls’ website, it demands talent at some point, or some sort of charisma, which I think is good. I think it makes people strive for more because right now we’re in the era where people are confusing empowerment with entitlement. Just because you have the ability to say what you want doesn’t mean that you necessarily can. I think that there needs to be…well, in a dream world there would be a special SWAT team that would come down and beat people’s ass when they opened their mouths and didn’t have anything to back it up. I stopped reading stuff on the Internet five or six years ago because whether it’s good or bad -- it’s very deceptive. It’s not a genuine gauge of what is real and that’s what I like about performing live. That’s real, you see it. I think that’s a big part of it. Technology, whether it’s the cassette recorder, the television, TiVo or anything, it’s going to make people strive to create better things because there’s so much out there. The people who are supposed to be entertaining the world will rise above and entertain them. I find that as a good challenge. I think it’s great. I think it’s great that kids will sit back and say, “I can do that better.” Well, do it. That’s not going to make the world worse. I’m happy if you can do it. I think that’s a good thing.
AD:
You’re directing a film entitled Phantasmagoria: The Visions of Lewis Carroll, when will that be done?
MM:
Well, I was supposed to be making it when the record occurred and I think with the best of the film I was too similar to the character, which is about Lewis Carroll in a completely fractured state of mind, in a very Jekyll and Hyde sense. So the movie is going to reconvene after the tour but it is absolutely happening. It’s going to happen this winter.
AD:
Is it sort of an imagined idea of Lewis Caroll or is it something that you’ve based on research?
MM:
It’s a little bit figurative and a little bit fictional in the sense that I’m not able to recreate something that isn’t exactly documented. However, I created the story based entirely off of reading his diaries and reading biographies. The first thing everyone wanted to know is, “Was he a pedophile?”
AD:
Do you believe he was?
MM:
I don’t really address that in the story and my opinion is that he wasn’t. I don’t address this in the movie, but I believe he might have been having an affair with the real Alice’s mother. I think for the most part, it went beyond fascination for me -- I was finding a lot about it interesting because I was kind of in the same place. Alice in Wonderland is kind of about identity and, you know, she’s getting small and she’s getting big and she doesn’t know her name. I think that that’s the point of the story. What I like about the whole concept was …when you read Alice in Wonderland it never says The Mad Hatter is wearing a hat. It never says Humpty Dumpty is shaped like an egg. It never says Alice has blonde hair. I thought that was a real challenge. Of course I would love to do it visually, Alice in Wonderland – that’s part of the story but it’s more, in a sense, the nineteenth century version of me. In the way that I related a lot to how he was. The period that I picked [for [Phantasmagoria’s story] was 1869 and it is strangely a hundred years to the week when I was born. That’s when he wrote Phantasmagoria and it was right after his father died. He started having visions. It’s in his diary. But then when you read more you realize that he drank during the afternoon, never ate, and didn’t sleep. I found it very interesting and I think I’m going to make a far better movie having the distance to step away and realize how much I had in common at that moment with what I was writing about. You know, it was essentially aphasia with the splitting of the two hemispheres of your brain.
AD:
Is this separate from the film that you’re working on with James Cameron?
MM:
Well, that is a bit of a misnomer. What had happened was we were approached after beginning the concept for the “Heart Shaped Glasses” video. We were urged to use James Cameron’s mirror 3-D technology, which at the time I was led to believe it could be something that could be seen with a DVD player. Then later, about a week before we did it, it kind of…after me having to pull everyone’s teeth and having to hold guns to people’s heads, I realized you could only see it in a theater. I was wondering, “Well, how am I going to have that work for me?” It was an enormous burden to operate this camera properly, which, I feel like the fact that it looks normal the way you see it now, it’s a great accomplishment. With this camera, when you want to go in close you can’t simply zoom in because there’s a convergent ratio. There’s a lot of variables, there’s a lot of mathematic things that I didn’t really want to know about but I had to learn. It basically behaves best when you use it like the human eye, so if you want to go close the camera has got to be right on top of you, so let’s just say those sex scenes were very interesting.
AD:
[laughs]
MM:
But of course, you know, after two days of sex scenes, I think it was pretty much when the Suicide Girls’ clan showed up that the people who did not work for me -- there were two crews, there was my crew and then there was the crew that wanted to film Honey I Shrunk the Kids not Honey I Fucked the Kids. They were mad and stormed off the set and said, “I haven’t worked my whole life to create a camera and film pornography.” Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, so my response was, “Well, what did you expect? You had storyboards.” I did see it in 3-D on the set and in the tent and I could preview it and it looked amazing but I was not, even at the time, worrying most about how it looks in 3-D, because once you know it looks in 3-D it looks good. I wanted to make sure it looked good on television, and on a DVD. So, it was just a little bit of confusion and, of course, I was the bad guy. I think that one of my favorite moments was the uncomfortable silence after I was trying to give a little direction to the girls in the audience, and I said, “I don’t want it to look like a concert. I want this to look like sort of a giant artery and I want you guys to, well, basically, can you just act like you haven’t washed your pussy in two weeks.” There was dead silence.
AD:
[laughs]
MM:
I said, “I mean that in a good way!
AD:
[laughs]
MM:
No, but the girls were great.
AD:
Is there any truth to the rumor that Tim Burton is going to make a movie about you?
MM:
Well, that’s what I’ve heard. I don’t know where that came from unless that came from him.
AD:
He’s quoted as saying that he’d like to do it.
MM:
Well, I can’t wait to find out who plays me. I hope it’s Paul Reubens.
AD:
[laughs] So he hasn’t contacted you at all about it?
MM:
Well, I know him a little bit. I met him of course, when I did The Nightmare Before Christmas thing and I met him before with Johnny Depp when I went to Sleepy Hollow and he seems cool but I’ve never had a real conversation with him longer than five minutes, so I don’t know if that’s true.
AD:
But it would be something you’d be into?
MM:
I don’t have any objections to it as long as they make me have a really large penis. [laughs]
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