KERRANG! MAGAZINE • MARILYN MANSON
Something Wicked This Way Comes
He has shocked America with his sick, sadistic and Satanic music - now MARILYN MANSON is coming to the UK. "Masturbation, hardcore pornography and sleep deprivation changed my life", the most outrageous rock 'n' roll ghoul of the decade tells Staffab Chirazi...
The rail-thin figure who strolls into a crumbling music hall in the heart of Cleveland's city centre has zombie eyes and a death-white face. He looks like Edward Scissorhands starring in a George Romero slasher movie. You and I only know him as Marilyn Manson, and he has single-handedly shocked, stunned and sickened moral America.
Marilyn Manson, the man, is the most outrageous rock 'n' roll ghoul of the decade. God-fearing Americans are convinced he's a sadist who practices perverse sex of the most extreme kind and eats small children for breakfast. In the UK, a group of Tory MPs were so appalled by the lyrics to his debut album, Portrait Of An American Family, they tried to have it banned.
He has dated the world's most notorious ex-porn star, Traci Lords. He offended the entire state of Florida by giving then-Nine Inch Nails guitarist Robin Finck a blow-job onstage. He is an ordaiuned minister in Anton LeVey's Church Of Satan.
And his band - who're completed by guitarist Zim Zum, bassist Twiggy Ramirez, keyboardist Madonna Wayne Gacy and drummer Ginger Fish - are the most bizarre and twisted freakshow currently haunting cities across Middle America. They're also hugely successful: the Smells Like Children mini-album has sold a million copies. The new, Trent Reznor-produced Antichrist Superstar is expected to do even better.
We have come to Cleveland to find out if, after all the hype and the horror, Marilyn Manson is for real.
Cleveland is Marilyn Manson's hometown. A drab old industrial city in the eastern part of the US, it would drive anyone with half an ounce of imagination to a life of crime or into showbusiness. The rest of its inhabitants work in one of the many smoke-spewing factories which litter the skyline.
Marilyn Manson was born Brian Warner. He attended a private Christian school in Cleveland, where he endured countless Bible studies classes. His childhood was scarred by terrible nightmares which left him too frightened to sleep. By his own admission, he was a social misfit.
"At school, they drilled the ideas of Armageddon and the Anti-Christ, so for years and I had bad nightmares," he says in a calm, quiet drawl.
"I had the desire to ask questions, but I was too afraid to actually do so. I didn't have too many friends, because I was one of the few bad kids. I wouldn't bow my head for prayer. In fact, I'd steal money from the girls' purses when they were praying.
I started misbehaving really badly, because I wanted to go to a normal school. When I did get kicked out, all the kids in my new school really wanted to kick my ass because they knew I'd been to private school."
Brian Warner spent most of his adolescence isolated and alone. He was forced to find ways of 'escaping' his own solitude.
"Musically, Black Sabbath, KISS, David Bowie and things that were way-out all became very important," he says.
"Then when I was 12 or 13, playing Dungeons And Dragons was a big thing. It was also considered very bad foir kids at the time in America - people were blaming it for everything from kids killing themselves to cult-associations.
But the big key to it is that when you're role playing, you can be whoever you want to be. Which is what Marilyn Manson became to me. I didn't want to be me any more. Not because I was ashamed of myself - I just had the desire to be something else."
Two further things helped Brian Warner to create Marilyn Manson. The first was discovering an elderly relative's lurid secret life.
"He collected trains, which he kept in the basement of the house," he recalls.
"I discovered that when he had the train-set on, it was masking the sound of him masturbating to pornography. He had a really deviant porn collection - women with horses and ducks and pigs and every sort of thing you can imagine.
It was exciting and scary at the same time. Me and my cousin used to spy on him, and it became our own sick joke. He had throat cancer, so he couldn't speak, he'd just bark. It was like something out of a horror film. There's a song on the new album called Kinderfeld, which explains how he helped to harden the shell around me when I came to look at families."
The final facet of Manson's warped and disaffected character was shaped by young Brian Warner's growing realisation that the political facts he was being fed through the mass media were distorted and deformed.
"Growing up, I read about conspoiracy theories like JFK and the Vietnam War, and how so many of the stories were repressed," he says.
"My father was in Vietnam as part of a secret organisation called 'Ranch Hand', and they were the ones who sprayed Agent Orange (the codename for the chemical American pilots dropped on Vietcong areas during the Vietnam War, which horrifically burned the local people and destroyed all surrounding plant life) on the foliage.
He used to have to go to these miliatary bases every couple of years for tests to see if it'd had any kind of adverse effects on him. They never came to any conclusions..."
Marilyn Manson was finally fully developed during Brian Warner's late teens. The latter hasn't looked back, or even existed, ever since.
"Marilyn Manson has consumed me from the day he was invented," he says.
"I can't write something unless it's a song. I can't draw something unless it's intended for use with the music.
I don't have a separate hobby or life, and I feel more comfortable onstage than anywhere else. I often feel like I'm putting on an act when I have to 'behave' in everyday society."
The first Marilyn Manson album, Portrait Of An American Family, was a noisy, shock rock affair which was high on controversy, but lower on substance.
Antichrist Superstar - an engaging and powerful industrial metal assault - is an altogether more evolved and developed affair.
"I think I fell short originally, and this time the vision's much clearer and much more pure," he says.
"For some people, it will be easier for them to see Antichrist... as a concept record about this character, which is fine. But to me, it's much more real. It's my autobiography - about what's happened and what is going to happen to me."
You'll get some idea of how Manson sees his own life from titles such as Irresponsible Hate Anthem and Man That You Fear. It's harsh, explicit, provocative, defiant and confrontational stuff.
Manson says the basic concept is formed from the observations he's made, and dreams he has of his own life and what he sees as his death. He imagines himself metamorphosing from a worm (Wormboy) into an angel (Angel With The Scabbed Wings), whose wings then fall of to create Marilyn Manson, the Antichrist Superstar.
Obviously, a strenuous diet of sleep depravation and drug abuse helped to form this warped vision.
"The first time I stayed up for four days straight on crystal-meth, we started to put down the music to Antichrist Superstar," he explains.
"And everything seeems really different when you've been up for four days on crystal-meth.
In the end, I learned that I really didn't need to do drugs. I mean, eating spicy foods before you sleep really does enhance your dreams."
Perhaps the most alarming thing about this Satanic shock terrorist is how utterly congenial he is in person. Unlike the stage character, the civilian Marilyn Manson is no fanatical cartoon devil-lover. He's cool, smart and able to explain his belief system intelligently.
"My personal beliefs have always been based on Nietzsche's 'will for power' - the idea of Satan and god being two words like Marilyn and Manson, describing different sides of your personality.
I absolutely have a code of ethics, which are sometimes very similar to Christian ones. Where I differ is that I greatly disbelieve in the idea of pity. The strong survive and the weak are really only there for the strong.
We live in such a confusing culture in America. You've got so many people full of political correctness - bitching on like, 'Why can't everyone be equal and just get along?'. Yet America is based on intense capitalism, which basically says if you can get more money and power by getting one over on the next guy, then go ahead.
I also dislike the idea of loving everybody. It cheapens the idea of love. The things I care about and love I'd do anything for, and the rest of it is something I have no concern for. To do a random act of kindness is like living on the edge for me."
Marilyn Manson are coming to the UK soon. Don't tell your parents.
MARILYN MANSON's Antichrist Superstar is out on October 14.
PRETTY HATE MACHINES
Marilyn Manson and Trent Reznor: a marriage made in hell...
• Nine Inch Nails mainman Trent Reznor signed Marilyn Manson to his record label, Nothing. he has produced the band's last two records, Smells Like Children and Antichrist Superstar at his New Orleans studio. The two men have much in common.
• Both of them like to assault members of their own bands. Reznor throws his keyboards at the men unfortunate enough to join him onstage. When Marilyn Manson supported NIN in New York last month, Manson finished his band's set by assaulting drummer Ginger Fish with a mike-stand.
• Both of them like rude on-the-road activities. Reznor has claimed he enjoys watching groupies receiving 'backstage enemas'. Marilyn Manson once gave ex-NIN guitarist Robin Finck a blow-job.
• Both of them write about their sexual prowess a lot. On Closer, Reznor sang 'I want to fuck you like an animal'. On the Smells Like Children track, er, Everlasting Cocksucker, Manson claimed to be the 'God of fuck'. Bless them.