interview | Marilyn Manson (1997)

Although their dark cloud didn’t float across to this side of the continent on their brief, two date Australian tour, the impact of Marilyn Manson on the popular youth psyche reaches further that the splash of blood and sweat that you may have felt at front-of-stage in Melbourne. Even the stories which arose during their two-week stay were enough to make granny’s toes curl. The young girl slashing her wrists outside one of the Australian concerts because she couldn’t get access was one instance. Then there’s Manson crawling off stage after severing an artery in his ritualistic self mutilation in Hawaii, just prior to the Australian tour. Just a couple of instances of his, erm, popular appeal.

Conversation with the self-titled band leader is gripping. He is articulate, his voice low and rough, his pauses exude contemplation. And it seems that every question I fire needs to be framed with an equally opposite antithesis. It is an angle which Manson knows well enough through his own work.

As American Family Values crusaders preach in disgust, standing in front of life-sized portraits of the confronting artwork of Marilyn Manson’s latest album, Antichrist Superstar, Manson the superstar is winning. “Those people need a bad guy to keep them in business,” he sneers. “They don’t have any way to justify themselves as being ‘good’ if they don’t have a villian. This is the role that I’ve assumed and this is what Antichrist Superstar is about. It’s about accepting the position of anti, anti-Christ, anti-establishment, anti-mainstream and saying that it doesn’t mean it’s bad or good, it’s just different from what you are.”

Their previous album, titled Portrait Of An American Family, is just as provocative in its statement to middle America. Few would consider that Manson, guitarist Twiggy Ramirez, keyboardist M.W. Gacy and drummer Ginger Fish would constitute a fun lovin’ Florida foursome. “That’s rubbish,” spits Manson. “There is no other country which created us. We are a product of our culture, television and religion. It is EXACTLY that sort of Mickey Mouse and Disneyworld environment, that phoneyness, that made Marilyn Manson.”

Antichrist Superstar is a grand project, its black, windswept orchestration jumps from the noisiest industrial thrash to kooky keyboards and the distorted vox a long time ago perfected by the album’s producer, Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor. Fuelled by sleep deprivation and all sorts of chemical nasties, Manson concocted the album in three parts – the future, the past and the present.

Representing the past, the track Wormboy, with its dodgy 80s synthesisers, is very much a pointer to that period’s electro-gothic persuasion. “Wormboy is the earlier stages of the development of my life when I was more vulnerable and starting to form my own values,” says Manson.

The values that Manson holds dear culminate at the end of the album in the tracks The Reflecting God and Man That You Fear, contradictory and yet complimentary terms for the present realm of Marilyn Manson.

“The last song is a bit of an acceptance of things and how they are,” Manson says, reflecting on his role to his band, friends and fans. “This is the transformation that I wanted so much in my life for so long, this bigger than life thing that I could show everyone who didn’t believe in me. But once this transformation was set in motion I found that I was fighting myself all the way, until the realisation: you have to be what you’re meant to be. You can’t really fight the person that you fear most and for most that person is themselves.”

With the opening track, Irresponsible Hate Anthem, preempting the future and the conservative opinion of Antichrist Superstar as a whole, what really is the next step for the Manson family? “There is nothing more subversive than the pop song,” he says matter of factly. “If I can continue to say what I’m saying in a way that is more subtle, where people don’t realise what they’re receiving until they’ve already been singing along with it, I will be most happy. I find that concept the most diabolical.”

One thing is stated by Manson, the seven year collaboration with Trent Reznor is over. Methinks and Hethinks it’s time for Manson to get more diabolical. “There are different ways to be aggressive, there are different ways to express pain. Maybe there’s something more subtle – a vocal and piano maybe. Something more naked.”