- 28 Mar 01
MARILYN MANSON may be the epitome of Middle America's worst nightmare but, as STUART CLARK discovers, he's not that bad, really. On the agenda: Bono, Eminem, Moby, George W. Bush and the Columbine shootings
It's one of the most remarkable rock 'n' roll sights that Ireland's ever seen. Marilyn Manson entering stage left, and Bono climbing down from the balcony, to join Iggy Pop for a communal demolition of 'Louie Louie'. Never mind shit eating, the superstar backing-singers had grins on their faces that could've devoured a sewage farm.
"That was in the hotpress Hall of Fame place, right?" drawls the more Goth-minded of the duo. "There's always an expectation when you meet one of your idols, and Iggy Pop was everything that I'd hoped for. As well as being great that night on stage, he was very respectful and positive about what I do. To be acknowledged and validated by someone like him is great."
The first thing which strikes you about Marilyn Manson is that, self-proclaimed God of Fuck or not, he's scrupulously polite and well spoken. His records may be a veritable profanity-fest, but one on one he's just as personable as that nice Mr. Hewson.
"He is nice…for a Christian," the 32-year-old cackles. "We were getting beat up by the media during the Antichrist Superstar days and Bono made a statement saying that if nobody else would give us gigs, we could tour with U2. Him expressing his support - at a time when it really wasn't cool to do so - meant a lot."
Of course, some of us had the added post-MTV Awards bonus of witnessing Puff Daddy and Shane Lynch's contretemps in the Temple Theatre.
"Puff Daddy tried to attack one of the guys from Boyzone? Man, I'd have paid a hundred bucks to have been at ringside for that fight."
There are no prizes for guessing which of the pugilists he'd have been shouting for. Talking last year to an American radio station, Mazza blamed the rapper "for the decline of music in the '90s. He is the true Anti-Christ because he has destroyed everything that is good about rock 'n' roll."
Puff stayed out of the war of words, but was said to have been "very animated" when their paths crossed shortly afterwards in New York's Times Square.
"Him being on trial for that nightclub shooting kind of speaks for itself," is today's somewhat more measured response. "If he's guilty he should get what he deserves, and if he's not…"
There'll be a next time?
"(laughs) You're trying to get me into trouble!"
What a terrible, and frankly slanderous thing to say. While this writer has sympathy for Manson's anti-Puff stance, I must take issue with him dissing my old mate Moby. Although, in fairness, Manson was under the impression that Moby had lashed out first.
"That was a bit of a misunderstanding. They took a quote that was quite old and made it sound like he was commenting on recent events."
The villains of the piece are the New York Post who, following some pre-Christmas argy bargy at MM's Roseland Ballroom show, quoted the Mobester as saying that, "It was disgusting. I'm waiting to see if the police want witnesses. That kind of violence is totally unnecessary on stage."
Unaware that those mal mots were four years old, and pertained to a completely different incident, Manson threatened to have the "TV commercial soundtracker" beaten up.
"Does he read your magazine? Okay, I'd like to apologise for unjustly delivering ill will to him. If he's got no problem with me, then I've got no problem with that little bastard either!"
Excuse me while I wipe a tear from my eye. As you're probably aware, Manson copped the lion's share of the blame when Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold decided that they couldn't be doing with their Columbine classmates. One of the choicest comments came from Al Gore's Presidential running mate, Joe Lieberman, who branded him, Ginger, John, Twiggy and M.C. "the sickest group ever promoted by a mainstream record company." His detractors were rather less vocal when it emerged that Harris and Klebold had never bought any of their records, been to one of their shows or expressed an opinion about them, good or bad.
"I thought, 'Hey, maybe now they'll call the dogs off', but actually it had the opposite effect."
Although at 6ft 4" well able to take care of himself, Manson admits that there were times when the scrutiny became just a little bit too intense.
"There were a lot of death threats after Columbine, and I didn't want anybody getting hurt," he reflects. "The few times I went anywhere, I just had the overwhelming presence of death surrounding me. I wasn't sure how safe I was because there were a lot of people who had laid blame on me for something that I wasn't responsible for.
"On a personal level, I had to tear down everything I was and start from scratch. I was attacked and felt that the whole world wanted to destroy me. I was finally in the shoes of the dream that inspired Antichrist Superstar. The dream came to pass like a prophecy and I had to rethink everything."
Manson's response to Joe Lieberman, and the even more hysterical Catholic League, came last year in the form of Holy Wood (In The Shadow Of The Valley Of Death). Far from being a rearguard action, the likes of 'Burning Flag', 'Disposable Teens' and 'Godeatgod' signalled the launch of a new attack on the Christian Right.
"Where I started Antichrist Superstar by pointing out everything that was wrong about religion, on this record I decided to point out things I could relate to," he volunteers. "And I related to Christ being a revolutionary and being someone who was the blueprint for the celebrity, the first rock star. He had a lot of dangerous ideas that people were afraid of. He eventually became merchandised so that they could hang his image on a wall or wear it as a necklace, and he was sacrificed for what he believed in."
An interesting theological viewpoint that the Family Values brigade chose to ignore. The same wasn't true of the cover, which had one Memphis pastor threatening to go on hunger strike unless it was pulled from the shelves.
"It's a combination of my jawless face with the statue of Christ taken from a church," he explained at the height of the furore. "The image was supposed to suggest that something we've taken for granted all our lives can be looked at as violent and sexual as well. So religious people who indict entertainment as being violent, it's kind of ironic because Christ was the first celebrity and all entertainment comes from religion. And my jaw being removed is to represent the silencing of people with dangerous opinions."
Death threats or not, it must be great fun winding these loolahs up.
"There's a whole bunch of people who'll never understand what I'm saying and, yeah, I like to take the piss out of them. It's my job to represent chaos in the world, and to be the one that turns things upside down."
While other artists choose to ignore the past, or are even revisionist about it, Manson recognises that he's not the first rock 'n' roller to fight these battles.
"I've seen a lot of parallels between the years 1969 and 1999," he proffers. "I've tried to point some of them out on Holy Wood. 1969 is very relevant to me numerologically. It was also the year I was born, and the year of the (Charles) Manson murders and Altamont. All this reminds me very much of Columbine and the problems of Woodstock '99. Also, the fact that the words 'Helter Skelter' were written on the wall of a crime scene and [The Beatles'] White Album was blamed for the violence made me think that I'm part of something bigger than I can understand. I started to draw a lot of inspiration from that period."
So much so that he's bought the house where the Stones wrote Let It Bleed, and recorded covers of John Lennon's 'Working Class Hero' and Charlie Manson's 'Sick City', which are downloadable from his .net website. Given his previous haranguing of Guns 'N Roses, was Manson worried that his psychopathic namesake would try and get in touch?
"No. We'd already warped another of his songs, 'Mechanical Man', into a track on our first album, 'My Monkey', and heard nothing. It was just my way of acknowledging his role in pop culture, as much as if I'd covered 'Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend'."
Prior to his reinvention as Marilyn Manson, the teenage Brian Warner was a stringer for a Florida music magazine. Despite the numerous hatchet jobs he's been subjected to, he still maintains a degree of respect for the profession.
"I feel like there's a lot of journalism in what I do," he acknowledges. "Journalism is seeing the world and reporting it - that's what I've always done. As a writer I had a lot to say. I also looked at what other bands were doing and thought that my ideas were better. That's essentially how all this began."
While dismissive of Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous - "It didn't ring true with me" - Manson is a big fan of another Rolling Stone old boy.
"You hear all this stuff about Hunter S. Thompson and think, 'That can't be true', but no, he's the real thing. I met him at around four in the morning in The Viper Room with Johnny Depp.
"Did he have a handle on what I do? He had a handle on drugs, which is pretty much where our conversation began and ended."
The difference between now and when Marilyn Manson was being crucified for Antichrist Superstar, is that there's somebody on the cross next to him.
"It's good that I opened the door for Eminem, and once through it he was able to take things to a bigger, almost unbelievable level. With me attacking from one angle, and him another, they're really kept on their toes!"
As someone who professes to be a spokesman for the disenfranchised, what's Marilyn Manson's take on the rapper's blatant homophobia?
"Part of me thinks that people should lighten up and realise that a lot of what he says borders on stand-up comedy. Another part doesn't agree with everything he's singing about, but supports his right to have those opinions. I tend to focus on the fact that he's a brilliant entertainer."
The admiration is by no means one-way, with Mathers informing MTV that, "There's a mutual respect between us. It's not like me and Manson go out as best friends. We just stand strong in the belief that artists should be able to express themselves without harassment."
Faint praise, though, compared to Brian Molko describing him in the last hotpress as, "Ruthless, Machiavellian and great fun to be around. Humour isn't something that's normally associated with Marilyn Manson, but he's got an extremely dry wit."
"That's very complimentary."
"Pretty much so."
Okay then, tell us a joke.
"That's kind of put me on the spot. Me existing and getting away with most of what I do, is the ultimate joke on the world."
Him not being the living embodiment of evil asides, is there anything else about Marilyn Manson, which might surprise people?
"There not being a single episode of the Teletubbies I haven't seen," he divulges. "Not only do they have some strange knowledge of drugs that I'm not privy to, but that baby definitely has his eye on me."
Another staggering revelation is Manson being pleased that George W. Bush has made it to the White House.
"I think that art of all sorts - whether it's music or comedy or literature - flourishes under conservative rule because it gives people something to rail against. Bill Clinton's attempts to be friends with young people, to come on MTV, did something to the rebellion barometer. It didn't give kids any authority to go against. I think that's why there's been a lot of bland and happy-go-lucky music created over the past six or seven years.
"I didn't really support Bush, but I hope we get some good right-wing, Manson-hating people in office so I can piss them off."
Time now for my serious rock journo question. In the same way that David Bowie killed Ziggy Stardust off, might there be a time when Brian Warner decides to terminate Marilyn Manson?
"I don't think so. There may be a day when I do something else, but it always seems like it's going to be Marilyn Manson. The name was never meant for me to be a persona. You know how Cassius Clay became Muhammad Ali when he changed religion? It's the same sort of deal. It defined me when I adopted it, so even if I stop making music, I'll hang on to the name."
Originally the preserve of spotty lads who wanted something to listen to while their testicles dropped, Manson has recently started to make forays into Smash Hits territory. While unlikely to put Louis Walsh out of business, he certainly livens things up when he appears on Top Of The Pops.
"There's something very punk rock about a counter-culture figure like me infiltrating the mainstream," he beams. "I don't know who I scare the most - the parents who've got kids watching, or the other artists on the show."
Which celebs has he put the willies up recently, then?
"Sade didn't seem overly enthused when our paths crossed at the BBC. We fixed her, though, by changing the sign on her door to the 'Marquis de Sade'!"
The little scamp. Although perfectly amiable, there's an edginess to Manson this afternoon which I put down to him being knackered from the American leg of his Guns, God And Government tour. It's only after we've said our goodbyes that an industry dickie-bird tells me that he's just split from his actress fiancée Rose McGowan. It's been slim pickings for the tabloids since, with the singer maintaining a discreet silence and McGowan simply stating that, "There is great love, but our lifestyle difference is, unfortunately, even greater."
Curiously enough, one of the last things I'd asked Mazza was how he rated in the romance department.
"I've always been one to feign disinterest and let them do the hard work," he'd laughed. "Do I have a romantic bone in my body? Yeah, it's between my legs!"
His favourite albums
"The CDs in my player right now are the new P.J. Harvey record, Queens Of The Stone Age, Aphex Twin and the Sex Pistols."
Good vs. Evil
"I've learned a lot about every element of religion, and I think there's something valuable to be found in Wicca or Satanism or even Christianity. I don't really feel my belief could be in any one. But I do find myself gravitating toward the darker side."
Dating as a teenager
"I used to feed 'em drugs, wait for 'em to pass out and then…"
The Catholic Church
"I can't possibly be at war with Christ, because your religion killed him and what he stood for. But if you want to be at war with me…bring it on."
"I'm not a big fan of sports. Wrestling, though, does have a theatrical element that kind of goes back to the origin of sports. If I were to go back to any sport, it would be feeding Christians to the lions."
"It seems that in every film, from Kurt And Courtney to Man On The Moon to Larry Flynt and now her recent casting as William Burroughs' wife, she's doomed to play dead celebrities' middle-aged wives. I suppose with a little more plastic surgery she could be Yoko Ono, because she sure has the voice for it. It seems art no longer imitates life, it mocks it."
"Maybe I'll end up in Las Vegas as a crooner, like Frank Sinatra, singing easy listening versions of 'The Beautiful People'. That would be fun. On the other hand, I might end up in jail or in the electric chair. I haven't got a clue. Life is full of surprises."
"He wanted to change the world. He used his personal image to influence society. I respect this and I'm trying to do the same."
Checking Into Hotels
"There are a couple of names I'm using at the moment that I'm not going to tell you, but in the past I've been Michael Stipe and Michael Jackson. They always seem a little bit disappointed when it's me that turns up."