SANTA ANA, Calif. — It’s 11 p.m. on a Wednesday night. Is Marilyn Manson ever going to call?
The interview was supposed to be at 8 but one of his wranglers dials me up at 10:15: “He’s calling soon, I swear. His interviews are running long. Marilyn loves to talk.”
Finally the phone rings and it’s Manson, in a playful yet dark mood.
“Wait, were you sleeping?” he asks, chuckling.
This kicks off our late-night chat — he shares that I’m the first woman he’s talked to all day, then explains how he likes to conduct interviews: “Normally, I do a monologue and you get to listen.”
That may be how it works with others, but there’s too much to talk about just to let him ramble on.
In the two years that have passed between “Eat Me, Drink Me” in 2007 and his May release “The High End of Low,” Manson has been through quite a bit. He poured his heart out about his failing relationship and eventual divorce from famous burlesque model Dita Von Teese on “Eat Me, Drink Me,” yet he says many critics misunderstood that album, calling it happy when Manson considers it far from a salvation.
Still, he insists he’s not just “damaged goods.” He’s not copping to seeing anyone in particular at the moment, but he had been dating actress Evan Rachel Wood until the two split in late 2008. Judging by his sly and deep laughter to a question about his love life, I’m sure he hasn’t become celibate. After all, who wouldn’t want to date a dark and tortured artist whose favorite pickup line is “I want to set you on fire”?
Manson says his latest album is the first he’s made that he actually likes to listen to. It also has re-teamed him with his band’s original bassist Twiggy Ramirez, who left Manson to play with Nine Inch Nails and A Perfect Circle after the two had a spat in 2002.
“I think we got into an argument that should have been resolved,” Manson says, “but we were like boyfriend and girlfriend and neither one of us called the next day. And that lasted for six or seven years. This is the record that we always wanted to make, and I think that (the fight) happened for a reason. We needed to step away from it, from each other.”
Yet, just because Manson has (sort of) pulled himself together doesn’t mean this album is sunshine and roses — far from it, in fact.
He tapped into still-raw emotions he experienced before going through his divorce, which left him slipping into a depression no one could help him out of. His ex-wife’s attempt at an intervention, he says, was “almost comedic” — he recalls being tricked into walking into a room filled with friends and a doctor sitting in a circle.
“I told the doctor, ‘I know more about psychology than you because I read and you have flip-flops on — and I’m going into the other room and snorting a big line of cocaine.’
“I didn’t have the courage or the energy or the (bleeping) initiative to kill myself, which is kind of sad. I always told everyone, ‘Listen, stop getting your panties in a bunch because I’m writing on walls and bleeding and shooting up. If I’m going to kill myself, trust me, I’m gonna take a lot of people out with me.’ There’s not going to be some note ... ‘goodbye cruel world ...’
“Everyone is always worried about what my music does to other people. They need to be worried about what I’ll do to other people.”
That’s the same attitude Manson takes in the new track “Leave a Scar,” in which he moans in a gravelly voice: “I’m well aware I’m a danger to myself / Are you aware I’m a danger to others?”
This is all very normal in his world. It’s classic Manson, creating the type of lyrics that still scare the crap out of suburban parents, the sort who pointed accusing fingers in his direction after the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School.
Having loved and lost, Manson now sings about being so low he has to look up just to see hell. In the disc’s final moment, titled “15,” he shares details about his fizzled romances, ending the album by proclaiming “I’m gonna teach you about loss.”
“It’s about having a real sense of the understanding of loss and love and what it all means,” he says of the album. “It sounds so appealing to say, ‘Oh, I’ll die with you’ and ‘I love you so much that I’d die with you.’ Don’t say that to me after I wrote song ‘15,’ because if you say that and you leave ... you better run really fast. I’ll hunt you down and kill you because you said we’d be together until we die.
“I’m not going to have that promise again until it’s meant. If it’s meant ... I’d buy you flowers every day.”
When he can’t express himself through music, Manson turns to painting. He has hosted several gallery exhibits of his work and features dozens of his pieces for sale on his official Web site. He paints whatever comes to his mind; of the portraits he’s done in the past, including some of ex-girlfriends, his work is a way of saying: “This is how I feel about you.” Also in Manson’s collection are a lot of self-portraits, images of Christ and a few paintings of famous murder victim Elizabeth Short (aka the Black Dahlia).
Manson says he doesn’t know what the future holds for him – and that he doesn’t remember too much about the past, although he wears the scars ... and did happen to publish an autobiography about that very subject in March ‘99, “The Long Hard Road Out of Hell.” For now, however, he says he’s just content.
“I’ve had everything and I’ve had it all taken away. But I’m satisfied if I live in a hotel and just have enough money to buy cat food and drugs — and to be able to impress beautiful girls who are charmed by my idiotic flattery.”