Shock rocker Marilyn Manson has endured more than his share of controversy—and no one could be happier about that than he is. The self-described “Antichrist Superstar,” who briefly attended Broward Community College back when he still answered to the name Brian Hugh Warner, has always maintained that his outrageousness is in part a calculated effort to provoke the mainstream.
It’s worked. From album titles like “Smells Like Children” to ripping apart a copy of the Book of Mormon onstage in Salt Lake City to his music being called a contributing factor in the Columbine massacre, Manson seems destined to be forever vilified by “upstanding citizens.” His recent romantic drama (Manson’s marriage to burlesque dancer Dita Von Teese collapsed amid accusations that he was sleeping with now-girlfriend Evan Rachel Wood, a 19-year-old featured in the video for his recent single, “Heart-Shaped Glasses”) simply added more fuel to the fire.
Having reunited with longtime bass player Twiggy Ramirez, a rejuvenated Manson talks about the band’s Rape of the World tour.
When you were in high school, did you have big artistic hopes? Or did the Marilyn Manson vision evolve more slowly?
It started in Miami. I was writing for a magazine called 25th Parallel—I was 17 and lied my way into the job. I dropped out of Broward Community College after two weeks of studying journalism because I really wanted to be near music. After interviewing a lot of important people at the time, I felt like the answers I was given weren’t enough and I had to “make” what I wanted.
It took a while to find the person who was really gonna go all the way with me, the person who was not afraid to hit rock bottom, and it was Twiggy. We both eventually ended up going our separate ways, but when we saw each other again recently, we both knew: We can’t do it as well separately.
How will having Twiggy back affect you creatively?
It’s gonna make my life in one part a whole lot better and also a whole lot worse. The combination of us as friends is nothing but trouble.
You’ve turned ugliness and horror into an art form that some say is actually beautiful. Is this some sort of comment on mainstream values?
It is, and it’s also probably the way someone who isn’t accepted conventionally deals with it. I didn’t feel like I could fit in as the “handsome guy” or the “cool guy” or the status quo. And instead of putting those feelings of isolation into something violent, I put it into music.
Are you anywhere near as nihilistic as your persona?
I think people have always misinterpreted my self-destructive nature as nihilistic, because if you don’t care about the world, you can’t create art. I am misanthropic and self-loathing, but never nihilistic. And I think I act far worse off-stage than onstage.
How often are you in character, dressed up like Marilyn Manson? Are you in makeup when you’re just sitting on the couch watching TV?
I AM a character, so that’s the problem. There are many, many levels to how I behave. Some people might associate being Marilyn Manson as having lipstick on, but I don’t really have some sort of other lifestyle. Sometimes I don’t have the energy to put on clothes or even change my underwear. But there’s a difference between being on- or off-stage that’s not the same thing as being Marilyn Manson. I can’t turn off the way I think, and that’s essentially who I am, who anybody is.
You’re commonly labeled as evil and a bad influence on America. But those who say so seem to miss the irony of many of your so-called shocking statements.
It’s always been a part of the big picture. Marilyn Manson has always been intended to confuse some, anger some and make some people feel at home. There’s no way to misunderstand what I do—but everyone can understand it differently. That’s the only way I’ve learned to embrace art—it has to be a question mark, not an answer.
You’ve done notable covers—including” Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” and “Tainted Love.” What other songs would you love to put your own stamp on?
Nothing at this point. In fact, on this tour, we’ve avoided it. I wouldn’t want to cover anything else now—except myself and the world in blood.
Who are some musicians you love that have nothing to do with industrial or aggro-rock?
I listen to Bowie, PJ Harvey, Prince, Jeff Buckley, Cat Stevens, Slayer, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs—I’m into stuff that has a darker sense of romance to it.
Does all the tabloid attention surrounding your relationship with Evan Rachel Wood bother you?
It doesn’t bother me. It would bother me if it had a damaging effect on Evan’s career, and I told her from the beginning her talent outshines anything I can ever do to tarnish it. And there’s nothing more you can say about me that hasn’t been said: I lived through Columbine. Bring it on.
You’ve said that the relationship drama influenced your writing on” Eat Me Drink Me.” What does the title mean to you?
At the time, what was going through my head was ... me being confused about the idea that I was a product being consumed, and that romance is total consumption. That is what romance should be, being completely consumed by something. You see that with vampire mythology, communion, Christ, and it’s part of man’s makeup—it’s what we want. So it was a bad time, and it was a good time.
You just turned 39 on Jan. 5. Are you feeling any age-related angst?
No, I stopped thinking about it. Once you start on some kind of roller coaster like this you forget a lot of things. And I feel the same way about a lot of things I did 15 years ago.
Did you do anything exciting to celebrate?
Yeah. I had my closest friends with me—but all the things I did that were exciting I can’t mention til the statute of limitations passes.