With the release of 'Holy Wood....' in November 2000, the colossal propaganda machine that is Marilyn Manson continued to cause controversy at every opportunity. If it's not the cover and imagery from his latest album or the wild on-stage antics of his traveling circus of horrors, its taking the blame for every murder, mugging or cat-napping that happens Stateside. Striking terror among the God-fearing population of this planet, who believe Manson to be the Antichrist, he's managed to upset nearly every religious group this side of Mars. Is Manson simply misunderstood or is he hatching a deeper, darker plan for the world domination? With the country still recovering from the Guns, God and Government tour, Manson's first UK shows since 99's Big Day Out appearance, we talk to the mainman about his quest for a rock revolution.
Rock Albums with concepts are often compared with the all-time classic albums - Pinks Floyd's 'The Wall' and The Beatles' so called 'White Album'. Discuss.
I think that a lot of my records are inspired by 'The Wall' because it was such an important record to me. I think whenever you try and do a record with a bit of a story, 'The Wall' is the best example, and so it's the one you have to stand up against. As for 'The White Album', when it came out it was important for The Beatles' career as they were doing something completely different for them. There were a lot of revolutionary elements to it - a lot of ironic things happened with the songs on that album. 'Helter Skelter' was blamed for the Manson murders, and I identified with what was happening with John Lennon - and the album came out the year I was born, too!
Compared to your previous outings, 'Holy Wood...' has a very cinematic fell to it - is this something you consciously decided to do?
I think I made a very concerted effort to use the music in a cinemative way, yes. The dynamics are much more thought out than any other record, we've done. Heavy music is very fashionable, especially among American bands, but it's about using it in a classic and tasteful way, and that's why with 'Holy Wood...' it's heavy and has an impact, and when it's not heavy it also has relevance.
There also seems to be more to the album musically, rather than just concentrating on the lyrics this time around.
If you were to do something as planned-out lyrically as 'The Wall', I think you'd run in to a territory that becomes almost self-indulgent. I wanted people to listen to this album song by song and still appreciate the songs on there. I hunted at more of the story rather than spelling it out - this record fuses the other two together and it gives you a better picture of how the all play among one another.
'Holy Wood... is probably your darkest album to date. Is this an illusion?
Violence is the central subject of the record, but musically and lyrically it's not as violent as 'Antichrist Superstar'. That was emotionless and cold and very nihilistic - almost one-sided. It was just hell-bent on destruction, whereas 'Mechanical Animals' was more in a different part of my personality. This one, I had the benefit of both emotions and that rage because Columbine reignited a fire in me. The media trying to destroy me brought back a lot of feelings of disillusionment. When it is violent or anger, I think it's much more effective, thereıs more emotion behind it. It's not just empty anger, it's very powerful.
There seems to be an underlying concept of trying to create revolution and yet that revolution in turn just becomes a product.
My music is very much autobiographical. 'Antichrist Superstar' was inspired by dreams - dreams of seeing myself in a position of having power and being frightened to have that power destroy me. I felt like personally and musically that story was not over for me, I needed to put myself through extreme measures to push myself to see what could happen, and musically I felt it would be very interesting to tell the story over the course of three records. Not that I could that with 'Mechanical Animals', so when I finished that at the end of '99, when then media was attacking me over Columbine, it was the point that I dreamed of 'Antichrist Superstar'. I was at that fucking point so I had to destroy what I was and resurrect myself by making 'Holy Wood...' and that became the end of my creation. At the same time, it was the beginning of the story - so it was kind of like a snake that ends on its tail! If I couldn't have made this record I would probably not made music any more. I don't know what would have happened but I took all the negativity that was laid upon me and made it into something positive by making this album. Some people didn't understand all of my ideas, people just wanted to turn it into another product, and I saw that coming so I was making a sarcastic comment on it.
The album appears to end in tragedy - this really the case?
It can be looked at like that if you want to take literally, but it's not so much killing yourself but killing everything you represent. In one way it is a tragedy and in another way it hopes that there is rebirth and resurrection and the ability to shed your skin and be something new. Tragic elements in the life can often be a source of great inspiration.
Throughout history there have been people who have a massive impact on the world. Christ, John F Kennedy, John Lennon. In what ways do you consider yourself to be in the same league as these people?
I've never felt like that, I think it would be pretentious of me to put myself up there with Christ, Kennedy and Lennon. What I did find was parallels in their stories and my story, and I tried to maybe learn from their mistakes and what they tried to do. If you take 'Holy Wood...' as something on its own and disregard the other records, I think it's simple. You realize you can't change the world and you can only change yourself and I think that's what Christ, Kennedy and Lennon found out. For me it was about learning from that and trying to beak the evolution of man. It's in man's nature to be violent.
To what extent to you consider Eminem to be equivalent of Marilyn Manson in the rap world? After all, he's shocking and provocative...
One thing that I could credit Eminemıs success to, more than just being him shocking, is that I think he's actually talented. The songs are offensive but they are very clever and well done and I think he wouldn't have had a successful second record if he werenıt good at it. I think it's as important to agree with or enjoy his opinions, as it is to respect the fact that he has strong opinions. That's what I like about him, he has the balls to say and do what he wants. Itıs also good to see someone else taking the hits that I have in the past, because very few people can do that. There are elements of what he saying that I can agree with or sympathize with - while you're in the position of being a star people often don't respect your privacy, but that's something you have to sacrifice. For me, after being attacked by everyone I felt that no one was on my side - only the fans stuck by me. Everyone wanted to see me fail and take a fall for something I wasn't really responsible for, so I've gained a new sense of enthusiasm and a great respect for... just little things. I don't take anything for granted - every single person that tells me that they like the record, which I am very thankful for. But I am not pandering to or catering for people or trying to pretend that I like the fans so they will buy more records or T-shirts - I'm just thankful that they have stuck by me. I feel we're on the same team.
In what ways do you consider you a re perceived as a dictator on stage?
You have to look at the big picture, I was making fun of fascism and what fascism is and to me what was a statement of what rock 'n' rock is - rock 'n' roll was just as bad as what it was fighting against. The big picture is standing back and thinking about it, it's performance art in a way. I'm not exploiting something, but its making people part of something. Whether or not they realize what I'm doing is irrelevant, it's the fact that it's happening.
Do you read books on social manipulation?
Not really. I've read a lot of things, particularly about symbolism, and crowd manipulation goes back to Julius Caesar - when he raised his hand, the crowd reacted in a certain way. I can be very powerful; it's a magical thing to happen between a performer and a leader. But you have to understand it and appreciate it and know how to use it, and a lot of people don't, they're amateurs and it's very dangerous. Woodstock '99 was a good example, there were bands antagonizing the crowd in a way they couldn't control so it turned into a catastrophe. Reality sets things apart when you're in a situation like that. It's not manipulated; it's about creating a tornado inside a building and being able to keep it from tearing the walls down. Controlled chaos is what is and I understand that.
How do you convince someone you're sincere in your actions?
I don't think I feel that need to convince anyone. A lot of the time, what I do speaks for itself and, whether it creates hate or love, I value both equally. I don't feel the need to sell myself - sometimes I'm very insincere. Obviously there is a lot of sarcasm in what I do and I don't take myself completely seriously because if you do become a parody. But at the same time, I believe in what I do.
The album sleeve for 'Holy Wood...' has predictable created much controversy. What's your view on this?
American people have very poor sense of irony! I am please at the response because my point in showing myself on the cover with my face combined with the statue of Christ is to say that as much as it is entertainment, the image be seen as violent and sexual and people said it was offensive and censored it and that proved my point. I have always tried to fight against religion and disregard it. On this record I tried to look at it in a different way, I'm just trying to talk about evolution and why man behaves the way he does and just go back to the beginning and look at the story of Christ in a different way. I can say that Christ was the first celebrity and all entertainment stems from religion and all region exploits merchandise. Jesus was the first famous person; he ended up dying for having a dangerous opinion. Now that's a character I can relate to - for me it's about always having an open mind and looking at something in a different way.
Why do you always feel the need to be provocative? Doesn't it feel a little passé?
Being provocative is second nature to me, but I do try and push people to re-evaluate what they believe in and question why they believe in those things.
You're constantly in the limelight - for the better or for worse - but you're always creating. Don't you ever let up?
Obviously I don't want people to forget about me, but it's more the need to be always creative, being able to paint, write a song, and make a video or whatever. It's the one thing that really makes me happy, so I just have to do it. I wouldn't say I'm a workaholic, because I don't consider what I do as work as such, it's just what I am. I'm not the type of person who can deal with having time off.