The Pale EmperorThe Pale Emperor

Born VillainBorn Villain

The High End of LowThe High End of Low


Lest We ForgetLest We Forget

The Golden Age of GrotesqueThe Golden Age of Grotesque

Holy WoodHoly Wood

Mechanical AnimalsMechanical Animals

Antichrist SuperstarAntichrist Superstar

Smells Like ChildrenSmells Like Children

Portrait of an American FamilyPortrait of an American Family

Spooky KidsSpooky Kids

Related InterviewsRelated Interviews


That's right. Marilyn Manson harbours serious political ambitions, and Tinseltown will soon be his. But would you vote for a man who smokes human bones, sets fire to his drummer, tortures groupies and is convinced Willy Wonka is a Satanist? Of course you would...

Glittery mess still lies scattered around this bunker of a Los Angeles photo studio, the remnants of a New Years Eve party hosted by Courtney Love and Drew Barrymore. Outside, as the rest of America suffers snowstorms and record-breaking wind-chill temperatures nearing -40 F, the sun - as it tends to do in California - continues beaming beautifully. Marilyn Manson wasn't actually present at the bash (he was continuing the good work at a gig in Las Vegas), but that whole Hollywood celeb-centric scene is now very much what he calls home.
After a firm 'let's do business, buddy' handshake, he lounges back into a black leather sofa, his insectoid limbs spreading out in Gucci-covered lankiness. He's completely breaking his pledge never to wear anything in black again. The colour suits him, of course, but, as with the ultra-dark wraparound shades that he wears (despite the room's dim lighting), such fashion classicism simply makes him resemble your timeless LA rock star rather than either the new model glam-freak or the diabolical goth-mutant of yore.
The slowly deliberate voice initially seems purpose-built to spout "as an artist I feel inspired by..." -style starbabble, but this eventually gives way to more gleeful tones as we progress through the heady stew of his recent past. He's utterly serious about his art, his whole process of self-creation, but sometimes he really can't help himself. As Antichrists go, he sure likes a laugh.
Today is the last day of his 20s. He's done more with them than most, what with successfully making half of America believe he's the devil incarnate and leaving all other aspirant trails of blood and spunk for dust. His 30th birthday falls tomorrow, 5 January, which is, he reckons, significant.
"I was born on 1/5/69. If you add the one and the five together you get six," he drawls, thinly.
"6 plus 9 is 15. And of course 30 divided by 2 is 15. The numerology all lines up at this point, so I think this is going to be a very big year for me."
With contentment eking its way into his heart and downright filthiness making way for a certain age-befitting sophistication, even the numbers all point to this being an appropriate time to recap on the key elements behind the myth of The Millenium's Last Rock Star. But is he feeling the traditional dread at the thought of turning 30?
"Not really, I think most artists are children at heart. I feel the same as when I was 20, I'm still only just beginning."
It all seems so inevitable now that he's officially one of America's most famous faces, but this really wasn't meant to happen. Even Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor, who discovered him in the Florida sticks and produced his first three albums, never expected Manson to be much more than a minor cult novelty on the industrial circuit.
But, after two albums that were stacked full of cacophonous gurning and a 1995 break-through hit with their S&M-friendly cover of The Eurythmics' Sweet Dreams, the former Brian Warner decided to go the full nine yards. Never one for understatement, he went a couple of extra yards for good measure.
With the Antichrist Superstar album, Manson repeated David Bowie's self-fulfilling Ziggy trick, where he constructed himself as a mythically mega-famous icon and thereby actually became one. He also set about becoming the most potent hate figure among America's Moral Majority - the folk he'd been pissing off since back in Fort Lauderdale's Christian Heritage School. And lo, that too came to pass.
The following 1996-97 Dead To The World tour then became one of the most ravaged and besieged in rock 'n' roll history. Death threats were issued daily, crucifixes were brandished en masse, rumours (from detractors and fans) told of onstage bestiality, virgin sacrifice, incitement to murder and the kind of self-mutilation that would do for mere mortals - all the kind of neo-medieval hysteria that the run-up to the Millenium was supposed to be full of. 1998 saw him swapping shock for (relative) subtlety with his astonishing autobiography-cum-revisionist- fantasy, The Long Hard Road Out Of Hell. The new electro-glam album, Mechanical Animals, also baffled those looking for blasphemy and stimulated even those for whom the words 'goth', 'industrial' and 'metal' form a triumvirate to be feared and reviled. All of which means that, alongside reports of less impressive US sales, doors have been opening on this side of the Atlantic. Breaking big in Europe was always going to be a more traditional affair - most people over here know the 20th Century has actually been underway for some time. Helpfully, the new songs at times resemble Suede and, indeed, Mansun; there's those mates-with-Molko connections; and even the lyrics are closer to Radiohead-style postmodern psychodrama than previous "I've got abortions in my eyes" metalloid daftness. Besides, he is, we can all surely agree, rather interesting - as evidenced by a multi-faceted trawl through the most noteworthy episodes of his rise. Groupies! Prison! Grave-robbing! Breast implants! And the small matter of his chronic obsession with serial killers...
Alongside the surname, the band also purloined the memorable line "I am the God of Fuck" (for early single Cake and Sodomy) from legendary '60s cult leader Charles Manson. Via some peculiar racist readings of songs from The Beatles' White Album, Manson incited his cult of followers, known as The Family, to murder actress and wife of Roman Polanski Sharon Tate - who was pregnant - and friends at her house in the Hollywood Hills. Trent Reznor later bought the house, eventually recording early Marilyn Manson album Portrait Of An American Family there.

"I think he's interesting because he was a mystery and because America had made him into an icon. There's something that draws everyone to him whether you hate him or love him. He had some very interesting points on American culture."
Plus a lot of racist ideology...
"Well, just a very unique way if looking at things. Whether you agree or disagree, I just thought he's someone you can't just understand at first glance. That was half of what I enjoyed as well as the Marilyn Monroe glamorous half - just putting those two words together and the power that creates. But serial killers have always been stars in America. Going back to Jesse James, we've always made outlaws into pop stars... and pop stars into outlaws."

As a relatively unknown industrial-rocker in 1994, Manson was arrested in Jacksonville, Florida, for "violation of the Adult Entertainment Code" when the police mistakenly believed they saw him urinating on the crowd and simulating masturbation with a strap-on dildo. He was detained overnight before the charges were eventually dropped - his only time behind bars?
"I'm sure I was treated about the same as anybody who doesn't really qualify as an acceptable person. I got roughed around and made fun of a lot by the cops. They made me wash my make-up off with this really bad pink floor cleaner. But there was no dildo, so they had to let me go eventually. I guess that was the weakest position that I think I've ever been in." Did it instil a certain healthy respect for that kind of power?
"Well, not necessarily respect but I guess a... not even a fear, but I certainly realised the power of knowledge, knowing what you can get away with. I'm surprised I haven't had to go back, but I think it's just a matter of being in control of my performance and knowing my boundaries. There's a little compromise when you're trying to do something like I do and you shoot yourself in the foot if you just go right ahead and get stopped."
Did it help catalyse the anger you felt towards authority?
"It just started everything for me, I think. I was on the brink of turning into what I was going to become and that definitely sped it along."

A string of ex-members have left the band on less than amicable terms (former guitarist Daisy Berkowitz has since taken Manson to court). But none exited more spectacularly than Sara Lee Lucas, who was last seen running from the stage one night in March 1995, trying to extinguish his flaming leg after Manson, having slashes up his own stomach, ignited the unfortunate drummer's kit. DId he have it coming to him?
"Oh, I thought he was an alright guy. Setting him on fire with his drum set and all that was more done out of fun than just a big farewell. I think he was enjoying it in his own way, too, because he knew he couldn't really go on. It was kind of a symbolic sacrifice for us."
There seems to be a kind of Darwinian process of survival in your band?
"Well, it's just because I care! I expect people to put forth a great effort, maybe not as much as I do, but at least what they have in their capacity. If someone isn't pulling their weight, then someone else will.
When we were on tour for [early album] Smells Like Children, we carried around a big bag of human bones that we had excavated in New Orleans one night - the graveyards there in some of the poorer communities are badly made, there are bones sticking out the ground everywhere and we had stumbled across a bunch and decided to keep them. We just carried them around with us telling everyone they were the remains of our drummer, because he had by then disappeared.
One night we were at a party here in Lost Angeles and there was a bunch of pretentious trendy Hollywood people spouting off about what drugs they'd done and how cool they thought they were. We convinced them to smoke some chipped-up bones in a pipe, hoping it would harm them. But I think it just made them cough a lot."
Much of the stuff you do seem tailor made for a good yarn. Did you imagine when you did it that it would be so talked about?
"Not really. A lot of things we do become very commonplace to us. I guess we're very desensitised to other peopleís thresholds. And often when I do something I'm not trying to impress or shock anyone, it's just that's the level of boredom that I've reached and it's all I can do to entertain myself."

While playing support on Nine Inch Nailís Self-Destruct tour, Manson befriended Anton LaVey, founder and high priest of the Church of Satan, author of The Satanic Bible, and (alleged) former lover of Marilyn Monroe. Before his death in 1997, LaVey ordained Manson as a minister - which did wonders in garnering the attentions of the Moral Majority.
"It was pretty much the same as graduating from high school or having my first job. On a friendship level, Anton LaVey taught me a lot of things, but it doesn't find me speaking out about Satanism or trying to perform Black Masses. It's just part of my belief system, one of many."
It seems more about self-knowledge than sacrificing virgins?
"There's a sensationalism that Christianity and Hollywood brings to the subject, making it into something it's not. But at the same time, aside from Satanism, maybe sacrificing virgins could come back in style because the world's starting to get boring. Virgins are very scarce. They should be cherished... and then sacrificed.
But I've read The Bible enough to know it more than most Christians."
Recently? No. I've torn up quite a few, though. But ironically, the Antichrist isn't mentioned in The Bible, it's a part of Christian mythology that's grown up since, a kind of universal bogeyman that people needed."
Kind of like your good self...
"I think since the fall of communism, America hasn't had an enemy, so it's had a lot of little enemies. Two years ago it was really me, this past year it was Clinton, hopefully this next year it'll be me again because I enjoyed it immensely."

Manson's recent biography painstakingly details the sadistic confessional mind games that were played out backstage on willing - albeit worryingly disturbed - fans who would be strapped into purpose-built bondage apparatus until they revealed such harrowing incidents from their past as gang rape and child prostitution.
"I was interested in hearing what depths people had sunk to in their lives. Also, I've always been concerned with psychology and I like to learn about other people and that was, in my own strange way, a form of therapy for me and for the people I guess I was torturing." Did it shock you?
"At times, but I've come to learn that people will do a lot of things that you wouldn't expect them to. I wouldn't say it shocked me, it definitely interested me, though. The fact that people are willing to express things to a total stranger. It's a compliment, I guess."
Fans have used the Net to spread preposterous rumours about Manson. Such as having 'three ribs removed so he could suck his own dick'. That he 'went on stage and pulled a Coke bottle out of his ass'. And that he 'had sex with a pig in one of his videos'. What's the best rumour youíve seen on the net?
"I guess the one that comes up most in most countries is that I was in The Wonder Years. Which I want to correct because I was actually in Diff'rent Strokes and I just had my skin bleached. Which one was I? Willis."
Do you ever wish you had done all the things people claim?
"Sometimes. But then I would have needed a lot of really good lawyers."

The video for early single Dope Hat revists the Boat Trip scene from Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory. Roald Dahl's creation remains an abiding influence on Manson.
"That's still, to me, one of the all-time greatest films because, more than just a children's film and a children's book, it has a lot archetypal characters in it - and the imagery is all very drug-inspired. Willy Wonka, like The Cat In The Hat, is like Lucifer in the way he gives the children a chance to do wrong or right."
Wasn't Willy a bit of a nasty old fascist, though? Weeding out the impure elements of society?
"He was a bit of a Darwinist, if anything, which I think is just a natural part of life. A lot of people won't want to agree with that, and it's usually the people that are weaker who won't agree that the stronger should succeed. You know, in America you live in a capitalist environment that tells you that if you work hard enough you can be better than the next guy. At the same time they teach you that everyone is created equal, so you grow up feeling very confused.
If you just look at the basic laws of nature, you need to be smart, your need to live up to the best of your ability. Obviously, some people are going to be smarter than others - that's not the way I'm saying to judge people - but I just think if you try to be the best person that you can, then you should be rewarded for it. It doesn't mean that you have to hurt other people to do that, just try and strive to be an artist or someone who contributes to society rather than someone who's just a vacuum who takes away from society."
So does America encourage such vacuums?
"Sure, because along with television and Christianity, the idea of blind faith is encouraged. They're happy if you're sitting in church and giving them your money or sitting in front of the TV and going out and buying everything that comes along in front of you. That's much easier, it fits in with everybody standing in line and being part of the American Dream that they're trying to sell you. It's much more difficult to be an individual and try and express an opinion."

1996's breakthrough album was traumatically recorded in New Orleans amid scenes of fanatical drug use, seemingly imminent group disintegration, the messy end of Mansonís first major relationship and what he now considers a nervous breakdown.
"I was very inspired by the Nietzsche book The Antichrist and the idea of putting yourself through a transformation to become something superhuman. Accompanied with pushing myself to the limits of pain and death and sex and excess and writing a book and examining all the things I've done in my life, I ended up becoming a stronger and wiser person, almost in some way gaining back my innocence because I'd seen and done as much as I could."
The road of excess leading to the palace of wisdom?
"Well, it wasn't just a case of, 'Hey, I'll try anything'. It was more testing the boundaries of my own strength and either dying or coming out stronger - which I did."

The most controversial tour of recent times was nearly prophetically named, as death threats, rumours that Manson would commit suicide on stage, protests by the Christian Right and legal attempts at cancellation accompanied the band across America. Paul Cambria, Larry Flynt lawyer and freedom of speech expert, oversaw the court dismissals of a string of ultra-vivid claims, including that Manson had sexual intercourse on stage, he threw live chickens and cats off the stage to be ripped apart by the crowd, he distributed liquid ecstasy to children in the audience, and he masturbated on stage before ejaculating into the crowd (yeah, that old one). How did it feel to be threatened by such lunatics?
"It just kind of became commonplace that there were death threats and people believing I would be committing suicide on a daily basis. It got to the point where I wanted to release a press statement weekly saying, sorry, but Marilyn Manson is still alive, we'll call you if something changes."
How many death threats do you think you've had?
"If you figure at least one a day for an entire tour that lasted seven months. You know, do the math."
Do you ever think it's a shame for your myth that you weren't killed?
"I guess in some ways maybe that's what I expected. Maybe part of me was striving towards that, but I don't think it would have given me the ability to complete the transformation to what I am now. Because Antichrist Superstar was really one half of what I went on to say with Mechanical Animals".
Do you agree with the Oklahoma State Governor who said that you're proof of America's crumbling morals?
"From his point of view, sure. But from a more developed point of view I think not. You know, a lot of Christian thinking is a less developed form of intelligence. As man is to ape, that's what I am to the people who detract against me. They just don't have all the information."
Doesn't that make them almost too easy to stir up?
"Sure, that's why I didnít repeat what I did then for Mechanical Animals. I grew really bored of them. And there's plenty of other bands who have stepped in to do that since."
In South Carolina (the only state to successfully ban a performance) a Treasury spokesman felt the need to point out that, because of your beliefs, 'Marilyn Manson could never, never be Governor of South Carolina... even if he wanted to be.' That must have been a blow?
"Hehehe. Well, I'd really hate to even have to live there - they still fly the rebel flag at the courthouse, they're stuck with that trash from the past."
So would you like to be Governor of anywhere?
"Maybe, eventually, Mayor of Hollywood..."

Part of the Marilyn Manson live experience involves Bible shreddings carried out from a mock-fascist pulpit with the swastika replaced by a black lightning rod - and symbol of both shock and divine intervention. During the rending asunder, Manson screams, 'Let's end the fascism of Christianity!' before inciting crowds to raise hands and chant in unison. Some people don't get it...
"I always thought that was the beauty of it. When people don't understand something, it stimulates them to think more. I thought it spoke for itself - the fact that I'm satirising fascism while at the same time people are joining me in a fascist chant creates such a beautiful paradox, I thought it was one of the most beautiful things I've ever done."
Who's worse - the reactionaries trying to stop you doing Satanic stuff or PC liberals trying to stop you performing songs like Patti Smithís Rock 'N' Roll Nigger?
"Well, a lot of times political correctness is a desire to try and impress other people. If you have insecurities about your own personality you want to attach yourself to some kind of good guy group, wear a good guy badge saying , 'I recycle', or 'I stand up for this person's rights'. I think it's necessary that some sense of this exists, but it's my job to take anything that people hold true and criticise it or examine it. So I enjoy pissing off both those groups equally."
After a 15-year old boy committed suicide while listening to Marilyn Manson, the boy's father testified in front of a 1997 Congressional hearing into "the social impact of music lyric's violence on todayís youth" that Manson's lyrics were responsible for his death. Manson responded by pointing to the subject matter of Romeo And Juliet - teenagers driven to suicide by parental ignorance - saying "If you take time to talk to your kids, your kids are gonna live happier lives", making him sound like the Voice of Reason...
"In a situation like that, you have parents who are very upset wanting to point a finger at someone and they are always reluctant to point it at themselves when usually they're the responsible party. Then you have politicians that are trying to win an election and they want to find a bad guy - and I'm usually the bad guy. But often times no-one's really concerned about the well-being of America's youth. America raises its kids to be stupid and then people are surprised when their kids act stupid."

At the end of 1997 Manson and the band relocated to Los Angeles, a city where smoking cigarettes in bars is illegal and jogging is compulsory. So how do you avoid getting a tan here?
"Heheh. I don't really go out too much during the day. I do feel extremely out of place here, which I kind of like. Even though this is the centre of entertainment, this year has been so alienating for me. I feel like I'm in a big version of high school all over again."
Aren't you worried about slotting into the safe celebrity circuit?
"Actually, it inspires me to be more provocative and do stuff thatís not acceptable in the circles that I travel. The whole idea of celebrities is very safe - you have to be very acceptable and fit into this happy little programme. So it gives me someone else to piss off."
An advert for Mechanical Animals, featuring the cover image of Manson as alien-androgyne replete with falsies and indeterminate crotch bulge, was pulled by the 'liberal' New York Times for being 'inappropriate'.
"I was astonished by that because, although I appear nude, it's completely sexless - there's nothing pornographic about it. But I guess people discriminate a lot more now just because it's me."
What about the rumour that they were real, hormone induced breasts?? "Well, actually, Courtney Love and I went together and got breast jobs. But I had to have mine removed because they got too cumbersome. I'd get drunk and my band mates would try and fuck me."
Have you ever been tempted by surgery?
"Yeah, I think I'd exaggerate all of my outstanding features. I'd make my nose bigger, see about having my limbs made longer."
What do you think of the album's impact?
"I think it's still having an impact. It's something that I've just started and I think it'll last for the rest of the year. I'm already beginning to work on new music that I'm going to use in the film that I'm doing this summer. Being in the tradition of movies like Tommy and The Wall, it'll be very visual but also be a fable about fame, beauty, destruction and transformation - like a combination of a '60s teen rebellion movie called Wild In The Streets and something like The Naked Lunch. If Andy Warhol's worst nightmares came true and we took the idea of 15 minutes of fame to its logical extreme, then that's what Hollywood will become - just a gluttony of death and sensationalism."

November 1998 saw the band in the headlines again as, after a gig in Poughkeepsie, NY, a dressing room and a Sheraton Hotel suite were trashed, causing $25,000 damage.
"The silly thing about that was my room was never trashed at the Sheraton. After that show, I fell right asleep because I was so intoxicated by our performance. The dressing room, however... that was something I was in charge of. That was a mass redecoration."
What style did you choose?
"It had sort of a post-apocalyptic look to it... and a fire. But I put the fire out myself: the firemen weren't needed, I urinated on it. But from knowing that, you can tell it wasn't a big fire."
Is it important to keep up these venerable rock 'n' roll traditions in a way that, say, Hootie And The Blowfish or Matchbox 20 wouldn't?
"Well, again I didn't expect it to be some sort of news item. I imagined that's what all rock bands did. Nobody bothered to document the damage I did on the Dead To The World tour which was at least that much every night."

Topping his and actress girlfriend (and ex-religious cult member) Rose McGowan's cheeky turn at the MTV Video Music Awards in September was a trailer currently being shown in the US for forthcoming film Jawbreaker, showing them partaking in a spot of sodomy.
"The part that I have has been exaggerated, but it's a good movie, very sharp. I just play a sleazy guy with a moustache who's picked up and used for his semen so they can plant it at a crime scene and frame him for a murder."
Alongside an eye-catching video in which he sports a fetching Warhol-like blond wig, the current live performance of new single I Don't Like The Drugs (But The Drugs Like Me) is illuminated by a 30-foot wide sign saying, simply, 'DRUGS'. So, a complex relationship with substances then?
"The song actually uses drugs on different levels - the obvious and even the metaphorical. In the video I suggest TV and religion together as being the drug I'm talking about the most. But insert whichever one you wish."
Won't they eventually stop being a stimulus to creativity?
"No, because if you look at other artists it's when they stop taking drugs that they become... shit. Not to say that drugs are the source of all your inspiration, but they tear down a lot of barriers and I've gotten to the point where I'm in control. Are they still fun? Yes, they are still fun."

During shows, Manson often incites the crowd to show him their middle fingers in unison. It's a form of respect: Irresponsible Hate Anthem featured the line "I wasn't born with enough middle fingers". Does that still encapsulate your attitude?
"Probably now more than ever, because I have a whole new set of enemies. Growing up, it was my teachers and fellow students who didn't believe in me, then it became critics and other musicians. There'll always be room for middle fingers."

And so off he strides into the Baywatch sunset, back to his home in the Hollywood Hills - the symbolic resting point of the American Dream that, despite himself, Marilyn Manson now represents so perfectly. Because, alongside The Truman Show, white picket fence ideal of the family, The Bible, the dollar, the flag, your standard perfect-teeth-and-tan conformity, that Dream is cut across by an often contradictory strand which involves experimenting with freedoms and making yourself count through rugged individuality and visionary determination. It's what made America great, the quality that links George Washington to Jack Kerouac, Henry Ford to Elvis Presley. Not to mention that naughty Charles Manson. True grit, John Wayne would no doubt call it. So while the nation's favourite bogeyman presents himself as the Antichrist to those upholding the first version, he's also actively, acutely personifying the second one. His life, basically, is a Dream come true. And boy, how he's lovin' it.

Big Maz expounds on the other great American icons of the '90s.

Bill Clinton - "I think he's the best president since Kennedy and probably the most controversial; he's got all my support. On my New Year's Eve show in Las Vegas, I burned the American flag in protest at the way he's been treated. What about bombing Iraq? I think the more shit you blow up and the more blowjobs you get, you can't go wrong."

Saddam Hussein - "It seems like something that I've heard so much about I wish they would just get it over with. Just kill the guy or get him a job at McDonalds. Can I relate to him as an American bogeyman? Not really, because he's brown and has a moustache. He doesn't have enough charisma, I don't think. He's kind of an ugly guy."

Princess Diana - "She's become part of the celebrity death cult that Hollywood has created. It loves dead icons and has probably made her more than she ever was."

Monica Lewinsky - "I've been wondering what's going to happen to her, where she's going to go. She's always going to be stigmatised by this whole scandal. I predict that she'll commit suicide. If not, maybe someone should kill her and put her out of her misery. I feel kind of bad for her, actually, because she just wanted to suck his dick and she didn't know all the problems that went along with that. I sympathise with her in a strange way."

The Spice Girls - "I think, whether you like their music or not, they are a great pop art creation and you have to respect that."

Courtney Love - "Courtney and I have had our differences in the past, but we've decided to put them aside and we're going to be doing a tour together, making sure it'll be the biggest thing of the year. If not, the world of rock 'n' roll is history."

Teletubbies - "I have one, it's obviously all very drug inspired. You know the child in the sun? I've seen that when I'm on drugs, so I know they know what I know."


Publication: Select
Journalist: Steve Lowe
Date Published: March, 1999
Country: UK


Transcribed & Submitted By: Adam Winstanley

Edits: S.D.