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The Pale EmperorThe Pale Emperor

Born VillainBorn Villain

The High End of LowThe High End of Low

EAT ME, DRINK MEEAT ME, DRINK ME

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

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TWO YEARS AGO MARILYN MANSON HAD A MELTDOWN.
FORGET SPRINGER - HIS VERY PUBLIC NOSEDIVE WAS THE STUFF OF LEGEND.
BACK WITH A NEW ALBUM AND, PRESUMABLY, A NEW LEASE ON LIFE, WE ASKED HIM...

Words: Terry Bezer. Photo: Mick Hutson.

FACE TO FACE. NO HOLDS BARRED. MARILYN MANSON

There are moments in the cut and thrust world of music journalism where you feel like your heart is in your throat and you're bricking it so badly that your bowels feel like they're trying to escape from your arsehole. It's a bright spring afternoon, the weather is warm, if not tropical, at 20, and we're about to take a lift to the 10th floor of the Metropolitan hotel, one of London's swankiest establishments, to spend an hour in the company of Marilyn Manson ahead of the release of his upcoming album, Born Villain.
"What's so nerve-wracking about that?", you may ask yourself from the comfort of wherever you're reading this magazine, as the elevator lets out a ding and we begin to ascend to the fate that awaits us with a mild sweat breaking out. Well, we're here to sit one-on-one with a man who has a history of outlandish behaviour and who is arguably the most feared artist in the history of music, to ask the question that has been on everybody's lips for the better part of the last decade; "What the fuck is going on with Marilyn Manson and why should anyone give a shit about anything he has to say in 2012?". The thought that we might be about to have our teeth kicked down our throat has crossed our minds once or twice. Or three times. Or... well, you get the idea.

We arrive at our destination and are let into the plush hotel suite within which we'll spend the next hour with the God Of Fuck himself. At this juncture, it's probably best that we address some of the things you may, or may not, have heard about the settings in which Manson likes to be interviewed. The chances are that you'll have read that he likes the room to be dark, and it is - the sunlight from outside seeping underneath the curtains does more to illuminate the room than the bulbs in the suite itself. You may have heard that he likes the room temperature to be a polar bear's stride away from being arctic and it is - we're fucking freezing.
And then he enters the room, gigantically tall and domineering before he's even said a word. He fixes us a stare and points to the bed adjacent to where we're about to sit.
"We're not going to fuck, are we?" he says in that iconic, baritone voice.
We make a quip about him having to buy us dinner first, part out of nerves, part because, even by Marilyn Manson's standards, it's a genuine 'WTF?' way of starting a conversation with someone you've never met before.
"Before you were in here, there were 18 guys, all with moustaches and video cameras, and fucking was the first thing that came to mind," he furthers in reference to an interview he's just filmed for MTV. Yeah, a situation like that is only really going to end one way eh, Mazza?
"Actually, I can think of several different ways a situation like that might end," he retorts in a tone that would give Heath Ledger's portrayal of The Joker a run for his money in the playfully psychotic World Cup. It's funny as hell and the first of several times we can't help but think he's still got it. What's been increasingly difficult over the past few years is to remember exactly what extent he had it in the first place. It's not a stretch to say that in the late 90s and into the new millennium, Manson was the most electrifying artist within music. He released conceptually masterful albums that ran so deep and complex, that to describe them as anything other than genius would be to do the man a disservice (check out www.nachtkabarett.com to see just how multi-layered and superlative he was, particularly between Antichrist Superstar and career pinnacle Holy Wood).
He had genuinely dangerous live shows that included aping Nuremberg rallies while ripping up pages of The Bible, baiting seedy politicians, stilt walking, slicing his chest open to literally bleed for his art and - at Milton Keynes Bowl in '99 - spreading his ass cheeks to show everyone his chocolate donut. The music videos, the shock factor, the danger... elements such as these were generation-defining, iconic statements that grabbed the attention of the whole world, not just those within rock music, and shook it to its core in a fit of media hysteria - morally outraging stupid people that deserve to be morally outraged.

The reason that we feel the need to recap all of this is because, by all intents and purposes, the last couple of years have gone to shit for him to such an extent that it has become easy to forget. Not only have his last two albums been way, way, way below his previously sky-high standards, his live shows have turned into an unmitigated disaster. He's been superseded by Rammstein and Slipknot over the past decade in the visual Olympics live spectacle. There have been public meltdowns played out in front of the press, and rocky personal relationships splashed all over the tabloids. Again it leads us to the most vital question and the biggest thing that anybody wants to know in relation to Marilyn Manson circa 2012: what the fuck is going on with one of rock's true artists and how the fuck did it come to this?
"I think the last two records were a period that had to happen, no matter how much I didn't want them to," offers Manson, sipping from a glass of water and placing it by his feet where a glass of luminous Absinthe also resides.
"If you sit and read what everyone says about you, there can come a time where you let it affect you and start to second guess who you are."

- - -

Was there a specific period of tme when you started to do that?
After The Golden Age Of Grotesque," he responds, fast as lightning.
"I wouldn't credit that change to any personal relationships but I was on a roll and satisfied with my music and my art shows and it just seemed to go wayward after that.
It's been a period of me figuring myself out and rebuilding," he continues.
"It takes a lot to humble yourself and admit that you're making a comeback, but that's what it has to be described as when you've gone through a period where you've not been everything you're supposed to be. Not 'I'm not what I used to be', because I don't want to retrace the past, more 'I'm not what I need to be'.
The last two albums are not albums that I think represent me as well as this new record, or the ones previous to them. The High End Of Low was just a case of surviving. I don't know what would have happened if I hadn't released that record and that's literal. It's a sad record for me and those around me, but that was a time where sadness was the emotion that existed within me, and this time I wanted to make an album like the ones I love by Bauhaus, Bowie, The Revolting Cocks or Ministry. I wanted to make an album that made me want to fuck something or smash something."
The understandable current perception within the metal fraternity is that Manson has become something of a real life Roy Munson character who has slowly faded from the public eye of the mainstream, his best work behind him and his creativity stunted, doomed to never return. Let's face it, there are plenty of bands and artists out there that are deemed legends that havene't delivered work that does justice to their legacy, some of which for periods of time way longer than Manson's, but his decline has come at such a rapid rate that he has almost become the poster child for having the world in the palm of your hand and letting it slip through your fingers.
"Am I tapped out?" says Manson, placing a finger to his temple and leangning to the side of his chair.
"I never wanted to be mainstream or pop. The way you appeal to a mass audience is being whatever it is that you're best at, and it is as wide as you are good at it. What got me into my new record deal and out of my previous one was me saying 'If you can fuck somebody better, why wouldn't you?'
If you believe in The Bible, man takes out his rib and puts it in the dirt to create woman and then woman fucks the snake. You put your heart and soul into a record and put it out there but then there's always someone else. I think I crossed wires with personal relationships and music, and suffered in both senses. I didn't do things in a way that were pleasing me. I should have been pleased when I finished doing something and I wasn't. I felt worse after each album than I had done after anything I'd created before it."

If it feels like we're being unfair towards Marilyn Manson or wading into him blow after blow, it's because you have to reach the bottom of the barrel before you find a personal redemption. The bottom of the barrel came in the summer of 2009. Taking the stage at the Download festival, he looked, to put it bluntly, off his tits and the set was a total car crash.
"If you'd have shown the Manson of '96 a video of what he just delivered, he'd have blown his fucking brains out" was the summary of a close Manson associate directly after the set. During that same period, while being interviewed for The Times, Manson showed the journalist a picture of his then girlfriend, porn actress Stoya, with a swastika that he'd shaved into her pubic hair. He was also set to attend the Metal Hammer Golden Gods to collect our Icon award but, after his buplicist had tried to coax him out of his hotel room for four hours, he failed to show, then going on to issue a statement: "I would have melted the award into a shank so I could shank the fuck out of every goddamn fucking journalist in the entire continent of the United Kingdom except Metal Hammer."

"If anybody should be stabbed it should be me," said Manson, sounding shy and leaving us feeing a little like we were wagging our finger at the mischievous kid in class.
"It was a bad time and I can't blame anybody but myself. Shit was fucked up!" he laughs, the naughtiness reverberating around the room.
"I identify with Californication's Hank Moody or Eastbound & Down's Kenny Powers or Dexter because they're characters that are fuck-ups," he explains.
"But you see redemption in them and that's what I had to realise about myself. I realised that I'm the dog that shits on the floor and people will let me get away with it and that even if I'm charmingly reprehensible, I want to be better."

- - -

"I remember thinking 'Why is everything falling apart around me?'" he admits in a way that's more matter of fact than showing any signs of vulnerability.
"I can't create art when I'm not inspired so maybe I'm not inspiring my friends and the people who work with me. Maybe I need to be a better inspiration and more aggressively delivering. I don't feel pissed off or sad at myself anymore. I feel like I can accomplish anything I want to and it's been a while since I felt that. That's what this new record has been about. It's essentially redemption. You can talk all you want, but now I've got a record, I can play something to people that they can believe in. The greatest weapon I had in the war against myself was getting control of my own life. I didn't need rehab or religion or a relationship."
Was rehab ever a legitimate option when life felt like it was spiralling out of control? "I went to rehab once after The Golden Age Of Grotesque and I went voluntarily," he tells us, with a playful look in his eye and a smirk on his face.
"I went to this famous place called Promises in Malibu. I went for three weeks. I explained to the doctor that I drink and do these drugs and asked what the detox was? He asked when I last drank or did drugs. I told him five days ago and he said I was pretty much already detoxed fom drink and drugs, the put a Klonopin on me, which is a patch of Valium. I asked him to break it down into which drugs are the worst and the thing he'd just put on me was far more addictive than anything I'd been taking and I told them that was fucked up. The day everything changed, I spoke to my father on the phone in Ohio and he said I needed to leave because it's going to ruin me as an artist. He felt they were trying to make me a stright line and not have ups and downs. The day they wanted to kick me out, a 90-year-old woman was brought in. She was the only person who wanted to talk to me in the time I was there and they confiscated this woman's hairspray. I spoke to her and she told me her family put her there. At 90 years old, your family should either buy you a coffin or a shit ton of drugs. The people at Promises took her hairspray because they thought she was going to huff it. I said at 90, you should huff hairspray if you want to. They got mad at me for saying that and reprimanded me, so I said 'Fuck this, I'm leaving.'
That was my experience with rehab."

It's important to clear up that Manson isn't claiming to be fixed from drink and drugs. Let's take a second to acknowledge (if not celebrate) that Manson is able to rock the elegantly wasted look in the modern era, and carry the lost art of being a true rock star. Is it not at least a little bit cool to know that he's still dangerous? Let's be honest, Slipknot became a whole lot less intimidating when you found out that Corey Taylor is actually a funny guy who's in touch with his goofy side, who'll go to awards shows in bright tweed. Doesn't your heart sink a little when you see a band like Motionless In White, who make videos showing them physically fighting religious protestors and graphically depicting the crucifixion of Christ in their videos, only to find out they're straight edge? During the incredible photoshoot for the piece you're reading, Manson puts away a complete bottle of Absinthe, playfully opens his first conversation with a new female publicist with the line "I'd love to punch you in the tits" and tells a highly libellous story that we can't tell you about involving narcotics and bubblegum. Gene Simmons, he is not.
"When I met David Bowie, I asked him for advice and he said something like he just got bored with it all and found a balance," says Manson.
"When people say alcoholism or drug abuse is a disease, that's bullshit. There are a couple of rules. Don't do meth because it makes your teeth fall out. Don't do heroin because one wrong dose and you'll die, I've had friends who've died from that, but that doesn't mean you can't have a drink. Let's not put it all in the same category. Also, do drink and drugs when you're in a good mood, not a bad mood. The mood will escalate either way."
Do you miss being the most feared man in all entertainment or Public Enemy Number One?
"Not necessarily but we're in a weird era where people are always going to say 'It's not very shocking' in conjunction with my name," he reasons.
"It was never meant to be shocking, the only thing you can be is confusing. Chaos is the only form of communication at this point. That's true art.
If I go into a bar, it's taxing to figure out how to communicate in Hollywood. I go all outlaw style, throw down the leather jacket and get macho if someone knocks the girl I'm with or acts like an asshole, even if I'm wearing lipstick. I'm fond of literary characters and those in movies that fight for what they believe in, and that works against me. People are happy to get into a fight with someone they see as a dollar sign. If I punch someone in a fair fight, I get punished differently than they would. I have to restrain myself. That said, I did try to steak a car in Vegas on Halloween. I had a switchblade but was stopped in the act."

"I'm not saying I'm fixed; I don't want to be fixed," he carries on.
"I'm in a position to not allow myself to be less than the person I'm supposed to be. I've always known that and that's what sucked about being depressed. You get depressed because you know that you're not what you should be. You need to pull your pants up, put your boots on and start kicking your own ass. That's the only way out. It was a case of me pulling my shit together and realising this is what I've wanted to do my whole life. This is supposed to be fun, why is it not fun any more? I realised that it's rock 'n' roll. It's meant to be exciting and fun.
If you'd have asked me those questions three or four years ago, I'm not sure how I would have handled them," says Manson, addressing our earlier grilling of him.
"Maybe I'd have been offended because when you're in the midst of not being who you are and you're trying to convince yourself that you are something you're not, it's a struggle. The whole thing is that I had to... not become mature, that is definitely not the thing to say, because I'm more childish than ever, but I just realised that life is not that complicated."

"Life became complicated for me because I felt like I was unable to do the simplest tasks, not because I'm a famous or a prima-donna, but my self-imposed isolation started to take its toll on me. I started to go out and have fun with my friends again. In this past month, I made a film with the guy who made Rubber which was my favourite film of last year and then I shot the No Reflection video, got on a plane, went on tour and it's been an exciting period of doing things instead of just sitting alone and being... not scared, but not far off. It's been a case of sharpening my fangs again."
After periods of loneliness, depression and personal destruction had taken the life and soul out of the man formerly known as Brian Warner, it's clear that something drastic had to happen - because the man sat before us today shows no signs of those traits. He's abundantly confident, incredibly charming, supremely witty and mischievously playful. His sense of fun is clear for all to see and there's not the slightest trace of the erratic, volatile nature that's been well documented and made apparent in questionable public appearances in recent times. We'd heard stories of 14-hour cover shoots for magazines and him ripping nipple hair from journalists who'd dared to question his legend in recent times but today, while he's clearly still capable of being The Man That You Fear, he seems very in control of his own destiny for the first time in too long.
"About a year ago, I started enjoying making the record," he states.
"If shit started getting crazy, I'd start making sensible choices instead of irrational ones. I was in a relationship that was going wrong and I realised that if other people were saying 'I can't take this anymore' then they don't have to.
That was with Evan Rachel Wood and (not to bring her up) but sometimes in life, I have noticed that I'll attach myself to identifying with the wrong thing. Whether that be a relationship or a concept. Fixing something else that's broken would fix what's wrong with me. I've described myself as a flypaper for damaged women. I've often attracted myself to things that are more complicated than myself because I didn't want to deal with being me."

After three failed engagements, have the tabloid papers made it difficult for your personal relationships?
"No, dating girls that are actresses made it tough," he retorts.
"If you want to stay out of the tabloids, don't fuck actresses. It's that simple. I'm a romantic and I fall in love with a lot of things. Love is a complicated word. I love drinking Absinthe, I love breathing air. I love doing drugs, I love rock 'n' roll music so when you tell a person you love them, the word 'love' is not enough to define how you feel towards them."
If it hasn't already become apparent, the reason for this new invigorated feeling within Manson is his happiness with Born Villain. As alluded earlier in the piece, he's bristling with pride for the effort, and the beginning of its creation coincided with his newfound sense of personal happiness and clarity. Recording in his new Hollywood pad, his heightened creativity and channelling of his own unique brand of madness was perfectly captured in the album's creation.
"I made no pause in my process on this album, I just went with my gut. There was no 'Is it catchy?' or whatever. I did things that made me feel," he reveals.
"It drove me in the same way I performed live. Seducing the people in the room with me, driving them to anger or excitement, whatever it is, it's tapping in to someone's emotion. I played it to famous people, people I barely know, drunk girls, drug dealers and recorded vocals because I wanted them to feel something like I felt something. You can hear sirens in the background of Murderers Are Getting Prettier Every Day because I broke a window in the studio and you'd hear crime outside being captured while I was recording. It was all about capturing emotion."
While Born Villain may not capture the glories of his golden era, it's the best thing he's put his name on since he released The Golden Age Of Grotesque nearly a decade ago. Most encouragingly of all it's plain to see, in his words and delivery, that there is an acknowledgement that he's allowed his star to wane too far, and is showing a willingness to become great again, a drive to rediscover the form that lead him to become one of metal's most celebrated and iconic figures.
"I need to put everything I have into it," he says with a steely gaze and stone cold conviction.
"I have to show determination, be ambitious, be confident and can't take anything for granted. I have to be completely 100 per cent ready to fight, fuck or do whatever it takes. It's an all-out war against myself for not being as great as I should be, and making steps towards changing that."

INFORMATION

Publication: Metal Hammer Magazine
Issue No. 231
Journalist: Terry Bezer
Date Published: 00.06.2012
Country: UK

CREDITS

Transcription: S.D.
Scans: Norsefire

SCANS