Serial Killers as folk heroes and Movie Stars as gods are just two symptoms of our society's deadly-but-delicious self-destructive disease. We talk a good game about what's right and what's wrong while secretly awaiting the arrival not of a messiah but of a fallen angel to fuck us and kill us. But even our low-down longing for the bottom line and our yearning for yesterday's greater glamour haven't properly prepared us for MARILYN MANSON.
Marilyn Manson - such a sleazy name suggests celebrity murder, sick sex, and trash culture exploitation stewing in a microcosm of American self-hatred. The misappropriated moniker, an amalgamation of names that are really trigger words, applies to both a swingin' singer and to the ultramodern band in which he exists. Linguistically speaking, there's the titillating threat posed by Charles Manson along with the irresistible evocation of Marilyn Monroe's legendary charms which make the name so inviting.
Musically speaking, any act that can dazzle the masses assembled in anticipation of NIN can easily tame the record-buying public. Like a Vaudevillian Venus on acid, MARILYN MANSON, the singer, delivers unwanted messages via the electronic stylings of keyboardist MADONNA WAYNE GACY. Meanwhile guitarist Daisy Berkowitz brings it back to basics while riding roughshod over the rhythmic rumblings of bassist Twiggy Ramirez and beat man Sara Lee Lucas. So named as to remind the human sea cows that sharks still swim nearby, these ballsy bitches experiment with bad attitudes and big sounds growing from faintly Gothic and Industrial roots. But their real deal is regurgitative angst a la Alice Cooper and Ziggy Stardust. On Marilyn Manson's incredible debut album Portrait Of An American Family (Nothing) they assault, in a highly polished manner, not only the ear but the fragile twinkie psyche as well.
Pathologically speaking, the boys of Marilyn Manson seem far more advanced than mere homicidal hobbyists or Hate Art enthusiasts. They seem to live the life. Let's hope that each of them has had the pleasure of sexually assaulting and murdering another human being, and that their pornographic life-and-death memories bring them masturbatory pleasure forever. As for the consumer, Marilyn Manson provide a soundtrack, and a laughtrack, for the end of the world. Check it in ASAP.
SECONDS: Tell us about where you're from.
MANSON: I guess Ft.Lauderdale's kind of a lame town that likes to be shocked to a certain degree so I guess that how's that tone originated in our music. It's more violent, more shocking than everything else going on around us. We wanted that and people needed that at the same time. When the band started four years ago there wasn't much of an underground scene. It was mostly just the Heavy Metal cover bands and we just wanted to piss everyone off. Lauderdale is a tourist town. Everybody lays out in the sun, everybody goes to the beach.I guess it was just our natural reaction to oppose all that.
SECONDS:How are the cops down there?
MANSON:They're okay. We get hassled now and then. We were doing a photo shoot and they wanted to arrest us. They were just hassling us, asking us if we were in a cult. One of the guys in the band got arrested after a show for trespassing because he got kicked out of the club. That's mostly the only hassles we've run into with the police; it's not a big deal.
SECONDS: I have the impression that Florida's a real police state.
MANSON:We've received some post office prohibitory orders for our mailing list but we've never been approached by the police. There's been threats of shutting down our shows just because of nudity or fire or explicit sex acts, whatever they thought might be happening...It gets pretty haphazard. Whatever really happens, happens. The closest we've come to being arrested was having a six-year-old kid in a cage on stage singing one of our songs, at the same time having a naked girl crucified to a cross. The kid was out of the line of sight from the girl, but everybody else could see both of them. I thought it was a weird little science project without actually breaking the law...It was the kid that sings on our record, Robert. I'm friends with his father. He listened to our tapes all the time and started to learn the lyrics. He came by our warehouse and was singing one song. We asked him if he wanted to sing it on our album and then I invited him to sing it on stage.
SECONDS: What about the bands that Florida's known for, like Morbid Angel and The Genitortures?
MANSON: We're friends with both of them but we've always been kind of separate from everyone else. The music scene's a little weird down there. Some of the bands are together but we started out on our own and nobody ever wanted to help us. A lot of the more technical Rock bands never gave us any respect and said that our music was shitty and they didn't like us.
SECONDS: What's more of a liability in Florida: being evil or gay?
MANSON:With the political correctness the way it is, if we said we were gay we'd probably get a lot of support for it. But we don't say that. I don't think either one is a problem or helps in Florida.
SECONDS: Are you prepared for gay groups to disown you? How much of what you guys do is tongue-in-cheek?
MANSON: It's up to the listener. For me, I put total truth into the lyrics and what I'm doing. But truth is going to be objective, it's only relative to the person who's believing it. It's what you want to take out of it and I never want to draw up guidelines of what's serious and what's not serious because that's what I want people to decide for themselves.
SECONDS: Are you down with Alice Cooper?
MANSON: Oh yeah. Alice Cooper, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Kiss. Marilyn Manson in the beginning was a concept, there was never any music behind it. It was a name that signified everything I wanted to stand for. It was androgynous, it was male and female, it was positive and negative, it was ugly, it was beautiful, it was love, it was hate. They're both equally famous for two completely different reasons and I thought that was the most interesting part of it. I had that idea and then I met Daisy Berkowitz, who's our guitar player. He had a lot of music that went with what I wanted to portray. We started writing songs and from there we let the concept bleed into everyone else in the band. The whole taking on of identities was not playing into the gimmick of having a stage name, it was more mocking the fact that people need that sensationalism to get attention.
SECONDS: What's your take on Marilyn Monroe?
MANSON: A lot of people only see her as the very beautiful starlet but of course she had the dark side too. That's what I wanted to point out in everything, that things that seem innocent and beautiful always have their dark side. Charles Manson is seen as the big evil bad guy but he has a lot of intelligent things to say at the same time.
SECONDS: Say Marilyn never existed. Who would be the next person you would feel an affinity with?
MANSON:That's a good question. I never thought of that. That seemed to just be the thing for me. The only other figure who was more of a mystery to me was Betty Page. I don't think there's anyone that could compare to Marilyn Monroe for me as far as that kind of identity. The thing too is that the name Manson is automatically associated with him, the name Marilyn is automatically associated with her.
SECONDS: If there hadn't been a Charlie then, it'd be Marilyn who?
MANSON: I don't think there's anyone that could really compare. In the past four years since we started the band, Charles Manson has come even more to the foreground which just proves my point even more.
SECONDS: What about all of you taking the names of serial killers? What about the whole subculture that's fascinated with serial killers?
MANSON:I look on the serial killers cynically, more tongue-in-cheek. It's basically everybody's fear of death that fascinates them with serial killers. America makes them into heroes. America complains that kids are idolizing them, but they don't have anyone to play with.
GACY: A lot of it goes back to In Cold Blood. I think something like Creepy magazine that's always existed on the fringe of American culture is just being sucked up into the American mainstream and people are scared. Like the way that there was always a Beatnik/Hippie culture. As soon as the normal middle-class kids got into it they got worried. Everyone's fascinated with the bad guys. People like to read about The Inquisition not because of politics, but because of torture.
MANSON:There wasn't much before TV because TV really brought all that with it.
SECONDS: What serial killer particularly repulses you?
MANSON: I'm not repulsed by anyone other than the people who later cop out and say that they're born again and that they want forgiveness for their crimes. I think that if someone commits a crime they need to be responsible for it. I don't have any particular love or hate for any of them. I think they're all interesting in their own ways.
SECONDS: Is it just an impersonal anthropological phenomenon?
MANSON: It depends on who you are and where you're looking at it from. I'm sure it's not impersonal to someone who's family got killed.
SECONDS: Do you expect any communication from victims' families?
MANSON: I expect it only because people aren't willing to realise what I'm trying to say and they're going to prejudge what we're about. I'm not necessarily putting out a positive message, but more questioning why people are fascinated with serial killers. It's not even being fascinated with it. I'm sick of politically correct America complaining that kids are fascinated with serial killers and violence. We're basically here to say, "You did all this, now you have to deal with it." That's what Marilyn Manson is, we're the ugliest possible truth that you've created and now it's time to pay the piper.
SECONDS: Do you want to talk about Manson's position in the world?
MANSON: I don't know what there is to say anymore. People really have to make up their own minds what they're going to think about Manson. Now Manson's becoming abused and over-commercialised, even more so than when we started the band. It comes in waves, I'm sure it'll go away and come back in another five years.
SECONDS: What catapulted him to his current notoriety? Axl Rose?
GACY: Every week for the last five years you can see Manson on the cover of Weekly World News or The Star. You can't help but see an article about him or his followers. His name is always in some weekly trash journal, or on Current Affair, or Inside Edition, or Hard Copy.
MANSON: I went out to LA to talk to Trent about starting the record and we were backstage at a concert hanging out with Axl Rose. He was telling me about The Spaghetti Incident record and hadn't mentioned anything about Manson. I think it's a case of someone with no respect anymore trying to get some notoriety from the underground crowd. I think it was a shallow thing. It was even more shallow that he didn't back himself up on it. He cried to the press like a pussy. It was a publicity stunt that totally backfired.
GACY: It's one thing to be an asshole or racist, it's another to be a hypocrite. You really like it and then as soon as you're confronted on it, you sit there and cop out because you're afraid of the heat you'll catch. People gave him more shit for Manson than all the stuff he'd said about niggers and immigrants.
MANSON: We'd like to start by having a horrible reputation. We don't want to be some do-right band that later ruins itself by getting busted for drugs or beating up a girl, whatever media bullshit Rock bands go through. We'd like to start at the bottom and say, "Look, we're the worst fucking people." That way no-one can hold anything over our heads.
SECONDS: Say Manson got out on parole and said, "I'm gonna get all the fuckers who cashed in on me." Would you be his friend or enemy?
MANSON: A friend. I'd help him. We'd get him to be our road manager. I'm not trying to cash in on him. A lot of the stuff I'm saying comes from what he was saying twenty years ago. I have the same cry of distaste for America that he had. A lot of the stuff he had to say was very intelligent. I'm not saying everything he said was great. A lot of the things he said have been positive. I don't idolise him. I would like to talk to him one day. I'm not afraid of him. I don't hate him. I don't love him. There's a quote from Mark Twain: "It would be distasteful to love the devil for what he does but it's correct to show respect."
SECONDS:Manson's the bogeyman of the current era.
MANSON:We bring a lot of that into what we're about. I really like to play on people's fears because I just like to show what they're about and that scares them. I don't even have to create scenarios, I just tell them what they're about and that scares them more than anything. Christian America is looking for an anti-Christ to hate. If that's what you want, that's what we are. Now what do you want to do about it? Hopefully, they'll collapse and destroy themselves.
SECONDS:What problems do you anticipate with the press?
MANSON: I don't view anything as a problem with the press because again, anything anyone can say about me is not gonna disturb me. Whatever they're afraid of, that's what they're going to try to pin on us.
GACY:They're going to call us gay or they're going to call us devil worshippers. They're going to say, "Is that what you are?" and I'm going to say, "Is that what you want?".
SECONDS: Are you down with Satanism?
MANSON: It depends on your definition of Satanism. La Vey is a huge influence on a lot of the things I do. I'm not part of any specific religion but that's not a religion anyway, if you're really into it. I like to take everything as an influence. We tried to get him to actually play on one of our songs but he was too busy. I respect him a lot because he tells people where it's at. I've learned a lot from reading his books. I don't advocate or promote any frame of thought to anybody but I put it in there so if people will listen to one of our songs and go off and read an Anton La Vey book then maybe that'll shed some light on their life.
GACY: It's just funny. People vilify him and he hasn't said anything much worse than Nietsche said a hundred years ago. You can see a lot of the same stuff in the way nietsche wrote "God is dead" and about being a person who believes in setting up your own moral code instead of trying to follow the moral code of the herd.
MANSON: He's a prankster at heart. If someone's going to come to us with the preconceived notion that we're evil or we're gay then that's what they're going to get back because I want to show them exactly what they're afraid of.
SECONDS:How did your familiarity with Nietzsche arise?
GACY: When I went to college at the University of Florida I had a teacher that was really into him. I always thought that Nietzsche was some kind of Nazi philosopher until I sat down and actually read him. Same with Anton La Vey. Until you sit down and read him you think he's just preaching child-murdering or something. Nietzsche's not a Nazi philosopher, he's just a philosopher of individualism that got railed because the Nazis used him. He had a lot of important things to say about being yourself and doing what is right regardless of what others think. That could go wrong too, having your own morality.
MANSON: The roots for what we stand for is being an individual. A lot of kids have a problem being an individual. To them that means being like all your friends who have a cool hairdo or wear certain kinds of clothes. That just makes you a sheep more than anyone else. If that's what you're about, that's fine. We're into being individuals and promoting individuality. We're not into supporting weak people. We're into strength and being in charge of our lives.
SECONDS:Nietzsche stands apart from philosophy the way Manson stands apart from crime.
GACY:He was the figure of action. He said, "To be or not to be' is not the question, it's 'to do or not to do.'" What's the point of talking about changing the world when you don't do a goddamn thing about it. It's better to go try something, make a mistake, learn from it and try again than sitting around talking all day without getting anything done. That whole idea that history is the process by which the dead bury the living, that is just so true. Of course you will copy because we're human beings and we go through cycles of repeating the same thing over and over again but you should at least try to do your own thing, even if it has been done before. Wear the clothes you want to wear if nobody's wearing them or everybody's wearing them.
SECONDS: Is there a drug scene that's indigenous to Florida?
MANSON:There's a big drug scene in Florida. We fired our other bass player for being a heroin addict, not for being a heroin addict but for letting heroin use rule his life. We're very much into being strong and having control over our lives because we want to do something, however idealistic that may sound. We don't have time to baby-sit weak people. I tend not to advocate drugs to anybody. Use them how you want. It's your own discretion. We all use drugs in our own ways.
SECONDS: If you wanted to throw something back in America's face, wouldn't the advocacy of drug use be the perfect thing to fling?
MANSON:Yeah, but it's so typical. I thoroughly advocate the use of drugs. I completely hate the abuse of drugs. I have no problem with people using drugs and doing whatever they like to do but when they start abusing them, that's when there's a problem. I'll never get to that point because I don't have that kind of personality.
SECONDS: It's the addictive personality you dislike, not the drug.
MANSON: Exactly. Drugs can be a metaphor for everything else that's ruining people.
GACY: If you want to do drugs, it's your body and if you think you can control it then that's up to you. I'm not going to come down and force my rules on you about what you can do with your body.
SECONDS: So it's not the police's place to enforce it either?
GACY: As long as you're not messing with anybody else, robbing them to get your stuff, why shouldn't you be allowed to do what you want to your body? Why can't you commit suicide? It's against the law. It's ridiculous. The one thing that's truly yours that doesn't belong to anybody else is your body.
MANSON:There's plenty of prescriptions that can do more damage to you than marijuana. The law is just what the system wants you to get away with and it's totally up to them. A lot of the addictive drugs like heroin become lifestyles. To me it's chemical warfare. They want them out there so people are more fucked up so they can control them more.
GACY: I know what I can and what I can't handle. You know there's things you enjoy too much and you just have to stay away from them.
MANSON: With individuality comes responsibility. That's the biggest point we need to get across.
GACY:Drug laws and gun laws are ridiculous. It's up to the individual.
MANSON: Particularly with music now. If someone's going to cop out and say a song made them kill somebody, then that's on them. If they're stupid, they have to pay the price. Americans as people need to be more responsible with what they watch and what they listen to. You should be able to say what you want and people should be able to interpret that intelligently.
SECONDS: What pisses you off?
MANSON: Everything pisses me off all day long, which inspires me. I'm really into children's movies from the 60's and 70's, Willy Wonka, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. A lot of my personality comes from the villains of children's movies.
SECONDS: What's your favourite Marilyn movie?
MANSON: I haven't seen them all. I haven't liked a lot of them to tell you the truth. I liked her in a different way. I haven't found her to be talented as an actress, just as a glamour figure.
SECONDS: Who's the typical Marilyn Manson fan?
MANSON: Little girls in the front with lunchboxes all the time. Some of them are bigger than others.
GACY: In mostly black. You'll see Skinheads, people with serious Ozzy shit carved in their foreheads, and college guys just trying to beat someone up in the pit for fun.
MANSON: A lot of Punk Rock guys, Heavy Metal guys, it's kind of a diverse crowd.
SECONDS: You guys ever have any violent episodes at your shows?
MANSON: Right before we left for this tour someone wanted to beat the shit out of me. I spit in his face. He spit back on me and I tried to explain, "Look, you're at a punk show. You get spit in the face, what's the big deal?" and he took it personally. Otherwise it's just people in the crowd beating each other up. I always see girls getting into fights right in front.
SECONDS: Do you particularly welcome that violence?
GACY: It's up to you to do what you want. If you want to jack off during a movie then that's up to you.
MANSON:I'm flattered that our music could cause that type of reaction. We've had people yelling at us, "You faggots!" but with most of the guys yelling that we've fucked their girlfriends.
SECONDS: What's a Marilyn Manson groupie like?
MANSON: They're different. The good thing that I've noticed is that some of the ideas of individuality must rub off on the crowd because they don't all look alike.
SECONDS: You guys are the focus of a major maelstrom of violence and alienation.
MANSON: We try to aim for it mostly. It's exciting. It's like being right in the middle of a carousel. You see everyone standing around you and they all have knives.