Fire Away: A Conversation with Marilyn Manson

on October 04, 2017, 12:00am

Marilyn Manson just pissed in the sink. This isn’t the first thing he does after introducing himself, but it’s pretty close. We’re on an anonymous floor of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, in a modest room, tucked away at the end of the hall. “DO NOT DISTURB” hangs innocuously on the door, which upon opening reveals a drab gray common area, with blackout shades drawn tight despite the fact the sun has already set. Manson himself seems loose, in high spirits, and possibly intoxicated. It’s tough to tell if this is in celebration of his accomplished and ferocious new LP, Heaven Upside Down, or simply to ease the pain of a recent touch up to his full-back tattoo, one which he shares with pal Johnny Depp. “Do you want to see it?” he asks, shirt already half off.

We retreat to the unit’s bedroom, where Manson offers me vodka and his assistant seals us in. Sitting on the bed a mere arm’s length away, day-old makeup softly smeared and dressed head-to-toe in black, Manson lets the interview balloon to an hour in length. At moments, it’s hard to imagine spending any less time together as the now 48-year-old rock icon is generous with his stories and incredibly verbose. It doesn’t help that he immediately hijacks our time to share a preview of the since-released video for new single “WE KNOW WHERE YOU FUCKING LIVE”.

(Read: A Brief History of Marilyn Manson Being Strange)

In person, Manson is thoughtful, excited, articulate, and down to earth. He’s no longer conservative America’s poster boy of evil, with his mixed bag of crass humor and sharp intellect coming off more as a kid too smart for his own good than a genuine troublemaker. Often, it seems like Manson is simply interested in seeing how much he can get away with. “I just got this,” he says, holding up a knock-off Straight Out of Compton t-shirt altered to reference carcosa. “You get that down on Hollywood Blvd?” I ask. “Amazon Prime,” he responds.

Over the last decade, both his recorded output and the internet have pulled back the curtain, revealing more of the Brian Warner underneath than ever. However, it’s clear in conversation that no matter how many secrets are revealed, the rabbit hole that is Marilyn Manson still goes on for miles.

Do you wanna see my new video?

Sure, I’d love to.

I showed it to a girl who I’ve known for seven or eight years, who knows me very well, and she had a look on her face after seeing it that was very troubling. I said, “What do you think?” and she said, “I’m worried that someone’s gonna kill you, and every girl in the world will wanna fuck you.” So, I guess I did my job.

Who directed the video?

The video wasn’t actually conceived by me. It was conceived by a guy named Bill Yukich; he worked on Beyoncé’s Lemonade. But more importantly, he was the guy who edited the video for “The Dope Show”. So, the picture of me where I’m on the table, that for the most part made me who I am today; he’s the one responsible for putting that in the edit. That’s when we first met. Then I invited him on tour, and we were in a hotel in Poughkeepsie, I believe, and at that time the hotel was also filled up with 15- or 16-year-old soccer teams. Girls and boys running the halls rampant. Bill — maybe because of me at the time, I filled him full of Jack Daniels or something — was convinced that he could fight them all and we, together for the most part, according to the police and the hotel, set fire to one of the rooms.

There’s a plaque commemorating the $28,000 in damage I did to the hotel, which I’m never invited back to. I had to save Bill from being arrested because he tore off his shirt and said he wanted to fight everyone. So, when it came to doing this video and he said we’re going to use a mortar launcher and blow up a minivan in a home-invasion situation involving nuns, I knew his pyrotechnic skills were solid.

Amazing. That’s friendship.

He weathered the entire tour with me. I think that we — he and Perou, a photographer who did my album artwork that was also involved in this — all sat in Chicago, and were all, well, I can say at least I was, high on narcotics and biting my shirt, and watched Columbine take place live. And I was just saying, “Wow, I’m gonna take the blame for this. I can see it coming.”

So, later in life, to have the same two people who were with me then create something far worse on the spectrum of me trying to involve guns or anything of that nature, it makes me smile a little bit. When you look at it versus what we see on TV, it doesn’t even seem very shocking. To me, it’s not shocking. That’s why I was shocked by the review I got from someone I’ve known intimately for eight years. Because it amuses me that I can do something that made someone I know so closely fear for my life and also for their security, regarding my dick.

Whether it’s shocking or not, it’s a lot to process.

I think it’s good to cause confusion. And not to talk about politics — it’s boring. I’m tired of hearing about it; I was tired of hearing about it during Bush and every other president after that. But the only thing I have to say about the thing everyone wants to ask me about is that after I put the gun in the mouth of Spin’s editor, I hid out in a hotel, and it was the Trump Towers. So, that’s the thing I have to say about Trump. I hid out at the Trump Towers after committing a felonious act.

Well, clearly you have some thoughts on our president. You released that video decapitating an effigy of him on election day.

I don’t know what you’re talking about. There was a video of me, and for some reason, it’s not online anymore. It came out on election day, and no one was president at that point, so it wasn’t anyone except if you wanted it to be them. It was a man in a suit and a red tie. More importantly, I’m making it rain Bible pages in that video, and the lyrics of the song, “SAY10”, say: “Cash is a poor man’s money.”

The interesting thing is that when I was unearthing my childhood keepsakes and I found my 12th-grade notebook, it said “Brian Warner, Glen Oak High School,” and I opened it to the first page, and in pink sharpie it said “SAY10.” So, that’s how long it’s been embedded in my head. And I think it’s clever, but at the same time, I didn’t think it defined the record, so I decided to wait. And if I hadn’t waited, I wouldn’t have the three songs that define the album: “Revelation #12”, “Saturnalia”, and “Heaven Upside Down”. And I thought “Heaven Upside Down” really described the record much more as a whole, as a title. So, I think everything definitely happens for a reason.

mansontour Fire Away: A Conversation with Marilyn Manson

You mentioned “Revelation #12”, which I certainly agree is a cornerstone of the record. I was curious, as it proclaims a coming of the end-times, whether you feel like we’re truly living in them at this point?

It does seem a little apocalyptic right now, but the world’s been ending since whenever the Bible was written. It should be noted though that it’s “Revelation #12” and not “Revelations“. It’s a bit of a nod to the Beatles, “Revolution #9”, but it’s also a nod to taking back the hashtag. It’s the pound sign on your phone, and it will never change. It’s not a hashtag. In the book of Revelations, it has an ‘S’, so it’s a combination between Revelations and revolution. (Ed note: Manson is wrong here. In the Bible, the book is just called Revelation)

You’re a noted Beatles fan. You spoke a lot about them in the Holy Wood era.

Holy Wood was Beatles inspired in so many ways. John Lennon had a great impact on my life even though I was too young to know it. The White Album was one of my mother’s favorite records, and she only had several 8-tracks she would play. But, for some reason, she lost the second side of The White Album, so I only ever heard the first one. Until I made this album, Holy Wood was my most precise and well-thought-out work, despite the fact that I survived on a diet of mostly jello and cocaine at the time.

Why jello?

[Laughs] I don’t know. I really couldn’t answer that question. I mean, Bowie’s diet during his period was peppers, milk, and cocaine. There’s always the food pyramid; I just didn’t have the third part. Maybe the third part was absinthe, but that’s a really bad combination for your health. I think I survived, though. A lot of temporal lobe damage could have occurred.

On Antichrist Superstar, Mechanical Animals, and Holy Wood, you’d create additional characters beyond the Marilyn Manson persona to express the concepts you were trying to address. Now that you’ve moved on from that, is that void of character being filled by injecting more of you, Brian Warner?

I think there was a point before The Pale Emperor where I had to say, “I’m not as good, or as strong, as I want to be,” so I need to make a comeback. That’s a big dick to suck or a big pill to swallow. Metaphorically, because there was no dick sucking, but there may have been pill swallowing. I wanted to get my confidence and swagger back. And with this one, I wanted a record that represented honesty and realness. This record doesn’t have a persona or character, but it lives within me as having the same enthusiasm and fire and intent and same reckless abandon as those early records, where they said, “Make a clean version of the record,” and I said, “I haven’t even showered in two weeks. You want a clean version of the record? Go fuck yourself, or take it and dip in water.” If some kid wants to buy a record at Walmart and it’s the edited version, your money’s not wanted here, son. Go buy a gun and get it the old-fashioned way. I don’t care what you do.

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I don’t know if you noticed, but you’ve become an accessory lately. Justin Bieber is putting his name on your shirts, Lil Uzi Vert’s literally wearing you as a chain…

There’s a great difference between those two. Justin Bieber, I met him, and it was when he was wearing the shirt that had his name on my shirt. And he said to me, “I made you relevant again.” Bad mistake to say to me. The next day I told him I’d be at his soundcheck at Staples Center to do “The Beautiful People”; he told me it was his idea, and he believed that I’d show up, cuz he was that stupid, and that day I also took all the proceeds from those shirts from him. They didn’t even fight; they were just like, “Yeah, we already know we did wrong, so here’s the money.” But he was a real piece of shit in the way he had the arrogance to say that. He was a real touchy-feely guy, too, like, “Yo yo bro!” and touches you when he’s talking. I’m like, you need to stand down. You’re dick height on me, okay? Alright? So, stand down, son.

Lil Uzi Vert … I met him, we became friends, and his attitude reminds me of myself when I started out. And I was very pleased to hear his new record. “SAY10” was his favorite song on mine.

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I heard he’s doing a rock album next. Are you gonna work with him on that?

Yes. Tyler Bates and I are going to do that with him. I think if I had to pick what Lil Uzi Vert should be if he’s involved in rock, it is an early Bad Brains or Faith No More, but with a catchier element. I think that he has punk rock in him. He’s a little, crazy motherfucker and smart as fuck, and he really has an attitude like I did. I like that about him.

Are you guys just doing a song or are you doing the whole album?

I don’t know yet; that’s to be determined. He wants to do a rock album next, and I’d love to see that happen because I think that he could make a new thing. Not some rock/rap type of thing. Something special and new that I think needs to be created just to fuck the world up more.

You have a love affair with rap. Can you rattle off some stuff that you love? What’s the Manson turn-up playlist?

I like stuff that is really hard and heavy. Strangely enough, if you were to ask me what one of the records was that influenced this album strongly, and it can’t be taken literally, is Rihanna. Her last record. That one song, “Love on the Brain”, it really hit me because I saw her perform it, and she just meant it. I think that’s maybe what rappers like about me — they see it as being sincere and real. I think that’s as much a part of rap culture as it was of punk rock and real rock or whatever you wanna call anything. It’s not about how many tattoos you have or if you say “fuck” enough in a song. It’s in the way you say it and the way you live your life.

Look, let me rapid-fire you some questions because I have a feeling someone’s gonna come in here at any moment and cut it off.

No, no, don’t worry. They won’t cut your dick off.

Okay, good to know. For the diehards, and because we’ve touched on Holy Wood, what’s up with the Holy Wood novel? You announced it almost 20 years ago, and it still hasn’t seen the light of day.

Strange that you mention that. Two days ago, I opened it up for the first time in years because it was a very bitter experience in my life. I actually wrote a Holy Wood film, because New Line wanted to make it my version of The Wall.

One person at the movie company said, “Why don’t you make something like Hard to Hold?” and I said, “Do you mean the Rick Springfield movie?” [Laughs] I wasn’t insulted. I was just amused by it. But then I turned the script into a novel, and I re-read it for the first time two days ago and said, “I need to work on this right away.” And that’s why I’m in this hotel, because I’m going to finish it tonight. There’s only one thing to finish, just the finessing of chapter 13.

 Fire Away: A Conversation with Marilyn Manson

Is it the story of the Antichrist Superstar/Mechanical Animals/Holy Wood trilogy?

Originally the script was more guided towards that, because of The Wall aspect that the movie company wanted. So, it was more of a musically related thing that took those three records together. But putting it in a novel and re-reading it, it sounds more relevant now. It’s prominently interested in the president, his daughter, his wife, and this kid that wants to be just like them. The kid is growing up as a proletariat and wants to join this culture of Celebritarians — a word I made up and trademarked — and the daughter wanting to be unlike what she grew up living in.

All of this being based in and around an exaggerated version of Holy Wood, Hollywood, movie facade, backstage lots, and Death Valley, which could be a metaphor for everything. But the rest of the world is not even included in it. It’s inspired by things like Brave New World and 1984 and books of that nature. But strange you asked that because I opened it up two days ago and said, “Fuck, I gotta finish this thing.”

You mentioned “Celebritarian” What is that? I know it’s related to the cross on the cover of your new album, and you’ve used that cross in the past.

It’s inspired by the Cross of Lorraine, which was used by so many different things — the Red Cross, the crusades, fascists. I just thought it represented the idea that there were two previous Christs. There was Jesus and there was JFK, and the whole idea on Holy Wood was that they’re waiting for the third and final savior, and that’s what the president says he’s going to be. President White. And when I read it back now, it sounds so of the moment, more than when I wrote it around 1998 or 1999.

There was a lot of “white” reference in your work back then: “Coma White”, “Great Big White World”…

A lot of people thought that it was a race thing, and it was more of the idea that white is the composition of all colors. Black isn’t even a color. So when you think about race, or in the past when people referred to others as “colored,” it’s a really inappropriate oxymoron because black is not a color. At that time, it wasn’t meant to be political or a statement other than me just being me. I’m just a curious kid that pokes at things, sometimes steps on caterpillars and sometimes pets them, sometimes eats snails as escargot and sometimes puts salt on them and tortures them. Whichever way you want to look at it, it’s just me being interested in how culture works and seeing what I can poke at and look at and reveal and share.

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Do you think it’s crazy that all that poking got you on TRL?

What was weirder than that — and I don’t know if I’ve told this story — but there was this Year in Rock thing that I was on. And funny enough, Carson Daly, who looks like a strange AIDS zombie now — not knocking him, just describing him as a visual artist. He told me his favorite song of mine was “The Reflecting God” the first time I met him, and I’d just been reading in Teen People that he liked going to church with Jennifer love Hewitt, who is a three-namer … gotta beware of three-namers, all of them. Lee Harvey Oswald, Jennifer Jason Leigh … Evan Rachel Wood… [Laughs]

So, the first time I met him, he said that, and I thought he was just trying too hard, because I was literally reading about him going to church as he said that to me. It seemed like he was just trying to appeal to me but whatever. And later, when I went on there to perform another time, I was in the Kennedy car, the assassination car, promoting Holy Wood, and apparently I had said something back when I was on for the Year in Rock about how Puff Daddy potentially could have damaged music by sampling Led Zeppelin. Kids might grow up to not think of Led Zeppelin when they hear that song, “Come with Me” or whatever. And after that, Puff wanted to, apparently, kill me.

And you can’t say I wasn’t asking for it in a way, because I’m in the Kennedy assassination car in Times Square, and these 4 SUVs pull up right when MTV is like, “Okay, you’re going on in five minutes.” These SUVs sort of circle us, and Puff Daddy gets out and he’s yelling at me, but I can’t hear what anyone’s saying because I have a headset on, but he’s yelling at me. Fortunately, my bodyguard knew his bodyguard, but it was a bunch of guys that looked like they wanted to kill me at the moment, and I think he genuinely did.

I have since seen him after that, and we’re all good now. It was at that Vote or Die thing, and I’m thinking, “Yeah, that’s weird, because of that time I almost died related to you and a JFK thing.” And then I have to talk to Carson Daly after, and I’m sitting there next to him and I say, “Dude, do not…” — and I said “dude” because he’s the kind of guy that would respond to that word. I said, “Dude, do not mention what fucking happened with Puff Daddy.” I was like, “If you do that, I will beat your ass.” I was truly scared for my life for once, because I was vulnerable — I couldn’t hear what was going on, I’m in the Kennedy assassination car, I’m surrounded by black SUVs, and a bunch of guys are yelling at me, one of them being Puff Daddy. I think he was just really upset at the time.

I feel like that would be the way you’d want to go, though. Killed in the Kennedy car. Or, how would you wanna die?

Well, I decided — and I put it in my will, this is true — I said if I ever die and someone says it’s a suicide and there’s not a lot of other people dead around me, then they’re lying. So, I put it in my will that I want to be loaded with explosives, that way if anyone attends my funeral, they’ll blow up. I put that in my will and also that my body had to be put in my manager’s yard no matter where he lives and that an eternal flame has to be lit every day, or he does not get any of the proceeds of my riches. Not that I’m saying he’s going to outlive me anyway.

That’s great. But that’s not how you want to die.

I would want to die with somebody that I loved. I would want to die in the most romantic way, in a shootout or something. I want to die in the most dramatic way if I had to pick. I would not want to die alone. I would not shoot myself, I would not hang myself, I would not cut my wrists, I would not jump off a bridge.

I don’t mean kill yourself. I just meant I’d thought you’d considered this as you seem to have a fascination with death.

I have a fascination with death, obviously. I think I would rather do it in an elaborate way that I’m involved with. That it’s not something that surprises me.

What about the end of the world or a nuclear blast?

Well, not if Korea did it. But if the whole world died at the same time, then it would be okay with me. Then there would be no one around to talk about my death or get the tagline “Marilyn Manson died today.” I would probably want to die in a situation where if it were possible, talking hypothetical, where I would become a zombie. That’s why I did not acquiesce in my will to donating any of my organs to science. [Laughs] They’re not useful to me; why would they be useful to anyone else? Except for my brains, but I need them in the event of a zombie apocalypse. I would like to die, with a hard-on, and become a zombie, and then I could do zombie fucking, I guess.

Do zombies fuck?

Well, they could, and then you could spread the zombie disease through semen.

I don’t think zombies have semen.

Well, let’s call the people on The Walking Dead and find out.

Speaking of zombies on television, do you watch Game of Thrones?

I watched the first season, but I had a relationship with the girl who died, the red-haired girl; she blew the dwarf and then died later. She also wrecked my Jaguar. So, that’s why I don’t watch it. I don’t like people who kill my cars. I only had one car; I have no car now. I don’t even have my driver’s license.

Marilyn Manson // Photo by Philip Cosores

Why don’t you tweet more?

I don’t like Twitter as much as Instagram, but you can’t underestimate the power of Twitter considering it could be responsible for the current political situation. I do use Twitter as a metaphor whenever I get in an argument, though. I say, “Pretend life is Twitter.” Do you want spend all your 140 characters arguing? Or, do you want to say something nice? You know, I prefer not to fight. If there’s a problem, I like to fix it. Not create a new one. Fights don’t accomplish anything. And, usually, I win, whether people like it or not, just because I say I do.

Okay, last question. We can’t skip this one. It’s important.

Size 11 and a half. Oh, I thought you were going to ask my shoe size.

There’s a lot of curiosity around you as a human being. Yeah, you’re Brian Warner. But, you’re also this larger than life character of Marilyn Manson, and I think people are curious what the regular person behind that is like. So, I don’t feel misguided in saying that the people want and deserve to know: What are your most used emojis?

Well, first off, this is me being real. This is genuinely me. But I like that question, let’s look … there’s not one for dicks.

What about the eggplant?

I don’t like that because it’s weird. I don’t want to have a vegetable dick, seems too vegan. Okay, here we go: coffin, wink, lipstick, 100%, pumpkin, poop, angel, black cop, ghost, sleeping, devil, devil’s horns, lightning bolt, fire, heart, black heart, carcosa, bat, carrot, finger with the other fingers so it looks like they’re doing it. I’m trying to look at ones I’d make with people I text all the time, because sometimes I do chains of them, or sometimes I hit all of them at once.

Why?

Just to cause chaos.

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