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Marilyn Manson on WE ARE CHAOS, Pandemic Life, New Wave Influences, and Favorite David Bowie Album

on September 08, 2020, 12:57pm

Marilyn Manson is set to unveil his 11th studio album, WE ARE CHAOS, this Friday (September 11th). In advance of its release, the rocker checked in with Heavy Consequence to discuss the new LP, and more.

Following up his critically acclaimed 2017 album, Heaven Upside Down, Manson recruited Shooter Jennings to produce WE ARE CHAOS. While the recently released title track is an infectious mid-tempo, glam-rock number, the rest of the album explores the heavy and melodic extremes of Manson’s canon.

Manson was set to support Ozzy Osbourne on tour this year, but those dates were canceled in order for the latter to seek medical treatments for various health issues. As it turned out, the tour would have been nixed anyway due to the pandemic.

During our conversation with the Manson, he spoke of his daily life during the pandemic and its effect on society. He also discussed the central themes of WE ARE CHAOS, as well as the glam-rock and new wave artists that influenced the LP — and in the process debated his favorite David Bowie album.

Read our interview with Marilyn Manson below, and pre-order WE ARE CHAOS here.

On how his day-to-day life has been affected by the pandemic

Well, I think that it’s in some way fortunate for me as someone who has to live with this, like everyone else, that I don’t really like to go outside and socialize that much, aside from touring — that does leave a hole in my emotions because I’m so attached to it. I guess the routine of that, and plus the love for being able to sing and perform in front of people is missing. But I’ve really tried to focus on making more art. I will admit that I’ve watched probably more television than I need to, and films, but I’ve tried to make it productive. I’ve tried to compile my art book that’s coming out later this year, after I did the artwork for the album. All of the album, it should be noted, was finished probably in January.

A lot of people interpret some of the themes or particularly [the song] “WE ARE CHAOS” as being related to what we’re going through right now. But I think the song was probably written a year and a half ago or so, lyrically. Either it’s a synchronicity thing or it is time being circular, and a moment that the record would be most important maybe to me and to others that listened to it — and it has something on it to help them through being stuck at home. I do have five cats to maintain and they’re wild, but other than that, it hasn’t been, probably in any way, nearly as bad as other people’s experiences. It’s hard not to see your friends, but I’ve tried to make other music, and I’m getting ready to do a new video for “DON’T CHASE THE DEAD”.

On how the pandemic has been handled and its effect on society

It’s somewhat terrifying to actually think about, in a way, that I suppose our parents and their parents have been through much harder tribulations and trials in life, from wars to financial depression and other illnesses that have destroyed many parts of the world and different countries, not just ours. For me, it’s a beam of hope that possibly if we all stopped concerning ourselves with focusing on negative elements of our culture, in general as Americans, we can try to come together as much as possible. I don’t mean to sound like John Lennon, just the concept that if any time, people of different cultures and different lifestyles and different ages and personalities and sex and race and whatever the case might be, even religion, now would be the time to … at least agree that we all need to try to save this together.

And if anything that I did on a record contributes to anyone’s personal mental health and happiness in some way, [that would be good], because I think that’s a concern that really worries me is that being locked up in a house for so long can really weigh on somebody’s mental health. And that’s something that I’ve struggled with throughout my life. And, coming from [someone with] a mother who had schizophrenia and things like that, that was undiagnosed for so many years, it’s gotta be really trying for people who can’t get the type of proper support and attention that they might need from their family or from healthcare people. I guess that’s about as political or possibly any type of intelligent response to that that I can offer, if that makes any sense, for me at least, as an observer and as a participant, as well.

On the theme of mirrors that surrounds the new album WE ARE CHAOS

It comes from a couple of different places. I suppose that when I listen to or read the words to the record, a lot of times I think I’m talking to myself when I wrote them, like holding a mirror up to myself. So it’s not always a story about someone else, but there is a romance to the album in the traditional sense, not in a love song sense as much, although there is that element that can be derived from it. I listen to it, and it makes me feel emotional in a romantic way, sometimes in a sad way, sometimes in a happy way.

If you think about history, it isn’t really the past always, but sometimes it’s the present. History is a living thing. It happens every second. What we just started the conversation with is history. So you can’t always look at things on a very linear calendar or watch, whatever element of time keeping, especially when you’re in sort of a Twilight Zone, 24/7 confusion of losing track of what day it is. It’s very difficult to remember what day it is and let someone tell you, or if you have a calendar, but in some ways I kind of found that freeing, even though that this record was completed far before any of this happened to the world. We finished in January. And [the song] “WE ARE CHAOS” was written at least a year and a half ago, initially lyrically. It was more me thinking about how I can relate to the rest of the world, emotionally and mentally, and not dwelling on politics or religion so much, although there are political and religious references in there. But I suppose they’re more loose to interpretation because I wanted the record to be a book.

I’ve imagined I just filled all the pages with mirrors, and you fill in your own story when you listen to it. It’s a concept record that tells a story that’s going to be different for every single person, including me, every time I hear it, but it’s definitely, there’s an arc to it. I’m still wrapping my head around it because it’s still new to me, but I always ask people, “Do you get a happy ending from it or is it a sad ending or is it tragic?”

I wanted it to be like any movie or any great book or any painting or any poem that it becomes part of the listener’s experience, not just mine. And it just reminds me of what I got out of my favorite records growing up, whether it be [David Bowie’s] Diamond Dogs or [Alice Cooper’s] Welcome to My Nightmare or [Pink Floyd’s] The Wall or something where you feel like you’re a part of something bigger that you can insert yourself into. And I think escapism is an important thing to have now. I wasn’t necessarily anticipating being in lockdown when I wrote the record, but it happens to be a good escape for me to have done it and to listen to it now, and to see what people will think when it comes out. Hopefully, it will give them a way to interpret it in a way that maybe I didn’t even realize.

On the song “WE ARE CHAOS” and its glam, goth and new wave influences

I think when Shooter and I first met, it must’ve been four or five years ago, it’s when I was doing Sons of Anarchy. We originally were asked to do a song together for the show, but we ended up not wanting to do that because we didn’t really like the constraints that we were given at the time — but we wanted to work together. And then I ended up being on Sons of Anarchy as an actor. We didn’t work together until I sang on his “Cat People” cover on his album. And then our relationship developed that’s when we started talking about other influences and sharing different ones. And he would share with me like old Kinks songs and T. Rex, and we talked about a lot of the things that we really were fascinated with.

Not precisely just the albums, but the background stories or the equipment used, or the procedure in which recording some of these records were done — that’s more of a Shooter thing because he’s very much a technical person. He loves collecting antique things, but strange ones, like he uses a PC computer with a fax machine. So whenever I ring the doorbell, it prints out a fax. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s just him being funny, but it amuses me. So, when we were recording, it felt like we were in the ’80s in a sense. And I shared with him Love and Rockets, and that was a bit of an influence in a way on “WE ARE CHAOS” — their song “Haunted When the Minutes Drag.”

I mentioned to him, I said, “Have you ever heard the 12-string acoustic guitars in Love and Rockets songs?” because I really liked the way that they sound. And that, of course, has an element of Bowie in it, and of course, has an element of glam rock. We sat down and we were listening to a lot of songs in the world of Echo & The Bunnymen to Joy Division to Bauhaus and Scary Monsters by Bowie — it’s a tough call to say what’s my favorite record of Bowie’s but Scary Monsters was the first one, so it nostalgically always rings true. But Diamond Dogs is emotionally the one that I attached myself to more, but it’s a tough call.

And I think Ziggy Stardust was the one that really had an influence on the earlier part of my career with Antichrist Superstar. Although the songs did not sound glam rock, in a sense, it was just the general idea of making a story that you really could just asking yourself, “Well, who is he? What is this about?” And it has a loneliness to it.

[Shooter and I] did notice together, bonding over music, that there was a period of songs that we found ourselves most attached to — the whole new wave era had this element of distance and sort of bleakness. It wasn’t sad, it was just almost dreary, but it was alluring in a way. it was almost emotionless, but it had a lot of feeling behind it. And that’s probably what drove me to “Sweet Dreams” and things like that early on in life, too.

On the song “DON’T CHASE THE DEAD”

That song, when it first started, it started out just with the guitar part that [Shooter] had. It’s a very driving song, but when it opens up in the chorus, it has very Berlin-era Bowie elements. That was one where Shooter and I both played guitar in the chorus, so we were making sort of a heterodyning element between the two instruments. So it sort of has this postulating feeling of unease but romance at the same time. And it almost sounds like what it’s saying. It sounds like the end of the world, in a way. That really was what I was trying to capture.

And now we’ve sort of painted ourselves into the end of the world as human beings, but I think there is a hope in it. And there’s always a hope in art, or you wouldn’t make art. You can’t be a nihilist and an artist at the same time, it’s not possible, but that song and the video will be something quite different than [the song “WE ARE CHAOS”]. And I think that it would’ve been easy to release [“DON’T CHASE THE DEAD”] first, but I think that choosing “WE ARE CHAOS” was something that I had decided with Shooter that was a much more unusual approach to the way we introduced the album because people won’t expect the way it sounds. And in the same sense, it’s what I did with “The Dope Show”. I suppose that there’ll be a comparison of something sounding so drastically different than what you expected from Antichrist Superstar to Mechanical Animals.

Our thanks to Marilyn Manson for taking the time to speak with us. Pick up his new album, WE ARE CHAOS, here.