Marilyn Manson shows his vulnerable side
Marilyn Manson won't shut the fuck up. He never stops talking. He talks and talks and talks with languor — as if he's only partially in charge of his own mouth. Distinguishing one of his ideas from the next is rather like telling the river from the sea.
Manson is on the back end of a trio of albums that underwhelmed critics and underperformed on the charts. For his long-time fans, this writer included, visiting Manson's recent work produces an increasingly uncanny effect, gives rise to uncanny questions. For example: "We've grown up; why hasn't Manson?"
Here is a list of things City Pages took into this interview: beer, incredulity, professional concern, bitterness, and an admiration that is trapped in perpetual adolescence, rather like the songs on Born Villain, Manson's most recent release, which is also one of his most personal, most widely discussed, and most musically uneven. The following is a small portion of our conversation.
City Pages: Is it unfair to call the public identity of Marilyn Manson a collection of personae you've made?
Marilyn Manson: I don't think it's unfair. There's no way to misunderstand me. Everyone has a different way of understanding what I do. I've always tried to be some sort of chameleon or something chaotic, simply because my own personality, my own temperance and boredom with being one thing doesn't facilitate the needs I have. People wonder where Brian Warner is. Am I different onstage or offstage. I get bored with definitions. But I had a few years before making Born Villain where I had to realize I wasn't as good as I should be. The records I made, they were good records, but they were sad records.
CP: So, is Born Villain a therapeutic record?
MM: No. Art as therapy is a bad idea. But I felt good when I was done [with Born Villain]. On the previous two records, it would be like if every night you went out and had the best meal in the whole world at the best restaurant with the best people and you went home and you had to puke every night. That's what my life felt like. I didn't understand what the problem was. You end up blaming other people, or the wrong people, and you screw up a lot of things. I learned without having to go to a mental hospital that I'm responsible for my fuck-ups, or else I'm not in charge of my life.
CP: I get the sense that these songs began with the lyrics.
MM: Some of them. Which one would you guess?
CP: "The Gardener" comes to mind.
MM: Yeah, I wrote that one before the music. I wrote it on a small yellow pad. It began as an essay to myself at the end of my relationship with Evan Rachel Wood. I wrote [it] at the point in the relationship where you start putting Post-it notes around the house that don't make sense except that they seem insulting depending on how you read them. When someone is constantly trying to make you think that you're the reason they're fucked up. I just had to step away and realize that my life is fun. Got a cat. Got air conditioning. Got naked girls on the rag. Nothing to complain about.
CP: Is this a first-take record?
MM: I'd say it in a different way. I had a strict "no being a pussy about tuning" rule in the studio. On the song "Children of Cain," I was using this one pedal and it was right before Christmas. There was a small Christmas tree in the studio that some asshole put up because I don't like holidays, and it was making my guitar buzz. I grabbed it, and it electrocuted me, and I got a black stigmata in the palm of my hand.
MM: Not even making that up.
CP: I should be ashamed of myself for asking you this, but I'm curious about the album title.
MM: It didn't come to me as a title until I'd done the song. It's an odd track for a title track. It's the line that I wrote...writ? CP: Wrote.
MM: Yeah. My favorite line I've ever written is, "Owned by death/In love with oblivion." I was thinking about the importance of a villain in a story. Like Dexter. He's the main guy, but he kills people. Kenny Powers on Eastbound & Down. He's a fuck-up, but you see redemption in his future. Hank Moody in Californication. He's the guy you want to fix his life. I'm that guy. I don't know why my friends still talk to me. I don't know why girls tolerate me. I guess people see a brighter, bigger thing in me that I don't see. I'm going to enjoy being the underdog. Making that redemption. That's where Born Villain came from.
CP: We didn't even get to your tour.
MM: That's okay. Talking about a tour is like telling a girl what you're gonna do before you have sex with her. I'm bringing the heat. Don't worry.
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