Raygun Magazine - November 1998
Scott Thompson, author, renowned wit, and acclaimed star of "Kids in The Hall" and "The Larry Sanders Show" wanted to interview Marilyn Manson. Who were we to say no?
First of all, I have to admit that I am not a professional journalist. I'm not even an amateur journalist. In fact, I've never even played a journalist in a movie, television show or sketch. So why am I writing this cover story on Marilyn Manson for Ray Gun then? I asked. You see, I just happened to have published a novel, Buddy Babylon, The Autobiography of Buddy Cole, and he just happened to be releasing a new album, Mechanical Animal, and I thought it would be a great way to publicize my book. You know, I thought I could mention it in the first paragraph. Done.
So, let me reiterate. I'm not a professional. I'm a performer too and Marilyn is a fan of mine. I have absolutely no journalistic objectivity and so everything you read must be taken with a grain of salt. I may have edited things that would have embarrassed Marilyn out of a sort of fellow celebrity respect. Although how anyone could embarrass Marilyn is beyond me. After all, this is the man who has admitted to covering a groupie with luncheon meat and pissing on her, fisting a male fan as some sort of backstage right of passage and, finally, halfheartedly plotting the murder of an ex-psycho-girlfriend. That's probably why I like him so much. Not so much for the acts--nobody should ever be covered with luncheon meat. No, it is the candor with which he approaches celebrity.
In his autobiography, The Long Hard Road Out Of Hell, Marilyn Manson gleefully describes situations which are so sordid that one can only wonder at his sanity. Not so much that he actually has done these things, but that he is so upfront about it. Come to think of it, both. In American popular culture there are always celebrities who are as famous for their behavior as for their work. Marilyn is one of them. Like Kurt and Courtney before him, he gives great copy. He is a journalist's pot of gold, the celebrity without brakes. Look at Chris Farley or Farrah Fawcett. But Marilyn Manson [nee Brian Warner] is not a train wreck, but a train hurtling around a mountain pass very much in control.
I also should tell you that I know Marilyn Manson. Well, not exactly know. I have met him twice before. Once backstage in Toronto with my boyfriend at the time when they opened for nine inch nails, and once when I was sitting alone at Buzz Coffee in West Hollywood girding my loins for the gym. When he gamboled by with movie star Billy Zane, Marilyn looked a little tired, which could have been because he didn't seem to be wearing any make-up and Billy's lips gleamed like a blowup fuckdoll. Like any good gossipy fag, I wondered about the nature of their friendship. We chatted briefly, exchanged numbers, and they dashed off to somewhere glamorous. Little did I know that the next time we met, there would be a tape recorder.
Our interview was to take place one afternoon at the Formosa, a very dark and dingy Hollywood bar which serves bad Chinese food and great ambiance. it was the place in L.A. Confidential where Russell Crowe insults Lana Turner. When I entered the bar I was sweating profusely, as I had walked there and was a little late. Luckily Marilyn was even later. I slid into the red vinyl booth where Lana had whirled around so beautifully and made time with Marilyn's people. I was very taken by his manager, Tony Ciulla, a luscious Italian lollipop. He had with him three top secret tracks off the new album, but we had to go to his car to listen to them. The thought of being alone in a cramped car with this guy was a splendid proposition. The tracks were great. Powerful and strutting and full of braggadocio. The thing I noticed in particular was how up-front Marilyn's vocals were. Thank God I liked it. Otherwise, the interview would be like going backstage to congratulate someone after a bad show.
Back inside, Marilyn finally arrived. The traffic was apparently terrible but he looked cool and unruffled. He wore white jeans and a melon covered shirt, which will become very important later. His hair was shoulder length, streaked with blonde and appeared to be henna-ed, not dyed. He was wearing minimal make-up, yet didn't appear tired. In fact, he was full of energy. That was probably because I was his very first interview for the new album, so he wasn't burned out on publicity. Let's face it: this is a scoop. We ordered big Cokes and began. By the time the interview was over, those Cokes had been replenished three times and it was time for supper.
Scott Thompson: You behave like some sort of hideously scarred human being, yet in your autobiography you really seem to have had it fairly easy. I'm just wondering what it is that makes you so mad? Is it a general contempt for society's malaise?
Marilyn Manson: I think maybe it's even a bit of compassion, and I tend to like people. And it's because of that, their failure to please me as far as their intelligence goes. Some of my anger comes out of disappointment for the world, because so many people are close-minded about things. That's usually where my anger's from. I think growing up, anybody that has any intelligence is never going to be happy in a world like this, because it's not rewarded in any way.
Scott: What I find interesting is that you're a really intelligent guy, yet you've chosen rock 'n' roll , which is, in my mind, a pretty anti-intellectual climate where it's really driven by testosterone and posturing. And really not a medium for subtlety.
Marilyn: But I think that's why there needs to be someone like me. There's a lack of someone with something to say. There's no more Jim Morrisons or Bob Dylans, even though some of these people are still around. I think the power that music had, like in the '60s and how people looked to it for heroes and icons, it's different now. People look to it for T-shirts to wear, but they don't look to it in the same way. But I think that I'mtrying to bring that back to music. And I think my fans at least get something more.
Scott: Do you think that being an only child has a lot to do with the fact that you form bands? As a way for you to create siblings?
Marilyn: I guess it could be. I've never looked at it, because I tend to be one of those people that can't really decide what they want, you know? I guess being in a rock star position, you've always got lots of people around you but at the same time, I always want to be alone. I can't really decide which I'm happy with, because then when I'm alone I feel like I want to be around a lot of people and you can't really have either one.
Scott: Do you think that being an only child aided your creativity, because you had to take care of yourself so much?
Marilyn: I think that it made me use my imagination more, because I had no one else to really talk to. So I spent a lot of time making things up, and reading, and fantasizing.
Scott: How are you going to handle mellowing as you get older?
Marilyn: Well, I think this new album that we started working on doesn't have the same attitude. I think it's still as strong, but in a completely different way. Because I wouldn't do something and continue with it if I didn't feel the same way. And I'm not as angry as I was last year. I have different things to discuss. I'm tired of being political. I mean, I want to discuss other subjects. If everything I've done in the past five years has been about stripping away emotions, this record's about dealing with the ones that I've got now . . . . I don't think I've mellowed out at all. I think before, my self-destruction was out of anger. And I think now it's out of, um, I'm not going to say fun, but it's almost. . .I'm enjoying destroying myself now. Before I was doing it because I couldn't deal with the world, now it's because I want to just for the sheer thrill of it.
Scott: Are you still doing a lot of drugs?
Marilyn: Well, this one, uh, is kind of almost, uh, laughing at the excesses of rock stardom, instead of being, you know, destroyed by it.
Scott: Yeah, because you're tormented in your book. Is it more fun now? Because I heard some tracks, and the third track, particularly, was very '70s rock 'n' roll.
Marilyn: It's very sarcastic. It's got a completely different attitude. Before, I think that I was being beaten down, and was fighting to keep my head above water, and now this is kind of laughing at the people who tried to keep me down and just being decadent in their face. It's very much about arriving here in California, you know, acclimating myself, and it became more and more apparent that I felt like an alien here.
Scott: I know. I hate this place.
Marilyn: But I liked it, though. . . .I always kind of put myself in these experiments, and I guess living in Hollywood was one. This record is kind of dealing with how I feel about being who I am here. And it's more personal, I guess, in some ways.
Scott: Are you happier now?
Marilyn: I think so.
Scott: You say in your book that you think happiness is a useless thing to try to achieve.
Marilyn: Well, I think I'm at a satisfied point right now. I'm not content, I still feel that I can always be better. And I'm already thinking about how much better my next record will be, or how much better my next performance will be. But I guess I feel as close to happy as I could right now, because I think getting through Antichrist Superstar, and getting through writing a book about yourself is a real tough thing to do. And now that that's done, I feel like there isn't much left that I could be afraid of.
Scott: Do you want the world to fall apart?
Marilyn: Yeah, I think it needs to. I hate planning for the future. I hate when people say, "What are you going to do in 25 years?" I'm hoping everyone's dead by then so we don't have to deal with it, you know? It's too much burden on my back to try and decide what I'm going to be doing.
Scott: You styled yourself as the Anti-Christ but in Revelations, Jesus Christ is a God who beats the Anti-Christ. So, are you setting yourself up for defeat?
Scott: Do you want to be defeated by the forces of good?
Marilyn: Absolutely not.
Scott: Do you believe in good and evil?
Marilyn: I live in a kind of bizarro world. What I see as good is the opposite of what the popular opinion of good is. So I can't ever really argue that point with the rest of the world because good and evil is just what's popular. Because it changes.
Scott: You don't believe in absolutes? You don't think murder is an
absolute in any culture?
Marilyn: Well, no, there are absolutes. Then there's common sense, you know? There's popularity and then there's common sense. Like the laws of nature. You just have to use intelligence.
Scott: Like with your girlfriend, she wants you to be good, doesn't she? I mean, to be kind to her, and take care of her, and show her tenderness.
Marilyn: I can be one thing and a part of me can be another thing. I think now that I finally have an opportunity to express other feelings like love and empathy that it actually lets the other feelings be more pure and more intense. Because I think a lot of my rage was just out of lack of any other emotions. It all got focused into one channel. But now I kind of got "cable" for my emotions. All the channels are coming in a lot clearer now.
Scott: What was the name of the girl you thought about killing?
Marilyn: Well, I had to change her name.
Scott: 'Cause I was thinking about that, like, you can't be real.
Marilyn: She's absolutely real. In fact, I've seen her since, uh, since then. She lives in California.
Scott: Oh, you changed her name, that's good.
Marilyn: We were very serious about that at the time. Which luckily, you know, I kind of scared myself.
Scott: Now, what do you think of yourself back then?
Marilyn: Well, now I know it's not worth it.
Scott: But do you think it's wrong?
Marilyn: I think it's wrong to a certain degree.
Scott: How can you say "to a certain degree?"
Marilyn: Well, I think it's something to kill an innocent person.
Scott: And what constitutes a guilty person?
Marilyn: Everybody's guilty.
Scott: There you go.
Marilyn: There was just a rage in me that wanted her to be dead, but now I know that if I hate somebody, I'm more content in knowing that they're going to wake up and be the loser that they are the next day.
Scott: That's very Christian. You're basically talking about turning the other cheek. Even though you go further by saying [you're] going to turn the other cheek and they're going to stew in their own juices and die. But that is very Christian.
Marilyn: The pain usually hurts you more. And when it finally goes away, you can't believe that you ever had it, because it doesn't make sense anymore.
Scott: You consider yourself a survivor?
Scott: Do you think you'll live a long time? Do you want to?
Marilyn: I'll live as long as I want to, actually.
Scott: What does that mean?
Marilyn: I think I'm not going to let the world off that easy by dying until I'd ready.
Scott: Well, that would be good.
Marilyn: I've never really been afraid of dying. I've always felt like I've got a lot of things to do. I've got an important life ahead of me. I'm not going to die, 'cause I've got plans tomorrow. And until I stop feeling that, I'm not really afraid. I feel kind of a responsibility to myself to always be the best. Always try to be better at what I do.
Scott: So you're not enamored by the "live fast, die young" syndrome?
Marilyn: No, not really.
Scott: Live fast, die old? Like [William S.] Burroughs or something?
Marilyn: I think there's too many people. What always saddens me, and this always happens to a lot of my friends, is that they can't have a balance. I'll meet people that are completely sober, people that are completely fucked up. No one can be right in the middle. And that's how I always am. I'm just going up the middle. I can be completely fucked up for weeks on end and be completely sober for the next two weeks. And not have to choose between the two. I'm not going to label myself as one or the other.
Scott: Do you think you'll always be able to maintain that?
Marilyn: Well, that's the challenge for me. I guess that keeps it exciting. Like, I like to do drugs that I don't have to. The problem with Hollywood is you never run out. That's the real danger. I've been painting a lot, watercolor paintings, and I paint anybody that comes into my house. So sometimes, there's probably weird watercolor Marilyn Manson paintings of mysterious drug dealers floating around Hollywood. Because I would sell it for more than they're selling.
Scott: You just sketch them as they come in?
Marilyn: Yeah, I'll uh, sniff a big line, I'll get really stressed out, I'll run into my room, and I'll paint a painting in five minutes, you know? I'll blow on it really hard until it's dry and I'll give it to him. And they're out the door before I have to take a shit. A lot of times if I just call the number, I have to shit.
Scott: Let's talk about homosexuality, okay. Because I am gay, you know?
Marilyn: [laughs] Does that make me gay by being here?
Marilyn: According to the rules in my book.
Scott: That will make it in the next edition.
Marilyn: "Spent more than an hour with Scott Thompson in a dark booth, in a melon-colored shit." [laughs]
Scott: Did you wear that for me?
Scott: By using homosexuality as a way to slap people in the face, do you also continue to perpetuate the idea that homosexuality is somehow decadent, or wrong, or evil?
Marilyn: I perceive decadence and "evil," quote/unquote, as a good thing. So when I perpetuate it and slap it in the face of conservative people, it's like these things are the things that I like, and these are the things that I find entertaining and fulfilling. And I know it makes you mad, and I want you to be mad, because I enjoy it. And I want them
to be pissed off that I enjoy it. I don't just use it as a button to push. Because, you see, it's not just "What can I do next to make them mad?" It's not something that I wouldn't do anyway at home just for my own enjoyment, because I've done plenty of things that people haven't heard about, just for kicks, that I wasn't doing, you know, to piss someone off.
Scott: Have you had sex with men?
Marilyn: To a certain degree. Never to orgasm. I've never gotten cum on me.
Scott: Only your own. Oh yes, that's one of the rules. I have memorized the rules. I hardly fit any of them. I had less checks than you.
Marilyn: Exactly! And another one I have to add is, I just hired a new guitar player that was in Rob Halford's band.
Scott: Another one is having a really handsome manager. Your manager is way too good-looking.
Marilyn: See, I was worried. Because you guys were out there [in the car] and I said, "I'm not going to go out there, because I don't want to interrupt something." Because Tony gets, you know, 15 percent of anything that I do. And if it's sexually oriented, like, say, I get fucked, that means he gets a hand job.
Scott: That's the real reason I wanted to do this interview.
Marilyn: To fuck my manager.
Scott: To fuck your manager, to get a little watercolor. . . .This new album, is it as thematic as some of the others. Is it a story the way Antichrist is a story?
Marilyn: Yes, yes. That's why I want to give you the whole thing.
Scott: I love the cover. The picture of you is, like, the android with no holes. There's nudity, yet there's no holes.
Marilyn: It's about getting completely sexual, completely sexless at the same time.
Scott: It is very sexless. There's no nipples, no holes, there's no skin tone. You have six fingers.
Marilyn: It's still kinda sexy.
Scott: It is kinda sexy.
Marilyn: What does it feel like?
Scott: It's profoundly different from anything you've done before. It's not visceral. It's not gory. There's no juice, there's no body fluids, there's no puss, there's no cum, there's no shit. It's, like, mechanical.
Marilyn: I think that's what makes it more disturbing, 'cause now anything that I do is interpreted in the context of everything I've already done. People have a perception of my art, that for me to be outlandish would be for me to wear a melon-colored shit, instead of a Scott Thompson. That's insane. That doesn't make sense to them.
Scott: So it is melon? I was going to say persimmon.
Marilyn: So for me to be vulnerable, for me to be frail, it's shocking to me. I've discovered how as a performer and as an artist everything you do is also put into context with what you've already done. It's not, like, each thing is taken on its own. People are always gonna associate what I do now with how did that relate to Antichrist Superstar? How does that relate to what he said about his childhood in his book? It's not a clean slate. I'm not just presenting myself for the first time.
Scott: The way you present yourself in that picture is very much like you've covered up. You've blocked the holes. You've taken away all this humanity. You know, the life, because maybe you went as far as you could go. You basically put your insides on your outsides , and how much further can you go? I mean, other than deliver each person a piece of your body by mail or something, you know, hand deliver a piece of Marilyn's pancreas, smear it on your face. 'Cause it's weird, it's so plastic.
Marilyn: Well, I feel like I've gone to such a distance that now I start over and do it better and go through that cycle again.
Scott: Did you ever feel raped? I mean, in terms of the fact that you spoke too much? Do you ever feel too naked?
Marilyn: No, I've only given people what I wanted to. I've never once been manipulated by the media. I consider that just as much of my creation as the music. Every reaction they had was completely my intention from the beginning.
Scott: Oh, is that a good thing?
Marilyn: I've played, you know, so easily. It's boring to me now. That's why I'm going into something else. I've got no desire to discuss religion or politics that much anymore. I want to discuss emotion. I want to discuss sexuality. I want to discuss music. And I want to discuss Hollywood.
Scott: As you deal with your emotions now, do they scare you?
Marilyn: Yeah, I mean, that's why I feel so vulnerable.
Scott: Are there love songs in your album?
Marilyn: There's a love story there, but I wouldn't say that they're love songs. It's not like, you know, "Hello" by Lionel Richie--which is a fantastic number and I have it at home.
Scott: I would totally agree. I wear a melon shirt when I hear it all the time.
Marilyn: But these songs definitely deal with the idea of love. Definitely deal with the idea of alienation. Being a person that actually has feelings in a place like this where no one does. It's unreal. Like the emptiness of Hollywood. But, you know, with this album I was not afraid to be rock 'n' roll and to be theatrical.
Scott: Yeah, you're very rock 'n' roll.
Marilyn: And to be bombastic, because that's what rock 'n' roll is. It just doesn't exist anymore.
Scott: I find the tracks I heard when wasn't stroking your manager's legs. . .which, uh, fine legs, too. And I must say it did set me up for the music. He understood that in order for me to listen to music, I need to have my hand around something. He's a great fun guy and he goes 110 percent for you. Okay, he didn't, he wouldn't cum, but you know what I mean? Can I [give] you just a few names and ask what you think of them? Is that alright?
Marilyn: That will be enjoyable.
Marilyn: Yeah, I love Queen. News of the World was one of my favorite records.
Scott: Boy George?
Marilyn: I met Boy George. My mom loves Boy George. My mom writes him love letters. He gave my mom his address and she won't stop obsessing about him. She doesn't think he's gay. She thinks she's got a shot at it.
Scott: Rocky Horror Picture Show
Marilyn: I liked the scenes where they were mixing up the couples. That was exciting.
Scott: In the pool.
Marilyn: Tim Curry, a hot number. I would have liked him to shave his armpits though. I'm not a big on them. I shave mine. I can't even look at myself with armpit hair. Disgusting.
Scott: You shave your balls?
Marilyn: I don't shave my balls. I trim them.
Scott: Once again. We've got to really revise this list for the next edition because you're trimming your balls. . . .Bowie?
Marilyn: As a kid, you know, he epitomized everything in a rock star to me.
Scott: Ziggy Stardust of all things. Very similar to your creative persona and then living it out. And also driven by cocaine, wasn't it?
Marilyn: [laughs] Yeah. I think he's always been a great influence. I've said that for years. And I think this record is much more rock 'n' roll that. . .that shows even more.
Scott: Your vocals are really up front on your new album. It's
strutting. It's T. Rex. Ministry?
Marilyn: Ministry, yeah. I remember when I was a music journalist, I was really into industrial music when it first came out. To me it was a lot like the last two years with bands like Prodigy and, you know, it's always the best that survive a fad sound like that. And I thought, you know, nine inch nails seemed to keep their head above the water. They became like the great band from that era and I'm not sure who is going to be the great band from this electronic era, but I don't really like electronic music that much. It doesn't have enough to grab onto. Even if it's just a slogan, I want something to identify with. Like I can even identify with the Spice Girls and it's sheer madness, because it's sloganeering.
Scott: That's another strike against you.
Marilyn: I thought you were going to ask me about people that I could say bad things about. Pick some other people.
Scott: You just want to trash people?
Marilyn: Not like influences, but just like my contemporaries.
Scott: Prodigy then.
Marilyn: No. Look higher. Puff Daddy.
Scott: Puff Daddy? What do you think of Puff Daddy?
Marilyn: Get over it already, you know? Find something new to sing about. Not that you sing. And, it we're going to keep sampling stuff, sample some R&B songs, stay away from the rock music, you know? I think that a lot of rap music is cool and it's very creative, but some of what's been done recently is a damage to music because it takes a song that you know and it ruins it forever. And you can't hear that song again. An artist should really be careful what they allow people to sample because it could permanently damage your song. Like you cannot listen to "Under Pressure" without hearing "Ice Ice Baby." So who else is out there these days? Spice Girls? I think they're the only equal contemporary.
Scott: To you?
Marilyn: To Marilyn Manson these days, because they're the only ones as bombastic and as up front about their sheer entertainment value. I mean maybe there's not any substance some people might say, but I think if you look at it like Andy Warhol would have, it's all substance in that sense, you know? I think they're great.
Scott: Does anybody scare you? Who's the scariest person in rock?
Marilyn: Dave Navarro scares me. I spend a lot of time in Dave's house every once in a while. He doesn't leave his house. He has a bunch of computers and he is always doing stuff. I go over there and I get in a mix with him sometimes. He plays guitar solos on his balcony.
Scott: Does he have his shirt on?
Marilyn: He always has his shirt off. You'd like him. You know, I should take you over there.
Scott: I've showered beside him at the gym.
Marilyn: He keeps his house un-airconditioned so that he can facilitate his shirtless look.
Scott: Oh man.
Marilyn: And I come over there and it's hot and sweaty. It's fucking up my make-up. I'm not into it. But you know what? He has a photo booth in his house and he's creating this book of people's pictures in this photo booth. I'll take you over there.
Scott: I would love to, because we've met a couple of times and I shouldn't put this on because he'll, he'll be uncomfortable with me now 'cause all I want to do is pull his nipples. It's all I think about when I see him.
Marilyn: I think he'd like you. You'd like it. He's like dirty and he's a Mexican. He's sweaty. He's got a burrito in his back pocket. He's ready to fuck. He's the man for you.
Scott: I bet he doesn't trim his balls. Is Navarro pierced down there?
Marilyn: No, I don't think so.
Scott: I'm just curious, you know? As a journalist I'm curious. He's not too rigorous about bathing is he? He's not like a big cleanliness freak?
Marilyn: In fact, I gave him a pair of Marilyn Manson underwear. And every time I go over to his house he's still wearing them. I don't think that he's ever washed them. I know he just has one pair. His balls probably smell terrible. We're going to go and we're going to get Dave and that's going to be the end of the story. A Night With Dave.
Scott: That's a great idea. We've got to do that. When are we going to do that?
Marilyn: It's going to be a night time thing. He's a vampire. He's got a coffin, too. You guys can, you know, discuss Dracula and if he's friends with Dracula, what his feelings are.
Scott: That is a great ending. And then a picture of me cradling his balls.
Sadly, this didn't happen. When I finally got home from the interview three hours later, the phone rang. It was Manson. He told me that he had just done a big line and had a huge dump in my honor. I was touched. Sure, it must be a thrill to interview Madeleine Albright or Mandela but I'll bet they wouldn't do that for a journalist. Manson promised that we would go over to Dave Navarro's house the next day to finish the story.The next day came and went and no call, no balls. The day after that, I went back on the road. When I returned, Marilyn was very busy and the deadline loomed.
Manson's record company just delivered the new album to me and I've just finished listening to it. It sounds amazing. It made me want to smoke some pot and lie on the floor with headphones on and hyperventilate. So, I did while fantasizing about Tony cradling Dave's balls in his photo booth. From what I can gather with no lyric sheet, the album seems to be about drugs, Hollywood, love, betrayal, religion, sex, suicide and megalomania. What else is there?