Guitar School Interview - Feb. 97
Transcribed by RaNCiD
Guitar School: What do you think people should be doing while they're
watching a Marilyn Manson show or listening to the new album,
Marilyn Manson: Everyone's going to get something different out of it.
At our shows, it seems, people don't know whether to fuck each other
or kill each other, and hopefully the same goes for listening to the
GS: And when you're playing, do you know whether you want to be
killing or fucking?
Manson: It's all really the same, in the end. I fell like an album is
a blueprint for a performance and playing live is really the only
medium that I like. There's a real connection between the audience and
us, and it's a powerful energy that can be directed in any form,
wheter it's sexual or violent. It goes according to what people want.
The record, I feel, is the same thing.
GS: Tell me about your lyrical process. How did you write the songs
for this album?
Manson: When I'm writing lyrics, I put things down that come into my
head and I don't like to consider them or debate over them with myself
because that takes the pureness out of it. I don't try to shock
people, I just do things and say things in a way that I feel
comfortable with, and for some people that's too much. For some
people, it's just enough.
GS: What literary, or other references, do you draw upon?
Manson: I'm into philosophers like Nietzche, Freud, Darwin, Crowley,
LaVey and Ron Dahl, Dr. Seuss, even the King James Bible.
GS: Dr Seuss?
Manson: The character of The Cat in the Hat is not unlike the
character of Willie Wonka, which is also similar to a character like
Antichrist Superstar, who is taking the role of the fallen angel. The
Cat in the Hat--he was doing his thing the way he wanted to do it, and
hwasn't playing by the rules. Neither was Willie Wonka. The antihero
in literature is the one I've always identified with.
GS: How do you deal with all the notoriety?
Manson: There are a lot of cities that greet us with threats of
violence, but I feel that that's all in a day's work for us, because
at least it shows that we're saying something that is getting to
somebody. I count success by not only the number of fans you have, but
by the number of enemies as well.
GS: Can you tell me a little about the conceptual underpinnings of
Antichrist Superstar? Who is the Wormboy, and how is he bringing forth
Manson: The ablum is really a soundtrack to our lives. I look at this
record as a living piece of art that continues to grow as a people
continue to buy it. We haven't come to the conclusion yet. It's a bit
of a prophecy of what will come. If you believe in something strong
enough, you can make it happen. In the Kaballa, there's this idea that
the world can only be eneded by mankind inviting destruction upon
itself. Everyone's fear of Marilyn Manson is really what has created
it. So, this record is a ritual to bring that about, and each time
someone plays it, it takes them one step closer to the apocalyse.
Whether that's in you mind or not is as easy as people finally killing
off god in their minds and becoming themself, believing in themselves.
GS: Do your fans come to be scared, entertained, converted, or what?
Manson: It's like an amusement park. It's part of people's nature to
be attracted to their own death and to fear. That's why this record is
three cycles of death happening, and that's why people will gravitate
toward it--whether in outrage or with open arms, people will gravitate
GS: It seems that each of the three cycles has, musically at least, a
thematic consistency; it's as if each of those three sections could
stand alone as the album.
Manson: It was all very subconscious. It wasn't so contrived that we
said "This is the way this is going to be." It just came out of us and
happened to fit together in the right way. I'm a little too close to
it now to step back and look at it, but when Twiggy and I were writing
the record, I would come to him with these dreams that I had,
lyrically, and we would understand each other. The music would come
from the same place. Whereas, in the past, we wrote in more of a
"band" way, and it was very democratic, everybody in a room playing
their parts and coming up with ideas. But this was very focused and it
came from a specific place in our minds. Twiggy and I were in tune
with one anotehr. Pogo [keyboardist Madonna Wayne Gacy] too, for that
matter. The core writing of the album was us three, and the number
three occurs a lot on the record. In numerology there's a lot of
significace to the number three
It's traditionally a very powerful number; you find it in a lot of
religions. It's the Holy Trinity, and in magic it's a very powerful
GS: How did all this contribute to you gettin a new guitarist?
Manson: That triangle is one of the main reasons that we sought out
another guitar player, because we were all in a very specific frame of
mind and our former guitarist wasn't. So, nearly all the guitar
playing on the album was done by Twiggy. I played on three tracks,
Daisy [Berkowitz, former guitarist] played on three, Trent played on
one or two and Zim played on the live song that we're going to recored
in February of next year.
Manson: You actually shouldn't even be able to hear "Irresponsible
Hate Anthem," so if you can hear it, that means you're definitely in
tune with what we're doing. It hasn't been recorded until next year.
GS: What is the source of you energy?
Manson: It would be easier to say, "What isn't the source?" It's
everything. I'm a person who watches everything. When I go places, I
watch people. I listen to what my dreams are doing. I listen to voices
on cellular phones that I'm not supposed to be hearing. I listen to
conversations people have. I'm in tune with with everything. When you
get to the level where every frequency is audible to you., then you
find everything really ties together. It can be scary for some people,
but if you're a part of it, it's kind of exciting.I look at life as
kind of an old movie camera, where there are are all the frames to the
film contained in the camera, and as you flip through you can only see
one at a time. I've developed the ability to look at all of them at
the same time. It's a matter of being in touch with your subconscious
We went through many different experiences trying to get there: drugs,
staying up all week, pain, everything.
Twiggy Ramirez: Stay up for a week, it'll change your life. We had
contests to see who could stay up the longest.
Manson: Actually, we spent most of the time in the studio just looking
at each other, trying to communicate telepathically. Twiggy and I have
a system where, a lot of times, I don't have to tell him what I'm
thinking; he just knows it.
GS: Talk a bit about the power of propaganda and how people are
indoctrinated by the belief systems that you rail against.
Manson: I've spent many years trying to wake people up to that idea,
but instead of trying to beat the system, in a way I've become it and
I plan on changing it from within. So now people say, "Why is what you
do any different from Christianity? You've got a bunch of people
listening to what you're saying." But if I'm going to be a god at
least I'm a real one that people can see and feel and touch and I've
got a place where I'm taking everyone and it's not open-ended. It's
very specific. It's a revolution, socially, for people to become
themselves. And that's the last thing that America wants.
GS: It doesn't require people to have any faith, because you're a
corporal entity, flesh and blood.
Manson: There's no need for faith. It's right there. I admit it: I'm a
hypocrite. I'm a paradox and I thrive off of that. I strip away all
the lies and say everything is a lie. These people who think that
they're ugly and think that they have no way to fit into society now
realise that society can fit into them.
GS: Are you a hateful person?
Manson: Sometimes. Just as much as I love things, I hate them.
Specifically, the title of "Irresponsible Hate Anthem," is what I
predicted people would refer to the song as. The people that would
call us hateful are missing the point. And there will be alot of
people who will say they hate us because they say that we're hateful.
They are not seeing thire own hypocrisy. These people will be revealed
and they'll be fed to the lions. So to speak.
GS: You cite Freud as one of your big influences. Do you therefore buy
into the notion that what ails America is a collective repression of
Manson: I suppose so. The world doesn't revolve around the sun, it
revolves around a giant cock. That is what the world is about; it's
about sex. Anybody who doesn't want to realize that is fooling
themselves... People are bored because they've done everything they
can do, so now the fear of death is the only thing that gets them
excited. That's why people have made me into some kind of sex symbol.
I'm death on wheels, the way I look.
GS: Is the fact that you are the kingpin of revellion in the Nineties
a sign that the world is ending or what?
Manson: Absolutly. Things need to go to a point of extremism in order
to be born again, so we can once again appreciate the little things in
life: sex, drugs and rock and roll. Things need to go past that point
as far as they can go, and they we'll become innocent again. It's my
job to sort of cleanse the world of all its sins. I'm offering myself
up as a sacrifice to the world to become innocent again.
GS: Do you want to become innocent again?
Manson: That's what Smells Like Children was about. It was a metaphor
for wanting to be a kid again, and wishing that I hadn't been exsposed
to all the things I ahve been exposed to, so that I once again could
GS: It's kind of a terrible thing that you have to go through all
these elaborate contortions in order to express this.
Manson: I don't find it terrible. I enjoy my life. I live it to the
fullest. There's no guarantee that you're going to be here tomorrow.
GS: Did Annie Lennox ever call you after "Sweet Dreams" became a hit?
Manson: She actually didn't write the song. Dave Stewart wrote the
words and the music, and I heard from other people that he liked it a
lot. I'm sure he's happy, because he made a lot of money off of it,
and we didn't.
GS: Who are some of your major musical influences?
Manson: Adam Ant, David Bowie, Bauhaus, Annie Lennox. One of my
favorite records is Mob Rules, when Dio sang with Black Sabbath. I
even like Creedence Clearwater Revival. I like dark things; not only
predictably dark things, but things that you might not expect to have
a lot of pain in them, but do. I like old Rolling Stones, too. Twiggy
and I like a lot of the same stuff and when we were making this
record, we drew on our influences. We also wanted to capitalize on
everyone's strengths. That's why the record is almost like the White
Album: There's some stuff that's very keyboard-oriented, and that's
Pogo; there's stuff that's very guitar-oriented that Twiggy is
responsible for; and there's stuff that revolves around the vocal that
I did. We wanted a balanced album.
GS: You've cited Social Darwinism as a foundation of your belief
system. What about the whiff of racism that can accompany it?
Manson: It's beyond racism and it's beyond fascism and sexism. If you
were to say, "I like only white people," there's a bunch of white
people that suck that make it under the fence and they get a free
ride. So I couldn't possibly like only white people. I judge people on
their intelligence and on their personality. I think the only thing
that counts in the world is what you can contribute to society. That's
why in a perfect world, America, would be run by artists, musicians,
writers and people of that natrue because these are the people that
make the world worth living.
GS: The standard response is that they tried that in Ireland and it
almost ruined the country.
Manson: People should be allowed to do what they want; that's the
basis for Social Darwinism--that the strong will survive. That has
nothing to do with sex or race, but has to do with, really, your
ethics. Not your ethnics. It's what you stand for, not how you were
born. In a way, it's politically correct in a backwards sort of
fashion: it treats everyone equally, but if you want equal rights,
then you need to take equal punishment as well. You can't just have
GS: You are calling for Armageddon, but why would you want the world
Manson: Because the way it is, it's not...it's not a great place
anymore. And it can't be.
GS: When was it a great place?
Manson: I'm not sure it would have been much more enjoyable to be
alive in the Fifties, when there was at least and illusion of purity
and things that were taboo had such a great power to them. I think it
was a time when magic was really alive. There's no imagination
anymore. It was eliminated with video games and VCRs...I'm only
necessary because of the way the world is.
GS: Could you ever see yourself having kids?
Manson: Eventually. The only way to be immortal is to pass things
GS: Given what you've said about the world and about America, is that
a responsible thing to do?
Manson: Well, if I manage to make the world a little bit of a better
place then maybe I'd want to have a kid.
GS: How is Marilyn Manson going to make the world a better place?
Manson: It's something people are going to have to do for themselves.
I'm just gonna make them want it. Everybody has the ability to, every
man and woman is a star, it just takes the time to realize that they
need the personal strength to acknowledge what they are. And I'm jsut
trying to wake that up in everybody.
GS: There are some lyrics on the album about your mother. What does
she make of all of this?
Manson: She's very supportive. She feels responsible, so she has no
other choice but to accept it. It's a whole other story if I gotta
talk about my mom. She doesn't play guitar so I shouldn't say
anything. My mom imagines things. She has mice and she talks to them
and she wakes up in the middle of the night and has visions of people
standing at the fott of her bed--demons and stuff like that.
GS: Is your mom on the same mystical vibe as you?
Manson: No. She's crazy. I'm eccentric because I have money.
Ramirez: Can I say something about my mom?
GS: Sure, Twiggy. We wouldn't want to leave her out of this.
Ramirez: I was brought up for most of my childhood by my mom, so
there's a bit of mystery as to who my father is. She used to dance for
Mountan, Leslie West...
GS: No way!
Manson: ...in a cage.
Ramirez: The stuff that's for real is crazier than the stuff I'm
making up. She used to dance in the cage for Mountain, naked. And she
used to do The Jerk onstage with the Kinks. I swear. So my dad is
probably either Leslie West or Ray Davies. Who knows which one.
GS: Journalists are always pointing out that you're a polite, friendly
guy, despite the ghoulish trappings. You even wore pajamas to your
Guitar World interview. [December, 1996] It made for a kind of cuddly
Manson: It was a hospital gown, actually, from when I was
GS: What were you hospitalized for?
Manson: Well, when I was a child I had pneumonia twice. And I had
polyps removed from my rectum. I had to have my urethra enlarged
because the hole though which I urinate wasn't large enough to
accommodate the stream I was projecting. I had an allergic reaction to
antibiotics once and I almost died. Recently, I was hospitalized for
depression and scarification. Self-mutilation. And I've had my legs
waxed, but I wasn't in the hospital for that.
Ramirez: When I was about seven or eight years old, I had a plastic
toy fish, where you pulled a smaller plastic fish out of the bigger
fish's mouth, on a string. And it went chop-chop-chop. I wrapped it
around my...member, and it got caught and I had to go to the hospital.
It was cutting the circulation off and they thought they might have to
remove part of my...
GS: Uh, Zim, how as it for you coming into this freak show?
Zim Zum: It's been very comfortable, actually. We're all aroudn the
same age and we all basically grew up listing to the same music.
GS: What sorts of bands did you play in before?
Zum: I never played in a band that did any recording. I played with
local musicians in Chicago and I did a lot of recording at home.
GS: What was the experience of trying out for the band like?
Zum: There were maybe 15 people there. I stood around most of the day
while one guitar player after the next went in. It was a typical mix:
you had an alternative crowd; five or six Twiggys in the room; a
couple of goth guys. I had no idea where I would fit in. I wore a
black t-shirt and black jeans. The weird thing was, Trent came into
the room and said, "Good luck." I figured, well, it's time for me to
go. I went in and played "Get Your Gunn." After I played it, I stopped
and I ddin't roll thought the rest of the songs. There was a was a
spotlight in my face. It was the only light in the room. And Manson
and Twiggy and Pogo were sitting on a couch, about two feet feet in
front of me. I couldn't really see them. I stopped and walked around
the light and talked to them. I think it was probably from that point
on that I felt that I was basically done. Then I went to Bourbon
Street and did the whole New Orleans thing with a couple of the other
guitar players who had come out. I didn't get home to the hotel until
about 7:30 in the morning. Then I got a call at around 11 o'clock from
somebody taht sounded as tired, if not more tired, as I was and it was
Manson. We taked n the phone for about two hours about David Bowie
the Stooges. After that, I jumped in a cab, met him for lunch and now
all this. It's really weird.
GS: It must be a lot of fun.
Zum: If nothing else, I have five people that I'm really connected
with and really comfortable with. We spent two months in a rehearsal
space, stipped down, nothing miked, no PA and I just got used to
playing with the five of them. Now we take the same vibe and do it in
front of people. I don't get the thing about "the way Marily Manson
was as opposed to the way he is now," because the music is
different--it's a little bit heavier and it made it easier for me to
come into something like this. Twiggy played most of the guitar on the
album, and I'm really comfortable with his playing. He's a bass
player, so he doesn't think like a guitar player would: theory,
noodling and riffs. It's all real attitude and the basic tone.
Ramirez: One of the main tests we gave at the rehearsals was we had
them play a game of Dungeons and Dragons with us, and he was an
expert. He already had his own character that he had fxed back form
home, which I thought was very exciting.
Manson: I had him come stay with me in my apartment. We were looking
for someone with the right personality because you can find anyone to
play guitar. That's only half of it. It's about being a part of what
we are. I feel that we're whole now. We have what we've always been
missing. And his guitar playing, obviously, was more than adequate.
He's a great guitar player.
GS: Where does the name "Zim Zum" come from?
Zum: It's kind of a band thing.
Manson: We felt that since Marily Manson has almost transformed itself
into Antichrist Superstar, he became a member of that entity and Zim
Zum, unlike the names of the other members of Marilyn Manson, is a
Hebrew term that refers to and angel that was doing God's dirty work
at the beginning of time. We felt that since he joined the band to
complete this tour and continue on with us that he was doing the dirty
work as well.
Zum: I knew it wasn't about the way I looked or the guitars that I
played or anything. They listened to my tape--it was actually playing
when Manson called me. Most people think that there's this big image
change that comes along. They told me, "You don't have to change
anything. Just do what you're doing now, and that's fine."
GS: You played in Chicago last nigt. Was that the biggest gig you've
ever played in your hometown?
Zum: Absolutely. We played at the Riviera, which holds about 2,500
people. It was the first time I've been back in Chicago since going
down to New Orleans for the first time. I think the entire mosh pit
was people that I knew, and relatives htat I'd never met. i guess I
was a little nervous. But we had a good show--a very destructive show,
but a good show.
Zum: Twiggy splintered a bass--it's toothpicks now. An SG, two of my
Marshall cabs, and one of Pogo's keyboards got destroyed.
GS: It sounds like you had a lot invested in this. Do you think that
your being in the band is some kind of cosmic happenstance?
Zum: Absolutely. The first time I talked to Tony, the road manager, I
said to him--and it wasn't cocky or anything like that--that if I got
the audition, I didn't want to come home. I planned on coming down and
playing and doing this. It was just weird.
GS: What kinds of guitars do you use?
Zum: the three main guitars that I play I made myself, I used to work
at a guitar manufacturer.
GS: Oh? Which one?
Manson: You're allowed to say it if you want.
Zum: I was actually fired from the place, so...Some of my guitars are
brand names. I have a couple of SGs.
GS: And you play through a rack?
Zum: Yeah. It's Marshall cabinets, a Marshall power amp head, a
Marshall preamp and an effects processor. I have a Dunlop Jimi Hendrix
wah-wah pedal on the floor. I love them. They have a really good
sweeping range and sound great on "Sweet Dreams."
GS: There are three or four guitar companies in the Chicago area, but
if you're embarassed about getting fired...
Zum: No, it's not embarrassing that I got fired. It's embarrassing
that I worked for them.
GS: Why did you get fired?
Zum: For not showing up.
Manson: This is what I heard, but he won't confirm it. He was cought
using a low-E string to auto-eroticize. He had it tied around his
throat while he was masturbating in the employee bathroom. You can
print that. He won't confirm it, but that's what I heard.
GS: How are your guitars set up?
Zum: The three I built are tuned to E flat for the first three songs
in the set; E for about five of them; D for "Little Horn"; some B
tuning, then D for "Beautiful People" and E all the way out. Straight
E. The whole middle of the set is standard tuning. the first three
songs are flat. They're in E on the album, but live, we play them
GS: What were you going for when you were building those guitars?
Zum: I have a 1975 Strat at home that I absolutely love, but I don't
like to have a humbucker put into a Strat because it ruins the whole
purpose. I'm not into the pointy guitars, either. I just wanted
somethign thick, a flat body, a humbucker, and volume. I took the neck
humbucker out so I can just toggle it off and so I don't have to worry
about another set of pickups that I never use. I like the feel of the
Strat neck and the headstock is confortable. The neck is completely
unfinished. It's a really comfortable feel for me.