A laid-back chat with Marilyn Manson
There are so many stories to be told and observances to be made about Marilyn Manson: the weird contact lenses, the freaky makeup, the outlandish costumes, the provocative lyrics, the sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll that have made him the target of some concerned parents and every member of the religious right.
But the 46-year-old Goth rocker, who has been at this for two and a half decades, has a brand-new album – “The Pale Emperor” – and is about to set out on an American-Australian-European winter-spring tour, isn’t the same bad boy offstage as he is on. Checking in by phone from Los Angeles, the former rock journalist and record store clerk – real name Brian Warner – was laid back and relaxed as he dropped the character he plays and chatted about the music he grew up with, the new directions of the new album, and what to expect in his current stage show.
Q. What do you recall listening to as a kid, not necessarily music that influenced you, but just stuff you liked?
A. We had 8-tracks at home, and my mother used to play them. I remember the [Beatles’] White Album, ELO, [the soundtrack to] “Xanadu,” the Bee Gees, Creedence Clearwater Revival. Then it was Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath and Kiss. Those were the first three things I started with on my own. But then it went on to Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. And I remember finding Jane’s Addiction, the Cure, the Cult. Those records sort of transitioned me out of metal and melded me into liking what would have been called at that time post-modern or alt-rock.
Q. So how did you actually become a performer?
A. I have no shame in saying that I started an open mike poetry night at a nightclub in Florida, that I tricked my way into entrance by having a business card printed that said I was a journalist. That somehow was a legitimacy that replaced having to show my I.D. I was only 19 or 20 at the time. I tricked my way into the club, then I became a regular. I started an open mike poetry night there, and a lot of people started showing up, and they seemed to like the rhythm or the timbre of my voice, or whatever it might have been. Someone said, “You should start a band,” so I created the name of the band – Marilyn Manson and the Spooky Kids – and booked a show, without even having any songs. I had four or five months to make songs for the show. That’s how it began.
Q. You’ve headlined all over the world and had major successes with, among other albums, “Antichrist Superstar” and “Mechanical Animals.” Was the making of “The Pale Emperor” very different from the previous ones?
A. In the past I almost had to be dragged into the studio around 2 or 3 a.m. to do my vocal takes. And it was not collaborative with the band. The band would do songs separately from me, and then I would sing to the songs that I picked, that I felt inspired me. I was in a completely different head space then. This time it was [producer] Tyler Bates sitting across from me, 5 feet away, with his guitar plugged in. He would say, “I have this idea for a song.” I would say, “Just turn on the guitar, hit ‘record’ and put up a microphone,” and we’d sing and play it together, live. If I didn’t do it the way I liked it, we’d both start over from the beginning. So the guitar and the vocals [on the record] were essentially the first take, and we’d elaborate on them later. I played keyboards on “Slave Only Dreams to Be King” and pill bottle on “Killing Strangers.” For the most part I only played tambourine and sang. I just wanted to focus on being me.
Q. Who’s in the current touring band?
A. It’s me singing, Paul Wiley and Tyler Bates on guitars, Twiggy Ramirez on bass, and Gil Sharone on drums. We’re doing different sets each night. We’ll do a few songs from the new album and a lot [of older ones] that we haven’t played in awhile, and the show will be very theatrical. I think people will be very happy.