Marilyn Manson headlines this weekend's Sunset Strip Music Festival, which caps a crazy summer for him that included promoting his latest release Born Villain and an acting stint in Californication.
We spoke with him recently on the phone after he'd just gotten off stage in Toronto. Despite our best efforts to keep things structured he offered a lot of stream of consciousness rambling and with unsolicited recollections, not to mention some off color jokes about James Holmes. Still, somewhere in there he offered genuine observations about himself.
Stuck with a bad phone connection, we tell him our phone sucks, using the term “to tell ya the truth.” “Don't ever say, 'To tell you the truth…'” he chides, “because that implies you lie. I learned that in journalism school.” He likens himself to a sweaty zebra, referencing the black-striped face from his soon-to-be released video, “Slo-Mo-Tion” (above).
Will this be your new look?
I don't wash so there's never a new makeup look, it's whatever I'm stuck with the next day. Of course I did make a lot of ruckus with makeup from my trip leaving L.A. [Manson wore “Fuck You” scribbled across his face to LAX on Friday.] I'm very surprised I was not arrested by the TSA. I was kind of bored and also didn't really get what I would call a proper night of sleep. I won't say I was drunk, but I will say it might have been the amount of blood in my alcohol system.
Wait, you mean alcohol in your blood system?
No I like to say it the other way. It [the “Fuck You”] was something I'd done before but never at an airport. It wasn't really intended for the paparazzi as much as it was intended to be… me. I'm not being mean.. I'm just being me. [laughs]
Well all the articles about the incident said you were nice to everyone and covering your face for kids.
I would cover my face anyway because my face probably scares kids. But let it be known that it said 'fuck you' but then there was an ellipsis that was on my neck too. It wasn't neck acne… it was… I thought there could be more to say…
Some might say you do this stuff to get attention in a very calculated way.
I was bored. Of course it is to get attention but it wasn't really a mean thing because I live in L.A. and it would make it difficult to travel home. I'm in Canada now, just got off stage. It's raining here, and not just because I made it rain. I have to have a disclaimer before the shows: “Ladies and gentlemen, please get new panties or tissue because you will get wet.” That's not really true. I like to make things up.
So how do I, or any journalist know you're serious or joking about something, then?
You don't. That would cancel out me, because the whole point to everything that I do… there's no reason to ever try to be shocking. I've never tried to be shocking. To be interesting or valuable as an artist is to be confusing and create chaos. When I was filming Californication [he'll play himself on the Showtime series], a reporter asked me 'if you could be anyone in the world other than yourself, who would you want to be?' I said, have you seen the new Batman? They said, 'oh you want to be Christian Bale, and I said no — I do love Christian Bale and American Psycho is one of my favorite movies — but I said no, I'm talking about the guy who cleared out all the seats on opening night.
I wasn't making fun of that, though. It's strange, as a quote un quote… wait scratch that… I hate people that say quote un quote. Technically — this is another thing I learned in Journalism school — the two fingered quote by your face (unless you're quoting a famous person or stating a piece of known vernacular or a euphemism) is single quotes. Ok, no one's ever declared that as law, but it's technically true. When people do double quotes I always correct them and say no, it's single quotes unless you're quoting someone like Abe Lincoln or me.
Back to the point… I'm wasn't being funny or derogatory when I said I wanted to be the guy who cleared out the seats opening night … confusing yes. It was considerate of him to clear the theater because sometimes it's hard to get tickets and I haven't seen Dark Knight yet …
Of course I was being comical but dark comical. The difference between that and a comedian… Comedians have a huge carte blanche and the ability to get away with saying a lot of things.
I've said offensive things in my time and I've been in trouble for a lot of them … but people have to understand I started all of this to be sardonic. That's the whole point of the name Marilyn Manson.
I'm the kind of asshole that, you know, once you understand an asshole that makes you a buttfucker.
Um, Ok. I get the feeling you say what you think before you really think about it?
Yes, in a way. But I don't say things as if I have Tourette's. Although in some ways …
You actually do kind of sound like you have Tourette's, right now.
Sometimes friends of mine get do get pissed off. Let's create a hypothetical, a fictional dinner party situation. I'm the person that always says what everyone wants to say. It often makes me friends with artistic types. Some of my greatest, closest friendships were made because I said what everybody wanted to, but were too Hollywood and PC.
I don't say things to be offensive, I say things because they're funny to me. It amuses me. And also because it's usually true. It creates — don't know the metaphor — like if the ship is sinking you pretend you're going down with it, and whoever jumps first are the people that can be your friends.
I've often done that in life, and before making this last record. I really had to allow people to think that I was going to let myself sink. And I wanted to find out who was going to stick beside me. I'm very grateful to the friends and artistic collaborators who believed in me enough, and the fans.
I don't take for granted anything … when I meet people I'm like, 'Hey, I'm Manson. I made a record. Want to hear it?' If they say, 'I don't like your music,” I say 'that's cool. I don't mind.' 'I also paint,' I'll say. I don't like painting. 'That's cool, wanna go rob a liquor store?'
So what about haters?
In person or print?
Oh yeah, you've had issues with print….
Well, freedom of speech doesn't come with a dental plan, that is what I say.
If you want to say something about someone, say it to their face, I was … being a writer … and I still consider myself a writer and a journalist in many different ways, inspired by one of my great friends the late Hunter S Thompson. I refuse to say things behind people's backs. I only stopped being a journalist because I felt like I never wanted to so negative. I was taught in the first day of… community college that you can make yourself sound like a better writer when you criticize someone. I think you can be more creative than that. That wasn't for me. I felt like I wanted something else. I wanted to be something fictional and created a whole new identity.
For the most part it's an easy life. I'm not going to complain. I just got off stage and people enjoyed the show. I didn't get hit with anything. No one booed me. A couple people took their tops off. As for people criticizing me, that's always been the point. I've never wanted everyone to love me. I wanted to create… complete polar… bi-polar bears.
Wait, what did you just say? Did you mean “polarizing?' Another play on words?
Of course. I'm doctor double entendre.
I love puns and word-plays. But wow. You've got some weird ones.
I say things that are so dumb, they are funny.
Seems like you don't even think about half of it. It just comes out of you.
It's entertaining but I'm wondering if because you just got off stage, you might be in a different state of mind than if I interviewed you just chilling somewhere?
Yeah… well, not necessarily. I mean I suppose I wouldn't be as pumped up full of testosterone, hormones, pheremones, whores. Whatever. Chemicals that come out of your brain naturally. Usually I like to get shit-hammered before a show then sweat it all out. It's sort of my version of pilates.
You sound intoxicated right now, but it's probably adrenalin. Do you always drink before you go on stage to loosen you up?
That would be a conservative statement. But I refuse to drink anything other absinthe.
Ok let me get to some Sunset Strip Music Fest questions, before we get cut off. I don't even know how much time I have with you. You're from Ohio originally and live in L.A. now and have for quite some time. The mystique of Sunset Strip for someone in Ohio versus living here now… What does it represent to you?
I did do one of my first shows in L.A. at the Whisky and I suppose I was inspired to become a writer and learn to sing by Jim Morrison. He was my inspiration to pick up the pen and start writing. It was a big deal for me to play the Whisky because of The Doors. It all ties together. It makes me really happy that I can be involved now. It means something to me. There's different bands… there's Beatles, there's Stones, but to me The Doors really signify the true birth of punk rock. People will say the Stooges or the Ramones. It's The Doors. Morrison was the first one who was a villain, which is what I like to consider myself, someone who's not afraid to break the rules or bend them..
So that show was pivotal for you?
It was a little overwhelming at the time to absorb, but looking back I can see it really opened up a gateway to everything. I think everything, every little bit of every little thing that happens in everyone's life, it all adds up to something.
So playing the fest will be really cool.
I don't have to walk far.
Do you live around there?
Yes. At an undicslosed area, ma'am. It's nearby but I may not live there much longer because people know and will know.
Is it a house?
No. A studio loft. [More is said “off the record” about his place of residence]
I put everything I own in storage, I had a clean slate going into making the last record. I had three long term relationships where I lived with somebody. Moving, I had to put on my pants, pull up my belt, and be a grown-up, live on my own. But that does not mean I'm mature.
So you aren't settling down, so to speak.
Absolutely not. Why would you want to? But having a home… L.A. is the only place that feels like home to me. I've lived in New Orleans and Ohio, stayed in New York (at the Carol Channing suite in the Doubltree Hotel). Los Angeles is home to me most because it's what I always — I suppose growing up as a kid — dreamed of.
Doing this show and The Doors being involved, it does make it special. You know, I have a tattoo behind my ears of the number 1-5 because I was born on Jan. 5, nineteen 69 (which adds up to 15). “Five to One” is my favorite Doors song. Numerology, it's the happenstance of things combining to all add up to something.
I lost my virginity when I was 15, which by the way, was the only time I contracted a venereal disease … it was crabs.
Okay, what's your last question?
Wait! I have a few more. Can I ask you two questions?
Anal is one…
Actually it's about the “Twins of Evil” tour with Rob Zombie. Why are you doing that?
Well two of my ex-band mates are in his band and I know Rob from the past and it's the right idea. People who enjoy his music might enjoy mine. It is a chance for me to flex my muscles as an artist and showman. It's kind of like if I were a wrestler.
Like you guys are in a bout?
No, no. I don't think there's any challenge between us. Totally different shows.
Both are big spectacles with dark undertones.
I don't have a beard.
You've never had a beard. There's one look you haven't tried.
I did for a movie, but I get laid by better women without. I don't use the word “laid,” my manger said that.
You're collaborating, it seems, more than ever. The Rob thing… Shia Labouf… Johnny Depp.
I was an extra on 21 Jump Street when I was 19 years old.
Johnnny and I have had a long relationship but never done anything musically and I hadn't talked to him since Hunter died. I ran into him … I literally woke up, threw up and then went to the Chateau Marmont for a party for The Rum Diary.
He had a band called The Kids from Florida and I had a band called the Spooky Kids from Florida. There's that tie. So he said 'let's jam.' I don't think he said 'lets jam' actually that's to paraphrase. I never really got in a room and played music with someone I don't play normally music with. But we did, and Johnny started playing drums and I was playing guitar and singing and we just started thinking it would be poignant and ironic to do, “You're So Vain.” People always think that everything we do as artists, he and I separately, is about someone else when it's really about us.
So we did that. In the context of the record I thought it was a great bonus track because it's sort of as if Born Villain was a movie… “You're So Vain” would be the end title credit.
OK, last question: you never used to use your Twitter account but lately I noticed you've been tweeting more. Are you embracing more social media?
No. I'm more into social disease. I've found that it's a lot easier than doing interviews. This defies that I know. An artist should really never explain what they do, in the end they should just leave a question mark.
Marilyn Manson plays the Sunset Strip Music Festival this Saturday Aug 18 at 9:30 p.m.