Welcome to Their Nightmare

Sonically and thematically, Smells Like Children serves as both a supplement to Portrait and as a transition between that album and the as-yet-unrecorded Antichrist Superstar, which the band will begin making early next year. "It is a bit of a bridge between what has been and what will be," Manson says, "because on Portrait things were always full throttle. There was nothing dynamically laid-back [on Portrait] in the way that we did on Smells Like Children, while on the next record there are a lot of those [laid-back] dynamics."

One curious track on Children, "White Trash," is a remake of "Cake and Sodomy" performed not by the band but by acoustic artist Tony Wiggins, who recently helped the band find some, uh, new ways to expand their boundaries. "The new record originally started out with a recording I had made over the past year with Wiggins," Manson states. "I met him last year while we were on tour with Danzig. He is a very dangerous person because he has no fear of the repercussions of his actions. He's very reckless and tends to be an exciting person to be around. He and I had gotten together on this human studies project, you could call it, in which he would tie people up and have them confess things to me."

The recording Manson originally intended to open Children with was that of a girl asking Wiggins to beat and choke her to near-death. But to Manson's dismay, Time-Warner -- the company that currently distributes Nothing -- did not want to handle the disc if the track was included, for fear of some manner of legal action. "They felt there was possibly a felony being committed, and without the clearance of everyone whose voice was on the recordings, they couldn't be sure exactly what had happened," says Manson. The punch line came when Time-Warner accidentally printed up several thousand copies of the record in its original version, then sent them out as advance copies. Although they were pulled from circulation, Manson points out the version is now being widely bootlegged. (Florida audiences might have the opportunity to see the dangerous Wiggins perform his politically incorrect, acoustic Southern-folk rock in person as an opening act on the Marilyn Manson tour, which rolls into Fort Lauderdale this Saturday and Sunday.)

Also featured in the pair of shows will be tunes slated for the upcoming album, which Manson says will point the band in new aural directions. "If anybody thought we crossed all the lines and said all that had to be said on Portrait, that's not the case," he asserts. "Musically, it's more aggressive in many ways, and less aggressive in many ways. It's more commercial, and completely uncommercial in many ways. It really digs into the positive and negative aspects of Marilyn Manson more, and shows both sides more than we've done in the past. Smells Like Children is a good transition. To me, at the point when we put it out, I thought one of the more shocking things I could do was to do a cover of a song like 'Sweet Dreams' or 'I Put a Spell on You,' because it was just very out of context for me. There are different ways of testing the boundaries without breaking the law."

For Manson -- who was raised in Ohio as a devout Christian, attended a private school where he was beaten up a lot by other kids, and was recently ordained as an honorary reverend of the Church of Satan by celebrated San Francisco satanist Anton LaVey -- testing the boundaries is not an act but a way to work out his aggression and air his philosophies. "Marilyn Manson, besides being our band and what I feel inside, is anyone who identifies with our music. I'm almost like a spokesperson for a generation of kids who are lost because they aren't allowed to be themselves. There's a real lack of icons and rock stars in music today; everything is very safe and bland, in easy-to-swallow caplets. Rock and roll has always been about causing a stir and saying something; even Jerry Lee Lewis used to set his piano on fire and fuck his thirteen-year-old cousin. When I was growing up, people who I was inspired by were David Bowie, Alice Cooper, Iggy Pop, KISS, Black Sabbath, and all these bands that were bigger than life. That's the way I learned about music, so it's not surprising to me or to anyone who knew me as a kid that that's what I would want to bring back to the music."

However, unlike the man whose surname he's borrowed, Manson insists he doesn't want to create a cult around himself. "Sometimes kids come up to me dressed like me or made up like me, and I let them know that's not the point," he notes. "The point is be yourself and do what makes you happy. I think that if we have a society or group of people that are individuals, it would be the polar opposite of fascism A very un-Christian, even satanic, if you will. There is a fine line, and it's a burden on my shoulders."

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