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Not-So-Spooky Kid

It was 4:40 p.m. when the telephone in my cubicle rang. "You will have 15 minutes," said the publicist on the other end of the line. A moment passed, and then another voice: "Hello? This is Marilyn Manson."

Although Manson, born Brian Warner, grew up in Ohio, South Florida is where he got his musical start. In fact his first gig was at Churchill's Pub in 1990, opening for the Goods. Recounting his past, he spoke slowly, pausing between words. He talked about his drug use, his divorce, his new relationship, and his moments of clarity as Brian Warner. After about 10 minutes, I felt like I was talking to some guy at a bar.

He was in the middle of explaining his newest film project when the line went dead. I looked at the digital voice recorder plugged into the telephone. My 15 minutes were up. I slammed the receiver down. I was sweating. "How did it go?" asked a co-worker. Suddenly the phone rang. "Hey, sorry about that.... Where were we?" Marilyn Manson had called me back.

"My life is a paranormal experience," he would later say as we discussed vampire and Christian mythology, his membership in the Church of Satan, and his friendship with the late Anton LaVey. "I drink absinthe on a daily basis. I've been through periods where I've done tons and tons of destructive things to myself." But we began with the basics, until things took a turn for the more philosophical:

What do you think of Miami?

South Florida is a good place to kick off the tour, because that is where I started. This new record (Eat Me, Drink Me) is really significant to me as a person, because I feel it is a resurrection of the period where I didn't want to make music anymore. So I have come full circle to start the American tour there. Everybody who hates me or who I fucked will be there to call me Brian, or expect me to remember them for something that probably wasn't the nicest thing in the past.

Do people still call you Brian or say, "Hey, you fucked my girlfriend"?

Not exactly, but there is a general rule that if anyone asks where Brian is, then it is someone that I am not close with. Even in my most intimate relationships, no one calls me that. It's not because I am trying to hide anything. The world knows my name, and over the years you become known as what you're known as. So that's not the secret to getting backstage.

You are always Marilyn Manson?

A better way of understanding it is that I've grown to understand myself onstage and offstage. It's not the difference between Brian Warner and Marilyn Manson; those two series of words are easily interchangeable.... It was a choice of whether I wanted to be somebody who communicated with the rest of the world. I realized that I spend most of my time talking about my feelings to strangers. I couldn't make some of the people closest to me understand me, and I couldn't understand myself. I realized instead of changing who I am to the public, I had to change who I was to the people around me. I had drifted away from being myself. Who I am and what I create always has to be one in the same or they both fall apart and die. Getting back to making this record. I like being me. It doesn’t mean that I’m happy and life is cheerful. But I am enjoying life as much as anybody … maybe even more so.

Obviously. [Laughter] You designed a set of tarot cards?

It was never an entire set, unfortunately. I would have liked it to be, but it was more designed to represent the art work for the Holy Wood album. There was such an element that I was fascinated about as a subject matter. But strangely enough, this new record that I’ve made genuinely represents the tarot deck without even really talking about it. There is so much symbolism…. That has become my inner makeup, and way of thinking after years of reading stuff about the tarot and alchemy. I didn’t really have to talk about it. With this new record, I was really just writing stuff down as you would in a diary. When I look back I can see that there is more symbolism related to that than I had intended. It is not something that I do every day; it is something that I learn from. The way that I see signs and coincidences.

I had a tarot card reading once. It was kind of startling.

That’s the way that it should be. If it is real it is always right. I’ve refused to listen to some warnings in the past and they’ve come back to haunt me. You know, you’re blinded by relationships and you’re warned that it isn’t right. You think that you can outrace destiny or fate. I recently had my tarot cards read by a friend of mine, he told me that this moment … this record was the first time that I have truly defined myself as a person.

 

And you believed that?

Well, that wasn’t what I was asking to hear. But I do believe it now.

How do you deal with the whirlwind of rumors and gossip that surrounds you? People wanted me to ask you about your divorce and your nose job and your new girlfriend….

Well, I’ve gotten used to making the division between reality and fiction. Something to my benefit, and I don’t mean in the press. I mean … the last time I was home I had movie lights around my house instead of proper lamps. I’m used to being on the set of a photo shoot or a film or a video or something. It became almost like a Fellini movie. Why should I bother trying to be normal and fit in, which is what happened to me over the course and towards the end of my marriage? I was expected to conform a little too much to what the public wanted. Because there was that expectation of the relationship … that that was how I would prove my worth as a partner. If I would suddenly be everything that I am against. I wrote a song about my feelings towards public perception and how that can destroy a person….

Are you still painting?

I haven’t had a chance. When I’m on the road, it’s impossible. But yes.

I read The Long Hard Road Out of Hell, and I have heard that you are working on a new novel?

It’s still in progress. I have a lot of stories to tell, that I’m sure would be interesting to people. There’s a bunch of stuff that I have to finish when the tour is over. There are a couple of movie roles that I’ve done; the films haven’t even come out yet. I’ve written a film about Lewis Carroll that I want to direct. It was supposed to begin at the end of last year, but I think for the best I decided to make the record and postpone the film. I have found a lot of things in common with Lewis Carroll. The whole book Alice in Wonderland is about loss of identity. She gets small; she can’t remember her name. I realize now that I was becoming —

Hello? Hello? (At this point in the interview, my allotted 15 minutes were up and we were cut off. About two minutes later my phone rang.)

Sorry about that, what was the last thing you heard?

You were talking about Lewis Carroll….

Oh yeah. I was very much either becoming the role that I was writing about …or I was already the role. Alice In Wonderland is more than just a fascination of mine, it was part of the inspiration for Eat Me, Drink Me. As well as the vampire mythology that is very related to Christianity. This idea of consuming somebody or being consumed and how that exists in religion and how as a person I felt objectified as a product being consumed. A lot of these things were going on in my head and the record is the end result of it.

You see yourself as a product?

As long as I’m in control of who I am, then I don’t have a problem with it. The only way that art can be art is if the artist and what they create are one and the same. When I started to separate the two, my creativity died and I had no feelings or desire to live. Now I can never be separate from my creativity. That’s why I can’t not be Marilyn Manson any more than I can not be Brian Warner. I can’t turn off how I think, and that’s really why I picked the name Marilyn Manson. Just to define my personality.

That’s pretty intense [laughter]. Okay … you’ve written quite a few songs about the drugs. [laughter] From what you’ve been saying about separating the work from your life....

Well, I’ve been through periods where I’ve done tons and tons of destructive things to myself. Drugs, alcohol and everything in between. And there have been periods where I’ve been completely depressed and then those periods where they become one and the same. Anyone who has any sense of intelligence knows that yes, drugs cause a lot of problems in life. A lot of people also run away from those problems and it becomes a cycle. It doesn’t matter what you are doing, its why.

 

I drink absinthe on a daily basis if I feel like it. Now I’m not doing it because I’m unhappy, it’s because I enjoy it. I found that my life becomes much more together if I enjoy what I’m doing. It doesn’t have as many ups and downs. I have a daily arc of up and down and you need that to be happy. I don’t ever want everything to be straight and narrow and normal. I don’t want everything to be chaotic all the time. If you are doing something because you are miserable then you are doomed. Fortunately I was able to get myself from feeling miserable. I just had to convince myself that this wasn’t the way I wanted things to be. In the record I explain everything that I was going through.

This last record, Eat Me, Drink Me?

Yeah … It’s a reincarnation of sorts. Of just bringing me back to who I started out being because I had drifted from it. This record is most like being close to me. People who don’t know me get a greater sense of my personality from this record … at least where I’m at in my life right now. I would just wake up and write a song. The record starts saying, “6:00 a.m. Christmas morning,” because that is when it was written. Music has to be the center of my life. I think before making this record last year I was listening to only a couple of records: Purple Rain, Diamond Dogs by Bowie … PJ Harvey … I was listening to Radiohead. These records all have a really dark, romantic idea of life. I was watching movies like Bonnie and Clyde, Harold and Maude, True Romance.

Was this a post-divorce thing?

No, because this record was written right in the thick of it. It wasn’t really a statement about it either. This record isn’t about my new relationship or my past relationship. It’s just about me and what I was going through. If it comes across as being more human … that says a lot about how inhuman I must consider myself.

Because you are not living for anyone except yourself?

Well, I also learned about surrender and sacrifice. When you look at the lyrics, it’s about the willingness to jump off a cliff with somebody. It’s rare to find somebody that you can share that feeling with. A lot of people are too afraid to have that sort of commitment. When you don’t believe in yourself you will fall off that cliff and die. People misinterpret sacrifice as, “What do I get out of it?” But that’s not a sacrifice. When you sacrifice you just give it. And that’s when you get what you want back. When I found somebody that I was willing to make that sacrifice for … I found all of this relationship to Christianity and vampire mythology, because those stories all have sacrifice in them.

Are you still a member of the Church of Satan?

Well, Anton LaVey has been dead for a while now. He mentored me on a philosophical level. I considered him a friend. I don’t feel like a spokesperson for them. The defining factor of it is individuality and not being afraid to believe something that a lot of people around you don’t … and not being ashamed of yourself for believing something different.

Have you had any paranormal experiences?

I think I generally have a very paranormal life. But as far as ghosts, nothing specific.You have to consider the value or downfall of experimenting with opening the doors of perception as well. Drinking absinthe and stuff like that … does that sort of thing exist in your mind, or in the real world?

Being objective. Do you drink absinthe every day?

Well, not every day. I didn’t drink it today….

Do you hallucinate when you drink it?

I wouldn’t say it’s that easy to define. I’ve been drinking it for quite some time. It’s the only alcohol that I drink, because I don’t really like the effects of other alcohol. I always stick to stuff that I feel that I have a mild sense of … the ability to predict the outcome of. I don’t like things that are completely out of your control.


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