Worship Satan, but Protect Your Assets
The Beatles had drummer Pete Best. The Rolling Stones had keyboardist Ian Stewart. Pink Floyd had guitarist Syd Barrett. Unfortunate schlubs who, by their own choice or by the design of others, disappeared from the lineups just before the bands achieved cosmological stardom.
Now add to that list another name: Scott Putesky, cofounder and original guitarist of the satanically bent industrial-metal group Marilyn Manson, with whom he performed under the moniker Daisy Berkowitz. Putesky was with the band from its 1990 inception in Fort Lauderdale through the recording of its three albums and several national tours. Then he suddenly dropped out.
Since that time U.S. sales of Marilyn Manson's first album, Portrait of an American Family, have nearly reached 400,000 copies; the second album, Smells Like Children, has sold more than 840,000; and the third, Anti-Christ Superstar, has exceeded 1.2 million, according to SoundScan, a respected music-tracking company in Hartsdale, New York. The group -- which sings about sodomy and mutilation, among other delights -- was named Rolling Stone's Best New Artist this year and has toured its grotesque brand of shock rock around the globe.
But the 29-year-old Putesky isn't exactly about to smear on some black lipstick and join the legions of fans to cheer the group's success. He recently filed suit against the band, the band's attorney, the band's record company, and the band's cofounder and lead singer Brian Warner (a.k.a. Marilyn Manson), alleging that he is a victim of attorney malpractice and breach of contract, and that he is owed thousands of dollars in record royalties, publishing rights, performance fees, and merchandise sales.
While the Broward circuit court lawsuit goes after a number of people, most of Putesky's anger seems directed at his former friend and partner, the 28-year-old Warner. "He was so set on being a success that he did what it took to get there," says the guitarist in a recent interview at the Aventura office of his attorney, entertainment lawyer Richard Wolfe. "He lost sight of any friendships."
Adds Wolfe: "This man [Warner] is not a Satan worshiper. He's the ultimate capitalist!"
Putesky contends that while he and Warner started out on equal footing in the group -- Putesky wrote the music, Warner supplied the lyrics, and they jointly created the name and ghoulish aesthetic -- the singer, in part through a "conspiracy" with the band's attorney, gradually muscled him out of the picture. At the legal crux of this contention is a partnership agreement that the bandmembers signed in 1993, right after they inked a seven-record deal with Nothing Records Inc., the label belonging to Trent Reznor of the rock group nine inch nails. According to Wolfe, the terms of the agreement were drawn up by the band's Los Angeles-based lawyer, David Codikow, after he consulted with Warner only. As a result, Wolfe asserts, the agreement favored the singer and gave him disproportionate control over the band and its finances.
For one thing, the agreement granted Warner exclusive rights to the band's name "Marilyn Manson," which, according to Wolfe, essentially invested Warner with the power to control personnel. "He can say 'Fuck you' to every guy in the group, take the name, and get new guys," the lawyer notes. The agreement also gave the frontman exclusive control of all tour, merchandising, and publishing revenues, as well as artist royalties, Wolfe says.
Putesky admits he didn't read the document before signing it. "I wanted to make efforts to find out more about the whole legal process, but I was rushed into signing it," says the guitarist, who at various times sported green hair, shaved eyebrows, and gobs of eerie face makeup, but who in off-stage repose looks, well, ordinary: a thin, pimply-faced guy in baggy corduroy shorts and a Beastie Boys T-shirt. "I was told that doing the record on time was more important," he continues, "that going on tour was more important, that getting the right clothes was more important."
Wolfe jumps in: "Codikow was supposed to be representing everyone equally, when he was really representing Warner. When he chose to help Warner and fuck the others, he had an inherent conflict. If there's a conflict, you have to point it out. It's our contention that Codikow acted in a conspiracy with Warner."
Putesky also alleges that he hasn't received a dime in royalties for the songs he either co-wrote or performed, or for the all the Marilyn Manson T-shirts, posters, and other paraphernalia bearing his likeness that now adorn the walls of adolescent kids worldwide. (According to Wolfe, Marilyn Manson sold more merchandise than any other rock group last year.) By Putesky's accounting, he performed on all of the tracks on the first two recordings and co-wrote most of them; he also co-wrote five and played on six of the songs on the third album.
While the specifics of his departure from the band are not part of the lawsuit, Putesky believes that he was gradually "forced out" by Warner. Trouble started sometime between the first and second records, the guitarist recalls. "He wanted to work more with [bassist] Jeordie White [a.k.a. Twiggy Ramirez] on songs and didn't want to take any of my suggestions or demos," he recalls. In addition, Putesky says Warner was abusive toward him, repeatedly breaking his guitars and knocking over his amps during live shows, and once pushed him off the stage during a concert in New York City -- all of which, in Putesky's mind, went beyond the band's normal hell-raising style of performance. In another blow to his morale, Putesky was left out of the photograph of the band that was displayed in an exhibit of up-and-coming acts at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.
The deathblow, Putesky says, was that Warner all but shut him out of the studio during the recording of Anti-Christ Superstar in New Orleans in the spring of 1996. "I was only in the studio a couple of days; they didn't want me to play," he says. Then, without Putesky even asking, Warner bought him a plane ticket to fly home. Soon after that he quit and plunged into solo projects. In the meantime he tried to negotiate a settlement with the band. Unable to reach an accord, he turned to Wolfe and got litigious.
"Obviously we deny the allegations," rebutted Kelly Coleman, a colleague of Codikow, then declined further comment. Attorneys representing the other defendants either declined comment or failed to return phone calls. Warner was also unavailable; the band is on tour in Europe.
Putesky is not the only disgruntled musician haunting Marilyn Manson. In 1995 the group's original bassist, Brad Stewart, also filed suit in Broward circuit court, alleging that he is owed money from royalties, publishing rights, and merchandising revenues. Stewart (who took the stage handle Gidget Gein) was booted shortly after recording the band's first album, allegedly because of a substance-abuse problem. His attorney, John Francis of Fort Lauderdale, refused to comment on the case because it is pending.
Says Wolfe, who also represented Luther Campbell during the breakup of rap group 2 Live Crew: "I think there is a moral to the story: You have to segregate the business side from the artistic side. A lot of these young musicians don't do that. Unfortunately, when they wake up and realize what's happening, it's too late, because fame is fleeting.