The door opens slowly. A guy in shorts appears. He is a bodyguard, and he will stay with us for the duration of the interview. The windowless room is small, empty and dark. In a corner, sitting in a big, black chair, Marilyn Manson is waiting. He’s wearing a hat, black shirt, trousers and shoes, and, even though it’s pitch black, shades. He sips red absinthe while he talks about his new album Eat Me, Drink Me.
Q&A: Marilyn Manson
The former self-styled God of Fuck brought himself through divorce and depression by recording an album of emotionally open (for him) love songs, influenced by 1970s glam greats.
What’s the meaning of the title of the new album, and how did you come up with it?
It’s a quotation from the book Alice In Wonderland, because I’ve spent the last year writing a script about [its author] Lewis Carroll. In that sentence he’s making reference to religion and to the symbolism of Communion. The last song of the album has the same name. The theme of being consumed is very important in my life. For me romance is to be something you give yourself as sacrifice to be consumed.
The songs on the album were written after a very difficult time in your life: after your divorce from Dita Von Teese, and a period of deep depression.
I realised that I wasn’t able to make the person I was closest to feel something for something I had created. So I had to go through the transition of thinking I might have not picked the right person, or the right way to say it – so I started painting and doing cinema – and that I might have not picked the right way to be me. Most of all, I started to separate what I am from what I do. Becoming a singer again on this record had made me realise my identity, that I had yet to live up to my ability as a songwriter and a singer. So when I started doing that again I saw it was easier writing songs, and maybe I realised that those songs can make someone else feel something.
The main theme of the record is love and romance, isn’t it?
I think so. Romance and complete sacrifice. Fear ruins love all the time. Because people are afraid of it, they ruin it. The process of inspiration for making my record is me finding my identity, finding romance. I made a change in everything.
Yet in the song Putting Holes In Happiness you talk about death. What do you think there is after life?
I wrote that song after watching the film Bonnie And Clyde. When you face the idea of not having anything to live for, you should be able to live with as much reckless passion as possible. You would live the life of the characters of the books and movies you identify with. I don’t know if I believe in one way or another of what happens after death.
Do you believe in Hell and Heaven?
I think you need to create them when you’re still alive. If you’re afraid of dying, then you’re experiencing Hell, but on earth.
Besides Lewis Carroll there are other literary references on the album: Paradise Lost by John Milton, The Rape Of The Lock by Alexander Pope and The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot. Do you read and like poetry?
I do. And Charles Baudelaire’s The Flowers Of Evil was something I read a lot while I was making this album. But I didn’t deliberately pick themes and concepts to put through songs. I wrote these songs more like poems I had written in the past; a lot of times it would just be letting my unconscious mind build away. Now I look back and find those themes. I didn’t have to try to think about experiences and then create metaphors. So I would describe this record as just being me, and writing things that I just wanted to say or something that I might write in a poem or in a love letter.
In the song Putting Holes In Happiness you sing the line ‘blow out the candles on all my Frankensteins’.
Creating Marilyn Manson was like making a Frankenstein. But I always thought it was too obvious to associate me with a vampire or a Frankenstein so I’ve always avoided references to that. But I have changed so much about myself that some parts had become false, so you can feel like some kind of a monster. This record is me being happy.
On this album you sing, with a human voice, which is quite unusual for you.
I think that the monster in Dracula’s story is a romantic character who has only the weakness of his heart. By showing all these human characteristics I wasn’t trying to intentionally make something that people would accept as being human. By showing this other side I’m showing something that I rarely ever wanted, or didn’t understand how, to do before – because to be me is the most difficult thing.
In Heart-Shaped Glasses you remember when you were a teenager, went to school and were in love with a girl dressed in white. That song sounds like new wave of the 80s, like The Cure, which is not typical of a Marilyn Manson song.
I associate that stuff to a particular period which I’m remembering in the lyrics. I think that I was happy to feel that I did what I was expecting. Even this song is a typical Marilyn Manson song – whatever it is expected to be. The music, by Tim Skold, was really being the mirror of what I wanted to say, and I think he was aware of that when he was writing the guitar part. I don’t think I encouraged him in any way. I was listening to albums like Diamond Dogs by David Bowie, or For Your Pleasure by Roxy Music. This is my most communicative album. There has always been a barrier between me and the world. This one is more open.
After the massacre in Columbine you became a scapegoat because the guys who committed the slaughter used to listen to your music. Who do you think could be blamed for the Virginia Tech massacre? What do you think of what happened there?
It’s always going to have something to do with whatever they are trying to use as an excuse for something they want to do. I wouldn’t be surprised if I got blamed once again. But there has to be a point when people can simply take responsibility themselves for what they do. When you turn on the news and you see violence it’s because of the war. The American Government is a source of endless violence.
Who do you think or hope will become the next President of the USA?
I don’t find myself able to associate with the concerns of the outside world, with politics or religion. My world became so small that I had to convince myself that I wanted to even exist. I suddenly realised I don’t really care about telling the world anymore what they should believe or what I believe. What I want to say is in this album.
By using a quote from Alice In Wonderland for the title of his new album Eat Me, Drink Me, Manson isn’t the first person in rock to have used the Lewis Carroll classic for inspiration. Among many others examples are: Jefferson Airplane’s song White Rabbit, the Charisma Records logo, Paice Ashton Lord’s album Malice In Wonderland, Siouxsie & The Banshees’ record label Wonderland and their album Through The Looking Glass, Stevie Nicks’ Alice on her album The Other Side Of The Mirror, while Aerosmith’s Sunshine (from Just Push Play) mentions Alice and other characters in the book.