Before he remixed the names of silver-screen siren Marilyn Monroe and murderous cult leader Charles Manson to become Marilyn Manson—Satanic scapegoat for the religious right and others—Ohio-born, Florida-bred Brian Warner was an aspiring music critic simply aching to tell people about good tunes.
On the eve of departing for the Mayhem Festival Tour with his childhood favorites Slayer, an almost disarmingly friendly Manson spoke with Metromix about his own form of gonzo journalism and the intense recording process that fueled his most recent (and most personal) album, “The High End of Low.”
You were a music journalist before you were in a band, right?
Yeah, and instead I went into rock and roll.
Thank God for that, because why do we need yet another fake music journalist or tabloid reporter?
You should be asking yourself that question.
I do! I probably ask myself that question on a daily basis, but we’re still here doing it.
Well, I had heroes like Legs McNeil and Hunter S. Thompson, both of whom I got to know later in life. There is journalism that is not part of the “media” that represents what I often criticize, because I consider myself still a journalist in the way that I am talking about what I see. It comes from a journal. That’s not the same as a TV news reporter who is a mannequin with orange makeup on their face that’s told to say something. The one thing I never did when I was a writer: I never wrote about anything that I thought was a waste of time. If you write a novel about something you detest, it doesn’t really make sense. It is a part of a new culture of cynicism that is uncreative and lazy.
Did it help to be back with your old bandmate Twiggy Ramirez on this album?
We are like brothers and we have grown up together. I’ve seen him fornicate, or not be able to fornicate, or whatever. He’s like my little brother; we’ve been through it all and when that’s gone there’s a void. We both did things apart from each other that we’re both proud of, but I don’t think we could ever make anything as great as we can when we’re together. I think this record marks a new start of realizing that again. And this record, to me, has the raw, ugly, funny, scary nastiness and musical growth on his part that was never there before. I like this record because, if somebody wants to know me, I just hand them this record. I’d never been able to do that before. I could do that with my book, I could do it with something else, but not with music.
You’ve said that you recorded much of the last album [2007’s “Eat Me, Drink Me”] while lying down, with the microphone over your head. Did you do any weird or different techniques for this album?
It was definitely different. I found it really difficult to work at home, so we went to a studio and I created a schedule for myself. That was 8 p.m. to 4 a.m., and I showed up about 3 a.m. and sometimes very deprived of sleep and malnutrition and everything and I did a lot of the vocals without having them written in front of me. I did not sing on my back; I actually had a chair I call the cockpit that was like an airplane chair that reclined. I intended to use it—I used it for other purposes, but I sang most of the time kneeling. I'd sit on my knees usually, and I had 30 or so notebooks that I ultimately never consulted. I just started to sing from whatever encyclopedia of ideas I had lodged in the back of my head. I would say nearly every take on the record is the first attempt, and maybe I added to it, but nothing on the record was ever re-thought.
Will your live show consist mostly of songs from “The High End of Low”? How has your show evolved?
We’re doing mostly songs that Twiggy and I have written over the years, and I want to keep a spontaneous element to the set list. If one night I feel like doing a 45-minute version of “I Want to Kill You Like They Do in the Movies,” then that’s what I’m gonna do. My philosophy is, what are they gonna do, leave? I don’t really care. I wanna do what feels right.
So your fans who follow your tour will see all different shows, then?
Yeah, to me, if it gets static and boring to us then it must be that to [the audience]. If we entertain ourselves and the people with us, that’s the most difficult accomplishment. I have a very short attention span.
Everyone else does too, luckily.
To impress myself with myself isn’t easy, so I’m raising the bar right now. I want to give people what I think they want, but I’m not gonna give people what they ask for because I’m not a waiter.
You loved Slayer as a kid, so is there like a tiny 10-year-old Brian Warner in you somewhere that is like, “Holy crap, I’m touring with Slayer!”
A little tiny Brian Warner in me? If there is, then I’d have to get an abortion.