I drunk dialed Marilyn Manson. I didn’t plan on doing this. It wasn’t part of some stupid journalism experiment. It happened by accident. Hours before the interview, I poured myself a glass of liquid courage. One glass led to two, and before I knew it I’d polished off a bottle of red wine, on an empty stomach no less. As I dialed Manson’s assistant, trying (and not always succeeding) to broker communication between my brain and fingers, the terrible reality sunk in: I was shitcanned.
This is not usual behavior for me. I don’t normally get drunk before an interview. It’s my job and I take it seriously. I’ve never been star stuck and I rarely get nervous, but something about Manson had me jittery. I have a small anxiety about clowns, and Manson definitely has a “clown with an S&M fetish” look going on. But my uneasiness with Manson runs deeper than pancake makeup and colored contacts. He has a history of unkindness towards journalists. Back in the early ’90s, when he was still relatively unknown, Manson purportedly threatened a writer in Fort Lauderdale for publishing his real name, promising mob justice from his loyal fans. And then in 2009, after the LA Weekly ran a story about Manson liking cocaine and having a beer belly, he responded on his MySpace blog with an unsubtle threat to the “soon-to-be-murdered-in-their-home press,” daring them to “write one more thing you won’t say to my face. Because I will make you say it.”
Okay, so that’s just two examples of threats to journalists that may or may not have been hollow, but it’s two more than literally anyone else I’ve ever interviewed. Oh, and Manson’s also an honorary priest in the Church of Satan, so he probably knows all sorts of hexes he could use on me. Rationally, I know that’s not true, just like the rumors aren’t true that Manson slaughters puppies during his stage show. But even so, I’m not letting him dog sit for me.
I did the right thing. I told Manson that I was a teensy bit drunk. He thought it was funny, and admitted that he too had been imbibing in adult substances. Just before our interview, he said, he’d smoked some marijuana and had a glass or two of absinthe. I could hear it in his voice. He wasn’t slurring his words, but he was definitely feeling groovy. We were just two dudes who’d gotten recreationally medicated during the late afternoon, 4 pm Pacific Coast time, a time of day when most professional people are proudly unintoxicated. Maybe it was our altered states, but I really liked Manson. He was funny and well-spoken, and his weirdness never felt forced.
He invited me to hang out backstage at a show on his upcoming tour and I’m tempted, although there’s still a part of me that thinks I’ll end up with scars both physical and emotional. I’ll tell you one thing, I’m going to need something stronger than a bottle of red wine before I willingly cross that threshold.
You’re going on tour with Rob Zombie next week.
Yeah, back on tour. We’ve done a few shows together in Europe, mostly festivals. This will be the first live show where we represent Marilyn Manson as it now exists. When I was making (my new album) Born Villain, I had to admit to myself that I needed to make a comeback. I had to swallow the bitter concept that I didn’t think I was who I should be.
You weren’t who you … what again?
I didn’t want to be who I used to be, but I didn’t like who I was.
Okay so … let me make sure I have this. You wanted to make a comeback, but as someone else?
I wanted to start from scratch and put all of my baboons and rifles and everything people imagine I have into storage.
You have baboons?
I just brought my books and my movies and my paints and cameras and musical instruments. The walls are wiped and the floors are waxed. It’s one of those situations where it’s like being trapped in an apocalyptic scenario, like a zombie film, where you just have a pencil and a paper. It’s a good metaphor because you could use the paper for anything. You could write a love letter. You could use it to write a will, a suicide note, a song, a poem, you could draw a picture on it. You can use it to whip your ass. You can eat it.
I’m not sure how writing a poem is going to protect you from zombies.
Well, you also have the pencil, which you can use as a weapon. The pencil is a sword metaphor and all that. But also you have to remember with the pencil, you need to sharpen it. It’s going to run out eventually, so you have to make sure to chose your words carefully.
You’ve been doing this for about 18 years.
Sure, that. But also making music and touring with a band. Is it as fun as it was back in the go-go ’90s?
It’s like it was in the beginning. When (guitarist) Twiggy (Ramirez) came back, it was almost like being back together with an ex-girlfriend. I think I needed to prove to him, to myself and to everyone else around me that while I am still chaos and I have every right to be, I’m also reliable. I’m a tornado, but you just have to put the thumbtack down on which city you want me to hit.
On this tour you’re hitting some pretty conservative cities. You’ll be in Topeka, Kansas; Salt Lake City, Utah; Little Rock, Arkansas; Lincoln, Nebraska. Are you worried about visiting any of them?
Worried like …? Define worried.
Like maybe a few will have police waiting for your tour bus at the border.
Game on. I have a cat with me.
A cat? Am I too drunk to get that reference?
[Laughs.] No, I don’t know what that means either. I don’t know what a cat has to do with it.
So you’re not worried?
Last Halloween, I went to Las Vegas because some foolish person decided it would be a good idea to pay me to host a party at the Bellagio. I couldn’t really resist because I had no other plans, so I took a bunch of friends cross-country, which wasn’t really far from Los Angeles. But on the way there, we purchased some samurai swords from a truck stop. I found that they’re not very sturdy when you want to stab someone.
Someone? As in a person?
No, no. I tried to stab the bed in the hotel with one of them but it didn’t work. After the show, I went out with some friends, and there was a write-up about it in Page Six of the New York Post. It said something like, “Marilyn Manson went to a karaoke bar at 4 in the morning and requested to sing Justin Timberlake’s “Cry Me a River” six times in a row and when the stereo broke he got mad and shotgunned a beer with a samurai sword and then tried to steal a limousine.” And that was all true. I don’t know who leaked the story, but I was very impressed. They got all the details right.
Assuming you leave the samurai swords at home, is there anything else you wouldn’t want border police to find on your tour bus?
There are many things.
Anything similar to what got Willie Nelson and Snoop Dogg busted in Texas over the last few years?
Oh, you’re asking about drugs.
There we go.
I hide those in my nose or I smoke them. The chances of finding drugs on me are pretty slim because I usually ingest them if I’m going to have them. I was thinking about adopting a kid that I could use to hide my drugs. [Laughs.] You gave me that idea, now it’s your fault.
That’s actually not bad.
No, no, I would never use a child as a way to hide drugs. It’s inappropriate.
But theoretically, if you did use a baby as a drug repository, how would you do it? Where would you hide them?
Yeah. Where’s a good place to store narcotics on an infant?
[Laughs.] Oh, you want to go into this? Okay, sure.
You brought it up, man. Let’s take this train all the way to the end.
Well, you have the rattles. Or the diapers.
They’d check all that. Especially if it’s your kid.
In the baby’s soft spot! That’s where you put it. The soft spot. Put it right in there and then put a little ski cap on top.
The perfect crime.
They’d never know. Also, you know what’s a better idea? I would get a stripper who has breast implants and I would take the breast implant out and replace it with sort of a drug implant. It’d have a special valve that I could switch on and squirt the absinthe out of the nipple.
You know what I like about you, Marilyn? You’re not shy about how much you love drugs. But you don’t come out and say, “Hey kids, drugs are cool.”
Absolutely. Kids, do not do drugs unless it’s with me. And then, bring your own. I’ve learned my lessons. I know the right way to drink and take drugs.
What’s the right way?
Well obviously, drugs contribute to whatever mood you’re in. Drink and do drugs when you’re in a good mood, not when you’re in a bad mood. The results will be better. Take them when you’re happy and they’ll make you happier. Take them when you’re sad or angry, and it’ll make everything worse.
You’ve been to rehab, right?
I have. I did my time and was detoxed and all that. I made an interesting friend while I was there, a 90-year-old woman. I was there when she was getting checked in. They took away her hairspray. I asked her about it afterwards and she said, “They thought I was going to inhale it.” And I was like, “You’re 90! If you want to huff your hairspray at 90, you should be able to do it.” You know what I mean? You should be able to blow it up your ass if you want. You get to 90, you get to do anything you want. That’s my feeling, anyway.
You’ve never huffed hairspray?
I haven’t. I’ve been addicted to a lot of things, but not that. I’m addicted to being alive. I’m addicted to breasts and vaginas. I’m addicted to not dying. [Laughs.] I’m addicted to breathing air. It’s almost like the word love. It’s used so broadly, it doesn’t really have the same power anymore. People say things like “I love that TV show” or “I love that food.” So then you tell someone you love them, it doesn’t mean anything. I’ve broken a lot of promises in relationships of all sorts. And I’m someone who has made plenty of mistakes on a regular basis. Just before I talked to you, I cut myself shaving, and it wasn’t on my face. And it bled quite a lot.
Wait, are you telling me you cut yourself while shaving your balls? I feel like that’s what you’re telling me.
I feel like that’s what I’m telling you.
[We both burst into laughter.]
When I asked Ryan my assistant to examine it with his flashlight, I don’t think he was entirely comfortable. I’ll tell you this, Alice Cooper lied when he said only women bleed.
“With drugs, I try to use common sense. Some drugs are good, some are terrible. Heroin, you’re probably going to end up dead. Crystal meth, your teeth are going to fall out. You can’t lump those drugs in with things like absinthe or cocaine. It’s like comparing having anal sex with a dog with getting a blowjob from your girlfriend. Wait, no, the other way around. It’s like comparing getting a blowjob from your dog with having anal sex with … you know?”
I have no idea how we got here. We were talking about drugs and the semantics of love. And all of a sudden, you’re telling me about your bloody scrotum.
Drugs, drugs, right. With drugs, I try to use common sense. Some drugs are good, some are terrible. Heroin, you’re probably going to end up dead. Crystal meth, your teeth are going to fall out. You can’t lump those drugs in with things like absinthe or cocaine. It’s like comparing having anal sex with a dog with getting a blowjob from your girlfriend. Wait, no, the other way around. It’s like comparing getting a blowjob from your dog with having anal sex with … you know?
I don’t. Which one represents heroin? Anal sex with your dog?
A blowjob from a dog.
Right, yeah. So cocaine is … doing what to your girlfriend? I’m confused.
Anal sex or a blowjob, I forget which. [Pause.] Either way, I don’t have a dog. [Laughs.]
What’s on your drug curriculum vitae? Is there anything you haven’t tried?
I’ve done a lot.
Have you sampled every drug in Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas?
How many are there?
Well hold on, I have the book right in front of me. [Pauses, finds quote.] “We had two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high powered blotter acid, a salt shaker half full of cocaine, and a whole galaxy of multi-colored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers …”
“Also, a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of beer, a pint of raw ether, and two dozen amyls.”
I’ve done some of that, but not everything. I was good friends with Hunter and I miss him. Johnny Depp introduced us. Hunter had a penchant for calling me at five in the morning and saying “Manson, Marilyn, Brian, shit eyes.” I was like, “Did you just call me shit eyes? What does that mean?” I’ll never know.
Did he ever give you career advice? Or drug advice?
He gave me legal advice, actually.
Oh sweet Moses. And you took it?
He called me once after I’d been arrested for sexual assault. During a show in Detroit, I rubbed my crotch against a security guard’s head. They wanted to put me in prison for rape as a sex offender. So I’m an exonerated sex offender. I had to fly to Michigan on September 12th, the day after September 11th. I was the only one on the plane. I get there, and my lawyer tells me I could go to prison for two years for rape. I’d have to go knock on doors like that guy in The Big Lebowski. “Eight-year-olds, Dude.”
That’s almost worth it. I mean, maybe not for you.
[Laughs.] Yeah, I was going to say.
But how awesome to be one of your neighbors? The doorbell rings and you open the door and there’s Marilyn Manson in full makeup, saying “I’m court ordered to tell you…”
Well, luckily people saw that this guy just wanted money from a lawsuit and it didn’t happen. But the night before my court date, I tried to go to sleep early, and trying to sleep without drinking is a real horrible phenomenon. I made it through the night somehow, and my phone rings at 7 am and it’s Hunter. He says, “What are you doing?” And I tell him I’m getting ready to go to court to see if I’m going to prison for fourth-degree criminal sexual assault. And he tells me, “Rent a car and drive to Mexico right now! Just do it.”
But you didn’t take his advice?
No. I love the guy, but I knew that running away would only make it worse.
If dry-humping a bodyguard’s face is what happens onstage at one of your shows, the mind boggles at what sexual shenanigans are happening backstage.
It’s pretty tame. At least for me. The combination of always having a girlfriend on tour with me and my aversion to … people I don’t know touching me.
You don’t want strangers putting their grubby hands on you?
Right, yeah. And I’ve been doing this long enough to know that the hot girls are not in the front row at concerts. The hot girls are somewhere in the back, just being hot. Also, I know how I smell after a show, so the girls who were in the front, with all those bodies pressed against them, I can’t even imagine what they smell like. You’ve got all these factors involved, and I’m a bit of a germaphobe anyway.
You make a convincing case.
But I’ve done some things. I’ve been involved in some activities I’m not proud of. I did get into a precarious situation where it ended up really scary. There was a bus driver for Danzig when we were on tour with them, Tony Wiggins, who was generally I think a dangerous person.
You know this because … it takes one to know one?
He was dangerous in a different way from me. I wouldn’t want to fall asleep around him. He would hogtie girls with an apparatus where if you didn’t keep your arms back far enough it would start to choke you.
He said to me once, “Manson, I’ve got this girl tied up. I want you to come in and get her to confess to sins. We’ll videotape it.” This sounded real good on paper.
It did? Which part?
Well, the whole thing just wasn’t as nasty in my imagination. So I walked into the room—we were in Kansas, I think—and I instantly felt bad for this girl because she had psoriasis or something. Now, I just play a misogynist on TV. I’m not nearly as bad as I seem. So this was kind of odd for me.
Not odd enough to get the hell out of there?
No, not at first. I started asking her questions. And it went way south from there. I won’t even get into details about what she said, but it was not what I expected to hear. And then cops started knocking on the door, who we managed to elude. She didn’t scream or anything because she wanted to be there.
Well that’s good.
Plus she was passed out and we thought she was dead.
And we’re back to creepy.
So that ended that whole adventure. It kind of nipped in the bud any inclination I had towards groupies. It just never seems like a smart idea.
I heard you brought your dad to your performance at the Sunset Strip Music Festival last month. Is he a fan?
Oh yeah, absolutely. He loves it.
With all due respect, that’s insane. I can’t imagine a parent of yours beaming with pride, saying “See that guy up there, near the girl simulating an abortion? The one with fake boobs, covered in cow’s blood? That’s my boy!”
Well, you haven’t talked to my dad. He’s nuts.
In this father-son relationship, who’s more embarrassed by whom?
When I was in the fifth grade, the first time I had friends over from Christian school, my dad would always like to tell his favorite joke. He’d say, “Hey, have you ever sucked a sweeter dick than mine?” [Laughs.] How do you answer that? Whether you say yes or no, you’re admitting to something.
And to say that to a fifth grader!
Yeah, that’s trouble. I’ve found it’s never a good idea to bring up oral sex around ten year olds.
People tell me, “Oh your dad seems so normal.” Well, he did go to Vietnam and shoot a lot of strangers. So in that sense, he has been around the block.
Weirdness seems to run in your family. In your autobiography The Long Hard Road Out of Hell, you wrote about your Grandpa Jack, who was apparently masturbating with train sets in his basement.
Yeah. We found out later he wasn’t my dad’s real father. But that’s a whole other story.
But he was a part of your family. And according to you, he had an affinity for bestiality porn and dildos.
You know what’s interesting about that?
People think older generations are more conservative. No one realizes that our grandparents, they’re the one who invented anal sex, S&M, drugs, bombs. They started that shit. It’s not us. They’re the ones who got the whole thing going.
“I’ve had moments where I’ve told girls that if they fought my girlfriend in a nude pillow fight and won that I would have sex with them, and then my girlfriend proceeded to pull out a pencil—and this comes back to my pencil metaphor—and started stabbing a pillow and there were feathers everywhere, and the girls just sat there and didn’t do anything.”
How old are you now? 43?
Do you find yourself getting weirder as you get older, or more mellow and conservative?
I don’t know about mellow. But the adventures change. I went to Passover with one of my friends last year. I thought it was an adventure because it’s basically just a drinking game with funny hats. Twenty years ago, I don’t know if I would’ve been as fascinated by it. But now, going to a Passover, that’s an adventure for me. Also, going to Home Depot in the day time, that’s an adventure. I’m like, “What is that thing in the sky? Oh, that’s the sun.” I had no idea it was there.
When you’re on tour, what’s your post-show recreation? Do you take a handful of pills and drink all night? Or do you take a big dump while reading Us Weekly and then go to bed?
I’m usually pretty exhausted after a show, so I’ll watch a movie and get a good seven, eight hours of sleep so I can make sure this gravelly larynx of mine will still be functioning tomorrow. That doesn’t mean I haven’t found myself in interesting situations. I’ve had moments where I’ve told girls that if they fought my girlfriend in a nude pillow fight and won that I would have sex with them, and then my girlfriend proceeded to pull out a pencil—and this comes back to my pencil metaphor—and started stabbing a pillow and there were feathers everywhere, and the girls just sat there and didn’t do anything.
Wait, you’re not being hypothetical? This really happened?
This was at the IQ Music Festival in Serbia (in June). And I said to these girls, “You know that some day you’re going to have kids. I know that you will. And your kids are going to spit on you. Because you’re going to say, ‘I was in Marilyn Manson’s hotel room in Serbia, and he challenged us to have a pillow fight with his girlfriend, and we did not engage in this warfare. We claimed we were too tired.’ Your kids will be ashamed of you.” And I sent them on their way.
So there was no girl-on-girl pillow fight?
Nope. Sorry. [Laughs.] It can’t all be a rock ‘n’ roll fantasy. Sometimes people are pussies.
Born Villain is out now on Cooking Vinyl. Marilyn Manson’s tour begins on September 28 in Phoenix, Ariz. Stream his single “No Reflection” below: