BY: Anthony DeCurtis
Manson points out that his act only uses the tools made available to him by the media machine. "Marilyn Manson is a criticism of gimmickry," he once explained to me, "while being itself a gimmick."
The Manson critique includes a highly theatrical brand of bone-crunching, guitar-driven rock & roll and lyrics that harshly denounce the crushing effects of conformity. Rather than face life's confusing freedom and difficult choices, Manson says, people disown their humanity to become, as one of his album titles puts it, "mechanical animals."
It is Manson's fascination with violence (which, he points out, we get in a constant stream from many sources) that raises hackles. And it must be said that his message isn't always clear. His songs are laced with nihilism ("All your infants in abortion cribs/I was born into this/Everything turns to sh-t") and blasphemy ("When I’m God everybody dies").
The persona he assumes--he never breaks character in public--is a distinctly unsettling, sexually indeterminate blend of pancake makeup, bondage gear, lipstick, mascara, and religious imagery. The formula has sold nearly 5 million albums.
|I used to have nightmares about the Antichrist.|
Though he has flirted with Satanism, his philosophy has far more to do with the radical individualism of Nietzsche or Ayn Rand than devil worship. Manson, a 32-year-old product of Ohio and Florida, is as gripped by religion, as Christ-haunted, as anyone I've ever met. Here he explains the origins of that ambivalent attraction.
During my visit to his Hollywood Hills home in 1997, Manson posed next to a gruesome crucifix for part of a filmed interview. Later, seated on his terrace with the grid of lights that is Los Angeles twinkling in the background, he did seem seductively satanic, tempting viewers with all the kingdoms of this world--or, at least, all the potential delights of L.A. "Maybe I should become a Christian and make them all happy," he said. "But I think if I found Jesus--which, I didn't know he was lost in the first place--I don't think he would be all that different from me."
Manson spoke to me recently about the current state of his soul from his home in the city of the (fallen) angels, Los Angeles.
What was your religious upbringing?
My first memories of religion were being taken to Episcopal church. My father was Catholic, but my mother, I believe, was Episcopal. So I sort of veered off into the watered-down version of Catholicism.
At the same time I was going to a nondenominational Christian school, where I was taught a very underhanded form of Christianity. For example, my Bible teacher would ask the class, "Is there anyone in the room that’s Catholic?” or “Is there anyone that’s Jewish?" If there was no response, she would talk about how wrong those other religions interpreted the Bible. So at an early age, Christians already started to appear to me as people who believed that their interpretation of God was the only one that was right.