Q&A: Marilyn Manson

The rocker talks Ozzfest, his last pre-fame summer and groupies

Marilyn Manson Credit: Mick Hutson/Redferns

What Does Marilyn Manson Have in store for this summer's Ozzfest? "I plan on doing things that most people say won't work in a festival environment," he promises. "Whether that's a chorus line of girls or me singing to piano accompaniment to disabled women in the nude –— whatever the case may be, I want to bring a new definition of family fun." No doubt that includes tracks from his new CD, The Golden Age of Grotesque, and the sort of stage play that led Italian authorities to speculate that Manson's genitals were detachable. Read on!

The last time you played Ozzfest, things didn't go so well.
We were a year into our record being out, and we'd just survived Columbine. It was a battle. But we walked away from that tour playing with every band on the radio that was clearly, in technical standards, more popular than us. And we showed people who was really running the show.

Did you make friends with other bands?
I think on the last Ozzfest, the Osbournes definitely embraced me as a family member. Not only did I take Jack Osbourne to his first strip bar and have to baby-sit for some of the other youngsters, but I got close to Ozzy and Sharon as well.

What's the strangest thing that's ever happened to you on tour?
I was arrested in Rome – not for wearing a pope's outfit, which I think was the reason they wanted to arrest me, but it wasn't illegal. But someone came with a complaint from a concert that happened two years prior, saying that I pulled off my genitals and threw them to the audience. Very strange. I don't know if it was a breakdown in the translation.

You don't have that power?
At the show, I did not throw my genitals. I still have them.

What other kind of problems have you encountered on tour?
There are the constant death threats. And, for anybody who thinks I don't have problems anymore with conservative American protests, we've been banned from playing Buffalo.

How do you deal with the summer heat?
I've never really had a problem with temperature. But I'm obviously not a big fan of the sun.

Do you use sunscreen?
I never go out in the sun, so I don't have to. I don't think we're gonna be playing in direct sunlight.

When you're having a bad show, is there any surefire thing that you can do to make it work?
I guess the only thing that would make it a bad show is if I'm unable to deliver when I need to. I always just end up being violent. In the past it's been more extreme, whether creating the 300 or so scars that I have all over myself or, in the last couple of years, destroying equipment. But that always has to be honest; it can't be something you do because people expect it.

What were you doing the summer before you got famous?
That was around the time of "Sweet Dreams" – I was in New Orleans recording Antichrist Superstar, my second album. I was probably putting myself one step closer to the grave everyday. I was digging up bones and doing drugs and sleeping in the basement of a ratinfested apartment. And it wasn't becoming famous that saved me, but it was knowing that my willpower had started to accomplish something that made me feel as if I had a purpose that was more important than self-destruction.

On a more positive note, are groupies better during the summer?
Well, they're sweatier. Groupies are a strange thing for me, because I have this fatherly Boy Scout-leader quality – I have a sense of respect for people who are a part of what I do, and I don't feel the need to disrespectfully abuse them. But the heat gets people acting strange. The last time we did Ozzfest, we had the bus that everybody envied. We had a better way of dealing with the entry into our private domain – it started with wet T-shirt contests, but that seemed just too spring break. So I made it more of a "whoever can get undressed the quickest" kind of vibe. Then it became a thing with girls in bondage being forced to do improvisational dances to the Geto Boys. It was a strange performance-art thing where everybody genuinely enjoyed it.

When you were growing up, do you remember any really good summer shows?
The best thing was taking acid and going to the first Lollapalooza and seeing the Butthole Surfers. Things started to get kind of strange, because there was this family behind me that was all covered in warts. I don't know if it was the drugs or not, but it really scared me. And then Jane's Addiction played, and that was one band that really infused all of the imaginative elements of cinema and literature into rock & roll in a way that wasn't pretentious, in a way that made me want to do something. I haven't experienced anything since then that worked the same way.