Marilyn Manson has cleaned up his act. Well, sort of. About a year ago, things were so out of control — the drugs, the women, the tensions in his band — that Manson, for the first time in his life, went to a shrink. Hanging out with Manson for a couple of nights in New York, it’s easy to see that another part of his rehabilitation has come from the calming influence of his fiancée, burlesque star Dita Von Teese, who Manson plans to marry soon in a European castle. Also buoying Manson’s spirits (besides the absinthe he says he drinks on a daily basis) is the success of Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 — and the hope that art can actually have an impact on society. “I realized the most important thing for me to do is to just be me,” says Manson, who will release a best-of compilation, Lest We Forget, on September 28th. “Because America would not be worth living in if Marilyn Manson did not exist.”
What is your first musical memory?
A cross-country trip from Ohio to Texas with my parents — we went to go see the Alamo — and at a truck stop, my parents had purchased “sound-alike” 8-tracks. I remember we had this Creedence Clearwater Revival rip-off, and I also listened to a lot of Kiss on that trip. I had a notebook and sat on the floor of this Oldsmobile drawing crude pictures of Gene Simmons and Peter Criss.
Your dad collects all your press clippings and hangs them on the wall. Your parents’ house must look like a shrine.
He’s got everything, like the Weekly World News that said that the Nazis got together with some Egyptians, created me in outer space and sent me back in time to destroy the world. I can’t even attempt to be low-key around him, because he wears these old T-shirts of mine that say things like “God of Fuck” and “Everlasting Cocksucker” — stuff that makes me ashamed.
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What’s the last great rock show you saw?
I saw Bowie a couple of months ago for the very first time. He was great. I proposed to my fiancée with “Be My Wife” playing. He did “Quicksand” and “Ashes to Ashes,” my two favorite songs. I was really afraid, because he asked to meet me. I was trying my best not to meet him, because there is often the horror of meeting someone you really admire, and they are everything you don’t want them to be. But he made a snappy comment about my outfit, and I felt like a little schoolboy.
I bet you don’t feel like a schoolboy too often.
Yeah, except when I do these little stints with teenage girls, like with Mandy Moore at the VMAs.
What’s wrong with MTV’s Video Music Awards? It used to be fun to watch.
What’s right about it? The rock section was condensed into a ninety-second montage with three bands that nobody was even sure of unless they heard the songs on a Vodafone commercial. There were no rock stars, except for my brief moment of confusion in introducing the Jim Jones Orchestra [laughs].
Right. You’re talking about the Polyphonic Spree.
Yeah. They were the most fascinating thing about the VMAs, and they represent everything that I despise in music and life: happiness, friendship, fellowship and bright clothing.
Avril Lavigne told me that you and she hang out. Why?
Isn’t that a rhetorical question? Because I can. She came backstage at one of my shows in Canada. She’s very peculiar, because she travels without an entourage or a baby sitter, something I am incapable of doing. I also showed Avril my dildo-cam — it’s a dildo with a video camera inside — but we didn’t go too far with that.
What musician has been the biggest asshole toward you?
If I were the kind of person to be insulted by petty things, I would be insulted by the way Trent Reznor has acted since I moved from Nothing Records [Reznor’s label] on to Interscope.
I was at Madison Square Garden when you two kissed and made up a few years ago. What happened after that?
Since then, he’s made remarks that I don’t care to respond to. And as long as I’m paying his bills, he should be respectful of me.
You said in a recent interview that the “perfect utopia would be for artists to replace politicians and the government.” Who should be president?
It would have to be more of a dictator or a king, and just out of clear pretentiousness I would say myself. But I would still yield to the seniors. Maybe Bowie should be king first, then he could knight me.
What about a secretary of defense?
Beyoncé, because she’s got the hips for it.
When you perform, what essential items do you keep nearby?
I have an area where I do my quick change. On my last tour, I’d have absinthe with a glass of ice; black makeup, which hasn’t been worn since Al Jolson; and drugs. We won’t talk specifics about the drugs.
I’ll tell you what. I’m someone who carries a lot of straws, but I don’t drink milkshakes at all.