Kerrang! (UK) - - Welcome - words: MATT ALLEN Pho­tos: perou

The world’s great­est fes­ti­val is back – yes, it’s time for our an­nual pil­grim­age to Don­ing­ton Park for DOWN­LOAD 2018. With the sum­mer’s finest billing com­ing to the spir­i­tual home of rock, it promises to be a week­end never to for­get – and that’s be­fore we even con­sider what one par­tic­u­lar hell­raiser has in store. MAR­I­LYN MANSON kicks off our es­sen­tial guide to the week­end ahead, in one of his most il­lu­mi­nat­ing in­ter­views ever…

“Balls deep.”

In a voice drip­ping with equal dol­lops of sleaze and menace, Mar­i­lyn Manson un­veils his an­ar­chic plans for his highly an­tic­i­pated Down­load Fes­ti­val ap­pear­ance, a merry brand of hell-mak­ing sand­wiched be­tween Ozzy Os­bourne and Shine­down on a grand­stand­ing Sun­day night fi­nale. “I’m com­ing in balls deep,” he says again, laugh­ing darkly. “Tip, then shaft, then balls. I think we just loaded up a gas tank full of gaso­line and I’m about to light it at Down­load.”

The God Of Fuck, a one-time in­ter­na­tional hate mag­net and stilt-strid­ing, art-metal dis­as­ter­piece, is chat­ting to Ker­rang! in his Hol­ly­wood Hills lair. A view­ing of Woody Har­rel­son’s shot-in­one-take movie, Lost In Lon­don, has been the high­light of his Fri­day evening so far. It’s mid­night, though, we’ve yet to light up, and Manson is in the mood to make mis­chief on the eve of his re­turn to Down­load, a fes­ti­val he’s al­ready graced four times dur­ing a ca­reer span­ning nearly 25 years, 10 stu­dio al­bums and a ticker tape pa­rade of law­suits. Some of these brushes with au­thor­ity have even taken place on­stage, most notably when he rubbed his afore­men­tioned “tip, shaft and balls” against the head of a se­cu­rity guard dur­ing a 2001 show in Detroit.

These in­ci­dents, he reck­ons, can barely be con­sid­ered shock­ing. Manson be­lieves his most provoca­tive high­lights have taken place dur­ing flash­points with au­thor­ity. “When they told me that I couldn’t do some­thing and I did it, and proved them wrong,” he says. “Like when I’ve had podi­ums and ban­ners on­stage. [One fea­tured a red cir­cle sym­bol with a black light­ning bolt cut through the mid­dle, which was ad­mit­tedly sim­i­lar to an SS logo.] It wasn’t meant to be a mas­sive state­ment. It was sup­posed to be a commentary on fas­cism and re­li­gion in rock’n’roll. If any­one missed that point, I’m sorry. In Ger­many, they said, ‘You can’t do that.’ And I said, ‘Well, don’t act like a Nazi, then.’

“Ar­tis­ti­cally, ev­ery­thing I’ve tried to do has been to make peo­ple ex­cited and to think about dif­fer­ent ideas. There’s never been any­thing to shock. I can’t shock my­self. Well, un­less I use a Taser gun. But that doesn’t work very well, by the way…” You’ve tried? “Yes, I have. I have a Taser Wand. It works on other peo­ple, but it doesn’t work on me. You know, it’s not a mat­ter of try­ing to stay shock­ing, try­ing to be provoca­tive, try­ing to be rel­e­vant, it’s about mak­ing shit hap­pen. My job is to make mu­sic, and to look as hand­some as I can while do­ing it.”

All of which bodes well for this year’s Down­load, a show in which Manson promises to bring “mas­sive chaos; proper chaos” and a set list “that makes peo­ple ex­cited”, plus one or two new songs, in­clud­ing his re­cent cover of Cry Lit­tle Sis­ter, which was first recorded by Ger­ard Mc­mann for the 1987 film The Lost Boys be­fore be­ing up­dated by Manson for the forth­com­ing X-men movie, The New Mu­tants. There’s also the small mat­ter of Manson’s leg, which was snapped in two places when a giant, re­volver­shaped prop col­lapsed on him dur­ing an “ex­cru­ci­at­ing” freak ac­ci­dent on­stage in New York last year. He has spent the last six months rest­ing and re­cu­per­at­ing while suck­ing on “the herb called mar­i­juana. Which is un­usual be­cause it’s a gate­way drug. I went to the back gate. I started strong and went back­wards.

“But as I couldn’t walk, I had to fo­cus on writ­ing. We’ve started mak­ing a new record, but it’s to be de­ter­mined as far as who’s in­volved in it. This pain is a dif­fer­ent in­spi­ra­tion. I’ve been writ­ing a lot of mu­sic and paint­ing a lot – that’s been some of the up­sides to the down­sides of hav­ing a bro­ken leg. I don’t have any rea­son to be mis­er­able, though. There’s no rea­son for me to have any com­plaints in life, other than the ones I can fix my­self, and that’s what I’ve been do­ing.”

Manson cer­tainly ar­rives at the sum­mer’s most ex­cit­ing line-up with his an­ar­chic rep­u­ta­tion in­tact. Re­cent re­ports sug­gested he was barred from Cal­i­for­nia’s too-cool­for-school desert party, Coachella. “The guy who owns the land was a Chris­tian man,” says Manson. “He said, ‘There’s a no-play list, such as Mar­i­lyn Manson.’” Mean­while, in a pub­lic con­fes­sional, the singer has ad­mit­ted to once piss­ing on the back­stage ca­ter­ing meant for “true brother” Jonathan Davis of Korn, who also ap­pears at Down­load on the fes­ti­val’s open­ing Fri­day, and will no doubt be bring­ing his own closely guarded sand­wiches with him this week­end.

“I wasn’t in­ten­tion­ally try­ing to pee on his ca­ter­ing,” says Manson. “But yet I was. I did it be­cause his bass player, Fieldy, was very rude at the time, I don’t know how he is now. I didn’t piss on all the ca­ter­ing, I just pissed on… all of it. It wasn’t any­thing Jonathan was go­ing to eat. I don’t even think it was open, it had plas­tic over it.

“One time, I al­most con­vinced Jonathan to quit Korn and be my guitar player,” he con­tin­ues. “He was stay­ing with me in my shitty, squalid apart­ment in New Or­leans when I made [1995 album] Smells Like Chil­dren. He was in the room when I recorded Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This). It was that one time we did meth. Well, I think. I don’t know. Break­ing Bad, it’s not re­ally clear. But Jonathan and I be­came tight and I did beat him with a belt – not the belt, the metal part. So if I run into him at the fes­ti­val, it’ll be fun.”

There are other peo­ple Manson hopes to see dur­ing his re­turn to Don­ing­ton Park this week: Guns N’ Roses for one. “They’ve al­ways been cool to me,” he says. “I saw them in Florida with Möt­ley Crüe on the Shout At The Devil tour. It was great and in­spir­ing.” Ozzy Os­bourne for an­other: “I haven’t seen him in a few years, but he and I got to be re­ally close on Oz­zfest, to the point where he’s been very kind to me. You can’t fuck with Ozzy.” Then, of course, there is the Down­load crowd, some of whom Manson knows will be hard­core acolytes, others in at­ten­dance to sim­ply gawp and point at the freak show.

“I’m bring­ing some things to Eng­land that I’ve not done re­cently,” he says, mys­te­ri­ously. “I think that you’ll ap­pre­ci­ate them. That’s not me hyp­ing it, or leav­ing you in sus­pense, but you’re in sus­pense now, aren’t you? Any­way,


the bro­ken leg gave me a chance to eval­u­ate and re­mind my­self of ev­ery­thing. I’ve al­ways made a promise to never go above my ba­sic means, be­cause I can get in a van and play a rock con­cert and en­joy it. That’s not say­ing I don’t want to suc­ceed more, or to make bet­ter mu­sic, there’s just no rea­son to stop be­ing es­sen­tially white trash – which is where I’m from in Ohio.

“I never left the gravel drive­way.”

From that idyl­lic vi­sion of “white trash” do­mes­tic­ity, one im­age has stuck with Mar­i­lyn Manson. A pic­ture shot by the French pho­tog­ra­pher, Marc Ri­boud, dur­ing one of the Amer­i­can anti-viet­nam war protests in 1967, which fa­mously de­picted 17-yearold Jan Rose Kas­mir clutch­ing a flower as US Na­tional Guards­men faced down a crowd of pro­test­ers. The singer had yet to be born, but his fa­ther, who passed away last year, had served in Viet­nam. And when the ‘Flower Power’ protests later ex­tended to the bomb­ing of Cam­bo­dia in 1970, an­other march took place at Kent State Univer­sity on May 4. As a peaceful gath­er­ing turned grotesque, four peo­ple were shot dead by the Ohio Na­tional Guard. “Right where I grew up,” says Manson, sadly.

Sol­diers in the Viet­nam War later placed flow­ers into their ri­fle muz­zles, though Manson’s recla­ma­tion of this iconic im­age for this Ker­rang! pho­to­shoot (which took place in 2017) has been up­dated amid tragic cir­cum­stances – an­other spate of high school shoot­ings across Amer­ica this year. As of May 25, the day on which Ker­rang! speaks to Manson – and only the 21st week of the cal­en­dar – there have al­ready been some 23 school shoot­ings in 2018. Though there is one in­ci­dent that still chills him more than any other: Columbine, the 1999 mas­sacre, in which 12 stu­dents and one teacher were killed by se­nior stu­dents Eric Har­ris and Dy­lan Kle­bold, who then took their own lives. In the shock that fol­lowed, Manson’s mu­sic was made a con­ve­nient pub­lic scape­goat, with the shoot­ers said to have “wor­shipped” his al­bums; the mass mur­der that lurks in the shad­ows of his con­ver­sa­tion tonight.

Talk­ing to Manson is al­ways an en­gag­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, though one not too dis­sim­i­lar to herd­ing cats. He veers away at wild, but en­ter­tain­ing tan­gents – Kurt Cobain (“the one per­son I re­gret I never got to meet”), his squab­ble with Cra­dle Of Filth’s Dani Filth (“it was stupid”), and ex­treme metal rhythms (“don’t make beats that con­fuse strip­pers”) – be­fore de­scend­ing into dark­ened rab­bit holes. The re­cur­ring point through­out is ar­guably the bleak­est episode of his ca­reer. As we talk, Columbine and his un­wanted link to vi­o­lence, one he says is reg­u­larly mis­rep­re­sented, is a sub­ject he re­turns to on mul­ti­ple oc­ca­sions. Even the foot­ball shirt he wears on the cover of this mag­a­zine car­ries echoes from that aw­ful day in 1999.

“It’s a jersey that a young kid who went to Columbine made for me,” he says. “He was there in the time when it hap­pened. He made it for me as a ges­ture say­ing, ‘I don’t feel like you de­serve to be blamed for it be­cause it wasn’t your fault.’ It was a great ges­ture. I was only a year old [when the Kent State mas­sacre in 1970] hap­pened, and I al­most went to col­lege there, but it was al­ways a sym­bolic im­age that I grew up see­ing. Maybe it was em­bed­ded in my head.

“It’s strange that a lot of peo­ple don’t re­mem­ber the im­pact of Columbine and the effect it had on the world. Peo­ple, politi­cians, were throw­ing blame on artists. It wasn’t some­thing that I did, it was some­thing some­one else did and you can blame who­ever you want. I didn’t per­son­ally do any­thing to cause it.” He later ex­plains, “I would never ask any­one or en­cour­age any­one to do some­thing as stupid as [caus­ing vi­o­lence], be­cause it’s not a smart idea. I don’t think vi­o­lence cre­ates any­thing pos­i­tive.”

There have been times, though, when Manson has sailed per­ilously close to the wind. In Novem­ber 2017, while per­form­ing at Oz­zfest Meets Knot­fest in San Ber­nadino, Cal­i­for­nia, the singer aimed a fake ma­chine gun at the crowd. The in­ci­dent took place only hours af­ter 26 peo­ple had been killed at a church shoot­ing in Suther­land Springs, Texas. “That was an un­timely event,” he says. “Un­for­tu­nately I’d al­ready planned to have that and it just so hap­pened that it was right when some­thing else hap­pened. And how can some­one pre­dict what’s go­ing to hap­pen?” He’s ea­ger to stress how, “World War One, World War Two, Viet­nam, it’s sort of in­grained into your think­ing that vi­o­lence is the ul­ti­mate so­lu­tion for solv­ing any prob­lem, based on wars, and it’s not.”

In­stead, iso­la­tion and ig­no­rance are our big­gest prob­lems, and Manson claims we’re cur­rently liv­ing in an in­ter­net era set “some­where be­tween Ge­orge Or­well’s 1984 and [the Ray Brad­bury book] Fahren­heit 451”, dystopian nov­els where sur­veil­lance states and lit­er­ary ex­tinc­tion loom large. “If you’re al­ways on your phone, check­ing it, and that’s your whole life, it’s al­most a part of the de­cay of the en­tire civil­i­sa­tion.” He ar­gues we need to live in the mo­ment more. “Just pay at­ten­tion,” he says. Though the cat­a­lysts for vi­o­lence, par­tic­u­larly in teens, re­main com­pli­cated.

“The rea­sons are not be­cause of our mu­sic, so much as they are of peo­ple who don’t un­der­stand it. That’s not any­thing new; I’m not be­ing a ge­nius by say­ing that. It goes back to the begin­ning of where ev­ery­thing comes from. You can blame re­li­gion, but I’ll go back to the ba­sics, which is that peo­ple have is­sues, and when you feel un­com­fort­able about your is­sues, when you’re be­ing pres­sured into defin­ing your­self, then you [can] get great things like punk rock, heavy metal – you get all of that.

“[Some] peo­ple tend to lash out in ways that are com­pletely il­log­i­cal to most of so­ci­ety. They have is­sues that we re­ally can’t un­der­stand, be­cause we’re not psy­chi­a­trists or psy­chol­o­gists. We might read books and we might have the­o­ries, but [the rea­son for vi­o­lence is] trou­bled peo­ple. I think the trou­ble is [them] not hav­ing a con­trol of their life, where peo­ple feel as though they’re drown­ing be­cause the world seems over­whelm­ing, and that might change… I re­ally think art is an im­por­tant part of fix­ing it, not pol­i­tics, not reg­u­la­tions, not psy­chi­a­try, not phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals. It should be about


peo­ple feel­ing good about them­selves in art. It’s what makes me feel good – and I’m ob­vi­ously bat-shit crazy, as far as every­one else says…”

Do you ever worry that some of the things you’ve said and done might make you a tar­get?

“Of course. One of my great idols is John Len­non. Ev­ery time I walk out of the door, I’m not afraid, but at the same time I’m aware I’ve said and done things that could make peo­ple hate me, start­ing with [1996 LP] An­tichrist Su­per­star. But I lived through it from 1996. I’ve had bomb and death threats. Then some­thing I wasn’t in­volved in, Columbine, shut my life down. I didn’t com­plain about that, ei­ther – I just con­tin­ued on. I tried to make art that was not even a re­sponse to it. It was just say­ing how I felt.

“I think that you have to – metaphor­i­cally and lit­er­ally – move faster than other peo­ple. Just know that you can say some­thing po­lit­i­cal, you can say some­thing re­li­gious, you can say some­thing con­tro­ver­sial, but you have to be aware of the reper­cus­sions. Like I’ve al­ways said, free­dom of speech does not come with a den­tal plan or life in­sur­ance. I don’t look for trou­ble, but trou­ble def­i­nitely fol­lows me…”

Manson might ar­gue oth­er­wise, but his live shows and per­for­mance ca­reer have left a long and gory trail of shock and awe. At one of his ear­li­est gigs, as de­tailed in his 1998 au­to­bi­og­ra­phy The Long Hard Road Out Of Hell, the singer in­fa­mously talked a “preg­nant-look­ing” ac­tress into iron­ing a Nazi flag on­stage. She later per­formed a mock abor­tion on her­self. This art state­ment amused Nine Inch Nails totem Trent Reznor so much that he later signed Manson to his Noth­ing Records la­bel and re­leased the band’s de­but album, Por­trait Of An Amer­i­can Fam­ily, in 1994. “When you say that out loud, it does sound shock­ing to me,” he chuck­les.

In the begin­ning of his ca­reer, Mar­i­lyn Manson was sim­ply an art project “in the spirit of Dalí and punk rock, and this idea of chaos”. He wanted to grab peo­ple’s at­ten­tion. “The mu­sic sud­denly be­came some­thing that I had to cre­ate as a sound­track for this vi­sion; to string things up while try­ing to make a dif­fer­ence in a world that I was see­ing go­ing ut­terly down­hill. I think that’s where Trent and I bonded, be­cause he was the same about it, and he was a great guid­ing hand at har­ness­ing what my ideas were.” Nearly 25 years on, and trail­ing the re­lease of his 10th stu­dio album, 2017’s Heaven Up­side Down, Manson’s shows are now packed with peo­ple watch­ing a sim­i­lar brand of chaos un­fold, though they’re in­creas­ingly star­ing at their phones rather than the ac­tion on­stage. “Some­times peo­ple avoid their own life and it’s feed­ing into a Ge­orge Or­well sce­nario,” he says.

It’s al­ways worth pay­ing at­ten­tion, though. Re­cently, Manson climbed on to a bar­rier at a Euro­pean show only for a fan to bite him in the crotch. “They let go. I did not get ra­bies. I sur­vived.” Pre­vi­ously, dur­ing an early tour, shared with Korn and Danzig, the singer re­calls how a gun was pointed at his head by se­cu­rity guards. The provo­ca­tion? Dur­ing a rowdy per­for­mance he en­cour­aged the crowd to aim vol­leys of phlegm to­wards the stage. “The hu­mor­ous thing was the spit would never reach me, but it would hit the se­cu­rity guards,” he says.

“It was in New Jersey. When I walked off stage, they were wait­ing to beat my ass. Danzig had these Kendo sticks and he went full blown, he de­fended me. Danzig saved my fuck­ing life. I went to the dress­ing room, but they tried to break in, and they all had guns. My tour man­ager had a gun too at the time, so it was a show­down, but I won. Then a guy who got spat on said he was go­ing to get me pros­e­cuted for get­ting them AIDS.”

When it comes to ex­pe­ri­enc­ing artis­tic shock, the first record that ever un­set­tled Manson was Venom’s 1985 thrash album, Possessed. “That scared me. I thought, ‘This is re­ally up­set­ting.’” When he bought Slayer’s Live Un­dead, the cover de­pict­ing a band of zom­bies play­ing in a ceme­tery, the guitar chaos caused his mother to panic. “She wasn’t very re­li­gious nec­es­sar­ily, but she got trau­ma­tised. She re­turned it, she thought it was sa­tanic.” One of the rare oc­ca­sions he’s been freaked out on­stage was when some­body threw a “giant black scor­pion” to­wards him. “It was latched to my ch­est and it was hor­ri­fy­ing be­cause I don’t like scor­pi­ons. Not the band, the crea­tures.

“It was alive! The thing about the black scor­pi­ons, the ones with the big tail, is that they’re not as dan­ger­ous as the small ones – the lit­tle yel­low ones you’ll find in Cal­i­for­nia or Texas. The lit­tle ones don’t know their strength, so they’ll use too much venom, they’ll harm you more. That could be a metaphor for our en­tire world: peo­ple don’t un­der­stand what they’re do­ing some­times, whether it’s in­stinc­tual or de­fen­sive, and what every­one should think about is that the world doesn’t need more vi­o­lence.”

In­stead, it needs more art, dark-hearted or oth­er­wise. As a kid, Mar­i­lyn Manson’s re­ac­tion to “drown­ing, feel­ing over­whelmed” was to twist his rage into mu­sic and malev­o­lent per­for­mance. “I al­ways en­cour­age peo­ple to be them­selves in an artis­tic way, not a de­struc­tive way,” he says. “There’s noth­ing con­struc­tive in do­ing any harm to your­self in gen­eral. That’s com­ing from some­one who’s done that to him­self.”

His per­for­mance at Down­load will be an ex­ten­sion of that mes­sage: hard metal played amid mas­sive chaos, proper chaos, balls out, with a lit­tle peace and love to match the sleaze and sav­agery, the guns and the roses.

Just don’t bite him.


mar­i­lyn manson plays down­load fes­ti­val this week­end. our down­load pre­view con­tin­ues on page 38 with all the week­end’s talk­ing points picked apart, and info on all the sets you can’t af­ford to miss

…And his au­di­tion for Beetle­juice wasn’t much bet­ter

On­stage in 1999, and suf­fer­ing from a Sharpie that ran out too soon

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