As far as throat-slashings go, it really was strangely sweet. Amid the mayhem of a prison riot, the lanky, smooth-talking murderer tenderly wrapped his arm around the victim’s neck, purring, “You went out good, sweetheart,” before plunging a jagged scalpel into his throat with five meaty punches.
Standard conflict resolution in the vengeance-centred world of the Sons Of Anarchy. What viewers might not have noticed was that while Marilyn Manson’s white supremacist convict, Ron Tully, had appeared in several episodes of the Sons’ final season, this was the first time that the character had physically moved. During his six-episode arc, Manson had conjured a figure bristling with hair-trigger menace in every scene through a nearly imperceptible symphony of hand gestures and expressions – an understated performance that cemented his chops as a bona fide scene-thief./o:p
“I was meant to be very still,” Manson explains. “That’s the presence of someone in prison. But that’s not like the person I am in normal life, so it gave me a greater appreciation of the less-is-more approach. Sometimes it’s about more than just big explosions, or, to use a Spinal Tap reference – it doesn’t always need to be at 11.”
We find the singer affable and somewhat introspective as he applies his warpaint in preparation for tonight’s gig in Oklahoma City, the latest stop on his Hell Not Hallelujah tour, in support of newest album The Pale Emperor. Entirely absent is any trace of Manson’s notorious public persona – that outrageous antihero, hellbent on delivering shock and outrage with every gesture and comment. Instead, he exudes the ease and comfort of a man with nothing to prove. Behold the new Marilyn Manson – this is the new shit./o:p
To the rest of the world, Manson is a celebrity of the highest order; his painted, cadaverous face every bit as recognisable as the cherry-red backsplash on a can of Coke. Beyond his multiplatinum, mainstream-invading musical dominance, he has also appeared in several movies and TV shows, dated Hollywood starlets and graced the covers of more than a few gossip rags. Also, proclaiming oneself the ‘God Of Fuck’ does tend to create a bit of a stir. And yet he refuses to see himself as a celebrity.
“Obviously there’s the irony that the name ‘Marilyn Manson’ was about the fact that you do have to be an artist to be famous,” he explains. “I’m a rockstar and a part-time TV and movie star and I’m a painter. I’m embracing the Salvador Dalí approach and being one of my heroes. I’m all of it – whatever I feel like being, whatever suits me. I just wanna do it right. I don’t want to be considered a celebrity because I don’t think that word has a lot of value. Rockstar? Yes.”/o:p
Manson’s ascent has not been without its occasional missteps or, in some cases, five-alarm fuck-ups. Only those living in a cave on a faraway planet would be unfamiliar with his more controversial escapades: lawsuits have been filed by and against him, and his 26-year career has included arrests, brawls, free-speech battles, drugs and a parade of public fallouts with the likes of Rob Zombie, Trent Reznor, John 5 and Courtney Love.
This past April, Manson again landed in the headlines after a late-night altercation in a Denny’s fast food restaurant outside of Alberta, Canada, when a customer – apparently unaware of the country’s sterling reputation for friendliness – allegedly punched the singer, claiming that Manson had insulted his girlfriend. Manson steadfastly disputes the claim and has vowed to return to Alberta to press charges.
“I didn’t pick a fight with anyone at Denny’s,” he says. “I’m sort of disappointed that I got suckerpunched, but in my position, if you get into a fight with somebody, they just look at you and assume you were causing problems. [Now] I have a different, I-won’t-stand-down attitude about a lot of things. It doesn’t mean I won’t compromise with my friends, necessarily, but there are things I just won’t do just because I have to. It’s great to be in a position where you can financially, completely, with no lack of confidence, say ‘Fuck you’ if you don’t want to do it. I’ve been through different periods of my life where maybe I felt I didn’t have the leverage, I didn’t have the confidence as a man, in that sense.”/o:p
Such a statement underscores the profound changes that Manson has seen in himself recently – one of which is a new, unexpected sense of masculinity.
“Over this past year I’ve had a different type of masculine element in me kick in that I don’t think I’ve had before,” he says. “I never tried to be androgynous, I just liked the way it looked. Obviously it is androgynous, but not in the sense where I was trying to be feminine, I suppose. I always used to use this phrase I appropriated from one of my favourite films of Federico Fellini [Spirits Of The Dead, 1968] – ‘just masculine enough for men and feminine enough for women’. That’s the way I present myself. I think I’ve got a little bit more of a toughness in me now, and battling around with some fight training can get you… a little bit punchy. Pun intended. Ha ha ha!”/o:p
Certainly, a season on the testosterone-drenched set of Sons Of Anarchy might have had something to do with Manson’s newfound bro-ness, and he’s since filmed drama Let Me Make You A Martyr and action movie Street Level with some of his co-stars. He agrees, noting, “I don’t think that I’ve had many guy friends, other than Twiggy [Ramirez, guitarist], in my life. Over the past year I made a lot of bonds with [SOA actors] Charlie Hunnam, [Mark] Boone and Tommy Flanagan, because they really have the camaraderie that you saw on the show. It’s like being in a band. It’s tough to find people that’ll have your back. The people I surround myself with are good people.”
One of the people he counts among his friends is fellow 90s icon Billy Corgan, with whom he’ll soon be hitting the road on The End Times Tour in the US. “Billy was around when I was making Mechanical Animals. That’s when we spent most of our time together,” Manson reveals. “He was a good inspiration, musically. I would play him things and he’d play me stuff. He told me to be more musical and I told him to wear more makeup…”
Reports of a feud between the two subsided in late 2014, when Manson joined Corgan onstage during the Smashing Pumpkins’ show at London’s KOKO. Manson performed Third Day Of A Seven Day Binge from The Pale Emperor, followed by the Pumpkins’ Ava Adore. He denies a dispute ever existed: “There was never a falling-out, as people will think, but circumstances kept us from seeing each other.”
After running into some old friends on the road, Manson found another opportunity to rekindle another old friendship from the 90s – one that just might yield some interesting new music. “Jonathan Davis and I used to be really close,” he says about meeting the Korn frontman. “We hadn’t seen each other in quite some time and now he and I are talking about doing something completely unexpected together…”/o:p
For now, Manson is still in the early stages of his new album cycle and he’s close to wrapping up production on his next video. “We just finished a shoot for The Mephistopheles Of Los Angeles,” he says. “It would be [as] if you took Nosferatu and placed it in the ’hood in downtown LA. It’s beautifully shot and not what I had expected. Director Francesco Carrozzini is somebody that I’ve shot with before, and it came out amazing. Also, Mike Williams – who was Omar Little on The Wire and Chalky White on Boardwalk Empire – does the narrative at the beginning. There were some members of the MS-13 gang – nice guys. Not guys you’d want to be enemies with… it’s been nonstop,” he says. “But I like to be nonstop. I don’t know what to do with myself when I don’t have any expressive outlet.”/o:p
As Manson keeps expressing himself onscreen, and his prowess captures the attentions of more and more casting directors, we press – would he ever forsake music for acting?
“Only when I get sick of doing one or the other,” he confesses. “Acting is new to me, so that’s more exciting. There might come a day where I don’t feel like doing music, but I don’t see that anytime soon. I feel as excited as I used to, and more focused in what I want to do. That may be just the tornado and the chaos. It doesn’t mean I’m more level-headed. It does mean I’m a little more experienced – I wouldn’t say mature, I wouldn’t say civilised. Ha ha ha! I wouldn’t say wise because I still act like a child. So that’s why it suits me…”
While the rockstar reckons he operates on the same level as a child, and has previously hinted at having his own, he isn’t ready for nappies, prams and Peppa Pig.
“Whenever I see my friends with kids, they like me,” he reveals. “They probably think I’m entertaining because I act their age! Ha ha! I wouldn’t want to compromise a child’s life and stick them in the middle of this right now. At the same time, I’ve seen how successful my best friend Johnny Depp is – he’s got two very, very smart kids. They’re definitely ahead of the curve. I’m his daughter’s godfather. Whenever I see them, I’m always respectful to not curse. Obviously I do say ‘motherfucker’ a lot… but I don’t think it’s the right time for that, for me. I have my cat, Lily White, and that’s a handful enough.”/o:p
To say Manson doesn’t have time to start a family is an understatement worthy of a Guinness World Record. As well as wrapping up production on the new video, he’ll be on the road until the end of summer. Applying the finishing touches to his make-up, he’s amped for tonight’s show. The tour so far has been one roof-destroying blowout after another – an unqualified success that bodes well for his appearance at Download.
“The shows have been great,” he enthuses. “I like playing gigs where I can literally bleed on the crowd. Not in the sense of me trying to harm myself or having the complete and utter nihilistic, bottle-smashing attitude that I had when people were trying to kill me during Antichrist Superstar – I recently cut my hand by accident onstage and some bloodlust came out, but it was really about the closeness to the audience as it happened.”
The 90s brought a sonic renaissance of a scale and depth not seen since the 60s and, two decades on, only a handful of artists from that era have maintained a singular ambition and appetite for risk as consistently as Manson. Rather than sail into retirement regurgitating the same setlist on schlocky heritage tours, he continues to create vital new sounds that build and expand upon a legacy that might just now be approaching its midpoint, rather than its latter chapters. How might he compare the current tour to his campaigns in the 90s, when it felt like Manson against the world?
“It does kind of feel like back where things were most exciting, but it’s not forced – I just think things are falling right into place,” he muses. “And it doesn’t need the rest of the world attacking me. Turn on CNN – the world is attacking itself. Things never really change. [There are] just different versions of it.”
Optimistic about his future, and spending his downtime with a cat and doting on his godchildren? Has the Antichrist Superstar gone mellow? Not quite. “These days I get to be around all my friends. It’s an ideal situation. At this point, you’ve done everything – why not have it exactly how you want it? Be with the people you want to be around on a daily basis. Also, fuck shit up.” Phew.
MARILYN MANSON PLAYS DOWNLOAD ON JUNE 13. THE PALE EMPEROR IS OUT NOW VIA COOKING VINYL/o:p
From the silver screen to the small screen, here are Manson’s best moments…/o:p
THE PORNO SCENE: LOST HIGHWAY (1997)
Manson made his film debut in David Lynch’s logic-dodging mindfuck about a jazz saxophonist framed for murder who then morphs into an entirely different bloke and begins a new life. Near the end, two characters watch a gloomy, colourless porno that briefly but unmistakably features both Manson and Twiggy Ramirez in non-speaking roles.
THE SEX SCENE: JAWBREAKER (1999)
In this dark high school comedy, Rose McGowan’s character, Courtney, visits a bar and picks up a moustachioed, leisure-suit-wearing stranger – played by her then-fiancé, Marilyn Manson. She then shags him on a dead girl’s bed to frame him for her murder, to the sounds of The Scorpions’ classic tune, Rock You Like A Hurricane.
THE SEDUCTION SCENE: THE HEART IS DECEITFUL ABOVE ALL THINGS (2004)
If you thought his videos were disturbing, try making it through this happiness-destroying mother-and-son drama. Manson plays the mother’s greasy, beer-swilling boyfriend, who succumbs to the seduction of her cross-dressing son while watching an evangelist on television.
THE ROLLERSKATING SCENE: EASTBOUND & DOWN (2013)
Manson’s comedic cameo in HBO’s seriesabout egomaniacal ex-baseballer Kenny Powers served up one of season four’s funniest scenes, with the make-up-free singer playing a nerdy rollerskating waiter – complete with pleated orange shorts and popped collar – who asks, “Welcome to Jellybeans, can I take your trash?”
THE MURDER SCENE: SONS OF ANARCHY (2014)
As the shot-calling white supremacist Ron Tully, Manson showcased a range that extended far beyond lecherous cameos, establishing himself as a serious dramatic actor. In a series renowned for its graphic violence and jawdropping death toll, Tully’s throat-aerating murder of Juice Ortiz goes down as one of SOA’s most iconic scenes./o:p