By Thomas J. Orwatt

If all the evil forces in the universe joined together to form a band designed to corrupt the minds of America's youth, it still wouldn't be as controversial as Shock-Rockers Marilyn Manson. With the release of their concept EP, SMELLS LIKE CHILDREN, Manson has set a new standard for indecency. But with a growing legion of fans and Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor's support, the band is on the verge of superstardom. Is America ready to deal with Rock's new Public Enemy Number One? The Wall's Tom Orwat recently spoke with Marilyn Manson bassist Twiggy Ramirez in an attempt to gain some insight into the group's demented psyche. Here's what transpired.

WALL: In comparing your recent EP, SMELLS LIKE CHILDREN, or your first release, PORTRAIT OF AN AMERICAN FAMILY, it's quite obvious you and your bandmates are even more demented than originally perceived. Was there anything that occurred over the last year that sent the band over the edge?

TR: We spent four or five months living in New Orleans and that sort of drove us crazy. We all experienced abuse and abused ourselves to the furthest extent, and that's where SMELLS LIKE CHILDREN came from.

WALL: Abused yourself in what way?

TR: Well, I like to keep in control, but while we were in New Orleans, that was very difficult to do. Things were very chaotic in terms of drugs, alcohol and sex. It was a very hard time for us and it shows on the EP.

WALL: Why did you release an EP so early in your career?

TR: We had some time off and we really wanted to put something out. The EP is a diary of that time in New Orleans. People joke about New Orleans and all that voodoo stuff, but it really is a very dark and depressing place. There's a lot of homeless people, a lot of murder, there's alcohol everywhere and bones. It's really a very dark place, but definitely a must experience.

WALL: Why the cover of The Eurythmic's "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)?"

TR: We all thought it was a dark song and that side never really showed on the original. We wanted to bring the darker side of that song out. It's a good 80s song.

WALL: In a time when it's hip not to have an image, you guys are going in the opposite direction, making you image even more outrageous.

TR: I think that bands today have all but killed the Rock star image. The bands with no image became bands with an image of no image. We try to make Marilyn Mason as exciting to ourselves as possible to entertain ourselves, because it get's boring real quick doing the same thing. We like to express ourselves, not only through our music, but through our bodies as well.

WALL: Your stage persona is very bizarre. You look like cross between Raggedy Ann and Edward Scissorhands. How did you come up with it?

TR: Well, it just became me. I think it's closer to my true identity. We perform for ourselves, so we wanted to make ourselves look as exciting as possible. I also think drugs had a lot to do with it. We've been conditioned and desensitized, we're not the same as we were three years ago.

WALL: Does it surprise you that parents allow their children to attend your shows? Do you think it's out of ignorance or do you think that they just don't care?

TR: Hopefully, I think the parents understand us more than the children do. That's why they let them come to our shows.

WALL: If there was a band like Manson when you guys were in your early teens, what effect do you think it would have had on you?

TR: I think there was a lot of bands like us when I was younger. But you have to go a little further now to upset people.

WALL: Is there anything in society that you still shocking or are you pretty desensitized to your surroundings?

TR: I'm very desensitized, actually. I've seen so many things that nothing really shocks me anymore. I think things that society considers normal are more shocking to us. Like putting on a pair of jeans and listening to Olivia Newtown John; that's the craziest thing I could ever imagine anyone doing. But a lot of people are into that. Your opinion of what's crazy and what's normal change as you get further into this.

WALL: Since you're so desensitized, do you still have nightmares?

TR: I have nightmares every night and have not really been able to sleep too much. I dream that the end of the world is very near-at least the end of America-and it's Christian America that's making it happen, just by believing what the Bible says. I think that they're destroying America themselves because that's what's meant to be. I don't think that that's necessarily a bad thing, because there's really nowhere else to go for America except down. It's definitely going to crash, the bald eagle will die.

WALL: What can be done to prevent this, or don't you care?

TR: I care, but I think people think we're contributing to the decline of America. I see us actually helping. I think we're raising a lot of kids whose parents aren't raising them. There's a lot of neglected kids who are seeking identities. Our main thing is to tell kids to be individuals. That doesn't mean to be like us, just be themselves.

WALL: What type of upbringing did you have?

TR: I was brought up by a single parent. I lived on sort of a Charles Manson-type hippie farm. I was around drugs a lot when I was a kid, which sort of exposed me to everything before I grew up and had to deal with it, so I think I had an advantage over some kids, which I don't know if it's good or bad. I definitely wasn't tortured or abused. I did have a difficult time fitting in, but I didn't want to fit in. I personally don't have anyone to lash out at from the past.

WALL: You've mentioned you prefer playing smaller venues. With the band's growing popularity, won't that soon be impossible?

TR: We'll see what happens when the new album is released. But at this point, it looks like ANTI-CHRIST SUPERSTAR will be our last record.

WALL: Why is that?

TR: Well, mainly we don't think there's anything more to offer the world musically after that. It's not a matter of no material, there's plenty of material, but we think that it'll probably be the end of everything.

WALL: The end of everything meaning the end of civilization?

TR: As we see it. If that's good or bad.

WALL: When will this be released?

TR: June 6, 1996. (6/6/96.)

WALL: Has the material for ANTI-CHRIST SUPERSTAR been written yet?

TR: Yes, it's been written, but we haven't recorded it yet. As far as the material, it reflects the fact that we're very pissed off about many different things. Some of our ideas have changed. It's going to be a lot harder, not necessarily musically, but morally. We're crossing a lot more barriers, and we're breaking a lot more rules. Hopefully, they're not even going to let us put it out. So then we won't have to make another record. Some people will really have a problem with the subject matter on it. That's all I can say about it now.

WALL: Whatever happened to Sara Lee, the drummer on your first album?

TR: We started him on fire. Well, actually his drum set. He was never to be heard from again. (Laughs)

WALL: Will Trent Reznor produce the next album as well?

TR: Yes, we would like to continue to work with Trent. I don't know if this matters, but last time we worked with Trent, he was wearing this big ling wig and brought male dancers into the studio. I guess it's to get a new vibe in the studio or something. Maybe it had an effect on the way SMELLS LIKE CHILDREN came out. I just don't know.

WALL: Are there any bands out there that you feel are breaking new ground?

TR: I feel that Monster Magnet is a band that's coming from the same place that we are. I think that we both represent what Heavy Metal should've been, not that we're influenced by the same bands: KISS, Black Sabbath, Bowie and the Stooges. Very dark or glamorous and rebellious.

WALL: Is there anything in your CD collection that would surprise your fans?

TR: Yeah, sure. I have the Bee Gees. Not the Disco stuff, but their early 70s stuff. I was listening to Lionel Richie on the tour bus right before this interview. Dr. Hook is cool. Eventually, there's no other place to go for what is cool. The Alternative becomes that. For instance, I think Twisted Sister is absolutely the coolest thing to listen to.

WALL: Weren't you involved with Dee Snider's Twisted Sister cover band, SMF?

TR: Yeah, me and Robin Finck from NIN were on tour for over a year. We started to play a lot together and one day I said we should call up Dee and get together and play some Twisted Sister songs. He said yes, and we played one 40-minute show together. It was so cool. A lot of people came out to see us. Ronnie James Dio was there and so was Richard Bey from the RICHARD BEY SHOW, with his date, Joe Lynn Turner. (Laughs) I don't know what that was about. But playing with Dee was a lot of fun and we brought out a very strange crowd that evening. Apparently, Dee is out touring right now, playing all Twisted Sister material.

WALL: I recently read that Marilyn Manson wants to go out with a bang. Does Mr. Manson have a death wish?

TR: I think everything is gonna go out with bang. Whether that means the end of the world, the end of Marilyn Manson, the end of a lot of the world as Marilyn Manson sees it. It could mean the end of a lot of things. Christian America has already created and is creating the Anti-Christ just by believing in the Bible. They are paving their own way to the end of the world, which is very poetic. My heros are TV evangelists. They're the smartest guys, because them something to live for, whether it's a lie or not. Whatever, I mean, we could be lying as well. Everything is full of crap. What's real? What's fake? What makes sense? What doesn't make sense? You could drive yourself crazy. I think once the end of the world does come, that when we want to and take everyone's children, the next step will be to try to convert them back. We bounce back and forth between the extremities of good and evil and we end up most of the time in the gray area.

WALL: Have you ever read the Bible?

TR: Yes, I like Revelations. There's some good chapters. I think it's a great piece of fiction. I think if you're so Anti-Christian then you're just keeping Christians in business. I try to be evil to support them so the end of the world come quicker. The same thing goes for censorship. The more censorship we have, the more evil we become.

WALL: Last time you played Toronto, your show ended prematurely when Mr. Manson hit your keyboardist, Madonna, in the head with a microphone stand. How serious was his injury?

TR: Pretty serious. He lost a lot of blood and had to be taken to the hospital.

WALL: What did he say to Mr.Manson when he regained consciousness?

TR: Well, nothing really. Everyone in this band understands and accepts the fact that anything can happen at any given time. We could drop off or get hurt at any of our shows. We're not scared of death.