JEORDIE WHITE | BASE TENDENCIES
For my first encounter with Twiggy Ramirez about a year ago, I was sitting in front of the band's tour bus, nursing a bottle of Budweiser and waiting for a sit-down pow-wow with the Parent's Resource Music Center's worst nightmare - Marilyn Manson. About halfway through my ice-cold beverage, I noticed something striking about the bus. There weren't any virgins waiting around to be sacrificed, no half-drunk chalices of goat's blood and no outwardly visible signs of excessive debauchery. Was I on the right bus? Maybe, by some weird mix up, this was Michael Bolton's bus.
The place was spotless. Then out of the back of the bus, Manson howled, "Send in the gimp!" Maybe Manson ate Michael Bolton and stole his bus. Sitting in the back were Manson and bassist Twiggy Ramirez bathed in the blue light from a TV. After asking Manson a number of questions, I turned back to find a Spree (sweet tart) on my note pad and a huge smirk across Ramirez' puss. It was one of those sink or swim moments. If I refused the little sugary treat, the pair of musicians could have me skinned and boiled in a New York minute with no one around to hear one of my pleas for mercy. So I took my medicine like a good little gimp.
Ramirez was not yet through with his comic relief. As I gathered my things to leave, I found a condom draped over the handle of my camera bag. "Is this yours?," I asked Ramirez. Another one of his grins lit up the back of the bus as he peeled the contraceptive off of my bag. "Sorry," he apologized.
Flash forward almost a year. The band is working in New Orleans at Trent Reznor's new studio on their follow-up to Portrait of an American Family, called Antichrist Superstar. Taking a break from studio work, Ramirez admits that he is the one that kept the bus so 'April Fresh.' "I clean it most of the time," he says. "I'm not a neat freak or anything, but I like to keep the bus clean. I just put on The Bee Gees' Greatest Hits. Not the disco stuff, but the early mod stuff. Pre- "Jive Talking" days. That was one of my pastimes on tour - put[ting] that record on and clean[ing] the bus with a duster."
The ambiance Reznor is trying to create for the band's new album has made Ramirez a little uncomfortable. "A lot of the staff is a little weird. A lot of them wear, I don't know if it's a uniform or what, but they wear gray wigs with clip-on earrings. It's a bit odd, but I guess it's part of the atmosphere." Ramirez tries to pinpoint the album's influences. "This one sounds a little bit like Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show Featuring Ray Sawyer. A lot of it was inspired by Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show, not necessarily in sound, but in the spirit of Ray Sawyer." Isn't choosing Dr. Hook, best known for the novelty song "On the Cover of Rolling Stone", a bizarre place to seek inspiration? "What's weird? The craziest thing I could do is put on a pair of jeans and a Quiet Riot T-shirt go hang out at the mall and drink soda. That's the most ridiculous thing I could possibly conjure up to do. I find myself off-stage wearing more ridiculous costumes than onstage. I think onstage is more realistic. Onstage you know what you're doing - it is for real. Offstage you wear costumes every single day."
Ramirez admits that once, while at a Quiet Riot concert, he caught one of the masks that vocalist Kevin DeBrow used to throw out at shows. "Trent likes to wear it a lot too. He wanted to bleach his hair out blonde, but we talked him into not doing it, but he likes to mix [the tracks] with the Quiet Riot mask on, and I think the fans should know that because it's a very important piece of information that has to do with the sound of the record. The mask that Trent was wearing has everything to do with it."
Putting the band in New Orleans is kind of like putting a junkie in charge of the methadone clinic. All the spaced out creatures walking the French Quarter clutching Hurricanes from Pat O'Briens and the abundant chances at mischief could be distracting for and unfocused band. "We don't go out much. Most of it, if you call it, partying, is in the studio. We don't really leave. I sleep here most of the time. There's been nights that we've built tents in the control room and slept there. We don't leave much. The tents, gray wigs and clip-on earrings have been the highlight of this record so far, and Dr. Hook." The new album will be the first full-length effort with the band's new drummer. The current whereabouts of the old drummer, Sara Lee Lucas, are still a mystery. "We set our old drummer on fire. We poured gasoline on his set during the last show, and set his drums on fire. He sort of wasn't into it, so we never really saw him after that. I know he's alive, we didn't kill him - people thought we killed him, but no. We torched his drums the last day of the tour and he never came back. It was all in good fun."
With drums burning onstage and Manson breaking beer bottles over his head and rolling around in the broken glass you would think that Ramirez would be desensitized to most of the peculiar events that make up a regular day for the band. Wrong. Ramirez then describes how far into the Antichrist Superstar sessions the band is at. "The record is finished, we're just recording it." He tries to clarify that statement. "It was recorded in the future already, and it was sent back. So it's already done, we just have to make it so people can hear it today. Because it's not out yet. It's the future, but it's the past cause it's really all the same. The record from the future, but it's about the past -- the past that hasn't happened yet. Ramirez describes how the band attracts "an odd conglomeration of psychos, vampires and full on weirdos."
"At one show I saw a person walking around in a full leather bondage suit complete with the mask zipped up over their mouth; a gentleman with a crazy glint in his eye and a red cape flowing behind him, and a young petite flower of a girl with her ample gut pouring over her leather britches and enough hairspray to completely deplete the ozone layer. "I think we're the groupies," Ramirez explained. "Not that I watch the crowd, but I think we're in the audience and the crowd is on the stage 3. The fans are the ones who are the rock stars." Another band besides Dr. Hook that Ramirez uses as a spiritual guide during the recording of the new album is Journey's Frontiers. The new album will not sound like Journey, Ramirez confirms, but the blue alien pictured on the cover holds a special place in his past for the band. "When you say a band like Journey, people like to pass off, and they think about all the old stuff when they had mustaches and they were hippies. They forgot that at one time they had a video game for the Atari 2600. Actually I'm on a search right now for an Atari 2600, just so I can get that Journey game. I don't even want any of the other games, just that Journey game, and maybe Yarns Revenge. Maybe if you put this is your article some fans will give me one." Anybody?