JEORDIE WHITE | BASE TENDENCIES
GS: What do you think people should be doing while they're watching a Marilyn Manson show or listening to the new album, Antichrist Superstar?
Marilyn Manson: Everyone's going to get something different out of it. At our shows, it seems, people don't know whether to fuck each other or kill each other, and hopefully the same goes for listening to the record.
GS: And when you're playing, do you know whether you want to be killing or fucking?
Manson: It's all really the same, in the end. I fell like an album is a blueprint for a performance and playing live is really the only medium that I like. There's a real connection between the audience and us, and it's a powerful energy that can be directed in any form, whether it's sexual or violent. It goes according to what people want. The record, I feel, is the same thing.
GS: Tell me about your lyrical process. How did you write the songs for this album?
Manson: When I'm writing lyrics, I put things down that come into my head and I don't like to consider them or debate over them with myself because that takes the pureness out of it. I don't try to shock people, I just do things and say things in a way that I feel comfortable with, and for some people that's too much. For some people, it's just enough.
GS: What literary, or other references, do you draw upon?
Manson: I'm into philosophers like Nietzche, Freud, Darwin, Crowley, LaVey and Ron Dahl, Dr. Seuss, even the King James Bible.
GS: Dr Seuss?
Manson: The character of The Cat in the Hat is not unlike the character of Willie Wonka, which is also similar to a character like Antichrist Superstar, who is taking the role of the fallen angel. The Cat in the Hat--he was doing his thing the way he wanted to do it, and hasnít playing by the rules. Neither was Willie Wonka. The antihero in literature is the one I've always identified with.
GS: How do you deal with all the notoriety?
Manson: There are a lot of cities that greet us with threats of violence, but I feel that that's all in a day's work for us, because at least it shows that we're saying something that is getting to somebody. I count success by not only the number of fans you have, but by the number of enemies as well.
GS: Can you tell me a little about the conceptual underpinnings of Antichrist Superstar? Who is the Wormboy, and how is he bringing forth the apocalypse?
Manson: The album is really a soundtrack to our lives. I look at this record as a living piece of art that continues to grow as a people continue to buy it. We haven't come to the conclusion yet. It's a bit of a prophecy of what will come. If you believe in something strong enough, you can make it happen. In the Kaballa, there's this idea that the world can only be ended by mankind inviting destruction upon itself. Everyone's fear of Marilyn Manson is really what has created it. So, this record is a ritual to bring that about, and each time someone plays it, it takes them one step closer to the apocalypse. Whether that's in you mind or not is as easy as people finally killing off god in their minds and becoming themselves, believing in themselves.
GS: Do your fans come to be scared, entertained, converted, or what?
Manson: It's like an amusement park. It's part of people's nature to be attracted to their own death and to fear. That's why this record is three cycles of death happening, and that's why people will gravitate toward it--whether in outrage or with open arms, people will gravitate to it.
GS: It seems that each of the three cycles has, musically at least, a thematic consistency; it's as if each of those three sections could stand alone as the album.
Manson: It was all very subconscious. It wasn't so contrived that we said "This is the way this is going to be." It just came out of us and happened to fit together in the right way. I'm a little too close to it now to step back and look at it, but when Twiggy and I were writing the record, I would come to him with these dreams that I had, lyrically, and we would understand each other. The music would come from the same place. Whereas, in the past, we wrote in more of a "band" way, and it was very democratic, everybody in a room playing their parts and coming up with ideas. But this was very focused and it came from a specific place in our minds. Twiggy and I were in tune with one another. Pogo [keyboardist Madonna Wayne Gacy] too, for that matter. The core writing of the album was us three, and the number three occurs a lot on the record. In numerology there's a lot of significance to the number three. It's traditionally a very powerful number; you find it in a lot of religions. It's the Holy Trinity, and in magic it's a very powerful number.
GS: How did all this contribute to you getting a new guitarist?
Manson: That triangle is one of the main reasons that we sought out another guitar player, because we were all in a very specific frame of mind and our former guitarist wasn't. So, nearly all the guitar playing on the album was done by Twiggy. I played on three tracks, Daisy [Berkowitz, former guitarist] played on three, Trent played on one or two and Zim played on the live song that we're going to record in February of next year.
Manson: You actually shouldn't even be able to hear "Irresponsible Hate Anthem," so if you can hear it, that means you're definitely in tune with what we're doing. It hasn't been recorded until next year.
GS: What is the source of you energy?
Manson: It would be easier to say, "What isn't the source?" It's everything. I'm a person who watches everything. When I go places, I watch people. I listen to what my dreams are doing. I listen to voices on cellular phones that I'm not supposed to be hearing. I listen to conversations people have. I'm in tune with everything. When you get to the level where every frequency is audible to you., then you find everything really ties together. It can be scary for some people, but if you're a part of it, it's kind of exciting.I look at life as kind of an old movie camera, where there are all the frames to the film contained in the camera, and as you flip through you can only see one at a time. I've developed the ability to look at all of them at the same time. It's a matter of being in touch with your subconscious. We went through many different experiences trying to get there: drugs, staying up all week, pain, everything.
Twiggy Ramirez: Stay up for a week, it'll change your life. We had contests to see who could stay up the longest.
Manson: Actually, we spent most of the time in the studio just looking at each other, trying to communicate telepathically. Twiggy and I have a system where, a lot of times, I don't have to tell him what I'm thinking; he just knows it.
GS: Talk a bit about the power of propaganda and how people are indoctrinated by the belief systems that you rail against.
Manson: I've spent many years trying to wake people up to that idea, but instead of trying to beat the system, in a way I've become it and I plan on changing it from within. So now people say, "Why is what you do any different from Christianity? You've got a bunch of people listening to what you're saying." But if I'm going to be a god at least I'm a real one that people can see and feel and touch and I've got a place where I'm taking everyone and it's not open-ended. It's very specific. It's a revolution, socially, for people to become themselves. And that's the last thing that America wants.
GS: It doesn't require people to have any faith, because you're a corporal entity, flesh and blood.
Manson: There's no need for faith. It's right there. I admit it: I'm a hypocrite. I'm a paradox and I thrive off of that. I strip away all the lies and say everything is a lie. These people who think that they're ugly and think that they have no way to fit into society now realize that society can fit into them.
GS: Are you a hateful person?
Manson: Sometimes. Just as much as I love things, I hate them. Specifically, the title of "Irresponsible Hate Anthem," is what I predicted people would refer to the song as. The people that would call us hateful are missing the point. And there will be alot of people who will say they hate us because they say that we're hateful. They are not seeing their own hypocrisy. These people will be revealed and they'll be fed to the lions. So to speak.
GS: You cite Freud as one of your big influences. Do you therefore buy into the notion that what ails America is a collective repression of sexuality?
Manson: I suppose so. The world doesn't revolve around the sun, it revolves around a giant cock. That is what the world is about; it's about sex. Anybody who doesn't want to realize that is fooling themselves... People are bored because they've done everything they can do, so now the fear of death is the only thing that gets them excited. That's why people have made me into some kind of sex symbol. I'm death on wheels, the way I look.
GS: Is the fact that you are the kingpin of rebellion in the Nineties a sign that the world is ending or what?
Manson: Absolutely. Things need to go to a point of extremism in order to be born again, so we can once again appreciate the little things in life: sex, drugs and rock and roll. Things need to go past that point as far as they can go, and they we'll become innocent again. It's my job to sort of cleanse the world of all its sins. I'm offering myself up as a sacrifice to the world to become innocent again.
GS: Do you want to become innocent again?
Manson: That's what Smells Like Children was about. It was a metaphor for wanting to be a kid again, and wishing that I hadn't been exposed to all the things I have been exposed to, so that I once again could be pure.
GS: It's kind of a terrible thing that you have to go through all these elaborate contortions in order to express this.
Manson: I don't find it terrible. I enjoy my life. I live it to the fullest. There's no guarantee that you're going to be here tomorrow.
GS: Did Annie Lennox ever call you after "Sweet Dreams" became a hit?
Manson: She actually didn't write the song. Dave Stewart wrote the words and the music, and I heard from other people that he liked it a lot. I'm sure he's happy, because he made a lot of money off of it, and we didn't.
GS: Who are some of your major musical influences?
Manson: Adam Ant, David Bowie, Bauhaus, Annie Lennox. One of my favorite records is Mob Rules, when Dio sang with Black Sabbath. I even like Creedence Clearwater Revival. I like dark things; not only predictably dark things, but things that you might not expect to have a lot of pain in them, but do. I like old Rolling Stones, too. Twiggy and I like a lot of the same stuff and when we were making this record, we drew on our influences. We also wanted to capitalize on everyone's strengths. That's why the record is almost like the White Album: There's some stuff that's very keyboard-oriented, and that's Pogo; there's stuff that's very guitar-oriented that Twiggy is responsible for; and there's stuff that revolves around the vocal that I did. We wanted a balanced album.
GS: You've cited Social Darwinism as a foundation of your belief system. What about the whiff of racism that can accompany it?
Manson: It's beyond fascism and it's beyond fascism and sexism. If you were to say, "I like only white people," there's a bunch of white people that suck that make it under the fence and they get a free ride. So I couldn't possibly like only white people. I judge people on their intelligence and on their personality. I think the only thing that counts in the world is what you can contribute to society. That's why in a perfect world, America, would be run by artists, musicians, writers and people of that nature because these are the people that make the world worth living.
GS: The standard response is that they tried that in Ireland and it almost ruined the country.
Manson: People should be allowed to do what they want; that's the basis for Social Darwinism--that the strong will survive. That has nothing to do with sex or race, but has to do with, really, your ethics. Not your ethics. It's what you stand for, not how you were born. In a way, it's politically correct in a backwards sort of fashion: it treats everyone equally, but if you want equal rights, then you need to take equal punishment as well. You can't just have one.
GS: You are calling for Armageddon, but why would you want the world to end?
Manson: Because the way it is, it's not...it's not a great place anymore. And it can't be.
GS: When was it a great place?
Manson: I'm not sure it would have been much more enjoyable to be alive in the Fifties, when there was at least and illusion of purity and things that were taboo had such a great power to them. I think it was a time when magic was really alive. There's no imagination anymore. It was eliminated with video games and VCRs...I'm only necessary because of the way the world is.
GS: Could you ever see yourself having kids?
Manson: Eventually. The only way to be immortal is to pass things down.
GS: Given what you've said about the world and about America, is that a responsible thing to do?
Manson: Well, if I manage to make the world a little bit of a better place then maybe I'd want to have a kid.
GS: How is Marilyn Manson going to make the world a better place?
Manson: It's something people are going to have to do for themselves. I'm just gonna make them want it. Everybody has the ability to, every man and woman is a star, it just takes the time to realize that they need the personal strength to acknowledge what they are. And I'm just trying to wake that up in everybody.
GS: There are some lyrics on the album about your mother. What does she make of all of this?
Manson: She's very supportive. She feels responsible, so she has no other choice but to accept it. It's a whole other story if I gotta talk about my mom. She doesn't play guitar so I shouldn't say anything. My mom imagines things. She has mice and she talks to them and she wakes up in the middle of the night and has visions of people standing at the foot of her bed--demons and stuff like that.
GS: Is your mom on the same mystical vibe as you?
Manson: No. She's crazy. I'm eccentric because I have money.
Ramirez: Can I say something about my mom?
GS: Sure, Twiggy. We wouldn't want to leave her out of this.
Ramirez: I was brought up for most of my childhood by my mom, so there's a bit of mystery as to who my father is. She used to dance for Mountain, Leslie West...
GS: No way!
Manson: ...in a cage.
Ramirez: The stuff that's for real is crazier than the stuff I'm making up. She used to dance in the cage for Mountain, naked. And she used to do The Jerk onstage with the Kinks. I swear. So my dad is probably either Leslie West or Ray Davies. Who knows which one.
GS: Journalists are always pointing out that you're a polite, friendly guy, despite the ghoulish trappings. You even wore pajamas to your Guitar World interview. [December, 1996] It made for a kind of cuddly feel.
Manson: It was a hospital gown, actually, from when I was hospitalized.
GS: What were you hospitalized for?
Manson: Well, when I was a child I had pneumonia twice. And I had polyps removed from my rectum. I had to have my urethra enlarged because the hole though which I urinate wasn't large enough to accommodate the stream I was projecting. I had an allergic reaction to antibiotics once and I almost died. Recently, I was hospitalized for depression and scarification. Self-mutilation. And I've had my legs waxed, but I wasn't in the hospital for that.
Ramirez: When I was about seven or eight years old, I had a plastic toy fist, where you pulled a smaller plastic fish out of the bigger fish's mouth, on a string. And it went chop-chop-chop. I wrapped it around my...member, and it got caught and I had to go to the hospital. It was cutting the circulation off and they thought they might have to remove part of my...
GS: Uh, Zim, how as it for you coming into this freak show?
Zim Zum: It's been very comfortable, actually. We're all around the same age and we all basically grew up listing to the same music.
GS: What sorts of bands did you play in before?
Zum: I never played in a band that did any recording. I played with local musicians in Chicago and I did a lot of recording at home.
GS: What was the experience of trying out for the band like?
Zum: There were maybe 15 people there. I stood around most of the day while one guitar player after the next went in. It was a typical mix: you had an alternative crowd; five or six Twiggys in the room; a couple of goth guys. I had no idea where I would fit in. I wore a black t-shirt and black jeans. The weird thing was, Trent came into the room and said, "Good luck." I figured, well, it's time for me to go. I went in and played "Get Your Gunn." After I played it, I stopped and I didnít roll thought the rest of the songs. There was a was a spotlight in my face. It was the only light in the room. And Manson and Twiggy and Pogo were sitting on a couch, about two feet in front of me. I couldn't really see them. I stopped and walked around the light and talked to them. I think it was probably from that point on that I felt that I was basically done. Then I went to Bourbon Street and did the whole New Orleans thing with a couple of the other guitar players who had come out. I didn't get home to the hotel until about 7:30 in the morning. Then I got a call at around 11 o'clock from somebody that sounded as tired, if not more tired, as I was and it was Manson. We talked n the phone for about two hours about David Bowie and the Stooges. After that, I jumped in a cab, met him for lunch and now all this. It's really weird.
GS: It must be a lot of fun.
Zum: If nothing else, I have five people that I'm really connected with and really comfortable with. We spent two months in a rehearsal space, stripped down, nothing miked, no PA and I just got used to playing with the five of them. Now we take the same vibe and do it in front of people. I don't get the thing about "the way Marilyn Manson was as opposed to the way he is now," because the music is different--it's a little bit heavier and it made it easier for me to come into something like this. Twiggy played most of the guitar on the album, and I'm really comfortable with his playing. He's a bass player, so he doesn't think like a guitar player would: theory, noodling and riffs. It's all real attitude and the basic tone.
Ramirez: One of the main tests we gave at the rehearsals was we had them play a game of Dungeons and Dragons with us, and he was an expert. He already had his own character that he had fixed back from home, which I thought was very exciting.
Manson: I had him come stay with me in my apartment. We were looking for someone with the right personality because you can find anyone to play guitar. That's only half of it. It's about being a part of what we are. I feel that we're whole now. We have what we've always been missing. And his guitar playing, obviously, was more than adequate. He's a great guitar player.
GS: Where does the name "Zim Zum" come from?
Zum: It's kind of a band thing.
Manson: We felt that since Marilyn Manson has almost transformed itself into Antichrist Superstar, he became a member of that entity and Zim Zum, unlike the names of the other members of Marilyn Manson, is a Hebrew term that refers to and angel that was doing God's dirty work at the beginning of time. We felt that since he joined the band to complete this tour and continue on with us that he was doing the dirty work as well.
Zum: I knew it wasn't about the way I looked or the guitars that I played or anything. They listened to my tape--it was actually playing when Manson called me. Most people think that there's this big image change that comes along. They told me, "You don't have to change anything. Just do what you're doing now, and that's fine."
GS: You played in Chicago last night. Was that the biggest gig you've ever played in your hometown?
Zum: Absolutely. We played at the Riviera, which holds about 2,500 people. It was the first time I've been back in Chicago since going down to New Orleans for the first time. I think the entire mosh pit was people that I knew, and relatives that I'd never met. I guess I was a little nervous. But we had a good show--a very destructive show, but a good show.
Zum: Twiggy splintered a bass--it's toothpicks now. An SG, two of my Marshall cabs, and one of Pogo's keyboards got destroyed.
GS: It sounds like you had a lot invested in this. Do you think that your being in the band is some kind of cosmic happenstance?
Zum: Absolutely. The first time I talked to Tony, the road manager, I said to him--and it wasn't cocky or anything like that--that if I got the audition, I didn't want to come home. I planned on coming down and playing and doing this. It was just weird.
GS: What kinds of guitars do you use?
Zum: the three main guitars that I play I made myself, I used to work at a guitar manufacturer.
GS: Oh? Which one?
Manson: You're allowed to say it if you want.
Zum: I was actually fired from the place, so...Some of my guitars are brand names. I have a couple of SGs.
GS: And you play through a rack?
Zum: Yeah. It's Marshall cabinets, a Marshall power amp head, a Marshall preamp and an effects processor. I have a Dunlop Jimi Hendrix wah-wah pedal on the floor. I love them. They have a really good sweeping range and sound great on "Sweet Dreams."
GS: There are three or four guitar companies in the Chicago area, but if you're embarrassed about getting fired...
Zum: No, it's not embarrassing that I got fired. It's embarrassing that I worked for them.
GS: Why did you get fired?
Zum: For not showing up.
Manson: This is what I heard, but he won't confirm it. He was caught using a low-E string to auto-eroticize. He had it tied around his throat while he was masturbating in the employee bathroom. You can print that. He won't confirm it, but that's what I heard.
GS: How are your guitars set up?
Zum: The three I built are tuned to E flat for the first three songs in the set; E for about five of them; D for "Little Horn"; some B tuning, then D for "Beautiful People" and E all the way out. Straight E. The whole middle of the set is standard tuning. the first three songs are flat. They're in E on the album, but live, we play them lower.
GS: What were you going for when you were building those guitars?
Zum: I have a 1975 Start at home that I absolutely love, but I don't like to have a humbucker put into a Strat because it ruins the whole purpose. I'm not into the pointy guitars, either. I just wanted something thick, a flat body, a humbucker, and volume. I took the neck humbucker out so I can just toggle it off and so I don't have to worry about another set of pickups that I never use. I like the feel of the Strat neck and the headstock is comfortable. The neck is completely unfinished. It's a really comfortable feel for me.
GS: So what was the guitar company you worked for?________
The show has ended, most of the fans have left and the stage is slick with Manson's blood. While the band retires to its tour bus, techs and roadies break down the set. After a spell, Zim Zum comes out to talk a bit more before leaving for Detroit. He's still wearing his makeup-charcoal black around the eyes, ghoul-white pancaking on the rest of his face. The soft-spoken guitarist is clearly wound up from an evening of spine-tingling metal-industrial excess.
"We had a good show," he says, sipping at a bottle of hard cider. "When we play, it's about the five of us feeding off of each other, and people feed off of that. It's just a vibe that starts with us and works its way out to the crowd. What we're doing up here is really no different than what's going on out there."
A young man approaches and pulls up his shirt. Drummer Ginger Fish and Zim Zum's signatures are tattooed on his back. The thick black cursive lines are lined with the typical raw-red skin discoloration that goes with brand new tats.
Zim Zum is floored. He signed the kid's back the previous night.
"That's unbelievable," he finally whispers. Addressing the fan, he adds, shaking his head: "That's very cool, but you're completely out of your mind."
"I know," says the fan. "I don't care." He bounds off.
"That kid's had a busy day," says Zim. "I'm the more introverted one in the band, and things like that... I'm usually of few words, so something like that leaves me completely speechless. It's good to see. When I play, I give just about everything I have, from the minute we hit the stage to the minute we leave. They're giving it back to us. But that kind of devotion is a lot to take in. I hope he's as happy about it in 10 years as he is about it today. If it makes him happy today, I guess that's all that matters. Ten years from now, who knows what any of us are going to be doing."
If Marilyn Manson has its way, we could all be dead. For Zim, if could be even worse: "I'll probably be working in a record store."