JEORDIE WHITE | BASE TENDENCIES
The quintet from Fort Lauderdale, Marilyn Manson, are seemingly forever busy, whether touring or recording. Live, they’re always trying to outdo themselves and break every rule-perhaps because they extend their complex personalities into the concert forum for all to see.
"When we are writing songs or recording them, we see ourselves as artists and we act out our creativity," bassist Twiggy Ramirez told Circus Magazine earlier this year. "Onstage we are simply performers and play different characters. We are like the Indians who used different masks and paints for different animals."
For many Manson followers, their recent "Dead To The World" concerts were mass cleansing ceremonies where their followers showed up in Goth makeup and spandex. Cynics outside this dedicated fan base, often misinterpret the band's intentions and see something they consider blasphemous and disrespectful to mainstream society. Their recent concerts, captured for posterity on the newly-released longform video named after their controversial tour, generated such a buzz that the venues of the shows were picketed and in one case, paid not to play in a town. Marilyn Manson don't have to bask under limelight’s giant lightning bolt banners, and makeshift pulpits to challenge America's way of thinking. Currently they are working on a new album that is supposed to take the ambitious themes of Antichrist Superstar a step further. But for Marilyn Manson, the issues and philosophy addressed on their next full length effort will be a quantum leap over the general level rock 'n roll is at.
The as yet untitled album is said to draw from the same influences Manson used on Antichrist Superstar, namely the Beatles' “White Album” and mid-'70s Bowie. The band, according to various reports, is collaborating with the Dust Brothers (Beastie Boys, Beck) and Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins, as well.
Next to frontman Marilyn, Ramirez in his wild dresses and pancake-heavy makeup is the most prominent member of the furious five from Florida. Twiggy, who's rooming with Marilyn in a posh Laurel Canyon home, gave Circus Magazine the scoop about what they have in store for us with their new album and the composing process.
CIRCUS: You've been touring pretty much the past year. Did you still find time to write new songs for the album you're currently working on?
Ramirez: Of course we do! When we've got an idea we record it on tape and work on it later or rehearse them on soundchecks. Of course these aren't finished songs or anything, but in our tour bus we've got the same kind of computer we use in the studio, only smaller, but this way we cant start working while we're still on the road and finish the songs later in the studio. So once we're back from a tour we record the new songs from what we call "tour demos" and at the moment everything seems to work out just find and it looks like we're going to have the new album finished in the second half of '98.
CIRCUS: So what do we have to expect from the new album? Antichrist seemed like the finishing point and the perk of a period of decadence.
Ramirez: We're going to start where we've stopped with Antichrist. Not a real follow-up, but Antichrist already moved into a certain direction and we're going to follow that direction a bit further. We're going in even deeper. You know into the imaginary end, or into imagining the end.
CIRCUS: Where do you get the motivation from? The themes, the music, the titles and all that?
Ramirez: They kind of materialize, they have their own power. We have some sort of story, a story we're going to tell on an album, kind of a concept for the album, or better a theme and slowly the songs add up. In general most of the songs get written while we are on tour, later on we make some sort of artwork out of the pieces - the songs - and it's like a collage. Or like pictures of an exhibition that has a certain theme, a red thread that runs through it.
CIRCUS: What happens if you don't have enough songs? For example you're telling a story and one piece is missing, like a link, and you have a gap there. Are you going to write a song then to fill it up?
Ramirez: In general you can say that we've always got more songs than we basically need for an album, more songs than the rough outline of the album needs. We don't need fillers to make a story complete.
CIRCUS: Are you recording the songs like they are on the "tour-tapes" or are those just rough ideas?
Ramirez: We are trying to get the basic feeling of every song, trying to relive the basic feeling of each and every song, going through the whole emotion again and trying to imagine what we felt when we recorded it. That's basically what we do and songs often change during that process, through the interaction with each other, through what has happened in the meantime. We rather do that than trying to create new songs for the purpose of a certain concept.
CIRCUS: Have you ever thought about making a live-album to gain more time you need for another studio album?
Ramirez: We have enough material together for an EP (Remix and Repent) and we did a video (Dead to the World). I don't think a full live album will be in the very near future but maybe we might use a few live tracks on an album, you never know.
CIRCUS: Since you're toured so much in '97, I'm sure you've got lots of stories to tell about it.
Ramirez: I could, I suppose, but I don't think it's that interesting.
CIRCUS: But you've played on the Ozzfest and apart from that lawsuit (where the band overrode an injunction from the management of Giants Stadium that prevented them from playing on the Ozzfest '97 at that venue), you also seemed to have problems with the audience sometimes. You'd think an audience that comes to a festival headlined by Ozzy Osbourne would like Marilyn Manson.
Ramirez: I'm sure a lot of people liked us there, some didn't and they're always louder than the ones who do, no big deal. Also we had to play during the day and I don't think Marilyn Manson is a band who... Let me rephrase that, we're not exactly a band who's great to see during the day. We prefer playing at night. We're not bright day creatures and certainly not on stage. But I don't think it was wrong to accept it. Festivals are like that, you'll always get people who come to see certain bands and hate seeing other bands, it's not such a big deal. I think there were enough people who liked us. I just think we're better at night, the light show, the visuals, everything.
CIRCUS: So what was the worst experience you ever had on stage? Is there something a truly embarrassing or nightmarish concert?
Ramirez: Of course there is, it happened during our very first tour! We've been touring with Nine Inch Nails, that was our first tour, and they arrested us. Handcuffed and arrested us as we were barely dressed. What an experience, it was terrible!
CIRCUS: What was the reason for your arrest?
Ramirez: I won't tell!
CIRCUS: How long does it take you to prepare yourself for a gig? How long do you need to get dressed up?
Ramirez: To be honest, only half an hour. I'm not somebody else on stage, nobody is just one-dimensional, or only a few people are...I think they don't know what they are missing. On stage Twiggy takes over and dominates the scene. Twiggy is also part of my everyday life, even if it isn't always a dominant part, but it can be.
CIRCUS: How much room is there for personal decisions? Does everybody pick their own clothes or do you hold meetings before a show and talk about what you're going to wear on stage?
Ramirez: Not at All, it's a decision everybody in the band makes for themselves. You can't go and tell somebody "you're going to dress like this tonight" it wouldn't be right because we're playing for an audience. If you go out on stage you've got to face an audience, that means you have to feel right, your clothes have to be part of your personality, it's an expression and it doesn't matter if you're trying to show something or trying to hide something. Millions of people do it every day, most of them are just not conscious about it.
CIRCUS: Is it true Marilyn Manson meditates before a gig?
Ramirez: Not that I know.
CIRCUS: How does he prepare himself?
Ramirez: Maybe with Jack Daniels...
CIRCUS: Obviously the band represents a strong image, how much of the success Marilyn Manson enjoys do you think is due to image?
Ramirez: I think "image" is something that was always there. In the music business, and it has become more important, it belongs there, but image shouldn't be the most important thing and our image and our music go hand in hand. You could say Marilyn Manson is a band for the eyes and ears. Just like music, image reflects your personality, so it can't be static.
CIRCUS: You and Marilyn went into the acting genre as well. You both played a small role in David Lynch's movie "Lost Highway". How did that happen? Did you apply for the role?
Ramirez: David Lynch saw pictures of us and liked what he saw. He called us and asked Marilyn and me to show up and do a few scenes. It was really exciting for us to be in a Lynch movie, I've always admired him and I've always been a fan. He only needed us for a few takes, so it was something we could easily do, it was easy to fit into our schedule.
CIRCUS: How was the actual acting? Did he leave you much room to create your roles or was it more like "here, that's what you got to do"?
Ramirez: Everything was already laid down, so all we had to do was act.
CIRCUS: Your video clips are pretty much like little movies, was it something like that?
Ramirez: Our videos are a bit different, there's always a difference if you're doing a video as a band or if you're an actor and you have to embrace a certain role, be a different person.
CIRCUS: How does a Marilyn Manson video come to life? What happens there and who has the ideas for it?
Ramirez: We always need a couple days to record a video. We work with an open script, that's how we start and during the recording process we develop new ideas, everybody has ideas, gets inspired by the ideas of others, there's an artistic feedback. We can't determine what a video is going to be like, or how it's going to be. It's a growing thing, a process. I think that's what keeps our videos so alive, that we're not characters who follow a script. That we don't have a finished product in our heads that we put together for a video, but that it's a growing, almost living thing.