Twiggy Stardust

A black limousine glides up Sunset Strip. Twiggy Ramirez lounges in the back seat, conservatively dressed in a black long sleeved shirt, black slacks and a red tie-like Gary Numan on the cover of the "Replicas" album. It's a far cry from the frocks, bondage gear and ghoul make up that Twiggy, who is Marilyn Manson's right-hand man, often wears on stage and in photo ops with Manson. But conventional attiare only serves to accentuate Twiggy's inherent freakishness. He's A walking skeleton, all thin-limbed. His face seems preternaturally elongated, like an image in a funhouse mirror, which somehow gives his abundant black dreadlocks the appearance of a foppish, 18th century wig that's been knocked slightly askew. As the limo threads through afternoon traffic, Twiggy offers a running commentary on the West Hollywood rock and roll landmarks that pass by:

"Oh man, the Whiskey. I was in there only once-when we played there."

The members of Marilyn Manson have been living in L.A.. for about a year now. And like many newcomers to the city, Twiggy still seems a little mesmerized by this place where stardom was, after all, invented. The limo pulls up in front of famed hard rock eatery 'The Rainbow'. Twiggy Orders up a hearty middle American repast: steak and fries, with fried mozzarella cheese sticks and a salad for starters. These items are consumed with good appetite beneath framed, autographed 80's metal stars who were heroes to young Jeordie White in the days before he joined Marilyn Manson and took the name of a Swinging London fashion icon and the surname of a serial killer Richard Ramirez. As the band's bassist, guitarist and de facto musical director, Twiggy has become second only to Marilyn Manson himself in terms of media visibility and paparazzi appeal. It's been this way ever since the Antichrist Superstar album made Marilyn Manson the most controversial, headline-grabbing thing to happen in rock music since Ozzy bit the head off the dove. The groups popularity seems likely to spread further with release of it's new album, 'Mechanical Animals'. This is the first album the band has made without Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails), who discovered Manson, signed them to his record label (Nothing Records) and has produced all their records to date. This time, however, the band opted for Soundgarden Producer Michael Beinhorn. As always, the Manson family is full of surprises. They've pretty much jettisoned the tortured, post-industrial yowling and thrash guitar mael-storm of Antichrist Superstar. Instead they've gone for a more hook-happy, song oriented approach, drawing from trashy styles like glam, disco and early 80's synthpop, fusing all this into a darkly appealing piece of Manson Conceptualism. The much-vaunted Satanism is scant evidence this time, too. Instead, Manson seems to be emphasizing good, old-fashioned values: Sex, Drugs, Rock and Roll. "We're all star now in the dope show," he croons on the albums first single ("The Dope Show"), over a slinky, strip-tease backbeat and distressed wah guitar textures. The making if the album brought personnel as well as musical changes for Marilyn Manson. Guitarist Zim Zum left the band shortly after tracking was completed, but not without leaving his mark on the disc. He will we replaced on the fourth coming 'Mechanical Animals' tour by former David Lee Roth and Rob Halford guitarist John Lowery. On this album, as always, Twiggy played both bass and guitar, contributing heavily to the songwriting as well. "It's less riffy, in a heavy metal sense," he says on the new album. "That may disappoint some people. But I think were a lot of the fans who were into 'Antichrist superstar' have grown up and gotten a little older. So I think we're on the same page as them. To be honest with you, I didn't think people would get 'Antichrist Superstar' either, because it was a complete U-turn from something like 'Sweet Dreams.' But they did." Given as the band's love of twisted artifice, it's no surprise Marilyn Manson has thrived in the land of smoggy sunlight and silicone implants. Mr. Manson is dating actress Rose McGowan. Twiggy regularly paints the town red with his new buddy, former Jane's Addiction/Chilli Peppers guitarist Dave Navarro. Los Angeles is known as a city where glamour co-exists with terror. Marilyn Manson has found a place called home.

GW: Compared to 'Antichrist Superstar', this new record seems more "Marilyn" then "Manson". It's fun and seductive.

Twiggy Ramirez: Definitely. We pretty much wrote every song to be a single. We weren't thinking about that on 'Antichrist Superstar'. That music held a lot of anger. This one is a little prettier. There are a lot more emotions involved in this than just anger. The last one was a lot harder. But there's really no point in doing that over and over again. 'Cause if you listen to are records before 'Antichrist Superstar', they're all different too.

GW: What triggered this change in style?

Ramirez: A lot of the record is a reflection of our moving to Hollywood. We wanted to have a California record. I'd never lived in California. So we said, "Let's move out to L.A." We rented a house and started writing songs. Just living up in the Hollywood Hills, you look out on Los Angeles at night time and it's almost like you're on top of the world. But you're kind of alone. And that has to do with stardom, too: the loneliness thing. Before we felt alone because nobody knew who we were. Now we feel alone because everybody knows who we are. You actually feel more alone when everybody knows who you are than you do when nobody does. Being popular is a different kind of isolation.

GW: People receive you as a icon, not as a person.

Ramirez: It's bizarre: everybody just automatically assumes you're being an asshole or a dick because you're being yourself. You start to question your own happiness. Do I have to sacrifice my own happiness Just to be perceived a certain way by other people? When people automatically think you're a dick, you have to be extra nice to everyone just to be an alright guy. But they kind of accept you more here in Hollywood.

GW: There are a lot of dope songs on the new album.

Ramirez: Yeah, drug use while making this record was more fun than it was when we recorded out last album. 'Antichrist Superstar' was a lot more painful, I think, just recording the album. Everyone was on drugs and it wasn't necessarily a fun thing. This was definitely more positive. Although some of the songs were more darker, lyrically.

GW: What exactly is 'The Dope Show'?

Ramirez: That one is the most Hollywood song. It's kind of a reflection how you'll be at home here, and suddenly you'll find yourself hanging out with Scott Baio and the guys from Iron Maiden, all in one place. And the next thing you know, Corey Feldman's knocking at your door to sing karaoke in your house. Coming here and hanging out with people who were your icons when you were growing up. The crazy experiences you go through with them. You see how they view stardom after it has already passed.

GW: So is it dope as in "stupid", or as in "Drugs"? Is it hip-hop slang, like, "that's really dope"?

Ramirez: Personally I see it as drugs, "The Dope Show". The music and entertainment business are highly fueled on drugs and flavor-of-the-month and stuff like that. Who's popular at the moment. And how many people want to be around you because it makes them feel good about themselves, 'cause you're famous', or 'important' or whatever. It's amazing how many people in the movie industry want to hang out with rock stars or be rock stars. So you get immense respect from people you thought were more famous then you. Johnny Depp gave me this guitar worth about 4 or 5 thousand dollars, this Valeno from the mid-seventies that's made out of airplane aluminum. It's very cool. {Miami based guitar builder John Valeno produced a small number of these aluminum instruments in the early seventies-GW Ed.}

GW: Sean Beaven [manson and NIN engineer and co-producer was telling me how you started writing up at the house, using sequences and Pro Tools and things like that. And how you moved to Conyay [is a Hollywood recording studio] to finish the record with more live playing.

Ramirez: Yeah. On our last album, a lot of what was great about demo was lost when we went to the studio and we did the record. With this one, we were able to save some parts from the demos. A lot of songs are hybrids of stuff from demos and live performances in the studio. This is the most live record we have ever done. Before lots of the stuff was cut and made perfect, with all the guitar and bass parts playing really tight and perfect. But this one's a lot looser. All the performances are pretty much live, like on pass through on guitar and bass. But then that's edited together with more mechanical stuff. It's a real mixture of mechanical and real playing.

GW: Mechanical and Animal.

Ramirez: Yeah. This record has a lot more flesh to it than the last one-it's more human. And that has to do with the fact that we're a lot more human now, I think.

GW: Is the world ready for a more human Marilyn Manson

Ramirez: I think the Marilyn side is actually a little scarier then the Manson side. With 'Antichrist', we created these persona and, in a Ziggy Stardust kind of way, just told everyone we were going to be these big rock stars. And we just became that. And now this record is kind of dealing with our personas more in terms of who we really are. Twiggy kind of devoured who I really was. But it helped me to find myself more.

GW: Actors often say that about roles they play.

Ramirez: It's definitely a role playing thing . I cant say it's being fake. In playing a part, you learn more about yourself.

GW: You discover a part about yourself that you might not have otherwise.

Ramirez: Yeah; I feel I'm really fortunate . Because a lot of people get trapped into just one identity. And that limits you mind. I've escaped that kind of trap. Plus you can get away with a lot of stuff, too. "Oh it wasn't me who did that, it was that other guy I've become."

GW: Some of the songs on the new album seem more personal than others.

Ramirez: We're lucky in the fact that we're more of an art project than an actual musical band. I mean, we ARE a band. But this allows us to be a lot more schizophrenic in our sound. 'Cause we're not trapped in this certain sound that people expect to hear from us every time. The fact that the entity of Marilyn Manson is more important than the music has benefited us, I think. Because it allowed us more room to do different things.

GW: There's an early 80's, Gary Numan thing happening on the record too, which is pretty cool. Like the song 'New model': that riff, those drum machine hand claps!

Ramirez: Thank you. Yeah, it's very Gary Numan.

GW: Are you, Manson and others alike in your musical tastes, or are you each bringing in different influences?

Ramirez: I think we're pretty much alike. I can write a million songs. But, as far as Marilyn Manson goes, it comes out the way it does because of Marilyn-our working relationship and how we write songs. I mold myself to be whatever the song needs. I really think of putting in my playing style on bass or guitar. It's more important to me for that to be put on the record. I see myself more as a songwriter than a actual player. I really don't care about guitar playing or bass playing. I care about songs. So when we go to write a song, whether it's on guitar or bass, I try to pretend I'm a different person, depending on whether we want an early Eighties sound, a mid Nineties sound-whatever we're going for.

GW: How does it typically work when you and Marilyn write together? Give me a scenario.

Ramirez: It's all different. Sometimes it'll start with an idea for a song and we'll write everything around the idea. Other times, we'll just have a couple chords that make sense to us and we'll build a song around that. For instance, "The Dope Show" was written in about 5 minutes. That's why it's my favorite. Other songs on the record, like "The Great Big White World" and "Mechanical Animals", went through several different changes. But "The Dope Show" was a lot like "The Beautiful People [From 'Antichrist Superstar'] It was written in pretty much the same form as the final recording. "I wanna Disappeer" was written really quickly too. I like the songs that come out quickly. They have a sense of honesty and truth.

GW: What was it like to make a record without Trent Reznor for the first time?

Ramirez: We learned a lot from him in the past and took it with us. I think people are deceived into thinking he had a lot to do with our songwriting. He has a lot to do with the sound of 'Antichrist Superstar' Because he was almost like a member of the band on that record. But the fact that people had to do with out songwriting really pushed us to prove ourselves as songwriters on this record. That's why there are more real songs on this one. I'm happy with the last record, but I'm even happier with this one.

GW: So what did Michael Beinhorn bring to the party?

Ramirez: He really taught me how to play a little ahead of the beat on bass and a little behind on guitar. Almost like Led Zeppelin type thing. I'd never noticed that before in music. I think that's why this record has a more live feel. He got me to love music again. Before, I was starting to hate it and not be interested anymore.

GW: There were reports that Billy Corgan was involved in the making of your new record. Did you work with him very much?

Ramirez: Billy's participation on the record was more in the way of friendship then actual songwriting. He was doing his record around the same time we were doing ours. We'd spend days in the swimming pool over at his house doing weird shit. He'd listen to our songs, I'd listen to his songs. It was more his friendship that had impression on some of the songs than any actual work he did. He didn't really tell us to change parts or play things a certain way. His influence was more personal.

GW: How did Zim Zum divide up the guitar playing duties on this album?

Ramirez: The songs that are mine, I don't trust anybody else with. I pretty much want to do everything, when it comes down to it. If I wrote it, I feel I should play it. I mean, Zim Zum played only a couple of leads here and there, because he couldn't do his job.

GW: What happened there?

Ramirez: He couldn't do his job, pretty much.

GW: Musically?

Ramirez: In general. I don't want to get into it. He couldn't do his job.

GW: His departure from the band had been described as a amicable one. He's described in that way.

Ramirez: Yeah. Well, it's in his interest to. He said he quit the band. But you'd be pretty stupid to quit this band.

GW: There is a pattern here. After a studio album, the guitarist leaves. First it was Daisy Berkowitz. Now it's Zim Zum.

Ramirez: Yeah. That's usually because I intimidate those people into not doing anything. And when they don't do anything, we have a reason for letting them go.

GW: So it's a tough job being the other guitar player in Marilyn Manson.

Ramirez: Yeah. Because Marilyn and I have a working relationship. It's not that I'm better or anything. 'Cause I don't think talent is about a being technically a good guitar player. I think it's about having good taste in music. Because the best guitar players have ads in the back of 'Guitar World' plugging their guitar methods. They're not in bands. And they're not songwriters. So ability and technique are really irrelevant. It's songs that matter.

GW: Who played the guitar solo in 'Fundamentally Loathsome' ?

Ramirez: That was Zimmy. I never learned how to play guitar solos. The guitar solos I do are pretty much little melodies. Beatles melodies or whatever.

GW: Does this album have anything like the 29 tracks of guitar that are on 'Antichrist Superstar"?

Ramirez: Not really. There's more acoustic guitar and things like that. There's a lot more space on this record. Like you said, on the last album there were 29 guitars on 'Antichrist Superstar' and that really made everything else irrelevant. Although it sounded great. With this album, there's one bass sound that's louder and heavier than all 29 guitars together. The bass going through a gigantic P.A. that we hooked up to the live room. The subwoofers made it so low that the whole building would shake.

GW: What kind of bass was it?

Ramirez: Either a [Gibson] EBO or a [Fender] Precision bass. Most of the guitar parts were on a Les Paul. Before recording this record, I didn't own a guitar. Now I own 25. Before, I'd just pick up anything. I recorded a lot of soundtrack stuff before this record just on a little Fernandes with a speaker built inside-a little tiny toy guitar hooked up to a guitar processor. But since then, I've just developed a love for guitars. I went out and bought a shitload of them. So now I just have a bunch of fuckin' wood.

GW: But Les Paul's, you say, are the core of the sound?

Ramirez: Yeah. I used just one Les Paul for most of the record. And some SGs here and there. On the last record, I detuned the guitar to E flat and D for several songs. But the songs this album were written more in keys that pop songs are written in. So there are a few different tunings in this record, but not as much as on the last record. I moved the guitar around my playing on the last record, and on this one I moved my playing around the guitar more.

GW: I like the fuzz bass sound in "I wanna disapper".

Ramirez: Oh yeah. That's a good example of computer and live feel together. The rhythm and the bass are all live. But there's a computer bass and a mixture of miked guitars and direct guitars.

GW: Sean Beaven also told me you blew up a lot of amps.

Ramirez: Oh yeah. The recording process was : take 2 days to set up something, then five minutes to play the part and blow up something. The playing was the easy part.

GW: Did things get pretty wild in the studio?

Ramirez: One time we had black back up singers and porn star back up singers. They all came the same day. And my friend Dave Navarro was playing a guitar solo at the end of the song 'I Don't Like the Drugs[But the Drugs Like Me]'. And [seventies teeny bop idol] Leif Garret walked in the room. So to see the back up singers, the porn stars, Dave Navarro and Leif Garret in the same room was pretty weird.

GW: 'I Don't Like the Drugs[But the Drugs Like Me]' has a total disco beat. It's like K.C. and the Sunshine Band. Brilliant!!!!

Ramirez: We wanted to do a song that captured that era: that Seventies disco rock cocaine music, with Bowie and the Stones. When all the rock bands went disco. Aerosmith did it. Kiss's Dynasty. It was a weird era of Studio 54, cocain, "boogie nights" and rock music turning disco that I remember growing up.

GW: What a hook, too. If that song doesn't become a huge hit. There's something wrong with the world. Although I guess half the radio stations in America wont play it.

Ramirez: In the past we have never had any big radio songs. But we've already gotten a lot of attention from "The Dope Show".

GW: What was your intent-to go after radio this time?

Ramirez: Not really. If we were going after radio, we'd probably sound like Sugar Ray right now. And then we'd quit. But let me tell you one more thing about drugs. I've recently been experiencing with ketamine. You ever try that before?

GW: No

Ramirez: Horse tranquilizer. But if you take enough of it, it's really weird. I had to call Dave Navarro to come pick me up. Because my room was shrinking on my and I was stuck inside me room. So had to come pick me up and take me to his house.

GW: I wouldn't want to be freaking out on drugs and be in Dave Navarro's house, with all the skeletons and coffins he's got lying around. Don't you find that a little disturbing?

Ramirez: [Dismissively] Nah. Maybe it's a little scary when he brings out his guns and stuff. But anyway, we were supposed to get up the next morning and Dave Murray from Iron Maiden was suppose to come over to Dave Navarro's house. We were suppose to meet him because we couldn't make it to the show. But we slept right through it. Dave Murray was knocking at the door trying to get in and we slept right through it.

GW: There's a famous incident where The Who's Keith Moon passed out on stage after taking horse tranquilizers.

Ramirez: Was that what it was? Those are really cool, yeah. The first time I did it, I thought it was coke, 'cause the white powder. And then I couldn't leave my bedroom. You know how when your tranquilized, I think it separates your nervous system from your subconsciousness or something. It's almost like an out-of-body experience. It's like your first acid trip, the one time you have a really good acid trip, it changes you. It's like that. It kind of knocked a screw loose and made me happy in a weird way. It was kind of like therapy. Ever since I did it a couple weeks ago-and I haven't really done it since then-it's knocked that screw loose. I used to wake up and dread the day and not want to do anything. But now it's put my mind at ease. I forget to be miserable, It's really weird.

GW: When rock stars say "I'm really happy now" and "I'm finding myself," that's usually prelude to "I do Yoga and exercise and I don't take drugs anymore.

Ramirez: [Looking horrified] No. No! That's the last thing I'd say. Feel free to talk about all the drugs you want. It's all about money, girls, drugs, and music last. If you have money then you can have drugs and then you can have girls.

GW: So money first…

Ramirez: Well if you have money, then you have the freedom to be able to do the drugs and get away with not being a loser. And, well, girls are always there. And also if you have money and you're a rock star, no one looks down on you if you're on drugs. You're allowed to. That's one of the status symbols of being a rock star. And I guess if you have all those other things then you have the freedom to keep on being able to make music.

GW: I heard there's going to be a Marilyn Manson Movie.

Ramirez: There are plans. I wouldn't say it's at a stage to be talked about yet. We wanted to do a movie with 'Antichrist Superstar', but I'm glad we didn't, in a way. Because this album will be a lot more relevant.

GW: Kiss are making a movie, you know.

Ramirez: What, Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park, part II? You know, Gene Simmons once said, "We're here to show Marilyn Manson what it's all about". How flattering. People said "Aren't you mad that he said that?". No. That's the biggest flattery you can get. Kiss came back just for me! Gene Simmons saying "We're here to show you guys what it's a;; about. You have to wear some make up so everyone cares." They should go back to their Animalize days. That's what they should do. They should do "Heaven's on Fire" again. 'lick it up' and 'animalize'.

GW: You were once part of the Florida Death Metal scene. Do you still follow it?

Ramirez: Not really. Just 'cause I'm not there anymore. My roots are still from there. Only because that's all I had at the time. My world was this big [cups hands to form a circle about 3 inches in diameter]. I still listen to death metal, not only from Florida. A lot of those bands are getting back together now. Like Venom, wherever they're from [England, GW ED.] They got recognized because bands like Pantera would wear their t-shirts and stuff. And that's cool. When I was in gr.9 I had a Venom back patch on my Jean jacket and everyone hated my guts.

GW: How did you start playing guitar?

Ramirez: I was sitting at home one day listening to the first Van Halen album or something like that. Keep in mind, to date myself, I think Van Halen's 1984 was already out, but I was listening to Van Halen. A lot of people are afraid to show their influences, but I grew up on metal. Mötley Crüe's 'Shout at the Devil' and Iron Maiden's 'Piece of Mind' are the records that made me want to be a rock star. But when I was 13, my mum walked into my room and said "Do you want me to buy you a guitar or a drum set?" I said guitar, thank god. I never really took any lessons or anything. But I always had a guitar around the house and I would mimic Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Mötley Crüe or early Metallica. By the time I was 15, I was playing in the bands at my friends' houses. We'd just play our favorite songs. And from there, I eventually just started a band.

GW: Prior to Marilyn Manson, you played guitar, rather then, in Amboog-a-Lard, right?

Ramirez: Yeah, which was basically a heavy metal band. I'd played bass on a couple of independent Records before I joined Marilyn Manson. But I didn't own a bass until I joined the band. Technically, I was a guitar player.

GW: Are you from Florida?

Ramirez: No. I moved around a lot, growing up. Which was kind of to my benefit because I move around a lot now. So that shaped me to what I'm doing. You get used to relocating and loosing friends all the time. And having to make new friends and meet new people.

GW: Speaking of new people, what was it like working with the original 'Twiggy' on 'I Only Want to Be With you' from the Dead Man on Campus Soundtrack?

Ramirez: Im really the only on in the band who got to do that. Marilyn Monroe is dead, obviously. Madonna Sucks, and everyone else with a beauty icon was kicked out. So Twiggy was really beautiful and really cool. I talked to her on the phone and asked her what song she wanted to do. She was a big Dust Brothers fan, so she picked that one. My idea was to put a lot of mean guitars alongside her pretty voice. The Ramirez/Manson side next to the Twiggy/Marilyn side. She's actually a really good singer. I got to hang out with her a couple of times. It was odd, you know, Twiggy and Twiggy. Somehow I knew it was gonna happen. The stars aligned.

GW: Did you choose that name out of anything like genuine admiration for her?

Ramirez: . She was one of the first people who actually sold product just by being a personage, you know? So she's actually one of the first icons of modern times. Plus, she was skinny. I was always kind of called Twig anyway, because of my body structure. It's interesting how nowadays we have the waif model again. Although we're getting out of that now.

GW: Do you and Manson have similar tastes in women?

Ramirez: No. He only likes certain girls. I pretty much like all girls. Anybody with a pulse, or even without. Anybody who is in the right place at the right time. When you can have anybody you want, you become a prostitute.

GW: At this point in your life, are there any fantasies yet to be fulfilled?

Ramirez: Good Question. Of course there are. But I can't think of any right now. I've just finished a big album project and I'm just Relaxing.