not a member? click here to sign up
Art Of Darkness
Not content with corrupting the youth of America with his music, the God of Fuck has diversified into painting, acting and writing. Plus: the singer’s encounters with literary outlaws JT Leroy and Hunter S. Thompson.
Ed Power, 13 May 2005
For Marilyn Manson, the release last year of the career retrospective Lest We Forget drew a line in the dirt. The record, a 19-track trawl of his forays into the grotesque extremes of glam, metal and industrial rock, felt like a watershed. A chapter had closed. A new one is about to begin.
“I’ve reached that stage in my career where I could feel safe and bask in what I’ve done,” says Manson, speaking from his home in Los Angeles. “But success isn’t enough for me. I need to reach people. And it is becoming clear that there will be those I cannot get to through music alone. I have to find other means of touching them.”
By “other means” he refers to painting and prose. Manson is a painter of some stature; his visceral and baroque images have exhibited to acclaim across the United States (he plans to bring some canvasses to Europe over the summer). Incidentally, with Dublin’s Apollo Gallery acting as his agent here, don’t rule out a visit to the aul' sod by the old sod!
Manson’s art has predictably proved contentious, drawing accusations of gaudy sensationalism. However, he is keen not be be portrayed as a purveyor of puerile negativity.
“No artist would create anything if they didn’t have hope,” he asserts. “If I was some sort of fatalist or nihilist then I wouldn’t have any hope. What I do has a spiritual and political dimension though it’s impossible to equate to other values. Do I believe in God? Do I believe in the devil? You can’t put me in a box like that. But I am essentially optimistic to a degree.”
Speaking of outlaw artists, Manson was typically candid when remembering his meetings with the late Hunter S. Thompson in a special tribute issue of Rolling Stone earlier this year.
“We both kept extremely odd hours, and we would talk to each other endlessly,” he recalled. “He would leave messages referring to me with a series of names that ranged from my birth name, Brian, to Bubba, which he used on everyone. He also called me Shit Eyes. I’m not sure what it means, but it’s probably the greatest thing anyone has ever said: 'Call me back, Shit Eyes, because I need an audience.'”
Recalling one particularly star-studded encounter with the godfather of gonzo journalism, Manson had this to say: “We were having dinner at the Chateau Marmont; I think it was Johnny [Depp]’s birthday. It was like the Last Supper, only with all the crazy people in Hollywood: Nick Nolte, the week of his famous hair picture, Mickey Rourke, Johnny, Benicio, myself. Hunter had a bandaged hand from punching holes in a window. After dinner we all went upstairs and he read from his book Kingdom Of Fear. Some drunken girl knocked on the door and he was so angry, he couldn’t form a word. He just kept pointing his finger until she was removed. Then you had a roomful of rowdy fellows, very calmly sitting, listening to a bedtime story from a very cool grandfather, uncle, brother, whatever.
“A day or two later he sent me Kingdom of Fear. The inscription says, ‘Manson, beware the flag suckers. They will run you down and eat your flesh but not your heart or your brain, for they are unclean. Good luck.’”
Another upcoming creative endeavour for Manson is his role as a child abuser in the movie adaptation of JT Leroy’s The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things. In an exchange with Leroy late last year, he went into some detail about his artistic ambitions.
“Whether it be acting or directing them, movies – and books – are what I love more than anything,” explained Manson. “I liked the fact that [his role in The Heart Is Deceitful] wasn’t typecasting for me, and particularly getting a better understanding from you to not portray this person as a predator or as evil, so much as being a victim of circumstance, sort of pathetic. I think I came across as very sad. It made me wanna be in movies. It’s a small part, but it made a big difference for me.
“There was a time when artists had a different level of respect,” he continued. “It’s not even about celebrity and fame. I’ve always wanted to be a success at being an artist, but I never really cared for being a success at being a product. I’m not saying that I don’t want any money for what I do, or I want to be underground. Any artist that says that is full of shit. But success isn’t defined by how the world perceives me on TRL. I like to get a reaction from a fan or to see the faces on a crowd when I’m performing, or to hear how you enjoyed my painting. And to know how I feel when I go to bed at night, knowing that I did what I wanted to do today. The perfect utopia would be for artists to replace politicians and the government. But I always think God in any culture is more or less about creation. An artist creates things and puts them in the world, and to me that is spiritual, that is God. That’s the thing I believe in.”
With such a whirlwind of creativity behind him in the recent past, Manson promises that this summer’s tour will be a sensory blitzkrieg; a cathartic plunge into the depths of his broiling id.
“People say that what I do on stage is offensive or childish,” he concludes. “But it’s MEANT to be childish. Children are honest; they don’t try to deceive. They have the whole world in front of them. They’re not afraid. Kids are willing to embrace the new and the different, and I want to make adults feel the same way.”
Marilyn Manson joins Iron Maiden at the RDS, Dublin on Wednesday August 31.