Brian Warner (AKA Marilyn Manson) on being a rock star, a trained sniper and a cat lover
It’s fair to say you cut a dash. Do children cry when they see you?
I don’t want to walk into a room and make people part like the Red Sea. I do, but that’s just my height and lipstick. I like to impose a sense of awe, fear and respect, hence I wear a tailored suit with a gold switchblade in it. I carry myself like a gangster – charming and well-dressed, but you don’t want to start a talk that ends with the switchblade.
Does it annoy you that you’ve become a celebrity?
I’m not a celebrity, I’m a rock star. You can’t be a rock star without scars, experience, confidence and swagger. Being a rock star involves making a deal with the devil, in the Faustian sense, and I can hear him knocking on the door because I’m overdue on payments. This new record is payment with interest.
If your new album The Pale Emperor doesn’t trigger extreme reactions, have you failed?
Music has to have power to it. Even before Evangelical Christians and politicians latched on it, the US used rock’n’roll as a bogeyman – something to blame for kids acting up, taking their tits out or wearing tight pants.
You were pilloried for allegedly influencing the Columbine killers. Did that upset you?
What I’m saying in the song Killing Strangers about “killing the ones that we love”, is it’s the essence of man’s existence – like a lion protecting its young. It’s different from Columbine. Whatever those people who committed that crime had in their minds – if it was a crime, crime is a very ambiguous word, as is love – killing for religious duty is murder. My father was in the war, he taught me how to shoot a sniper when I was seven. I had no desire to join the army because I didn’t feel patriotic. I don’t understand why people start wars. If I see a problem, I just fix it.
Given your new album is full of references to firearms, are you expecting a backlash?
When you talk to someone in the police – usually when I’m being arrested – they talk about making a gun an extension of yourself. Guns are metaphorical. The gun was made by man, the way God was. And alchemy is turning lead into gold, which is what I’ve done with this record. It’s alchemical. It’s that metaphor of taking something that is not a precious metal, and turning it into something magical. Then you realise not being able to do that promotes stupidity, and instead you can use that lead to make a bullet. That’s the two sides to the coin.
You’re critical of society – do you think Facebook and Twitter are the catalysts for change?
I consider myself more akin to chaos. Chaos doesn’t concern itself with change as much as with stirring things up to make others change. Sometimes there needs to be people like me to do that.
Is it hard to convince people money is the root of all evil when you’re a successful rock star?
Greed is the root of most problems and, in a sense, religion is greed. Someone saying, ‘I know what God is’ is arrogant. I’m guilty of the same mistakes, as my resistance to religion is based on knowing more about the Bible than most Christians, which made me angry with them being so ignorant. But now I make music, which satisfies my anger.
You’re fond of your cat, Lily White. Do you hang out with her after a day’s hell-raising?
The question I ask my cat is, ‘Do animals believe in God?’ I talk to her like a person, and sometimes she miaows back. Maybe she does understand me. I don’t know. I don’t think they do – maybe they’re smarter than us.
The Pale Emperor is out now. Catch Manson at Download Festival in June