‘Hello?…Hello?” says the confused, muffled voice on the other end of the line. There’s some shuffling, then Marilyn Manson’s deep, often skeptical-sounding drawl comes in clear: “Sorry. I had the phone upside down. The side effects of hash,” he explains. “I think it’s working.” From his minimalist L.A.-area “lair”—where he retreated to write Born Villain, his eighth studio album, released in May—the 43-year-old delves into the man behind the makeup before playing Allstate Arena on October 11.
What is Marilyn Manson’s man cave like?
It’s very Patrick Bateman. The walls are white, the floors are black. I actually have a chair from American Psycho. I moved into what used to be a dance studio; wide-open space is good for chasing girls trapped in your place. [Laughs] I usually answer the door with a gun because I live in a strange neighborhood. When I moved here to make Born Villain, I wanted an environment I could fill with ideas.
You’ve said, “I could not figure out how to deal with being me. Me the person, not me as Marilyn Manson.” Do you see the man as separate from your stage persona?
I realized there is no me. It took living here alone for the first time in my life to get some clarity. The difference between me as Brian Warner or Marilyn Manson is just words. Same personality, sensibility, sense of humor, behavior. He is me. If I wipe my lipstick off, it doesn’t mean I’m not Marilyn Manson.
Born Villain, you said, is about nature versus nurture: “Are you born a villain or are you vilified like I have been?” But the Antichrist Superstar boogeyman routine would’ve been a failure if you were never vilified.
Right. If it didn’t provoke anyone, I might not have had a reason to exist. That’s why a villain is the most important character in a story. It’s the person that’s not afraid to act out of passion. The hero acts because he feels it’s right. We celebrate the hero at the end, but the villain is the catalyst.
So is being vilified a creative catalyst for you? You wrote the album Holy Wood as a response to being blamed for Columbine.
Being blamed for stuff like Columbine definitely has given me thicker skin. But sometimes it makes you question whether you want to do this anymore. But then I realize if I can’t live without it, I have to be willing to die for it. I’m not looking to die, but I’m also not looking to stop being Marilyn Manson anytime soon, either.
When you first heard about the Aurora massacre, were you—
Yeah, I thought I was going to get blamed for that, for sure. At the end of the video for “Slo-Mo-Tion,” there’s a gun involved. The chorus of the song is, “This is my beautiful show and everything is shot in slow motion.” If that video had come out the day before Aurora, I probably would’ve been blamed. It happened to come out after.
Maybe if it were the ’90s, when you were every parent’s worst nightmare.
Things that seemed shocking then seem completely commonplace now. But what’s the greatest horror novel? The Bible! In that sense, the world hasn’t changed at all.
You’re from Ohio, an important swing state. Are you politically active?
The last election, I voted for the first time. But now I want to campaign for people not to vote.
You sound like a disenchanted former Obama supporter.
Yeah, I did vote Obama. But I’ve never believed in the authenticity of the two-party system. Politics in this country is all what happens behind Oz’s curtain.
Halloween is fast approaching. Is it like amateur hour to you?
I’m thinking about entering a Marilyn Manson costume contest to see if I lose. [Laughs] Last year, some friends and I drove to Vegas and along the way bought some samurai swords and some switchblades. Later, I tried to sing Justin Timberlake’s “Cry Me a River” at a karaoke bar until the sound system broke. I shotgunned a beer and then appropriated an SUV that wasn’t mine.
One urban legend about you claims Paul on The Wonder Years was you. Hear that one?
Of course. I just don’t like when there’s a rumor that says I’m dating someone who is below my standards. But when I got divorced, my ex-wife said I was spending all my time with Lindsay Lohan and Angelina Jolie. I was like, thank you for the big ups! [Laughs]
Another Manson myth says you had ribs removed so you could fellate yourself. True?
We wouldn’t be on the phone if that were true.
Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie play Allstate Arena October 11 at 7pm.