"This is a very odd experience for me," says Marilyn Manson, speaking to Revolver from somewhere in the Hollywood Hills. Bad cell phone reception has forced the iconic shock rocker out onto the deck of the property he's currently renting while his own house is undergoing renovations, and now he finds himself simultaneously doing an interview while enjoying an impromptu communion with nature. "Sitting outside, listening to the birds and crickets," he muses with an audible chuckle. "I don't do this very often."
But if Manson is at all uncomfortable about having to leave his temporary cocoon, he doesn't sound it. In fact, he sounds about as jovial and relaxed as Revolver has ever heard him, something which may have to do with how happy he is so far with the work-in-progress that is his forthcoming 11th studio album, the follow-up to 2017's Heaven Upside Down. A collaboration with outlaw country rocker Shooter Jennings, who'd previously teamed up with Manson in 2016 for a cover of David Bowie's "Cat People," the album will supposedly be out by the end of the year.
"It's kind of like hitting the reset button," he says of making the record. "Hitting it a couple times, like when you're drunkenly trying to change channels with the remote control, and your patience runs out. Which is a good metaphor for my life." He laughs. "Another one would be that, if I was born a gun, the problem that I have in life — or the plus side — is that I don't know how to put the safety on. Which would be the best way to describe my current state of mind, in general."
Before the as-yet-untitled album is released to wreak havoc upon the world, however, Manson is set to join Rob Zombie for the Twins of Evil: Hell Never Dies summer tour, and maybe even publishing a long-anticipated coffee table book of his paintings. As the crickets chirped merrily in the background, Manson caught us up on his forthcoming record and shared his thoughts on the subject of attitude.
HOW DID YOU CONNECT WITH SHOOTER JENNINGS?
MARILYN MANSON Me and Shooter first met to do a song for Sons of Anarchy, before I ended up being on [the show]. We didn't end up doing the song for it. We decided it wasn't right for us. We did the Bowie cover, and then we wanted to do more work together, but we had different things going on — I broke my leg, you know the story of what happened. But I think it was in about November of last year, we got together to hang out and listen to music, and I think we found a common bond with Bowie's Diamond Dogs, and just the way that it tells stories in the songs.
Last night, I was working pretty late in the studio, and we finished the sixth song. So, it'll be out before the end of the year, definitely. I plan on going on the Twins of Evil tour, and I have an art book that I'm going to release, and I'll probably have a bunch of exhibitions all over to go along with it. And then I'll release the album after that.
TELL US ABOUT THE ART BOOK.
It's a compilation of selected pieces that I thought would be great to show. It'll be big, and it'll probably have hand-written notes and sketches, details about what inspired the painting, to give you a look at what was going on inside my head. Because whenever I paint, I paint on the floor, and I often take Polaroids so I can see the painting for depth purposes; I still have all those photos of the paintings, from the very first stroke to the end. Sometimes that's kind of interesting to look at.
DO YOU HAVE A WORKING TITLE FOR THE ALBUM?
It's still to be determined, but I think it's the album that should be called Marilyn Manson. I'm in a mode in life where I wanted to tell stories with this record, and it's sort of like a wax museum of my thoughts, a study of the chamber of horrors in my head. All the romance and hope you can have in the world, here in the End Times where it can be a different kind of apocalypse for each person listening to the record. I tried to paint it with words, and Shooter with sounds, so you can see and hear all of your longing, your passion and despair. That's sort of a dramatic explanation of it. [Laughs] But it is full of drama. I wouldn't compare it to any of my other records, but you hear a bit of everything — it's like I've focused everything into one spot, finally.
IS IT JUST YOU AND SHOOTER ON THE ALBUM? My guitar player, Paul Wiley, is also working on some stuff for it, as well. And I have a new drummer in my band, Brandon Pertzborn [of Black Flag, Doyle and Ho99o9], so he'll probably be playing on the record. And Jamie Douglass, Shooter's drummer, he's also played on some stuff. Shooter and I also did a cover of "The End" by the Doors, for a new miniseries of The Stand by Stephen King, which I'm also going to be acting in. I think that sort of kick-started our process for the album, and started us exploring different things. He's very talented in so many ways, and working with him is very fluid. We have a totally different collaborative style than I did [with Tyler Bates] on the last two records. Sometimes Shooter will already be doing something that I was going to suggest. We lock brains a lot together. You know, that could be because of drugs and alcohol, or it could just be because we're in a small room together. Who knows? [Laughs] Or both!
THIS SUMMER WILL BE THE FOURTH TIME YOU'VE GONE OUT ON TOUR WITH ROB ZOMBIE …Yeah, the last one went really well, though I was still mildly injured with my leg, and going to rehabilitation for it. But now, I've been training for the last four months, which has changed my frame of mind — you get endorphins into your brain, and it expands your whole way of thinking but also heals your body, obviously. So I think this one is going to be a lot different, because there will be a different stage display, and because of how we're going to make the music. I have a strong feeling it's going to be a lot more punk rock than the last tour, because our new drummer is a very hard hitter, and I'm excited about that.
So I was excited to finally get back into feeling like I have a band, people I hang out with, so I'm not just always by myself. Because I don't always choose to be by myself, but in some cases, when you don't get along with people, or don't have anything in common, there's not much of a point. I guess it would be different if you were sharing a stage with guys you made the music with, so that would be like my previous band with John and Ginger. But the good news is, John and Ginger are on the Twins of Evil tour, but with Rob. [Laughs] Rob keeps trying to give me Ginger back, and I said, "No — you break it, you buy it!" He said, "Well, I think it was already broken." [Laughs] Don't try to blame your buyer's remorse on me, man!
WHAT IS YOUR DEFINITION OF ROCK & ROLL ATTITUDE?
Well, if you don't wear sunglasses, it's not rock & roll. I don't even know how people can survive without sunglasses, in general. And when you get home, you don't take off your "work" clothes. I mean, on tour, I never change my clothes, at all. I'm Jim Morrison-ing it. The pants stay on — it's easier that way. [Laughs] And it's not a "job." Of course, it is your job to do it, but you don't look at it as a job that you take on. It's all or nothing, you know?
AND THAT DOESN'T CHANGE AT ALL WHEN YOU WALK OFFSTAGE?
Well, yes and no. I went to see Pet Sematary the other night with Fred Durst. We were just kind of hanging out. I didn't really know him that much before, and he's very different than I would have imagined, but he's not that different from the rock star that I saw on TV or live. It's just that he has more dimensions to him. I guess it's like, with me, there's not Marilyn Manson and then Brian Warner. There's the person, and then there's the persona — they're still the same thing, just one letter off. [Laughs] That's the way I look at it. I'm not acting, but I'm always acting. Sometimes I'm acting like an asshole, and sometimes I'm acting like I care about people, because I do.
But I never fake it, you know? That'd be like being a girl who fakes orgasms, if you had to fake it to be a rock star. I mean, there's times when you don't want to go onstage, because you're just sore, beat up, sick, or whatever it might be, but you go through it, man, you do it. Because you have an obligation: You put the flag on the moon of rock & roll, so you're obligated to make sure that stays there.
IS IT POSSIBLE TO GET OVER ON ATTITUDE ALONE?
A lot of people have. I mean, I started out that way. I started out with a flyer, no music and just completely bullshitting my way into getting a gig, and they went for it. And then I had to write songs to go with the gig! [Laughs] So it can work, sometimes, but I don't know if it's sustainable. More than just attitude, you need to learn from your mistakes. You need to learn from others you work with. You need to learn from your fans' reactions. You need to learn to romance an audience. That's another part of attitude, the romantic element — you have to seduce people with what you're doing. It's not enough to just sell people your music. You have to make them a part of it, get them to connect with it. Maybe all rock stars are just lonely people that want to connect with others, and they don't know how to, because they're socially awkward. That would be a good definition for me, most of the time. I find it awkward to go places, unless I feel it's "safe" — like, somewhere I'm not gonna get stressed out by paparazzi, or people that I don't know. So sometimes it closes me off from meeting new people, but I've opened up a little bit more. I've made a lot of friends over the past year.
WHO REALLY EMBODIES ROCK & ROLL ATTITUDE TO YOU, IN MUSIC OR ELSEWHERE?
Oh, Tarantino and Francis Bacon. If you want to go into things other than music. Iggy Pop, David Bowie, John Lennon, Jim Morrison … I guess maybe I'm listing heroes more than anything. While I was saying all that, you could have cued "Heroes" by Bowie. That would have really sealed it together! [Laughs] And I should mention Johnny Depp, my good friend, and Hunter S. Thompson, who I was good friends with. I was a huge fan of his writing growing up. He was the real deal, and Johnny's the real deal — no matter what's going on in his life, or how many movies he's made, he never changes. He's still the same kid that he was growing up, with the fuck-you attitude. Johnny Cash, also. And Waylon Jennings, Shooter's dad. He was a real outlaw. So Shooter's bringing some of that outlaw attitude to this record, as well, just in his style of guitar playing. And I play guitar on it, as well, but it's more Scary Monsters sort of elements, more textures.
WHY FRANCIS BACON?
Some of his paintings are really upsetting, in a way that just begs your mind to search through it to figure out what's going on. So they're complex, and interesting. I bought a book of his paintings, and it showed photographs of his art room where he painted, and it looked very similar to mine, just chaotic. Because I don't have my paints organized. I just sort of sit in a circle with paints all around me, and the paper on the floor and a sheet underneath it that's been stained by years of painting. It's literally the Shroud of Turin of my work — it has more paint on it than any of my paintings, altogether. That will probably be my best piece! [Laughs]
ARE THERE ANY YOUNGER MUSICIANS IN 2019 WHO EMBODY THAT KIND OF ATTITUDE FOR YOU?
Well, you've got people like this guy I just met a couple weeks ago, Machine Gun Kelly — he's the real deal. And he's also a cool guy, and he was great in The Dirt, where he played Tommy Lee. And there's the other rappers that I'm friends with, guys like Lil Uzi Vert and Bill $aber, who you should check out. I used his track "Creepin n Lurkin" as my intro music to walk out [to] on the last tour. I asked Lil Uzi Vert why he liked me. He has all these followers [on Instagram], but I was the only one he was following. And he said it was because he knew I was the real deal.
HOW DID YOU AND MACHINE GUN KELLY CONNECT?
I sent him a message on Instagram, and told him that I liked his performance in The Dirt. He said thanks, and asked me if I wanted to hang out, something like that. It was sort of me being a fan of his. And he came over, we watched some movies and got along, so it was cool.
DO YOU AND LIL UZI VERT STILL HANG?
I haven't seen him in a year or so, but every once in a while I'll get a message from him saying, "Hey, how you doing?" or whatever. I usually just hang out, if I have time, with people that I'm working with, because otherwise I'm just too exhausted. [Laughs]
IT MUST BE NICE TO BE WORKING WITH PEOPLE YOU WANT TO HANG OUT WITH.
People that I like, yeah. Half the time in the studio we spend talking, just telling each other stories about our past, and different things that are going on. It sort of eliminates the need for therapy, actually having a friend to talk to, or even more than one. [Laughs] And it takes the weight off of any romantic relationship you have, because a lot of times, as a guy, I think I've expected too much from the girl, wanting her to be my best friend and my lover. I think in the past that has made some effects that … weren't for the best. So now, I don't have to re-discuss everything in life. And you know, there are some things that you don't want to share with your loved one, because it's better off not to.
So there's been some personal growth in the process of making this record. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at how it sounds! A lot of people like to refer to [Shooter's] style of music as "country," but I regard it more as "southern." I suppose that also drags in a bit of the Stones, in a way … There's a lot of piano, though not necessarily Elton John piano. Maybe more "Bennie and the Jets" piano. Let's just call it Shooter Jennings piano! Actually, he bought me a piano, as a gift, and it now sits in my living room. It's a white, stand-up piano, and it now serves as a toy that my cats like to walk across and freak me out. In the middle of the night, I'll hear a haunted piano playing, and it's the cats. [Laughs] These cats are real assholes, I'll tell you. But I love 'em — they're two boys and two girls. I don't have enough arms for all of them.
YOU DO SOUND LIKE YOU'RE IN A PRETTY GOOD PLACE. IT'S NICE TO HEAR.
Yeah, thanks, man. I feel in fighting mode, ready to take it all on, and make a record, and keep that flag a-flying, and to make sure people know that this isn't just sort of tapering off — this is hitting hard right now. And I think that's why I think Marilyn Manson, self-titled, is probably the most descriptive album title, considering it's the stories of what put me here.