By 1996, Marilyn Manson had already entered the mainstream public consciousness with a haunting cover of Eurythmics "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" and its accompanying video, both of which were released the year before and captivated metalheads, industrial/goth fans and general MTV viewers alike. But it was Manson's second full-length, Antichrist Superstar, that turned Manson from a rising rock star into one of America's most wanted, at least in the eyes of the country's conservative sect, a group that young Brian Warner knew well from his years growing up in Canton, Ohio, and later suburban Florida. He understood all the pressure points of the nation's God-fearing population and strived to snatch away their children and recruit them into his Manson family, which lashed out against organized religion, capitalism, censorship and pretty much all the tenuous ties that bind "decent" society together.
Manson couldn't have devised a much better recruitment tool than Antichrist Superstar — and he had good help in the cause. Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor has signed the shock rocker to his Nothing imprint and taken him under his wing, and he co-produced the group's breakthrough full-length along with Manson, Sean Beavan and Skinny Puppy's Dave Ogilvie. The sessions were chaotic, destructive and frequently went off the rails, but the result was a dense, darkly captivating masterpiece, as full of inescapable hooks as it was inflammatory messages and unfiltered angst.
Yet, as important as songs like "The Beautiful People" and "Tourniquet" were to the album's success, Manson's insistence on wearing his art on his torn, bloodied sleeve earned him respect from those who valued counter-culture authenticity. Manson didn't just write songs about the hypocrisy of religion, destroying fascism and reducing the rules of morality to a do-as-thou-wilt ethos, he lived it like he preached it. At the same time, his personal life during the period around the making of the album was legitimately dark and fucked up, and Manson channeled all his emotions into the record. The rocker openly addressed his depraved exploits and harrowing experiences in magazine interviews and later in his outrageous memoir Marilyn Manson: The Long Hard Road out of Hell. Here are eight of the craziest incidents that went down while the band conjured up Antichrist Superstar.
1. In the beginning of the creative process, Marilyn Manson and his bandmates find themselves lost in mountains of cocaine
The Antichrist sessions did not get off to a flying start. Co-producer Dave Ogilvie would sometimes disappear to play videogames, guitarist Daisy Berkowitz wasn't killing it in the riff-writing department and, worst of all, the band's insatiable appetite for cocaine was proving to be a major distraction. "Never in a life of prodigious drug use had I ever filled my nostrils with so much white powder," Manson wrote in his book. "Every day, we would get so wired that we wouldn't be able to focus on recording anything, a situation that would antagonize us so greatly that we would grow even more paranoid and useless."
2. Trent Reznor maliciously smashes one of Daisy Berkowitz's guitars, fueling a spree of destruction
Frustrated by their lack of productivity, and realizing that the more distracted the band became, the less interested anyone outside the group became in motivating them, Manson seized hold of the situation — not by rallying the troops, but by gleefully engaging in drug-fueled acts of destruction. These are triggered one day when Trent Reznor walked in and Berkowitz excitedly showed the NIN main man a refurbished guitar that he had rescued from a destructive video shoot. Reznor took the guitar, pretended to be interested in it, then turned around and smashed it to bits over an amp, leaving Berkowitz dumbfounded. "We had turned a new corner in our work on Antichrist Superstar," wrote Manson. "Now, not only were we not productive, we were destructive. In the days that followed, our band's first drum machine would be thrown out of a second-story window, Trent's walls would be punched through. Twiggy's equipment would be smashed and Daisy's four-track recorder would be put in a microwave set to high, frying its circuit board beyond repair."
3. Sleep deprivation — and more drugs — finally kickstart the creative process
Shockingly, insane amounts of cocaine and the wanton destruction of instruments didn't fire up the group's creativity, but the band did ultimately find other forms of inspiration. According to Manson, what proved most effective were pain rituals, self-stimulation and staying up for days on end. "Masturbation, hardcore pornography and sleep deprivation changed my life," Manson enthused to Kerrang! "The first time I stayed up for four days straight on crystal meth, we started to put down the music to Antichrist Superstar."
4. The band steals human bones from NOLA cemeteries and does the obvious thing — smokes them
While Manson and his partners in crime were working in New Orleans, they combed through the cities' cemeteries and discovered they could easily "pick bones like strawberries," Manson told High Times. After a particularly productive raid, he presented the human remains to some friends in a hotel room. What followed was unsanitary and likely hazardous. "We talked them into chipping off pieces of the bones, putting it in a pipe and smoking it," he said. "We smoked it, too. It was terrible. It smelled like burnt hair, gave you a really bad headache and made your eyes red."
5. Billy Corgan snorts Sea Monkeys
One of Manson's playmates during the Antichrist Superstar era was Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan. Their bromance was odd but sincere. In addition to talking about music, literature and philosophy, the two tested the boundaries of extremism. Corgan may not have ever smoked bones with the band, but he did snort brine shrimp, more popularly known as Sea Monkeys. "They're, like, little fleas that live in the sea," Manson told Select. "You can take them out of water and dry them out into a white powder. You can leave them for years — but when they come in contact with moisture, they come alive again. Billy thought it was coke and he snorted it. He's gonna have little fleas living in his sinuses for two years. He's pissing out little prawns!"
6. Sometimes even Manson wonders why he's doing the shit he's doing
As Manson's image of debauchery and inhibition grew, so did his sense that he needed to live up to that image. As a result, he sometimes found himself engaging in behavior that he wasn't even into at all, just to be "dirty." By way of illustration, the rocker shared the following lovely story in The Long Road out of Hell. One night, Manson went to the nightclub The Hideout with his then-girlfriend, Missi, and bumped into a girl who had given him oral sex the year before. When he drunkenly left the bar to take a leak, the woman slipped into the bathroom with him, rushed to the toilet and urinated. Manson looked away but she urged him to take a look at a ring inserted through the hood of her clitoris. She said she got the piercing when she was 15 and he wrote that he was disgusted by the "reddened, infected flesh" around it. Then, she took out a small Ziploc baggie of shitty cocaine and Manson snorted a bunch. What followed was motivated by neither love, nor lust, but rather sheer perversity. "I thrust my hand down her pants and violently yanked the ring on the hood of her clitoris, making her yell in pain, surprise or delight," he wrote. "Then I thrust my thumb inside her, bending my middle finger around her and ramming it up her asshole. 'Why am I doing this?' I thought to myself. I wasn't trying to turn her or myself on. I was just trying to be dirty. The situation seemed to call for it. I could have just as easily stuck my hand in a garbage can and accomplished the same thing."
7. A disastrous studio session is followed by a very dark turn of events
Feeling desperate and despondent in the studio, Manson channeled all of his agony and whatever energy he had left into the vocals of "Tourniquet," only to be told by Reznor and Ogilvie that he sounded too theatrical, leading him to binge on "liquor, pills and drugs." As morning approached, Reznor drove the thoroughly ripped Manson home, where he discovered his girlfriend, Missi, had overdosed. "She was shivering, but her skin was stippled with sweat, which had soaked into the sheets around her," he wrote. "She didn't even acknowledge my presence: Her eyes were rolled into the back of her head ... I wondered if my own self-indulgence had killed her ... We rushed Missi to the hospital, the same one she had taken me to when I had overdosed. The nurses wheeled her into an emergency room and shot her with adrenaline to keep her alive… The doctor explained to me that Missi was three months pregnant and, if she decided to have an abortion, she would have to wait until her flu went away." She later aborted the baby.
8. After firing one of his producers and feeling betrayed, Manson pushes the limits of his drug abuse and self-inflicted pain
Having decided that the band's productive stagnancy was partially due to Ogilvie, who had apparently given up in trying to motivate the band, Manson fired the producer. Soon after, Ogilvie was working with Reznor on music for a David Lynch movie — a project Manson and the director had talked about doing together months earlier. It was around that time that Manson reached a new level of self-destruction. "[I indulged] in a reckless binge that made everything else I had done in New Orleans look like an opening act," he wrote. " I experimented with different prescription drugs — morphine sulfate, Percocets, Lorcets — and shoved sewing needles underneath my fingernails to test my pain threshold because my emotional one had already been crossed."
Below, watch Marilyn Manson perform "The Beautiful People" with Johnny Depp at the Revolver Golden Gods: