In 1994, I was 14 years old when I first saw Marilyn Manson‘s “Lunchbox” music video off the band’s debut album Portrait of an American Family. The sound was dirty, edgy, and uninhibited as if the band had put punk music into a blender with industrial and then threw it at the wall. My little ears had never heard anything so filthy, vile, and raw… it was part of my musical awakening and self-discovery as a teenager. Marilyn Manson quickly became my favorite band. Wearing the now famous “television” t-shirt, I’d recite the lyrics to “Cake and Sodomy” aloud until my father had to pull me aside to explain what they actually meant. I guess Manson was even responsible for the bastardized “birds and the bees” talk I received. He’s been embedded into my being so long that there was once a time people would point to my shirt and ask, “Who’s she?” I’ve been along for the ride through his rise to fame off the cover of “Sweet Dreams” to the birth of the Antichrist Superstar, all the way to tomorrow’s release of Heaven Upside Down, Marilyn Manson’s hotly anticipated 10th album.
Having owned each and every Manson album the day of release, what’s always captivated me about his sound is that it’s never the same, as each album is its own journey through the trials and tribulations of one Marilyn Manson. With the music continually progressing, it always felt as if Manson was moving forward. I always wondered if there’d come a time when he’d release “that” album for which would be touted as the return to the sound of Antichrist Superstar. We’re here, now, today, only it’s different. While Heaven Upside Down harks back to the early years, it’s not because Manson is trying to copy his own successes, it’s because he’s rekindled that fire that burned all of those years ago. The result is a fierce, uncompromised, honest, and brilliant album that may just be the best since Holy Wood.
“I appreciate that comparison because I compare this one to Holy Wood, myself,” Manson said to me during a phone interview earlier last month when I noted the intense emotional connection between the two albums.
“It’s not so much anger, it’s more of a rebirth. I have the same fire in me that I had when I made Holy Wood.
“That is a very big comparison, for me, and I appreciate that because that’s what I said I wanted to make,” he continued. “I haven’t had this sort of feeling in me since Holy Wood and I wanted it to be raw and I didn’t want it [overly] polished or anything.” He further explains how he kept it raw: “I did one take and if I didn’t like it I would do it again but I wouldn’t sit there and try to perfect things. It had the immediacy and the certainty of something that is not doubting itself – there’s no doubt on the record. It’s authentic like you said.”
Heaven Upside Down is undoubtedly authentic and emotional. The album takes listeners back to 1996 with vicious, heart-pounding songs like “Revelation 12” and “WE KNOW WHERE YOU FUCKING LIVE”, as well as the new anthem rager “JE$U$ CRI$I$”. The return to his earlier sound is hauntingly reminiscent of his experiences having vivid Déjà vus during the recording of Antichrist Superstar in New Orleans back in ’96.
“This record does have a mixture of my influences from that time period in 1996, which is the last time I experienced a lot of Déjà vus,” Manson revealed. “I had a tremendous amount of them when making Antichrist Superstar and I’m having them a lot again.” The Déjà vus continued through the entire making of Heaven Upside Down, but Manson’s were more than just an experience. “[Most experience Déjà vu], like, ‘I feel like this conversation already happened,’ I was having a Déjà vu in a different way – I would change the way it ended because I knew what the other person was going to say and I changed it, because it needed to be changed. It became strange.”
In fact, this is one of the reasons why the album’s title was changed to Heaven Upside Down: “I was going to call the record SAY10, but I didn’t feel that defined the album,” Manson told me. “I had the lyrics written for the song ‘Heaven Upside Down’ and I thought that that defined the record more so because of the idea of time as a flat circle, constellations being defined by the negative space, the blackness. The idea of looking at something from an opposite point of view.”
This also ties into the tragic loss of Manson’s father. While people thought he would shut everything down he instead used the loss as fuel to fuck shit up:
“In the time I’ve been making this record there’s been strangeness in my life [because] there’s been a lot of changes, a lot of loss, a lot of gains, a lot of self-introspection,” he tells me, explaining that this was the result of the loss of his father. “Seeing my father dying, I felt like that was the circle of life that he’d want me to put the energy of death into rebirth, you know, the snake eating its own tail, Saturnalia, Saturninus, that whole concept.
“To honor [my father] it would be to fuck shit up because it’s was he taught me,” he adds, “to be chaos, to inspire awe in others so they respect and listen to you, so I chose to be the best at fucking shit up and the best at making the music that I like to make.
“I didn’t want to try and make songs that sounded like songs from the past as much as I wanted to make songs that felt as exciting to me as when I made songs in the past.”
As we grow old it becomes increasingly difficult to find that fire and have it burn as bright as when we were young. Sometimes you need a catalyst. Instead of revisiting his earlier works, Manson and Tyler Bates attempted to put their headspaces back to when they were young and, ahem, trying to get laid.
“When [Tyler and I] sat down to make the record…that was me getting my swagger and my confidence, getting me back into the whole shape of being who I am and who I wanted to be from the beginning,” Manson explained, adding that he wasn’t sure where the need for that came from. Once he knew, however, the two of them went all the way back to the very beginning, listening to stuff from before he started the band such as The Doors, David Bowie, Bauhaus, Ministry, and Iggy Pop. In fact, he cites The Cure’s “The Kiss” is the inspiration behind the album’s masterwork, ‘Saturnalia’. “What I like about that song is its arrogance, its confidence, or its certainty – that the guitar tells the story. I want to leave space in some of these songs.”
These influences shoot like electricity through several tracks, especially on the Mechanical Animals-esque “Tattooed In Reverse” and “KILL4ME”, not to mention the Bowie-inspired closer “Threats of Romance” that’s one of the most melodic and memorable songs on the album.
Looking back once again, it was clear from this interview (and various others I’ve read over the years) that Manson is still bitter about being blamed (in part) for the horrific Columbine shooting. It’s part of the reason that Heaven Upside Down reflects Holy Wood, and it’s become part of his mission statement as an influential celebrity.
“I want to remind people that music is dangerous,” Manson told me, while further explaining the hypocrisy of the finger pointing. “I always found it really strange that [people who] blamed me for what my music supposedly had inspired…were never afraid of what I would do. ‘Well, he makes music that causes violence.‘ They weren’t afraid of me, they were afraid of my music and that seems sort of ass backward.
“I just want to remind people that they forgot that there’s shit that’s way worse than what they are busy talking about or watching on TV,” he added. “It’s not me, but I’m here to precipitate change of some sort. I won’t change the world, [I’m] just trying to cause and effect. I’ve definitely made a dent in the industry of Rock and Roll that I can be satisfied with and say, ‘Okay, I did that,‘ but that’s not enough. One dent is not enough.
“I want to have a full fender bender, total the car. I’m not done. I feel new again.”
“I feel a little bit too, almost – not naive, not childish, but a little alien in a sense where I’m looking at the world fresh again. A lot of the shit everyone is focusing on – on CNN or whatever channel – is completely not important to me. It’s like I’m watching a fictional film. I like to live my life in a fictional world because you can write it yourself. That’s how I look at it.”
It’s easy to see how Manson was affected by Columbine [not to downplay the victims], and how it could eat away at one’s psyche. While sympathetic, he has since realized that he deserves to be happy, and should be enjoying the insane ride he’s been on, not to mention the gift he’s been given.
“When you realize that I’m doing what I wanted to do and I should be enjoying it,” he told me. “In fact, I should be mad at other people for not being as good at it, as I am. So I should do it really good and I should put a middle finger right in their face while I’m doing it.
“I’m not trying to be an asshole – I’m not an unhappy person, I get pissed off just like everyone else does, but I do like to enjoy doing what I do. Sometimes you can forget that. You get lost or be disenchanted or disenfranchised, which is the Ninth Circle of Hell.”
In the end, however, Manson will be Manson, and he’ll continue to “fuck shit up” because that’s what he does best: “It’s fun to enjoy being a tornado because you can destroy everything around you or you can suck everything up inside of you.”
About Heaven Upside Down:
The ten tracks on Heaven Upside Down were recorded in Los Angeles and create a cinematic sonic palette that harkens back to the ferocity of seminal Manson albums Portrait of an American Family and Holy Wood. On the new album, he reunites with producer and film composer Tyler Bates following an epic collaboration on Manson’s critically acclaimed 2015 release The Pale Emperor.
Themes of violence, sex, politics and romance slice through Heaven Upside Down. Manson asks his fans to brutally pledge their devotion on “KILL4ME” and delves into new genres with a trap beat on the track “SAY10” as he proclaims “I’m a legend, I’m not a fable.”
Manson’s sensationalist music and art that rejects conservative values created an icon who has infiltrated fashion, television, film, and music, and whose fingerprints coat modern culture. 20 years into his career, Manson is still a lightning rod of controversy and the pageantry and debauchery of his life are perfectly intact.
MARILYN MANSON REMAINING 2017 TOUR DATES:
OCT 15 – GRAND PRAIRIE, TX @ FREAKER’S BALL
OCT 17 – TULSA, OK @ BRADY THEATER
OCT 19 – DENVER, CO @ FILLMORE AUDITORIUM
OCT 20 – SALT LAKE CITY, UT @ THE COMPLEX
OCT 22 – SACRAMENTO, CA @ AFTERSHOCK FESTIVAL
OCT 23 – OAKLAND, CA @ FOX THEATER
OCT 26 – PHOENIX, AZ @ ARIZONA STATE FAIRGROUNDS
OCT 27 – LAS VEGAS, NV @ HOUSE OF BLUES
OCT 28 – LAS VEGAS, NV @ HOUSE OF BLUES
NOV 05 – DEVORE, CA @ OZZFEST MEETS KNOTFEST
NOV 12 – HELSINKI, FI @ ICE HALL
NOV 14 – STOCKHOLM, SE @ ANNEXET
NOV 15 – ELSINORE, DK @ HAL 14
NOV 16 – HAMBURG, DE @ SPORTHALLE
NOV 18 – MUNICH, DE @ ZENITH
NOV 19 – PRAGUE, CZ @ TIP SPORT ARENA
NOV 20 – VIENNA, AT @ GASOMETER
NOV 22 – TURIN, IT @ PALA ALPITOUR
NOV 23 – ZURICH, CH @ SAMSUNG HALL
NOV 25 – BERLIN, DE @ VELODROM – UFO
NOV 27 – PARIS, FR @ ACCOR HOTELS ARENA
NOV 28 – EINDHOVEN, NL @ KLOKGEBOUW
NOV 29 – DUSSELDORF, DE @ MITSUBISHI ELECTRIC HALLE
DEC 01 – NANCY, FR @ ZENITH
DEC 02 – BRUSSELS, BE @ FOREST NATIONAL
DEC 04 – MANCHESTER, UK @ 02 APOLLO
DEC 05 – GLASGOW, UK @ 02 ACADEMY
DEC 06 – WOLVERHAMPTON, UK @ CIVIC HALL
DEC 08 – NEWPORT, UK @ NEWPORT CENTRE
DEC 09 – LONDON, UK @ SSE WEMBLEY ARENA
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