Called by some "the freest spirit who ever existed," the Marquis de Sade was an elitist French writer who two centuries ago penned violent, erotic fiction and lived a life as vile and debauched as his cruelest prose.
His words and deeds gave rise to the term "sadism," and there are reports that he mercilessly beat unwilling prostitutes and poisoned at least two women with a shoddily prepared aphrodisiac. Even so, there are still those who feel he was demonized and unfairly judged by the moral majority of his era.
More than 200 years after he wrote his most recognizable work, de Sade may be experiencing a renaissance. Last year, film director Philip Kaufman documented his life in the film "Quills," and now morbidly obsessed rocker Marilyn Manson is using de Sade's exploits as the partial framework for his upcoming album, which he hopes to release next spring.
"The complete theme is still under wraps," Manson said recently. "But it definitely lends itself to some of the things that have inspired me over the past year, particularly the life of the Marquis de Sade. I relate to how he was a person who had a very vivid imagination that scared a lot of people and he was punished for the things that were going on in his head. He was using his mind and his art to exorcise his demons, and he was punished for it. And I feel a lot of times I get myself into similar circumstances."
Manson has written the music for about 10 new songs and is currently working on the lyrics. Unlike his past albums, which dealt with the evils of organized religion, the dangers of conservatism and the effects of drugs, the new disc will be more intimate, focusing on Manson's obsession with sexual depravity.
"I suppose there's an element of me having a healthier sexual relationship in my life now," he said. "So the music has a very personal fetish quality to it in the sense that I talk about and try to express musically things that I normally wouldn't have done in the past. I've often put my feelings into personas and different characters on each record to help me talk about what's inside me. Sometimes it's easier if you put it into metaphors. I think this one deals with things on a realer and dirtier and rawer level. It's gonna be the kind you put on when you want to accomplish something, whether it's to take out all your aggressions or have sex to or be by yourself and consider how you're going to take out your aggressions sexually somewhere down the road."
Musically, the new Manson disc will be as abrasive and pummeling, but probably not as metallic as past offerings. Ever since legions of neo-headbangers catapulted to the top of the charts, the ever-perverse Manson has been stricken with the need to re-evaluate his formula for noise.
"We're in an era of music right now where heavy rock and aggressive things are very acceptable and very near approaching cliché," he groused. "So it's very important to keep pushing the boundary of how you make heavy music, and I want to continue to make really heavy music, but I want to do it in a way that isn't like everything else I hear when I turn on the radio."
Manson described the new songs he's been working on as "Marquis de Sade with a drum machine" and said he's been inspired by late-'80s industrial-rock pioneers like Ministry, Big Black and Nitzer Ebb.
"The music isn't retro and it's not dated, it just deals with some of the things I'd forgotten were enjoyable to put into music," he explained. "I think I'm trying to make people see that music that is not conventional and not organic rock 'n' roll can still have very much of a soul to it."
The album is being co-produced by Tim Skold (KMFDM, Skold), who is also working with Manson on the "Resident Evil" film score (see "Marilyn Manson Says Scoring Comes Naturally For Him"). Other guests that will likely appear on the disc include Canadian smut-rapper Peaches and Slipknot drummer Joey Jordison, who also appears in Manson's "Tainted Love" video.
"[Jordison] did a remix for us of 'Fight Song' a while back. I liked it so much that he and I started talking about doing other music together," Manson said. "He came by, and he worked on a track with me. I'm not sure if it's gonna end up on the album or not, but he played guitar. Strangely, he didn't want to be involved in the drum tracks. He and I have been very close since Ozzfest and plan to do a lot of things together in the future."
Hearing Jordison on guitar may be an eye-opener for Manson's legions, and that's just what the shock rocker is shooting for. More than anything, Manson wants to surprise those who thought they knew what to expect from him, to put something they didn't know they'd like on their plate and then force them to consume it.
"I'm motivated to show people some sides of me they haven't seen," he said. "I had a good time doing 'Tainted Love' because people got to see a bit of my sense of humor that I usually hold back. ... I think there's a lot more that I have to offer that isn't out there yet and that it's just not as narrow as [music made by] a lot of people that I see around me. And it's still obviously hard for someone like me that's been around 10 years to maintain a career and put out record after record, so I'm also motivated by the basic instinct to survive."