His music has always been informed by the stuff of nightmares. Now, Marilyn Manson is drawing directly from his dreams to create his twisted tunes.
In an effort to avoid the musical realms he had previously roamed, the singer tapped into the imagery of his subconscious when he was working on his new album, The Golden Age of Grotesque.
"I would wake up and say, 'I want to write a song that sounds like a stampeding elephant,' or 'I want to write a song that sounds like a burning piano,' " he explained. "Understanding stream of consciousness is sometimes very pure and of a deeper intellect than something that's very carefully thought out. I found control by letting go on this record."
Letting go has never been a problem for Manson. Since his band's 1994 debut, Portrait of an American Family, he's dabbled with extreme music and regurgitated it in an accessible framework of metal, industrial and rock. And in his lyrics, he has addressed religious, political and social taboos, emerging as a noble, articulate spokesperson for the decadent and depraved.
Like Marilyn Manson's past releases, The Golden Age of Grotesque is plenty loud, but it's colored by lust and carnal celebration instead of mere anger (see "Marilyn Manson Hits Below The Belt On Grotesque New LP"). Beats clatter seductively, guitars pulse and shiver, and swerving Kurt Weill-influenced melodies conjure the landscape of pre-World War II Germany, in which so-called "degenerate" artists created vibrant, escapist paintings.
"The thing I liked most about Weimar Berlin was the attitude [people back then had] of living and creating art like there's no tomorrow without any apologies," Manson said. "People create great things when they're afraid, and fear is a great part of the creative mechanism. So, everything on the record is kind of spitting in the face of fear."
In addition to burlesque themes from the 1930s, The Golden Age of Grotesque is graced with a playful, childish spirit that Manson perverts into something ugly and lurid. "Doll-Dagga Buzz-Buzz Ziggety-Zag" sounds like a playground chant, and "Slutgarden" features a twist on a children's rhyme: "You are the church, I am the steeple/ When we f---, we're all of God's people."
"A lot of this album was kind of like finding the genius of art in the minds of lunatics or children because they don't follow the rules," Manson explained. "They don't know how to read the rules, so if anything, I ignored the rest of the world and made something for myself."
The album's first single, "mOBSCENE," encapsulates Manson's views on eroticism and touches on two opposite spectrums of the psyche with which we constantly grapple ("Manson Wants To Perform With Siamese Twins For Nude Crowds").
"The song is sort of testing the duality of chaos and order and of people's opinion of what's grotesque and what's beautiful and the aesthetic of what's obscene," Manson said. "I've always thought it was funny that a court of law, [the Supreme Court], decided what is offensive or obscene [in this country] because their standard of judging it would be if it causes arousal. I wanted to point out that what most people find obscene, we secretly enjoy. That's the part of the imagination they're afraid to let go of."
Instead of hiring a director for the "mOBSCENE" video, Manson took the cinematic reins and lensed a surreal clip that features elephants painted black, a giant Victrola, Siamese twins and girls in red panties (see "Manson Plays Ringmaster At Creepy Carnival In Latest Video").
"Because the images that inspired the song were so specific, I didn't think it would be worth trying to get someone else to understand or explain it to when I knew that I could do it myself," Manson said. "I've always been very involved in the video-making process because I do a lot of visual things whether it be painting or photography. And I like lighting things. That's something that comes from just being a performer, and there's no reason why you can't translate that onto film."
But while Manson had images in mind when he entered the location for the shoot, he didn't have a video treatment written down for the performers. So, in true Manson style, he let chaos be his guide.
"People asked me, 'What about the storyboard?' And I said, 'I'm really bored with your story, so I'm just going to do something that is completely driven in the same way that the song is,' " he said. "It's just me tossing out things from my imagination and it falls into place for everybody in their own way. One of the most interesting things that happened while making the video was watching the Siamese twins go to the bathroom together. I just saw these four legs underneath the stall. That was kind of amusing."