We had the pleasure of seeing Manson perform at the Fox Theater in Pamona, CA. I had a feeling the show was going to be great right about when a large group of protesters with giant signs, condeming Satan and “his music,” tried to convince one of the concert-goers to get out of line and join his church.
“What the fuck do you mean, being a mouthy woman is a sin?!?!” the woman screamed at an old “Christian” fellow who listed 25-30 various sins on a giant billboard. Needless to say, the girl chose to stay in line for the show. We made it inside, and waited in anticipation for Manson to perform. After yawning through the opening act (whoever they were), Manson took the stage amidst applause and cheers. The last few times I had seen Manson were during the “Holy Wood” period. I was used to the days when Interscope gave Manson a huge touring budget, and was wondering if his new “low-budget” tour would top 2002’s series of shows that featured a mechanical Pope outfit and shit-tons of pyrotechnics.
Manson played an intimate set that was a little less shocking than all of his past big-budget tours, but no less entertaining. There were no pyrotechnics or mechanical Pope outfits, but Manson did manage to pop a handfull of pills on stage. Also, Slayer’s Kerry King joined Manson, playing guitar on “Irresponsible Hate Anthem.” Manson ran through all of the classics from his back catalog plus a few new gems from “High End Of The Low” with the same passion he had a decade prior.
Manson, who’s primarily a ‘single’s artist’ (shockingly unique for a Goth Metal act), has had quite the extensive career, his music no less entertaining than his image. Lately, the press has bashed Mr. Manson mercilessly; not about him being the “Anti-Christ,” but more so about him being a “has-been” (See any post on Buddyhead.com, or The Onion’s “Mairlyn Manson Goes Door-To-Door To Shock People“) – However, I felt that CWG should give an old friend a break! We’re still fans of Marilyn Manson, and we’re going to run through Manson’s career to date.
Marilyn Manson is an American rock icon founded by Brian Warner and Scott Putesky in the city of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Throughout his career, Manson has advocated nonconformism and iconoclasm, often utilizing controversial imagery and lyrical content. Besides the Goth Metal/Industrial/Shock Rock monkiers, it’s difficult to pigeonhole Manson’s overall sound, as each album thus far has had a distinct and individual sound. Manson creates a unique image and aesthetic for each album and tour.
Marilyn Manson started his career in 1989 as Marilyn Manson & the Spooky Kids. The band’s uniquely theatrical performances gathered a local cult following that subsequently developed into a worldwide fanbase. Manson’s band’s lineup almost always changes between album releases, as he’s famous for abusing his guitar players – (See “A Long Hard Road Out Of Hell: Autobiography of An Anti-Christ Superstar” by Neil Strauss). The current members of the band are the eponymous lead singer Marilyn Manson, bassist Twiggy Ramirez, drummer Ginger Fish and keyboardist Chris Vrenna.
The name of each band member was originally created by combining the first name of an iconic female sex symbol and the last name of an iconic mass murderer or serial killer, doing so to demonstrate the odd dichotomy of society (American society, in particular). In recent years, new members of the band have strayed away from this formula and used their own names. The members of the band dress in outlandish makeup and costumes, and have engaged in intentionally shocking behavior both onstage and off. Their lyrics often receive criticism for their anti-religious sentiment and their references to sex, violence and drugs. Marilyn Manson’s music and performances have frequently been called offensive and obscene, and, more than a few times, protests and petitions have led to the group being banned from performing.
As this controversy began to wane, so did the band’s mainstream popularity. Despite this, its many devoted fans have made Marilyn Manson a consistently high-profile group: three of the band’s albums have been awarded platinum certification and three more have been awarded gold, and the band has seen four of its releases debut in the top ten, including two number-one albums.
The Spooky Kids and the early years (1989–1992)
In 1989, Brian Warner was a college student working toward a journalism degree, gaining experience in the field by writing music articles for South Florida lifestyle magazine, “25th Parallel.” It was in this capacity that he was able to meet several of the musicians to whom his own band would later be compared, including My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult and Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails. He met Scott Putesky shortly afterward and, after showing him some lyrics and poems he had written, proposed that they form a band together. Warner, guitarist Putesky, and bassist Brian Tutunick recorded their first demo tape as Marilyn Manson & The Spooky Kids in 1990, taking on the stage names of Marilyn Manson, Daisy Berkowitz and Olivia Newton Bundy, respectively. They were soon joined by Stephen Bier, who called himself Madonna Wayne Gacy; Bundy was replaced by Gidget Gein, born Brad Stewart. In 1991, drummer Fred Streithorst joined the band, with the stage name Sara Lee Lucas.
The Spooky Kids’ popularity in the area grew quickly, largely because of radio DJ Scott David of WYNX-FM, an early fan who eagerly played songs from the band’s demo tapes on the air; and because of the band’s highly visual concerts, which drew from performance art and used many shock techniques. It was not uncommon to see onstage “naked women nailed to a cross, a child in a cage, or bloody animal body parts.”
Manson, Berkowitz, and Gein often performed in women’s clothing or bizarre costumes and, for lack of a professional pyrotechnician, they would occasionally set their own stage props on fire. The band would dramatically contrast grotesque theatrics with elements drawn from the culture of the members’ youth in the 1970s and 1980s: characters from that era’s children’s television made regular, often somewhat altered, appearances on Marilyn Manson flyers and newsletters, and were frequently sampled in the music. They continued to perform and release cassettes — shortening their name to Marilyn Manson in 1992 — until the summer of 1993, when the band drew the attention of Trent Reznor, who at the time had just founded his own record label, Nothing Records.
Reznor offered Marilyn Manson a contract with his new label and the opportunity to support Nine Inch Nails on their upcoming headlining tour. The band accepted both offers, and recording sessions for its national debut, “Portrait of an American Family,” began in July 1993. Working with producer Roli Mosimann at Criteria Studios in Miami, Florida, the band recorded a selection of new songs along with material from their Spooky Kids repertoire and, by the end of Autumn 1993, had completed the first version of their debut, titled “The Manson Family Album.” It was not, however, well-received. The abrasive sonic “rawness” that Mosimann’s production had brought to such groups as Swans had failed to materialize on “The Manson Family Album”
Reznor and all the band’s members found it flat and lifeless, and poorly representative of Marilyn Manson’s dynamic performances. At the same time, the band was having difficulties with bassist Gidget Gein, who had begun to lose control of his addiction to heroin. In October 1993, Reznor agreed to rework the production on Marilyn Manson’s album, taking them and their tapes to The Record Plant in Los Angeles. Gein, who had been hospitalized after an overdose, was not invited. After seven weeks of mixing, remixing, and rerecording, the album, now titled “Portrait of an American Family,” was ready to be presented to Interscope Records.
Even as the first single “Get Your Gunn” was beginning to receive radio airplay, Gein received a letter declaring his services “no longer needed” by Marilyn Manson after he overdosed on heroin for the fourth time; he was replaced by Twiggy Ramirez, then known as Jeordie White, of Miami thrash band Amboog-a-Lard. In December 1993, Ramirez first performed as the band’s new bass player on a week’s worth of headline dates through Florida with Jack Off Jill opening. While playing Club 5 in Jacksonville, Florida Manson was accused by the town’s Christian Coalition of violating the town’s adult entertainment codes. Jack Off Jill singer Jessicka was accused of solicitation and offering to engage in lewdness. Both singers were arrested and charged with misdemeanors.
On the first date of a fourteen-week national tour opening for Nine Inch Nails, Ramirez made his national touring debut. It was during this tour that Manson had occasion to meet with Church of Satan founder Dr. Anton LaVey. After a cordial meeting, LaVey honored Manson with the title of “Reverend” — meaning, in the Church of Satan, a person who is revered by the church, and not necessarily one who dedicates his life to preaching the religion to others, as with a priest or minister.
In March 1995, the band began its first national headlining tour, a two-month outing with Monster Voodoo Machine as support; this would be drummer Sara Lee Lucas’s last tour with the band. Tension between Lucas and Manson had apparently grown as the tour wore on and, on the next-to-last night of the tour, Manson secretly decided to end the show with a flourish: during a performance of the then-current single, “Lunchbox”, he doused Lucas’s drum kit in lighter fluid and set it ablaze — with Lucas still attempting to play on behind it. (Manson apparently forgot that the band had one more date to play.) Lucas quit the band after the final gig the next night. Less than two weeks later his replacement, Ginger Fish, joined the group, Marilyn Manson was touring again, this time on a bill with Danzig and Korn.
That tour ended in summer 1995, after which the band relocated to the new home of Nothing Studios in New Orleans, Louisiana to begin work on the third single from “Portrait of an American Family,” “Dope Hat.” Accompanied by a music video which featured Manson in the role of Willy Wonka in a shock-horror version of “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” the proposed single for “Dope Hat” eventually developed into the hour-long Remix album, “Smells like Children.” The album’s fifteen tracks of covers, remixes, and bizarre sonic experiments also included the band’s version of the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)”, which would prove to be Marilyn Manson’s first legitimate hit: the video was placed in heavy rotation on MTV (in stark contrast with the “Dope Hat” video, which MTV had banished to late-night airplay only a few months before) and the mainstream music press was suddenly clamoring to cover the group.
A five-month headlining tour followed, from September through February, during which the band began to debut new material like “Irresponsible Hate Anthem”, “Minute of Decay”, and “Smells like Children”. Rumors of a new album circulated widely during this time, and were confirmed when the band returned to Nothing’s New Orleans studio in early 1996 to perform what Manson termed “a musical ritual designed to bring about the Apocalypse”.
Marilyn Manson’s second full-length studio album, “Antichrist Superstar,” was released on October 8, 1996.
It was recorded at Nothing Studios with Trent Reznor himself acting as executive producer. The process of making the album was reportedly a long and difficult one, highlighted by experiments allegedly involving sleep deprivation and near-constant drug use in an effort to create an environment suited to the album’s moody and occasionally violent content. During this time, antagonism between band members was high, which caused the departure of guitarist and founding member Daisy Berkowitz. With Berkowitz out of the band, Twiggy Ramirez performed lead guitar for much of the recording of “Antichrist Superstar,” and the group placed an ad seeking a new guitarist for its upcoming tour; Timothy Linton, auditioned for and was given the position.
Breaking with the six-year tradition of icon/killer naming structures, the newest member was dubbed Zim Zum – a name derived from Kabbalah, one of the major sources of inspiration for the album. The album’s first single, “The Beautiful People”, made a fairly major impact on the alternative rock charts, and created enough anticipation for Antichrist Superstar that the album debuted at number three on the album charts.
The year-and-a-half long Dead to the World Tour in support of the album followed; it was the band’s longest and widest yet, and included Marilyn Manson’s live debut in Alaska, Hawaii, the United Kingdom, continental Europe, South America, Asia and Australia. In the United States, however, the band was receiving more attention than ever before, and not all of it was positive.
As the tour was getting underway, the band found itself the target of congressional hearings, led by Senator Joseph Lieberman, to determine the effects, if any, of violent lyrics on young listeners. Lieberman would later go on to refer to Marilyn Manson as “perhaps the sickest group ever promoted by a mainstream record company.” In addition, nearly every performance on the tour was picketed by religious organizations, pleading with fans to not see the musician who once said “I think every time people listen to this new album maybe God will be destroyed in their brainwashed minds.”
On November 10, 1997, the band released a remix/live EP, “Remix & Repent,” featuring new versions of Antichrist Superstar’s four singles, “The Beautiful People”, “Tourniquet”, “Antichrist Superstar”, and “Man that You Fear”, alongside songs recorded live on the U.S. leg of the Dead to the World Tour. Two unreleased songs from the Antichrist Superstar recording sessions were contributed to film soundtracks: “Apple of Sodom” to David Lynch’s Lost Highway, and “The Suck for Your Solution” to the Howard Stern biopic “Private Parts.” As the year ended, Manson made the announcement of the upcoming publication of his first book, the autobiographical “Long Hard Road out of Hell;” the book was released in February 1998, along with another live documentary of the world tour, a home video entitled “Dead to the World.”
On September 15, 1998, Marilyn Manson released “Mechanical Animals,” an album strongly influenced by David Bowie. Interscope’s promotion of the album was massive, including an enormous billboard of singer Manson as an androgynous extraterrestrial over Times Square, and repeated appearances on MTV and other networks to promote the album and the single “The Dope Show.”
Propelled by the success of “Antichrist Superstar” and by this press push, the album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 Albums chart. The band had recast itself in a new image for this album; setting aside the bleak darkness of the previous record for a more concealed morbidity.
Marilyn Manson was now a glam rock band, which spawed many imitations (Jet, White Stripes, The Darkness, etc.) By this time, the band had permanently relocated to Los Angeles, and Zim Zum had been replaced by glam-influenced guitarist John Lowery, who joined the band as John 5.
After a brief promotional tour, the band set out on the Rock Is Dead world tour with Hole and Monster Magnet as support. The tour, however, would be a problematic one: on March 1, 1999, the three bands played the first show in Spokane, Washington; by March 14, Hole had left the tour and Manson had broken his ankle, forcing postponements of some shows. Jack Off Jill and Nashville Pussy were asked to take select remaining opening slots on tour.
Less than three weeks after the tour resumed, two students (Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold) at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado killed thirteen people, and then took their own lives; early media reports declared them fans of “violent” music (a lot of attention was directed at Manson, however it was later confirmed that Harris and Klebold were not fans of the group) and video games.
On April 28, out of respect for the victims, Marilyn Manson canceled the remaining dates of the Rock Is Dead tour, and would not reappear in Denver until the 2001 Ozzfest. Manson’s song “The Nobodies” was directly inspired by the shootings.
The rest of 1999 and much of 2000 was a period of relative silence for Marilyn Manson. The band spent over a year quietly writing and recording in a studio in Death Valley, with only the single, “Astonishing Panorama of the Endtimes” — an outtake from “Antichrist Superstar” — appearing during that time.
On November 14, 2000, “Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death)” was released. Returning to the darker, more visceral sound of “Antichrist Superstar,” much of the album’s content was written in response to the Columbine massacre. This is Manson’s best selling album by far selling over 9 million copies.
Described by the band as the third part of a trilogy begun with “Antichrist Superstar” and continued in “Mechanical Animals,” its overarching theme is an exploration of the relationship between death and fame in American culture, and its lyrics and artwork contain many references to John F. Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald, John Lennon and Mark David Chapman, and even Abraham Lincoln and John Wilkes Booth.
The Guns, God and Government world tour expanded upon the exploration of America’s fascination with violence, and with the tour’s logo — a rifle and handguns arranged to resemble the Christian cross — Manson made no attempt to conceal what he saw as the source of that fascination.
On May 16, 2001, it was announced on the Marilyn Manson website that Manson planned to quote the Bible at his next concert, to “balance out” his violent lyrics, “so we can examine the virtues of wonderful Christian stories of disease, murder, adultery, suicide and child sacrifice. Now that seems like entertainment to me.”
On June 21, 2001, Manson did indeed read from the Bible onstage in Denver, Colorado, presenting such passages as Leviticus 20:9 (“For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall surely be put to death”) and Psalm 137:9 (“Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones”).
With the “triptych” of the previous three albums now complete, Marilyn Manson was free to begin a fresh project. In 2002, Jonathan Davis of Korn invited Marilyn Manson into a studio to record vocals on a track he wrote entitled “Redeemer.” The song, produced by both Jon and Richard Gibbs, was then released on the “Queen Of The Damned” soundtrack.
After finding inspiration in the decadent Swing era of the 1920s, the band recorded “The Golden Age of Grotesque” that year and the album was released on May 13, 2003.
Eschewing the lyrical depth and volume of symbolism and hidden meaning of “Holy Wood,” “The Golden Age” was relatively straightforward; in an extended metaphor, Manson compares his own often-criticized music to the entartete Kunst banned by the Nazi regime.
New member Tim Skold (KMFDM), replacing Twiggy Ramirez, added a new dimension to the band’s sound; he brought with him the band’s use of heavy industrial beats, for better or worse. “The Golden Age of Grotesque” was frequently impugned as derivative of KMFDM and lacking the originality that Marilyn Manson had become known for.
The album still managed a number one debut on the album charts, selling over 118,000 copies in the US its first week of release.
“Lest We Forget: The Best Of” was released on September 28, 2004. It was referred to by the singer as his “farewell” album. It was supported by a series of “greatest hits” performances, the Against All Gods tour.
After the release of the single “Personal Jesus”, the band made a number of promotional appearances. At the Comet awards show in Germany, drummer Ginger Fish fell from his drum riser, fracturing his skull and wrist. Former Nine Inch Nails drummer Chris Vrenna replaced him.
John 5 had also been replaced; Mark Chaussee of Fight took over lead guitar on the Against All Gods tour, and was subsequently replaced in the studio by Tim Skold. Though John 5 denied any hostility towards Marilyn Manson following the announcement of his departure, at the band’s appearance on the Rock am Ring music festival in 2003 an incident took place between John 5 and Marilyn Manson where Manson deliberately kicked the guitarist. John 5 responded with anger, throwing off his guitar mid-song and raising his fists to Manson as if to fight with him, before resuming the song without any further incident. “Lest We Forget” was certified Gold in 2005.
It has been speculated that Manson’s “farewell album” comment may be an indication that the membership of Marilyn Manson may no longer be permanent, and that the musicians who record the albums and play live may, in the future, rotate, as has been the case with Nine Inch Nails and KMFDM.
Manson’s 2007 album, “Eat Me, Drink Me”, was recorded by the core Manson and Skold.
Marilyn Manson’s sixth studio album, “Eat Me, Drink Me,” was released on June 5, 2007, debuting at number 8 in the US. Released more than four years after “The Golden Age of Grotesque,” “Eat Me, Drink Me” marked another change in musical styles that the band has become famous for.
One remarkable note of the album is that it was written entirely by Manson and Skold in a rented home studio. The album is also the first major label Manson album without Madonna Wayne Gacy (Pogo) as a listed member, making lead singer Marilyn Manson the only original member since “Portrait of an American Family.”
Rumors also circulated for some time that Marilyn Manson wrote the song “Mutilation is the Most Sincere Form of Flattery” as an attack on the band My Chemical Romance, for his “Eat Me, Drink Me” release (which he later denied, saying that it was aimed at people in general seeking to imitate him).
On January 9, 2008 Marilyn Manson posted a bulletin on MySpace confirming that former bassist Twiggy Ramirez was rejoining the band, and Tim Skold had parted ways with the band.
The seventh studio album by Marilyn Manson began recording sessions following the band’s Rape of the World tour, which ended on March 2, 2008. The actual recording of the album took place at Manson’s Hollywood Hills home between November 2008 and January 5 2009.
Manson said “after my greatest hits album (“Lest We Forget: The Best Of”) came out, I took a long break from music because it was a period where I was not sure who I wanted to be. I left music for a while, but that’s not an error I want to repeat in the future.”
In a January 2008 interview, Manson said “I just feel like there is a big change happening now. It’s going to be the one. ‘Eat Me, Drink Me’ is opening the window and this is going to be the Hurricane Katrina.” Manson described the new album as, “very ruthless, very heavy, and very violent”.
Band members (Current)
* Marilyn Manson – lead vocals (since 1989)
* Twiggy Ramirez – guitars, bass (1993–2002, since 2008)
* Chris Vrenna – keyboards, percussion (since 2007)
* Ginger Fish – drums, percussion, piano (since 1995)
* Andy Gerold – bass (touring since 2009)
Band Members (Former)
* Zsa Zsa Speck – keyboards (1989)
* Olivia Newton Bundy – bass (1989)
* Gidget Gein – bass (1990–1993)
* Sara Lee Lucas – drums, percussion (1990–1995)
* Daisy Berkowitz – guitars (1989–1996)
* Zim Zum – guitars (1996–1998)
* John 5 – guitars (1998–2004)
* Madonna Wayne Gacy – keyboards (1989–2007)
* Tim Skold – guitars, bass (2002–2008)
Band Members (Touring)
* Mark Chaussee – guitars (2004–2005)
* Chris Vrenna – drums, percussion (2004–2005)
* Rob Holliday – bass (2007–2008), guitars (2008)
* Wes Borland – guitars (2008–2009)