Background and recording
Stylized version of the international high voltage safety symbol
"Caution, risk of electric shock" (ISO 3864
), used by the band as a logo for the album
Marilyn Manson was formed in 1989 by the vocalist and guitarist Daisy Berkowitz. For the next seven years, the name of every band member was created by combining the stage name of a female pop culture icon with the surname of a male serial killer. Their highly visualized concerts quickly earned them a loyal fanbase in the South Florida punk and hardcore music scene. Within six months of forming, they were performing sold-out concerts in 300-capacity nightclubs throughout Florida. Eventually, the band gained the attention of Nine Inch Nails vocalist Trent Reznor, who signed them to his Nothing Records vanity label; Reznor produced their 1994 debut album, Portrait of an American Family. This was followed by the 1995 EP Smells Like Children, which contained their first hit, a cover of the Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)".
Antichrist Superstar was recorded over an eight-month period at Nothing Studios in New Orleans by an extensive group of musicians. Along with the remaining members of Marilyn Manson – Twiggy Ramirez, Madonna Wayne Gacy, and Ginger Fish – Nine Inch Nails guitarists Robin Finck and Danny Lohner and drummer Chris Vrenna also participated. The record was initially produced by the vocalist alongside Trent Reznor and former Skinny Puppy producer Dave Ogilvie.
The process of creating the album was long and difficult, highlighted by experiments involving near-constant drug use and sleep deprivation in an effort to create a violent and hostile environment suited to the album's content. Manson has admitted to heavily experimenting with prescription painkillers – including forms of morphine sulphate and hydrocodone – during recording; he regularly inserted sewing needles underneath his fingernails to test his pain threshold.
Initial sessions were unproductive, and routinely culminated in the destruction of the studio, as well as the group's own equipment and instruments. There was also a high level of antagonism between band members, with most of this directed toward founding guitarist Daisy Berkowitz. He later claimed to have been "shut out" of recording sessions, and alleged that much of his equipment was destroyed, such as the four-track recorder which had been used to produce many of the band's early demos, along with his drum machine. The latter was subsequently revealed to have been thrown from a second-story window. This animosity resulted in Twiggy performing the majority of guitar work on the record.
Berkowitz was highly critical of Trent Reznor, whom he said purposely destroyed a Fender Jaguar given as a gift to Berkowitz from his then-recently deceased father, explaining: "I was in the studio, and they were all in the control room, and I'm playing guitar. At the end, Trent says, 'Do it again, but do it more like this.' We went through this three times, and he says, 'Hold on. I'll come in there. Let me show you what I'm talking about.' So I take my guitar off, hand it to him—and he smashes it, just to fuck with me. Then he laughed and left the room." Berkowitz acrimoniously exited the group sometime after this incident. Reznor's relationship with the rest of the band – the vocalist particularly – also began to deteriorate during production, primarily as a result of creative differences.[N 1] Manson and Reznor have not recorded material together since the release of Antichrist Superstar.
Antichrist Superstar was a really gruesome transformation physically, mentally and musically. It was conceived and written while I was enduring a lot of physical pain. I was unable to feel anything emotionally.
—Marilyn Manson on the album's arduous recording process.
Ogilvie was eventually blamed for the band's dysfunction, and was fired as co-producer. He was replaced by frequent Nine Inch Nails mixer Sean Beavan. Manson and Beavan then spent several weeks reworking and remixing the majority of the album in Nothing Records' auxiliary recording facility; Reznor had started production on the soundtrack to David Lynch's Lost Highway in the primary studio, and was often absent from these later sessions. Manson went on to praise Beavan's influence on both the album and band as a whole, describing him as being "like a magnet, drawing the band back in the studio and back together." The pair are the sole credited producers of three songs on the record: "Dried Up, Tied and Dead to the World", "Kinderfeld" and "Minute of Decay".
Ramirez composed much of the music on the record, and regularly asked for input from Reznor, whom he said was "the only other string musician" in the studio on a regular basis, elaborating: "Writing the songs was nothing, but going in and recording them we made some changes. It was nice to have [Trent] there, like another member of the band to help me have another outlook at some of the stuff, because Daisy had ran out of ideas and just did not contribute whatsoever." Reznor is credited with co-composing the music of three songs on the album. The song "1996" was the subject of legal action brought against the band by former bassist Gidget Gein, over alleged similarities to a demo titled "She's Not My Girlfriend". The latter had first been recorded in 1990, four years before Twiggy had joined the group. Berkowitz's replacement on lead guitar joined the band shortly after the album was completed. Timothy Linton adopted Zim Zum as his stage name, ending the seven-year tradition of naming members after female icons and male serial killers; his name was derived from the Lurianic Kabbalah concept of tzimtzum.