In the past, band members dressed in outlandish makeup and costumes, and engaged in intentionally shocking behavior both onstage and off. Their lyrics often received criticism for their anti-religious sentiment and references to sex, violence and drugs, while their live performances were frequently called offensive and obscene. On several occasions, protests and petitions led to the group being blocked from performing, with at least three US states passing legislation banning the group from performing at state-owned venues. They released a number of platinum-selling albums, including Antichrist Superstar (1996) and Mechanical Animals (1998). These albums, along with their highly stylized music videos and worldwide touring, brought public recognition to Marilyn Manson. In 1999, news media falsely blamed the band for influencing the Columbine High School massacre.
As this controversy began to wane throughout the 2000s, so did the band's mainstream popularity. Despite this, Jon Wiederhorn of MTV, in June 2003, referred to Marilyn Manson as "the only true artist today". Marilyn Manson is widely regarded as being one of the most iconic and controversial figures in rock music, with the band and its lead singer influencing numerous other groups and musicians, both in metal-associated acts and also in wider popular culture. VH1 ranked Marilyn Manson as the seventy-eighth best rock band on their 100 Great Artists of Hard Rock. They were inducted into the Kerrang! Hall of Fame in 2000, and have been nominated for four Grammy Awards. In the U.S., the band has seen eight of its releases debut in the top ten, including two number-one albums. Marilyn Manson have sold in excess of 50 million records worldwide.
The stage names adopted by each member were representative of a concept the band considered central: the dichotomy of good and evil, and the existence of both, together, in every whole. "Marilyn Monroe had a dark side", explained Manson in his autobiography, "just as Charles Manson has a good, intelligent side." Over the next six years, all of the band's members would adopt names that combined the first name of a female sex symbol and the surname of a serial killer. Images of both Monroe and Manson, as well as of other famous and infamous figures, were common in the band's early promotional materials.
The Spooky Kids' popularity in the area grew quickly and because of the band's highly visual concerts, which drew from performance art and used many shock techniques such as "naked women nailed to a cross, a child in a cage, or bloody animal body parts." Band members variously performed in women's clothing or bizarre costumes; and, for lack of a professional pyrotechnician, would set their own stage props on fire. The band would contrast these theatrics with elements drawn from their youth: characters from 1970s and '80s children's television made regular, often grotesquely altered, appearances on band flyers and newsletters, and were frequently sampled in their music. They continued to perform and release cassettes – shortening their name to Marilyn Manson in 1992 – until the summer of 1993, when they drew the attention of Reznor, who had just founded his own label, Nothing Records.
Portrait of an American Family and Smells Like Children (1993–1995)
Left to Right: Twiggy, Gacy and Manson performing at the "A Night of Nothing" industry showcase, 1995
Reznor offered the band a contract with the label, as well as an opening slot supporting Nine Inch Nails on their upcoming "Self Destruct Tour". After accepting both offers, recording sessions for their debut studio album began in July 1993 with Swans producer Roli Mosimann at Criteria Studios in Miami, Florida. Recording a selection of new songs along with material from their Spooky Kids repertoire, the first version of their debut, titled The Manson Family Album, was completed by the end of the month. However, it was not well received. The band's members, along with Reznor, criticized Mosimann's production as being flat, lifeless and poorly representative of the band's live performances. At the same time, Gidget Gein had begun to lose control of his addiction to heroin. Before reworking the album, the band played two shows in Florida under the name Mrs. Scabtree. This band featured Manson on drums, Gacy on keyboard, Berkowitz on guitar, and Jessicka from Jack Off Jill sharing vocal duties with Jeordie White of Miami thrash band Amboog-a-Lard. Four other local musicians, bassists Mark Dubin of Sister Venus and Patrick Joyce from The Itch, guitarist Miles Hie and violinist Mary Karlzen were also involved.
Reznor agreed to rework production of The Manson Family Album in October 1993 at Record Plant Studios in Los Angeles. Gein, who had been hospitalized after his fourth heroin overdose, was not invited to participate, and was fired from the band soon after, replaced by White, of Amboog-a-Lard, who undertook the alias Twiggy Ramirez. After seven weeks of mixing, re-recording and remixing, the album – now titled Portrait of an American Family – was presented to Nothing's parent label Interscope. The album was released on July 19, 1994 and peaked at number thirty-five on Billboard's Top Heatseekers album chart. The band began its first national headlining tour in December 1994, with Jack Off Jill opening. During the band's stint as opening act on the Nine Inch Nails tour, Manson met Church of Satan founder Dr. Anton LaVey. LaVey bestowed the title of "Reverend" on Manson– meaning a person who is revered by the church, and not necessarily one who dedicates their life to preaching the religion to others, as with a priest or minister. Manson would use this title in the liner notes of the band's following album, citing himself as "Reverend Marilyn Manson".
In March 1995, the band began a two-month tour, this time with Monster Voodoo Machine as support. This would be drummer Sara Lee Lucas's last tour with the band. Kenneth Wilson, better known by his stage name Ginger Fish, then joined the group before they embarked on a tour with rock bands Danzig and Korn. The band then relocated to the new home of Nothing Studios in New Orleans to begin work on remixes and b-sides for Portrait's third single, "Dope Hat", releasing a music video inspired by the boat ride scene from the 1971 movie Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. The proposed single eventually developed into an hour-long EP, titled Smells Like Children. The EP's fifteen tracks of covers, remixes, and sonic experiments also included the band's version of the Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)", which would prove to be their first hit. The song's music video was placed in heavy rotation on MTV, in stark contrast with the "Dope Hat" video, which the same channel had banished to late-night airplay only a few months prior.
Antichrist Superstar (1996–1997)
This is perhaps the sickest group ever promoted by a mainstream record company.
The band's second studio album, Antichrist Superstar, was released on October 8, 1996. It was recorded at Nothing Studios with Reznor, Manson, Sean Beavan and former Skinny Puppy member and longtime producer Dave Ogilvie sharing co-production duties; members of both Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails took part in its recording. The process of making the album was a long and difficult one, highlighted by experiments involving sleep deprivation and near-constant drug use, in an effort to create a violent and hostile environment suited to the album's content. During this time, antagonism between band members was high. Daisy Berkowitz, the band's founding guitarist, departed the band partway through the album's recording process, with Twiggy performing much of the album's guitar work. Timothy Linton responded to an advert seeking Berkowitz's replacement. He would form a close relationship with Madonna Wayne Gacy, who was responsible for the inclusion of one of the major sources of inspiration for the album: Kabbalah. Breaking with the six-year tradition of naming band members after female icons and serial killers, Zim Zum was chosen as Linton's stage name. It was derived from the Lurianic Kabbalah concept of Tzimtzum. "The Beautiful People" was released as the album's lead single. It created enough anticipation for Antichrist Superstar that the album debuted at number three on the Billboard 200 with first-week sales of 132,000 copies. Manson also appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone, who awarded the band their 'Best New Artist' accolade in 1997. The year-long "Dead to the World Tour" followed, which was the band's longest and widest-ranging tour yet. In the US, 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 bipartisancongressional hearings, led by conservativeviolent entertainment watchdog group Empower America (now known as FreedomWorks) co-directors RepublicanSecretary of EducationWilliam Bennett and DemocraticU.S. SenatorJoseph Lieberman, to determine the effects, if any, of violent lyrics on young listeners. In addition, nearly every performance of the tour was picketed by religious organizations.
The band released the second part of their triptych, Mechanical Animals, on September 15, 1998. Co-produced by the band's lead singer with Sean Beavan and Michael Beinhorn, the album moved away from the industrial rock production of its predecessor and was strongly influenced by 1970s glam rock, particularly David Bowie's 1974 album Diamond Dogs.Billy Corgan served as an unofficial consultant to the band during the early development of the album. After playing a few songs for him, Corgan advised them that "This is definitely the right direction" but to "go all the way with it. Don't just hint at it", referring to its inclusion of glam influences. To suit their new musical style, the band also recast itself as a glam rock outfit, setting aside the "rotting-corpse chic" of the previous era in favor of attire more suited to the genre, incorporating leather, platform boots and brightly dyed hair. The band also relocated from New Orleans to Los Angeles, while Zim Zum was replaced by guitarist John Lowery of 2wo. who dubbed himself John 5.
After a brief promotional campaign, the band set out on the "Beautiful Monsters Tour" with Hole. The tour would be a problematic one, and was marred by frequent on–and–off stage exchanges between Manson and Hole vocalist Courtney Love. Private disputes also arose over the tour's financial arrangements, with Hole unwittingly financing most of Manson's production costs, which were disproportionately high relative to Hole's. The tour was to include thirty-seven shows spanning over a two-month period, although Hole left after taking part in just nine of the scheduled dates. A broken ankle from Manson also forced the postponement of the next two shows, with the remainder of the tour being renamed "Rock Is Dead" and Jack Off Jill and Nashville Pussy taking over select opening slots.
Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death) (2000–2001)
1999 was a pivotal year—as was 1969, the year of my birth. The two years share many similarities. Woodstock '99 became an Altamont of its own. Columbine became the Manson murders of our generation. Things happened that could've made me want to stop making music. Instead, I decided to come out and really punish everyone for daring to fuck with me. I've got a big fight ahead of me on this one. And I want every bit of it.
The band also revealed that within their concept album trilogy,Holy Wood serves as prequel to Mechanical Animals and Antichrist Superstar despite the latter two preceding Holy Wood in release date. Each album contains its own distinct storyline, which can be linked together to create a larger overarching storyline encompassing all three. Manson has offered this much in the way of an interpretation: "[Holy Wood is about] wanting to fit into a world that didn't want me, and fighting really hard to get there. [The album's deepest elements] are idealism and the desire to start a revolution. If you begin with Holy Wood, then Mechanical Animals really talks about how that revolution gets taken away from you and turned into a product, and then Antichrist Superstar is where you're given a choice to decide if you're going to be controlled by the power that you created or if you want to destroy yourself and then start over. It just becomes a cycle."
The band initially declined to join the 2001 line-up of Ozzy Osbourne's Ozzfest, as its June 21 date in Denver would mark their first appearance in Colorado since the Columbine massacre. After the band announced on their website that they would perform in Denver, they were protested by religious groups. The band planned to "balance out" their "violent lyrics" by quoting biblical texts, "so we can examine the virtues of wonderful Christian stories of disease, murder, adultery, suicide and child sacrifice." The tour was documented by a DVD of the same name, which was released on October 29, 2002. In addition to a compilation style concert [songs from multiple individual shows edited together to appear as a single performance], it includes a thirty-minute short film titled "The Death Parade". This was followed by Guns, God and Government – Live in LA in 2009, which depicts their performance of January 13, 2001 at Los Angeles's Grand Olympic Auditorium in its entirety.
Earlier in 2001, the band released a cover of Gloria Jones's "Tainted Love" on the soundtrack to Not Another Teen Movie. The song became the band's biggest international hit yet, peaking at number one in numerous European territories. In 2002, Jonathan Davis of Korn invited Marilyn Manson to record vocals on a track titled "Redeemer", which was released on his soundtrack to Queen of the Damned. Manson also appeared in Michael Moore's 2002 documentary, Bowling for Columbine; his appearance was filmed on the same day as their Denver Ozzfest performance. When Moore asked what Manson would have said to the students at Columbine, he replied, "I wouldn't say a single word to them. I would listen to what they have to say, and that's what no one did."
The Golden Age of Grotesque and Lest We Forget (2004–2006)
With the "triptych" of previous albums complete, the band was free to begin a fresh project. In 2002, Manson created an original score for the Resident Evil film with former KMFDM multi-instrumentalist Tim Sköld. Soon after, Sköld became an official band member when Twiggy Ramirez amicably left the group, citing creative differences. After finding inspiration through Manson's girlfriend Dita Von Teese in the swing and burlesque movements of 1920s Berlin, the band recorded The Golden Age of Grotesque, which was released on May 13, 2003 and debuted atop the Billboard 200 album chart, selling over 118,000 copies on its first week. It was also an international success, particularly in Europe, where it sold over 400,000 copies on its first week, and topping various national record charts, as well as Billboard's European Albums Chart. The album also appeared on several critics' year-end lists, and won a 2003 Metal Edge Readers' Choice Award for "Album of the Year".
Eschewing the lyrical depth and symbolism found on Holy Wood, the album was relatively straightforward: in an extended metaphor, Manson compares his own often-criticized work to the Entartete Kunst banned by the Nazi regime. Lyrically, Manson utilizes the narrative mode of stream of consciousness throughout the album to examine the human psyche in times of crisis, specifically focusing on the mindset of lunatics and children, as, according to Manson, "they don't follow the rules [of society]." Several songs incorporate elements commonly found in playground chants and nursery rhymes, which Manson would "pervert into something ugly and lurid." The work of Kurt Weill was also noted as an influence, along with the lucid dreams the singer was having during its production, with Manson explaining that he 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.'"
Manson began his long-term collaboration with Austrian-Irish artist Gottfried Helnwein, working together on several multi-media projects associated with the album, including the exhibitions and installation art projects featured at the album's launch party at The Key Club in Los Angeles, the album artwork, the music video to lead single "mOBSCENE", as well as the artwork which accompanied Manson's essay for The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Limited edition copies of the album included a DVD titled Doppelherz (Double-heart), a 25-minute surrealist short film directed by Manson which featured art direction by Helnwein. Another world tour followed, "Grotesk Burlesk", which furthered the album's Weimar Republic-inspired theme by adding Helnwein-created stage dressing and elements of German Kabarett to the group's performances. Manson and the band members began appearing both on-and off-stage in designer suits created by Jean-Paul Gaultier.
Lest We Forget: The Best Of was released on September 28, 2004 and was referred to by Manson as a "farewell" compilation. It was the last album released under Nothing Records, as the label was dissolved following a lawsuit filed by Reznor against his former manager and business partner, John Malm. The compilation was supported by the "Against All Gods Tour", as well as a single–a cover of Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus". It was the first and only tour to feature Mark Chaussee of Rob Halford's Fight on lead guitar, replacing John 5, whose relationship with Manson had soured over the previous year. Former Nine Inch Nails drummer Chris Vrenna also replaced Ginger Fish, who fractured his wrist, skull and cheekbone after falling several feet off his drum riser during a performance at a German awards ceremony.
Eat Me, Drink Me (2007–2008)
Sköld and Manson during the "Rape of the World Tour"
By late 2005, the band had composed 18 new songs, but work on their sixth studio album was halted when Manson focused his attention on various film and art projects, including the development of his screenplay, Phantasmagoria: The Visions of Lewis Carroll, as well as a minor role in the Lucy Liu movie Rise: Blood Hunter. He also launched a self-proclaimed art movement, the Celebritarian Corporation, which included artist Gottfried Helnwein, fashion designer Steven Klein and director Anthony Silva, as well as announcing plans to open an art gallery and publish a book of his paintings. It was after opening the Celebritarian Corporation Gallery Of Fine Art on Melrose Avenue in 2006 that work started on new material, with Manson writing lyrics over Sköld's already existing compositions.
The resulting material was composed and recorded entirely by Sköld, and does not feature writing or performance contributions from any other member of the band. Its content is largely inspired by personal troubles relating to Manson's failed marriage to Von Teese, and his burgeoning relationship with then-19-year old actress Evan Rachel Wood. The band made their debut appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on October 31, 2006, performing their cover of "This Is Halloween" from a deluxe edition re-release of The Nightmare Before Christmas soundtrack. This would be their last performance featuring longtime keyboardist Madonna Wayne Gacy, who would go on to file a $20m lawsuit against the band the following year for unpaid "partnership proceeds".
To promote the album, the band embarked on the nine-month "Rape of the World Tour", which featured Sköld on lead guitar, former The Prodigy bassist Rob Holliday and longtime drummer Ginger Fish; while Vrenna rejoined the band as their live keyboardist. The first leg of the tour was a co-headlining set with American thrash metal band Slayer, with support coming from Bleeding Through. In November 2007, Manson confirmed that he and Sköld had begun work on the band's next studio album, with Slayer's Kerry King, former The Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha and Nick Zinner of Yeah Yeah Yeahs set to feature. By the beginning of 2008, however, Twiggy Ramirez had rejoined the band as bassist, resulting in the exit of Sköld, with Holliday moving from bass to lead guitar for the remaining duration of the tour. Future collaborations with Sköld were not ruled out.
The High End of Low (2009–2010)
In 2008, former Limp Bizkit guitarist Wes Borland joined the band for their headlining show at the 2008 ETP Fest in South Korea. However, Borland left the group to reunite with Limp Bizkit, later saying that he was reluctant to be a "hired gun", citing the band's refusal to record any of the nine songs he submitted for their upcoming album.R&B singer Ne-Yo claimed in early December that he would hold writing sessions with the band's frontman on new material, although Manson denied it, saying that he had "never even met Ne-Yo. I can assure him that he would not want to be associated with something this godless."
The High End of Low was recorded throughout 2008, with Manson recording vocals at his Hollywood Hills home studio between November and January 5, 2009. Produced by Manson, Twiggy and Vrenna with Antichrist Superstar and Mechanical Animals co-producer Sean Beavan, Manson described the album as containing "extreme" autobiographical content relating to the dissolution of his engagement to Wood, and as being "very ruthless, heavy and violent". Its fifteen songs appear on the album in the order they were written. The penultimate track, "Into the Fire", portrays the vocalist's mental state on Christmas Day, wherein he attempted to contact Wood 158 times, cutting himself with a razorblade on the face or hands for each corresponding attempt. The album's final song, "15", was completed on Manson's January 5 birthday – hence the name. Manson utilized his entire home as a canvas to document the disintegration of the relationship, writing its lyrics on walls and coupling them with paintings and drawings relating to Wood, as well as used condoms, bags of cocaine and other drug paraphernalia.
"We're from America" was released as a free download on the band's website on March 27, 2009, while a Hot Topic-exclusive CD single followed two weeks later. After playing an instrumental version of "Arma-goddamn-motherfuckin-geddon" to Interscope's A&R department, it was chosen as the album's official lead single, with an employee telling Manson, "This is gonna be a hit!". Manson then quipped to the employee, "Well, I'm glad that you have no consideration for what I [might] put on top of it." A heavily censored version of the profanity-laced track – re-titled to "Arma ... geddon" – was serviced to radio from April 13, and peaked at number thirty-seven on Billboard's Mainstream Rock chart, becoming their lowest-peaking single in the process. The album was released on May 26, 2009 and debuted at number four on the Billboard 200 with sales of over 49,000 copies, their lowest opening week figure since The Last Tour on Earth debuted with 26,000 copies in 1999.
Prior to The High End of Low's release, Manson made a series of disparaging comments regarding Interscope and its artistic censorship; as well as its then-CEOJimmy Iovine, who Manson said "wasn't smart enough to understand what [we] do", and publicly claiming that the label "cares more about Vitamin Water [the private equity venture of Interscope-signed 50 Cent] than music." Reznor – who, as of 2015, remains friends with Iovine – responded by calling Manson a "dopey clown" and claiming that "He is a malicious guy and will step on anybody's face to succeed and cross any line of decency." While promoting the album in the UK, Manson appeared inebriated in a series of interviews. An interview for Alan Carr: Chatty Man recorded during this time remains unaired, due to graphic language and content. A music video for "Running to the Edge of the World" – in which Manson beats a Wood lookalike to death – was released on November 4 and was condemned as a perceived glorification of violence against women. The band parted ways with Interscope on December 3. They settled the lawsuit filed by former keyboardist Stephen Bier (aka M.W. Gacy), with Manson's insurance company paying Bier's attorney's fees and Bier receiving no monetary value.
Born Villain (2011–2013)
Upon parting with Interscope, Manson said "a lot of the creative control on which my hands were tied [has been regained]", while stating that the band had been writing new material while touring their previous album. Manson attested that its lyrical content would be "more romantic" yet "self-abusive", and described its sonic elements as being "suicide death metal".Fred Sablan joined the band in July 2010. By October, Twiggy described the album as being "almost done", and opined that "It's our best record yet. I mean, everyone always says that, but I think this is our best work so far. It's kind of like a little more of a punk rockMechanical Animals, without sounding too pretentious." The following month, it was announced that the band had signed a joint-venture deal with London-based indie labelCooking Vinyl. As part of the deal, the band would retain creative control over their artistic direction, with the band and label sharing profits equally after the label recoups costs associated with marketing, promotion and distribution.
For much of 2011, Manson removed himself from the public spotlight and ceased almost all communication with fans, only taking a break from his self-imposed sequestration to appear in the music video for "Tempat Ku" by Brunei rock band D'Hask. On February 24, longtime drummer Ginger Fish announced his resignation from the group. On May 22, their website underwent a complete overhaul. A 26-second clip of an unreleased song, tentatively titled "I am among no one", was uploaded to their Vimeo account, along with a new logo.
After being impressed by his directorial work on one of Kid Cudi's music videos, Manson employed actor Shia LaBeouf to direct a short film entitled Born Villain. Contrary to media reports that the project would be a "making-of" video documenting the album's recording,Born Villain was a surrealist short featuring a previously unreleased track, "Overneath the Path of Misery". Containing numerous references to Macbeth, it was inspired by Jodorowsky's The Holy Mountain and Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí's 1929 silent film Un Chien Andalou. To promote the project, LaBeouf and his girlfriend, photographer Karolyn Pho, graffitied areas of LA with its artwork. LaBeouf and Pho later photographed their work, and released it as a limited edition book titled Campaign, which was bundled with a DVD of the film. In November, Vrenna departed the band to focus on other production work, whilst indicating that production of their eighth studio album was "largely completed".
In August 2012, it was announced that Manson would play a fictionalized version of himself in a four-episode arc of the sixth season of TV series Californication. While filming its season finale at the Greek Theatre in LA, Manson met the series' score composer, Tyler Bates, and the two discussed a potential collaboration. Manson confirmed that production started on new material by May 2013. Four months later, Sablan announced that he had left the group.
One track from the album, "Cupid Carries a Gun" was used as the opening theme to Salem from its second episode onwards, which premiered on US television on April 27. In October, a large portion of the album track "Killing Strangers" was predominantly featured in the Keanu Reeves movie John Wick. "Third Day of a Seven Day Binge" was released for free download on the band's website on October 26, and served as the album's first official single. The band performed several new songs live for the first time as they played a handful of concerts around southern California in October and early November. "Deep Six" was released on December 16, with a music video following three days later. It went on to peak at number eight on Billboard's Mainstream Rock chart, making it the band's highest-ever peaking single on Billboard. "Cupid Carries a Gun" was released as the album's third official single on January 8, 2015.
While touring with The Smashing Pumpkins, Manson indicated a "strong possibility" of working with Corgan on new material, and also revealed plans to collaborate with Korn frontman Jonathan Davis on a "Southern-sounding, acoustic" project. Manson announced in an interview with KEGL in November that work had begun on the band's tenth studio album, while also confirming that Twiggy, Bates and Sharone would all be involved in its recording.Antichrist Superstar was reissued on cassette exclusively in Europe as part of Record Store Day 2016. To celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the album's release, Manson indicated that a special edition of Antichrist Superstar would be issued on October 20, although this failed to materialize. Among its bonus content would have been a previously unreleased film, created during the "Dead to the World Tour".
On July 19, Manson announced that the band's tenth studio album had the working titleSAY10, and predicted a release date of Valentine's Day 2017. In September, Manson confirmed that the band were "putting the finishing touches" on the album, and said: "It's not very much in any way like The Pale Emperor. It's pretty violent in its nature for some reason, and it's not emotional in the same way. It's got a chip on its shoulder. I can't wait for people to hear it. I think they're going to be quite surprised." On November 8 – the day of the 2016 US presidential election – Manson released a teaser clip of a new music video created alongside Final Girl director Tyler Shields. It featured scenes of Manson brandishing a knife while standing over a decapitated corpse. According to The Daily Beast's Marlow Stern, the decapitated figure is dressed to resemble Donald Trump. Manson would later say that the figure in the video "wasn't anyone except if you wanted it to be them."
Upcoming eleventh studio album and Gil Sharone's departure (2019–present)
In March 2019, Manson announced, via his Instagram, that he was nearly finished recording his next studio album and that country musicianShooter Jennings was involved. Later that year, drummer Gil Sharone announced he was leaving the band to pursue "other current and future projects". After that, former Black Flag drummer Brandon Pertzborn was hired as Sharone's replacement.