Palahniuk, Chuck - American Goth

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Palahniuk, Chuck - American Goth

American Goth

    (from Gear Magazine)

     Destiny’s Child: The Second Coming of Marilyn Manson

    By Chuck Palahniuk

It’s almost midnight in Marilyn Manson’s attic. The attic is at

    the top of a spiral staircase where the skeleton of a seven-foot-

    tall man, the bones black with age, crouches with his human skull

    replaced by a ram’s skull. He’s the altar piece from an old

    Satanic church in Britain, Manson says. Next to the skeleton is

    the artificial leg a man pulled off himself and gave to Manson

    after a concert. Manson is at the end of 10 years’ work. It’s a

    new start. The alpha and the omega for this man who’s worked to

    become the most despised, the most frightening artist in music.

    As a coping method. A defense mechanism. Or just out of boredom.

The walls are red, and as Manson sits on the black carpet,

    shuffling tarot cards, he says, "It’s hard to read yourself."

    Somewhere, he says, he’s got the skeleton of a seven-year-old

    Chinese boy, disassembled and sealed in plastic bags.

    "I think I might make a chandelier out of it," he says.

    Somewhere is the bottle of absinthe he drinks despite the fear of

    brain damage.

Here in the attic are his paintings and the working manuscript

    for his novel. He brings out the designs for a new deck of tarot

    cards. It’s him on almost every card. Manson as the Emperor, sitting in a wheelchair with prosthetic legs, clutching a rifle,

    with the American flag hung upside-down behind him. Manson as the

    headless Fool, stepping off a cliff with grainy images of Jackie

    O in her pink suit and a JFK campaign poster in the background.

"It was a matter of re-interpreting the tarot," he says. "I

    replaced the swords with guns. And justice is weighing the Bible

    against the Brain."

He says, "Because each card has so many different symbols, there

    is a real magic, ritual element to it. When you shuffle, you’re

    supposed to transfer your energy to the cards. It sounds kind of

    hokey. It’s not something I do all the time. I like the symbolism

    much more than the trying to rely on divination.

    "I think a reasonable question would be, ‘What’s next?’" he says,

    about to deal the cards and begin his reading. "More specific,

    ‘What’s my next step?’"

Manson deals his first card: The Hierophant. "The first card that

    you put down," Manson says, looking at the upside-down card,

    "this represents wisdom and forethought, and the fact that I just

    dealt it upside-down could mean the oppositelike a lack. I could

    be naïve about something. This card is, right now, my direct


    The reading takes place shortly after Rose McGowan’s left the

    house they share in the Hollywood Hillsafter Manson and McGowan

    played with their Boston terriers, Bug and Fester, and examined a

    catalog with the Halloween costumes she wants to order for the


Her car and driver are outside, waiting. She’s catching a red-eye

    flight to Canada where she’s making a movie with Alan Alda. In

    the kitchen, a monitor shows views from the different security

    cameras, and McGowan talks about how different Alan Alda looks,

    how big his nose is. Manson tells her how, as men grow older,

    their nose and ears and scrotums keep growing. His mom, a nurse,

    told him about old men whose balls hung halfway down their legs.

Manson and McGowan kiss goodbye.

    "Thanks a lot," she says. "Now when I work with Alan Alda, I’ll

    be wondering how big his scrotum is."

    In the attic, Manson deals his second card: The Justice. "This

    could be referring to my judgment," he says, "my ability to

    discern, possibly with friendships or business dealings. Right

    now I feel a little naïve or unsure about either friendships or

    business dealings, which does particularly apply to certain

    circumstances between me and my record company. So that makes

    every bit of sense."

The day before, in the offices of his record label on Santa

    Monica Boulevard, Manson sits on a black leather sofa, wearing

    black leather pants, and whenever he shifts, the leather-on-

    leather makes a deep, growl sound, amazingly similar to his voice.

"I tried to swim when I was a kid, but I could never deal with

    the water in my nose. I have a fear of water. I don’t like the

    ocean. There’s something too infinite about it that I find


The walls are dark blue and there are no lights on. Manson sits

    in the dark with the air conditioning blasting, drinking cola and

    wearing sunglasses.

"I love pranking people and causing traumas in their life," he

    says. "I love to get an answering machine where I can just really

go to town. It’ll say, ‘Sue and Jim aren’t home. Please leave a

    message,’ and I’ll start in: ‘Jim, you’ve got to level with her

    about this. I can’t live a lie anymore. I love you.’ And I just

    can’t imagine what kind of fucking trauma this causes, because

    you know—even if you’re not guilty—you know you sound guilty if you try and get your way in a relationship. You always sound


    At home, in the attic of his five-story house, drinking a glass

    of red wine, Manson deals his third card: The Fool.

    "The third card is to represent my goals," he says. "The Fool is

    about to walk off of a cliff, and it’s a good card. It represents

    embarking on a journey, or taking a big step forward. That could

    represent the campaign of the record coming out or going on tour


    He says, "I have a fear of crowded rooms. I don’t like being

    around a lot of people, but I feel very comfortable on stage in

    front of thousands of people. I think it’s a way of dealing with


    His voice is so deep and soft, it disappears behind the rush of

    the air conditioning.

    "I am very shy, strangely enough," he says, "and that’s the irony

    of being an exhibitionist, being up in front of people. I’m

    really very shy.

"I like to sing alone, too. The least amount of people are

    involved whenever I’m singing. When I’m recording, sometimes I’ll

    make them hit ‘record’ and leave the room."

About touring, he says, "The threat of death makes it all worth

    living, makes it all exciting. That’s the ultimate relief of

    boredom. Being right in the middle of it all. I thought, ‘I know

    that I’m going to have to take things to such an extreme to get

    my points across that I’m going to start at the bottom and make myself the most despised person. I’m going to represent

    everything that you’re against and you can’t say anything to hurt

    me, to make me feel any worse. I only have up to go.’

    "I think that was the most rewarding thing, to feel like there’s

    nothing you can do to hurt me. Aside from killing me. Because I

    represent the bottom. I’m the worst that it gets, so you can’t

    say that I did something that makes me look bad because I’m

    telling you right now that I’m all of it. "If you don’t like my music, I don’t care. It doesn’t really

    matter to me. If you don’t like what I look like, if you don’t

    like what I have to say, it’s all part of what I’m asking for.

    You’re giving me just what I want."

Manson deals his fourth card: Death. "The fourth card is your

    distant past," he says. "And the Death card most represents

    transition, and it’s part of what has got you to this, how you

    are right now. This makes a good deal of sense, regarding the

    fact that I’ve just gone through such a grand transition that’s

    taken place over the course of the last 10 years."

Sitting in the dark blue room at his record label, he says, "I

    think that my mom has in some ways that Munchausen Syndrome, when

    people try and convince you that you’re ill so they can hang on

    to you longer. Because when I was young, my mom used to always

    tell me I was allergic to different things that I’m not allergic

    to. She used to tell me I’m allergic to eggs and fabric softener

    and all kinds of weird things."

His black leather pants flare to cover thick-soled black shoes.

    He says, "I remember that my urethra had grown closed, and they

    had to put a drill in my dick and drill it out. It was the worst

    thing that could ever happen to a kid. They told me that after I

    went through puberty I had to come back and go through it again,

    but I said ‘No chance. I don’t care what my urine stream is like

    now. I’m not going back."

His mother still keeps his foreskin in a vial.

    "When I was growing up, my dad and I didn’t get along. He was

    never around, and that’s why I didn’t really talk about him, because I never saw him. He worked all the time. I don’t consider

    what I do to be work, but I think I’ve inherited his workaholic

    determinism. I don’t think until I was in my 20s did my dad ever

    speak to me about being in the Vietnam War. Then he started

    telling me about people that he’d killed and things that he was

    involved in with Agent Orange."

    He says, "My father and I both have some sort of heart disorder,

    a heart murmur. I was really sick when I was a kid. I had

    pneumonia four or five times and was always in the hospital,

    always underweight, scrawny, primed for a beating."

    Phones ring in the other offices. Four lanes of traffic go by


"When I was writing the book [his autobiography]," Manson says,

    "I hadn’t really gotten to the conclusion of how similar I was to

    my grandfather. Until I got to the end of the book, that hadn’t

    dawned on me. That, as a kid, I’m looking at him as a monster

    because he’s got women’s clothing and dildos, and by the end of

    the story I’ve become far worse than my grandfather was.

    "I don’t think I’ve told anyone this," he says, "but what I found

    out over the last year is that my father and my grandfather never

got along. My father came back from the Vietnam War and was king

    of tossed out on the street and told he had to pay rent. There’s

    something really dark about that which I never liked. And my

    father told me last year that he’d found out that that’s not his

    real father. Which was the strangest thing I’d ever heard,

    because it started to make sense that maybe he was treated poorly

    and had this weird relationship. It’s really weird to think that

    he wasn’t really my grandfather."

He says, "I suspect that there’s so much death imagery because as

    a kid I was always sick and always had sick relatives. There was

    always a fear of death. There was a fear of the Devil. A fear of

    the end of the world. The Rapturewhich is a Christian myth that

    doesn’t even exist in the Bible. All of that, I just ended up

    becoming. I ended up becoming what I was afraid of. That was my

    way of dealing with it."

In the attic, Manson deals his fifth card: The Hanged Man. "The

    fifth card is more of your recent past," he says. "It also is

    meant to mean some sort of change has taken place, in this case

    it could mean the fact that I’ve become extremely focused and

    maybe in some ways have neglected friendships and relationships."

He says, "I was born in ’69, and that year’s become such a focus

    for a lot of things, especially this record. Because ’69 was the

    end of so many things. Everything in culture just changed so much,

    and I think it was real important that I was born then, too. The

    fact that Huxley and Kennedy died on the same day. To me, that

    opened up some kind of schism or gateway to what was going to

    happen. It all started to show parallels for me. Altamonte was

    like Woodstock ’99.

"The house I live in, The Stones lived there when they wrote "Let

    It Bleed." I found Cocksucker Blues, an obscure film that they

    made, and it shows them in my living room writing "Gimme

    Shelter." And "Gimme Shelter" was the song that was emblematic of

    the whole Altamonte tragedy. And then the Manson murders were

    something I’ve always obsessed over since I was a child. That to

    me had the same media coverage as Columbine.

"The thing that always bothered me was," he says, "this is the

    exact same thing. Nixon came out and said Charles Manson was

    guilty during the trial, because Nixon was being blamed for

    everything that was wrong about the culture.

"Then the same thing happened with Clinton saying, ‘Why are these

    kids acting so violent? It must be Marilyn Manson. It must be

this movie. It must be this game.’ Then he turns the cheek and

    sends some bombs overseas to kill a bunch of people. And he’s

    wondering why kids have bombs and they’re killing people."

    Manson brings put watercolor paintings he’s done, bright and dark

    colorful Rorschach-test portraits of McGowan. Paintings he does

    with, not so much the paints as the murky rinse water he uses to

    clean his brushes. One shows the grinning heads of Eric Harris

    and Dylan Klebold impaled on the raised fingers of a peace sign.

"It turns out that they weren’t fans," he says. "One Denver

    reporter did enough research to prove they disliked me because I

    was too commercial. They were into more underground stuff. It

    pissed me off that the media took one thing and it just kept

    snowballing. And it was because I’m an easy target. I look guilty.

    And I was on tour at the time."

    He says, "People always ask me, ‘What would you have said to them

    if you could talk to them?’ and my answer is, ‘Nothing. I

    would’ve listened.’ That’s the problem. Nobody listened to what

    they were saying. If you’d listened, you’d have known what was

    going on."

He says, "Strangely, although music is something to listen to, I

    think music listens back because there’s no judgments. A kid can find something he identifies with. Or an adult. Here’s a place

    you can go to where there’s no judgments."

Manson deals his sixth card: The Star. "This card is the future,"

    he says. "The Star. This means great success."

    He says, "For a long time, I never saw myself getting to this

    point. I never looked beyond this because I thought I was either

    going to destroy myself or someone was going to kill me in the

    process. So in some ways I have beaten my dream. And it is scary.

    It is like starting over, but that’s good because that’s what I

    needed. I’ve gone back in time in a way, but now I have more

    ammunition, more knowledge to face the world."

He says, "The natural thing for me to do is to be involved in

    movies, but it really has to be on my terms. I think I feel more

    suited as a director than an actor, although I like to act. I’m

    talking to Jodorowsky, the guy who did El Topo and The Holy

    Mountain. He’s a Chilean director who worked with Dali. He wrote a script called Able Cain, and it’s a fantastic thing. He’s had

    it for about 15 years, and he hasn’t wanted to do it, but he

    contacted me because I was the only person he wanted to work with.

    And the character is very different from what people know of me,

    and that’s the only reason I’m interested. Because most people

who approach me want me to do different versions of myself. It’s

    not really a challenge of any sort."

Next spring, Manson will publish his first novel, Holy Wood, a

    narrative covering his first three records. In the attic, he sits

    on the floor, leaning into the blue light from his laptop and

    reads the first chapter out loud, a magical, surreal, poetic

    story, crammed with detail and cut loose from traditional boring


He deals his seventh card: The High Priestess. "This," he says,

    "I’m not sure about." He deals his eighth card: The World. "The world," he says,

    "placed appropriately here represents the environmental or

    outside things that can prevent you."

    He says, "I had a great, interesting experience in Dublin.

    Because it’s very Catholic, I did this performance on the

    European tour. I had this cross made of TVs the burst into flames,

    and I came outI basically was just nude except for leather underwear. I’d painted myself all charred. I came onstage, the

    cross was on fire, and I saw people in the front row turn around

    and face the other direction. It was unbelievable. It was the

    greatest compliment in a performance. They were so offendedand

    it’s unbelievable to me that someone could be that offendedthat

    they turned around and looked the other way. Hundreds of people."

Manson deals his ninth card: The Tower. "The Tower is a very bad

    card," he says. "It means destruction, but in the way that this

    is read, it comes across like I’m going to have to go against

    pretty much everyone—in a revolutionary way, and there’s going to be some sort of destruction. It will probably be the people who

    try to get in my way."

About his novel, he says, "The whole story, if you take it from

    the beginning, is parallel to my own, but just told in metaphors

    and different symbols that I thought other people could draw from.

    It’s about being innocent and naïve, much like Adam was in

    Paradise before the fall from grace. And seeing something like

    Hollywood, which I used as a metaphor to represent what people

    think is the perfect world, and it’s about wanting—your whole

    life—to fit into this world that doesn’t think you belong, that

    doesn’t like you, that beats you down every step of the way,

    fighting and fighting and fighting, and finally getting there and

    realizing that now that you’re there, everyone around you are the

    same people who kept you down in the first place. So you

    automatically hate everyone around you. You resent them for

    making you become part of this game you didn’t realize you were buying into. You trade one prison cell for another in some ways.

    "That becomes that revolution," he says, "to be idealistic enough

    that you think you can change the world, and what you find is you

    can’t change anything but yourself."

McGowan calls from the airport and promises to call again when

    her plane lands. In a week Manson will leave for Japan. In a

    month, he’ll start a world tour in Minneapolis. Next spring, his

    novel will complete the past decade of his life. And after that,

    he’ll start again.

"In some ways it feels like, not a burden, but a weight has been

    lifted by putting to rest a long-term project," he says. "It

    gives me the freedom to go anywhere. I feel a lot like I did when

    I started the band. I feel that same drive and inspiration, and

    that same disdain for the world that makes me want to do

    something that makes people think.

"The only fear I have left is the fear of not being able to

    create, of not having inspiration," Manson says.

    "I may fail, and this may not work, but at least I’m choosing to do it. It’s not something that I’m choosing to do it. It’s not

    something I’m doing because I’m stuck with it."

Manson deals his tenth card: The Sun. The two Boston terriers are

    curled up, asleep on a black velvet chair.

    He says, "This is the final outcome, the Sun, which represents

    happiness and accomplishing a great deal."

     Transcribed by William Raymond OGawa

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