Keynote Address: CMJ Music Marathon 1997

9/4/1997 New York City, NY, USA

I'm not good at speeches. I guess a year ago we came here to do a Night of Nothing Showcase, which ended in a disaster of my drummer going to the hospital, and since then, you know, as she said - the things that have happened weren't any surprise to me. I thought making the album [Antichrist Superstar] was going to be transformational, but recording it was even more. And it's only through self-contempt and inward dying that you can really become yourself, and that's what I tried to do.

And anything that I've ever done with songs or performance has always been to make people think. So I feel that's part of rock'n'roll that's in danger of extinction. So I think it's pointless for me to get up here and talk about the defects and the faults of mankind today, because when you really get down to it, we're all just monkeys, and whenever we try and be anything more than that is when we hurt each other.

So I guess we can answer some questions, if you guys have any.

Audience Q&A

Being from Canton, Ohio, myself and hearing people - stories that people talked and hearing about how you've grown up, do you feel if your parents would have enrolled you in public school your entire life, your music would be different? Or do you still think you'd be where you are right now - as opposed to going to Christian school?

MM: Well, there's a lot of different elements of underlying fascism in America, and one of them is always in organized religion. But there's also plenty in television. The idea that people are always trying to convince you that you have to be beautiful in order to fit in, you have to use a certain type of toothpaste, you have to use a certain type of shampoo or drive a certain car for people to accept you. So I think no matter what environment I was put in, I would still feel the same way. And it was after so many years of trying to fit in and feeling like an outsider that I finally realized I didn't want to fit in anymore, and I would rather just create my own status quo.

I was just wondering, you just very briefly touched on "we're all just monkeys in this world". In relation to Moby's speech about courage [he had been the speaker before MM], I think we're all kind of on a high note and feeling good about ambition. How are we supposed to make our mark if we go on that notion that we're all just monkeys? I mean, aren't we supposed to have optimism?

MM: Well, it's good to be idealistic, but I think mankind flatters itself by thinking it's the final evolution. Because I think we'll see in the next few years that man will create an intelligence that could replace him. And I think that's what's going to scare everybody. So I think that personality is all that's left to achieve. You know, you can do and say whatever you want in whatever format and whatever media, but I guess if you just do it with personality, you can hope to make your mark.

Two quick questions. You're hours away from sharing the stage with the Spice Girls. How do you feel about that? [applause]

MM: I don't even think I need to respond to that.

The other one. Whatever happened to the Snoop Doggy Dogg project?

MM: That's something I would still love to do. You know, I think since his tour was just as hectic as mine, it hasn't happened yet. But it's not to say it won't.

I was wondering what you would say to a critic who thinks that your band relies more on sensationalism and brutality and just imagery more than talent?

MM: Well, critics don't buy records, so I don't usually listen to them too much. They get their albums for free in the mail, and then they sell them, usually. Because I used to be one, so I know. — No, it's a fair thing to say. I think I've spent five years learning what Marilyn Manson is, and now I think that I know it's just the beginning for me. I think "Antichrist Superstar" was really in some ways a first album, because we finally learned as a band what we wanted to do and say. I'm very proud of that record. So if, y'know, someone doesn't see the dynamics of it - that I put into it, then I would just tell them to listen to it again with an open mind.

I read a column for a site on America Online called Urban Legends, and I'm sure you're aware there are several of these that concern you, of varying degrees of...

MM: Nonsense.

Nonsense, exactly. What I was wondering is - well, it's a two fold question...

MM: I was not on "The Wonder Years".

"Mr. Belvedere"?

MM: No.

No, the question is not whether it's true or not. What I was wondering is actually how you felt. Because it's sort of a parallel to what was happening with your tour, that these outrageous stories were following you and affecting you, and I was wondering how you felt about that. And in a related question, how you would respond to somebody who was responsible for spreading...

MM: How do you know it wasn't me?

How would you respond to yourself then?

MM: Well, the thing with rumors - in the end it doesn't matter whether or not they were true, because what's popular is what people believe. You know, no matter how many times you could say it, everybody thinks Richard Gere puts hamsters up his ass or Rod Stewart had a couple of gallons of cum pumped out of his stomach. We've all heard all of the rumors. So for me, my ribs were removed and I was Winnie Cooper on "The Wonder Years". But I've never minded the rumors. Y'know, if I were to complain about them... at least people are talking. It wouldn't be better if they weren't talking. Then, y'know, I would have something to worry about. But I think a lot of times the reality of what Marilyn Manson is, wasn't enough for the very conservative Christian angle to really express what I do. So I think a lot of times I had to create a lot of these stories to help their cause, and... some of them were based in fact and others weren't, you know. Everybody's heard the stories about sex on stage, and there was - y'know, a couple of instances, but those things happened a few years ago. That's not to say I wouldn't do it again, but it was awhile ago.

So you do think that some of these stories were started with a purpose? I mean, do you think...

MM: Well, a purpose to kind of undermine me, I think. But the strange thing is, if we were to abide by the Christian principles that they're trying to uphold - whatever happened to 'love thy neighbor' and 'judge not lest you be judged'? is what I have to say to them. So I think a lot of times when they acted the way they did, they proved a lot of my points, y'know, because I didn't go around burning down churches or protesting Sunday school or kicking nuns in the kneecaps. I just wanted to speak my piece. And me getting up on a stage in front of a lot of people, and them paying money to hear what I had to say, is no different than what happens on Sunday afternoon in any church.

Hey, I've read that you're a priest in Anton LaVey's Church of Satan, and I was wondering if you believe in that or it's part of your image, and if you do believe in it, why?

MM: Over the years I've spent a lot of time interested in religion, and I've read into all different dimensions, whether it was Judaism or Catholicism or Christianity. And Satanism is one that particularly appealed to me. So I struck up a friendship with Anton LaVey. And sort of a symbolic gesture was this, quote unquote, priesthood element.
But Satanism is really just, in my view, a philosophy, not unlike Nietzche or Darwin, an idea of man and his self-preservation, man being his own God. And the word Satan, which tends to scare people a lot, represents the ultimate rebellion against the mainstream. You know, the character of Lucifer in the Bible being, to me, always a hero, because he got kicked out of heaven because he wanted to be God.
So that's always been my take on Satanism, and a lot of people have turned it into something else. And it's often pointless to try and fight it because no matter how much you say, people won't listen. There's really a stigma attached to certain words like that. But I've always been into the balance of God and Satan as just being like Marilyn and Manson to me.

Hi. I was just wondering in terms of the future of Marilyn Manson - in five years, what role do you see yourself playing in the music industry as well as the eyes of the media?

MM: Well, I started out in the media, and I was really dissatisfied with some of the answers that the musicians I was interviewing gave me, so I thought it would be more appropriate if I was giving the answers. So in some ways music is an excuse for me to talk shit. Like I am today. But I don't think anyone... anyone really expects me to fall into a niche or to repeat what I've done in the past on our next album, or the one after that. You know, I hope to surprise them, because that's not my goal. I want to continue to grow in all ways. Even as a person.
I think that this year of being thrust into the position of 'Antichrist Superstar' - which, to me, is a personality that anyone could be, it's what we all want to say and what we all want to do, but most of us are too afraid to say and do because you feel like you're going to have to apologize to somebody for the way you really feel - after being that, every day of my life for the past year, it has changed me in a lot of ways. It's made me more human. It's made me realize that there is something human left in me, when I thought maybe that there wasn't.

With the experiences that you have had, would you say that you're more optimistic or pessimistic about your future?

MM: It kind of tends to be the same in both cases, because the things that are good about America are also the things that make it terrible. The sex and the violence, you know - everyone wants to complain about it, but that's what's great. So you can't really win. I think basically we have the end of the world to look forward to, and I'd just like to push the fast-forward button and have a good time on the way and hope that we'll all be entertained as we go. That's really all we can hope for.

I have a couple questions. How long ago did you meet with Trent way back in the day? And what influenced you?

MM: I met Trent when I used to be a journalist and I interviewed him. And he was actually one of the people that was encouraging to me, in the sense that we grew up in the same kind of environment, in the Midwest, and he seemed to be someone that made his dream happen. And that kind of encouraged me in a lot of ways, as well as musically.
At the time when I started the band, I think my biggest influence to start a band was the 2 Live Crew, strangely enough. Because at the time they were just getting arrested for talking about being horny or whatever nonsense it was at the time, and I thought it would be interesting to see what exactly a skinny white kid from Florida could get away with. And apparently a lot more than they could, so...

I was curious as to your involvement with Rasputina, and basically what interests you with them? Also your remixes of 'Transylvanian Concubine', are you happy with them?

MM: I don't remember how I came across Rasputina, but when I heard the CD, it was obviously - if you guys have heard them playing, it's different than anything that anyone is doing right now. And I was really impressed by them. And I thought that it was... Melora's lyrics were also very cynical and ironic, and the way that she sings them made them even more impressive. So as far as - on our last American tour they did a small interlude before our show, and then they also sang some backup vocals with me onstage. I enjoyed working with them, abd I hope Melora might do some stuff on our new album.

Could you say a little bit about the remixes?

MM: The remixes, we did while we were on the road with them, and I think it scared them because the song was a sort-of ľ waltz number, and we replaced it with a 4/4 Ice Cube drumbeat, death metal guitars on it. I think it made them nervous at first, but hopefully they liked it.

I think they're great. Thank you.

MM: Thanks.

Hi, Marilyn. I totally agree with your philosophy about self - being involved in the music industry like you are, that's a great thing. But in addition to that I'm also a parent of very small children, my oldest being ten. And they're very bright today, and we live in a free society. My only question to you is that when you make your musical videos - which I've seen with my mouth open, but certainly in due respect to you - when you're making them and doing your music, do you feel a certain amount of responsibility to the very young people who look to you as a role model, be it, and growing up? So it's kind of like a paradox and...

MM: I feel responsibility to do what I do so that parents will educate their children. I think any parent that's afraid to let their kid come to a concert like this should go with them. And if there's something that scares them or confuses them, they should talk about it. My parents took me to my first KISS concert. My dad dressed up like KISS. And I turned out all right.


MM: I mean, I don't consider myself to be so much of an innovator, or that what I'm doing is any more controversial than Elvis Presley was in his era. So time doesn't change the way people feel, I think. But now there's even more of a need for parents to educate their children, because we're in an era where people can stop thinking very easily. Because there's so much virtual reality and there's computers and there's VCRs and there's cellular phones and there's Beavis and Butt-Head, and nobody really needs to make an opinion. And a lot of people who are here today are writers that give people their opinion. People don't take the time to sit down and form their own values.
I think parents should make sure that an important part of what they teach their kids, is that you should have an opinion. That's probably the one thing that damaged me the most about Christian school, that standing out or being different or being individual was really frowned upon. And if your opinion went against what theirs was, you were made to feel like you were a sinner and you were guilty and you should feel bad about yourself, and I think that's not a good thing.

Standing out in public school where the beautiful people live in southern California, and I do mean Rancho Santa Fe - it wasn't really fun either. I was working at a station and you came an interviewed, and we talked for about an hour and a half, and you really touched me.

MM: On what part of your body?

Actually, we were really pretty far apart.

MM: I'm just kidding.

It didn't matter, you touched me all over. But we touched a lot of people that felt that way. But getting back to the monkey thing. We're all primal, what can I say? Fear is part of prewiring, which is what we're born with. Now let's say, Marilyn, that your music makes people think, makes people communicate. It is a conduit to have parents communicate with their children and rid them of a lot of that prewiring. You rid yourself of the man - or whatever - you fear, then what? Is there some possible evolution?

MM: Well, I think intelligence is the only criteria that I've ever used to judge people on. And not to say book-smarts, but just creativity and what you add to the world, I mean, sexism and racism is far too lenient, because I could never say I like all white people - because there's too many stupid ones - or all men or all women. I respect people that have something to offer. I think that is evolution. If you evolve to a level where you can offer something to the world, whether that's just an opinion you offer, giving someone the middle finger or painting a beautiful picture, writing a book - it doesn't matter. Just so you're trying to offer something other than filing off to work and going to college and dying, the standard pattern that we're all supposed to fit into.

The monkey part?

MM: The monkey part. In some ways I think monkeys are a lot smarter than us, because they don't let their emotions control them.

That's true. Thank you.

You made a reference earlier to our sensationalist media and how it's one of the evils of our society. Yet without our media and having you plastered all over it and giving you that publicity, do you think you'd be where you are today?

MM:That's the beauty of it, isn't it?

That is exactly why I'm a major in it.

MM: That's really the paradox of it. You answered the question yourself, I think. It's not that the media is evil, it's just - people should see everything for what it is. You know, they should see it. And you can either be used by it or you can use it. Whichever way you want to look at it.

Kind of tying into the last question - a few years ago I saw you on Phil Donahue, of all things, and I was amazed at how well-spoken you were. I was with one of my friends and we caught you a few weeks ago on 'Politically Incorrect', and I turned to my roommate and said 'you watch, this is going to be 22 minutes where these three people rail on Marilyn Manson.' And seeing you holding hands with Carol Brady is the single greatest pop-culture moment ever. Do you want the focus on Marilyn Manson the person, do you want the focus on Marilyn Manson the band, or do you want the focus on Marilyn Manson the music?

MM: I want the world and I want it now. I think it's not really important in the end as long as there is a focus. I think people eventually see the music if they want to. I don't think you can try and cram it down anyone's throat, or the message, or anything. I've never considered myself just a musician, though. I've considered myself as more of an entertainer of people.

Do you tire of the literally relentless attention? Especially - I mean, I know it went on for more than 22 minutes, but the woman was just over you the entire time.

MM: I didn't really have to say anything to prove my point because just her ignorance proved her own point. And she was a virgin. And no disrespect to virgins, but until you've been fucked, don't talk to me. Think about it. What did you know when you were a virgin, you know? It's like thinking the world is flat. Until you've had some sort of contact with a penis, it's - don't worry about it. It's a basic principle of mankind.

Actually, this kind of goes along with the fucking thing. Do you have warts?

MM: Do I have warts?

Does Jimmy have warts?

MM: Jimmy does have warts.

Marilyn, I recently read something that - a quote that went along the lines of 'Marilyn Manson's a marketing genius who knows how to manipulate the media better than any musician since Madonna'. I was wondering how you feel about that, and how much do you take into account the media's reaction when planning a project or other actions, or things that you say to the media?

MM: I actually don't think about it as much as it might appear. It just seems to work itself into a frenzy. And I think that's just because what I do is based around my knowledge of how people act and because of the way I've acted growing up. And it seems that sometimes the media's reactions are very predictable. So I've just tried to take that to the next level, because, you know, everybody thinks 'this isn't that shocking'. You know, 'I'm not impressed'. But my point has never been to shock anyone, it just been to get people's attention so that they'll listen to what I have to say.

I talked to Geezer Butler recently, and he was talking...

MM: Who did you talk to?

Geezer Butler. And he - as much as he respects you as a person, he thinks it was a big mistake adding you to the [Ozzfest tour] bill. What did you think about that?

MM: I would agree with that. I expected that audience to be much more open-minded in the sense of the tradition of what Black Sabbath created, because Black Sabbath really did create heavy metal. In so many ways it was very subversive, and it was about the people that - I thought that we were people that didn't fit in. And the crowd turned out to be, y'know, a lot of drunk guys who wanted to fight me because I was wearing pantyhose. So...

Do you consider what you do heavy metal?

MM: In some ways, yeah, I think so. In the sense of what Black Sabbath created. Not necessarily sonically, but just what it represents, sure.

Hi, Marilyn. I think we've established that the controversy has played a key role in your career. What happens when the controversy dies, is your career over then?

MM: It could be if I was that naive. But I think, like I said, this is just the beginning for me, and I think to prove marilyn Manson as a musical force, and for people to really sit down and listen to an album like 'Antichrist Superstar' and the one we're about to record, controversy is just something extra. I don't think that's what I'm about. I think that I will prove that to everyone.

Do you feel your music has the power to outlast any controversy that will surround you?

MM: Anything has the power if you believe in it enough, and I believe in it.

Marilyn, first of all, I have to thank you for being as nice as you are. I saw you last night at a party, and you were nice.

MM: That wasn't me.

It was you. Totally was you. But my question actually is: in a country like America where Larry Flynt gets shot, do you actually fear for your life, per all the different - you know - politicians and people out there that do not respect or have an open mind to understand what you do?

MM: I do in some ways. But a fear of death makes life exciting, I've always found. And it may sound morbid to say that, but I've just found that sometimes that makes it more worthwhile to me, what I'm doing. Because I've always discovered that, y'know, if you do something that everybody loves, it's not really worth that much. So I've always valued my enemies as much as my fans.

Hi. I was just wondering if you're a happy person, if you're happy to be alive, or do you think that inner joy is the result of being naive?

MM: Well, I've often thought that happiness is a mental disorder, because anyone that's happy has got to have something wrong with them. But I do get fulfillment from what I do. It satisfies me. I don't know if I'd say I was happy; I don't consider myself miserable. But 'happy' seems like a word that was created by people that wanted to exploit you for something. You know, people that invented theme parks and Happy Meals, things like that.

Do you think - how do you feel about the conservative Christian critics who feel that if you found God you would be saved and your big mistake in your music would be fixed?

MM: Well, I think they don't realize that I have found God, but I've just found it in a different way.

Do you feel that your fans and your critics may take you too seriously?

MM: It depends. I think our fans are a lot smarter than our critics give them credit for. So I think our critics take our fans too seriously. And - but I think everything should be taken with a bit of a sense of humor. I'm very serious about what I do, but that's not to say that I'm not a smartass at heart.


  1. Keynote address transcript by Kurt Reighley, originally published by Angelynx (Paula O'Keefe). Restored from Coyote's Spookhouse ( website archives.
  2. Poster for CMJ 1997 Marilyn Manson's keynote address found at