Keynote Address: New Music West 2001

5/11/2001 Vancouver, Canada

Thank you.

I think I picked an easy topic to talk about today. It's one I know very well, and it's about censorship and content and responsibility.

I wanted to look at things in a different way. I think it's easy right now to complain about the current state of music. I think we can all agree we don't need another N/SYNC. And that's an easy band to take a pot shot at. But in general what they represent is the idea of just another endorsement for Pepsi. Music at this point runs the risk of just becoming a commercial itself, and an advertisement for a bigger company like Seagram's or whoever owns the label I'm on, and things like that.

So I think it's our job to, you know, rather than the censorship that people like Joseph Liebermann are trying to employ, I think it's our job to speak what's on our mind. And stop making everything so "G" Rated. Stop using saccharine instead of sugar, taking the nicotine out of cigarettes, taking the penetration out of pornography, and things like that.

A funny example - I'm just about to release a new single called "The Nobodies" and I was asked to take the word "dead" out of the song, because it was considered offensive.

So I want to talk about the responsibility of art and its effect on small children and small animals, blah, blah, blah and the rest.

I want to talk about the artist's responsibility. We don't create the words or sentiments. If you arrange letters in any order you can make words. A lot of these words are offensive to some people. You can say faggot, red neck, republican, whore, nazi, bitch, honkey, or obviously the most offensive of all is nigger. Or the ones that I prefer being throbbing uncircumcised member. That's just my artistic choice.

But my point is that these words and feelings existed before any of us were born, and as artists it's our job to pull them from the sky or wherever they exist, and use them in new and interesting ways that affect people in new and interesting ways.

An interesting example that I heard yesterday, kind of off the subject, but it brought up the subject of "Did the person who invented the video camera also invent pornography?" And that's the way you have to look at things. Someone who writes a song doesn't invent love or hate or anger.

I heard a funny thing on censorship. They are going to now pass a law that you can't have a teddy bear in a pornographic film, or a lollipop. Because apparently that makes it more offensive than some girl just being savagely sodomized by some hairy man. If there's a teddy bear in the picture, then it's all of a sudden no good. And that, excuse the term, "fisting" is now no longer allowed past the thumb. Before, I think it was up to the shoulder.

So censorship doesn't [only] harm me, it also harms Ron Jeremy.

I've just always found it to be my job to take negative things and make them positive. And I think of an artist as a person who chooses to express themselves with their imagination rather than acting out their feelings in ways that we all find unacceptable. I think everybody has a basic morality - not wanting to harm other people. And when you have a feeling of anger, you have a feeling of lust, the feelings that you're born with, feelings that you can't control, that's really what separates us as artists - that we choose to put those things in our songs, books and movies.

And when a fan hears or sees these things and can relate to them, it's the greatest compliment because then we exist on the same wavelength. And that's what makes me mad every time art is blamed. I think it's giving entertainment too much credit to blame us for the problems of the world, but the problems existed before entertainment, before television.

I think also for everything that an artist is blamed for; he can turn around and blame the things that influenced his creation. For everybody that blames me for what I do, I can turn around and say it's the exact world that's attacking me that influenced me to do what I do. And that's my best way of explaining what I do.

Thank you.

Audience Q&A

Now that you're the president of your own record label [Posthuman Records] do you envision a time when you'll spend less time as an artist and more time as a record label president/mogul?

MM: I would try my best never to become that kind of person that I always end up fighting against when trying to make a record. Hopefully I can add a new approach to what a record label president is. I don't think I'll ever have a desk, unless there's some kind of secretarial Clinton blowjob thing going on.

Who would you rather make love to - Betty or Veronica? [Audience: Both!]

MM: Actually to be honest my first erection was from watching Daphne of Scooby Doo. Because I knew that Fred was clearly gay and wasn't going to do the job. And the other two were on drugs because they were always seeing ghosts and were hungry all the time.

What's your opinion on Napster?

MM: I've never really had an opinion either way on Napster because I didn't really find the effects to bother me. I looked at it in the same way that you look at FM radio or television. If it's a way for people to hear what you're doing, then that's okay to me. I think that eventually they'll have to work out some sort of way to compensate the artist. The danger becomes the idea that people think that music should be free. I don't necessarily write songs because I want to make money, but at the same time I know that I myself put a lot of hard work, six or seven months or up to a year, making a record, and for people to think that it has no value - that bothers me.

Are you going to play Denver?

MM: Yes, I am. There was never a point when I was not going to. There was a question about scheduling initially, and I think people assumed that we were pulling out because of the pressure that we knew was coming. There was the one instance after Columbine when I decided not to play because I thought the environment was too hostile for my safety, for our fans safety, and just for everyone in general. I think everyone just really needed to deal with their feelings. And I also thought it was the respectful thing to do, although I don't consider myself anymore to blame than any single person in this room or on this planet, because it's mankind in general that makes those things happen. But I will be playing Denver, and I'll include a section in my show where I'll read from the Bible and highlight all the great stories about child sacrifice, adultery, murder, and suicide, and point out that the Bible can be just as offensive as anything that I've ever written, if you want to look at it that way.

NMW2001 Day 2 Review

"A quick introduction by John Donelly, a brief speech by Michael McCarty, who is the head of EMI Music Publishing, and the Manson thing were on the agenda. McCarty basically talked about what it takes to get anywhere in the music industry, that being "insanely great music" (a term he used too much, making people gag after a while, and also being really the only thing about his speech anyone in the media picked up on...) like our pop queen Nelly Furtado, and a beautiful face, again like Ms. Furtado. Hmm. The crowd in the meantime, stuffed with goth and alterna-kids waiting for Manson to come out, did not look impressed.

Manson, on the other hand, came across as a very clever man. He definitely knows what he's doing with his career, and understands the way the industry works. His speech was mostly about censorship, touching on silly things like his being required to take the word "dead" out of one of his songs. The question-and-answer period afterwards consisted of a lot of awestruck individuals asking some fairly nutbar questions. Certainly the topic of his 'involvement' with violence in schools was brought up, as were requests to come out and see various shows at the festival. He spoke eloquently and thoroughly with everyone, and after about fifteen minutes, was led from the stage (but not before shaking hands with the sudden rush of fans who dashed from their seats the second he finished talking)."

Andy Scheffler


  1. Keynote address transcript restored from NMW 2001 official site archives.
  2. Conference review found on
  3. All images copyright Andy Scheffler.