Q&A: Marilyn Manson on 'Born Villain,' Johnny Depp and Label 'Stupidity'

Q&A: Marilyn Manson on 'Born Villain,' Johnny Depp and Label 'Stupidity'

With his genre-blending, authority-challenging, Bible-tearing, establishment-baiting ways, Marilyn Manson is nothing if not a born villain. The frontman of the band that bears his name has courted controversy throughout his career and found plenty of success -- including two Billboard 200 chart-toppers, 1998's "Mechanical Animals" and 2003's "The Golden Age of Grotesque" -- on his way to more than 8.8 million albums sold in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan. On May 1, Cooking Vinyl will release Manson's eighth studio album and first through his own imprint Hell Inc., "Born Villain." The 14-song set is as diverse as Manson has ever been, from the glam of "Slo-Mo-Tion" to a thumping cover of Carly Simon's "You're So Vain" with Johnny Depp.

Billboard: "Born Villain" is your first album not affiliated with Interscope and released on your own Hell Inc. Liberating?

Manson: Yeah. I've always had control over what I created, and in the past once I turned it over to the record label, what happened wasn't always to my liking. A lot of it was more their stupidity, trying to fit me into a hole I didn't belong in, and that would of course make you confused about what you're supposed to be as an artist, not even just as a person. So getting off Interscope gave me the ability to think exactly how you would when you're starting out.

What direction did that lead you on this album, then?

With the previous two records, I was making music to make people feel like I was feeling rather than to make them feel something -- and I was feeling pretty shitty most of the time, so I don't think it was a good idea to do that, necessarily. I'm not discrediting the music, [but] my focus was in the wrong place. This record . . . emotionally it brings a different type of attitude that is more the spirit of me and feels interesting and fun for me to do.

There's a wide stylistic range on the album. You can hear the Stooges. There's glam. There's blues.

That's all stuff I grew up on. The music I was listening to before I started a band, like Revolting Cocks and Ministry and the Stooges, of course, and the Doors a lot. I didn't necessarily sit down on this record and say, "I want to make a song like that." They all came viscerally and on impulse and just evolved as it was happening.

You've added guitar to your résumé this time. Is Twiggy Ramirez sweating?

[laughs] I would never consider myself a guitar player until I did this record, and I still don't consider myself to be one. I'm still a singer, that's what I do, but a song like ["Born Villain's"] "Pistol Whipped," that idea came to me in the middle of the night and I had to figure out how to play it on guitar, so I just did. I played the guitar solo in one take and it has the recklessness of some of the great things I love.

How did you and Johnny Depp wind up covering "You're So Vain"?

I've known Johnny Depp since I was 19. He called me up a couple months ago and said, "Hey, do you want to get together and record something?" . . . We recorded "You're So Vain" because we thought the song would be an amusing complement to the record -- not a piece of the record as a whole but, as a bonus track, it really states the obvious about where he and I both are as artists.

What are the shows going to be like when you tour?

I always find it difficult to explain a live show. Everyone's always going to say, "It's going to be exciting! It's going to be this! It's going to be that!" We'll play a large portion of [1996's] "Antichrist Superstar," simply because we like it. We'll probably play at least six or seven songs off the new record. I just want to keep it so that it's still glam and still theatrical, but it still retains its rawness. That's the best way to describe it. Plus, I don't want to give away anything [laughs].