Courting controversy is nothing new for Marilyn Manson, who in 2014 had a recurring role as a white supremacist on the final season of FX series Sons of Anarchy. But ahead of his ninth LP, The Pale Emperor (out Jan. 20 on Loma Vista), the 46-year-old rocker found himself at the center of an unwanted firestorm after video footage featuring a staged rape of Lana Del Rey by director Eli Roth leaked to the web. The clip was edited to appear as if it was intended to be part of a Manson music video, but the singer distanced himself from it, and instead has been focusing his energies on his dark, blues-inspired LP. “I have hellhounds on my heels,” Manson says. “And this record is payment.”
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How did you deal with the fallout from the leaked-video?
I did not have any intention of that footage being involved with any of the footage it was edited together with. Also, I was misquoted in the press about saying that working with Lana was a problem. What was a problem was trying to get into a situation where she and I could work together, because we didn’t have a story yet. Eli and I are friends, and I wanted to work with Lana, but this was not a Marilyn Manson video, although it came across that way when it was released.
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The Pale Emperor is co-produced by film composer Tyler Bates (300, Guardians of the Galaxy). How did that influence the LP?
Tyler has a great sense of cinema, and I’ve always had cinematic records. He was doing an interview recently and I overheard him say that he carved the music around my voice, just as he would have done with a film. We never had that conversation, so it was interesting to hear what actually went on in his head.
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You recently reconnected with Billy Corgan to perform your single “Third Day of a Seven Day Binge” in London.
We hadn’t seen each other in 15 years. We had a small falling out years ago but there was no hatchet to be buried. I’ve always looked up to him as an older brother type and as somebody who taught me how to play guitar. He gave me a Guild [acoustic] in 1997 or so, when I was writing Mechanical Animals. It was in an open slide tuning, and he said, “This will be easy for you because you can play chords with one finger.” And that’s sort of how I learned.
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You found the blues while recording The Pale Emperor. How is that reflected in the music?
That dirtiness of the blues resonates with me, especially in the way some contemporary artists — PJ Harvey, Tom Waits, Nick Cave — approach it. The blues is repetitious only if you don’t add your own style to it. It’s essentially the same thing: life, f—ing, religion. But if you add your own swagger…
This story first appeared in the Jan. 24 issue of Billboard.