Marilyn Manson on the West Memphis Three, Johnny Depp + More
After a 40-minute chat with Marilyn Manson, we chose to split the enormous amount of dialogue into four separate posts. Finally, after listening to a ton of tape and transcribing for who knows how many hours, we’re now happy to present to you the fourth and final part of our interview with the rock icon.
Coming off the part of our discussion where Manson spoke in-depth about the blame placed on him after various horrific events such as Columbine and how he used the concept of the villain always being the catalyst for change, we arrived at the topic of the West Memphis Three. For those unaware of Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jesse Misskelley, the three were recently released from prison after 18 years for murder charges that many believe the three did not commit.
Among many celebrities championing the release of Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley, Marilyn Manson was certainly one of the most vocal — even including the topic in his speech during the 2010 Revolver Golden Gods Awards.
Please enjoy the final part of our exclusive interview with Marilyn Manson:
After being blamed for tragedies such as Columbine, do you see any artists these days that are receiving similar treatment for when something awful happens?
Well, for the first time in my life, last night, I met Damien Echols [of the West Memphis Three]. I did a painting to help pay for his legal funds. Johnny Depp, him and I became what we called, and it sounds a bit… in retrospect… if you lived in West Hollywood, sounds a bit not-masculine, but the ‘West Hollywood Three.’ Johnny has always tried to help him [Damien] out and he’s staying with Johnny and we have a strong bond, the three of us. We all got matching tattoos. I’d never met him [Damien] in person until last night and for me it was humbling. Any strife or adversity I’ve gone through can’t compare with what he’s gone through. And I’ve been waiting, essentially 18 years to meet this guy and I met him last night [April 8].
Johnny has also gone through his various things in life and I was on ’21 Jump Street’ when I was 19 — that’s funny, no one really knows that I was an extra. So I’ve known Johnny forever and we’d never done music together, and we did the “You’re So Vain” cover. Don’t tell this s–t, but me and Johnny have been rehearsing because he’s going to play with me live [at the 2012 Revolver Golden Gods Awards]. I just don’t want anyone to know that because it’ll ruin the surprise and I will hunt you down and cut your d–k off. [Laughs]
[Author's note: At Manson's request, we kept his secret until Depp joined him onstage live at the Golden Gods -- and thankfully, I can report that my manhood remains firmly in tact. Check out our coverage of Manson and Depp in action here.]
The past two days of my life have been pretty exciting — Johnny Depp rehearsing with my band because we want to do stuff together live. I’ve known him forever and he started his band, ‘The Kids,’ in Ft. Lauderdale. I had a band, ‘Marilyn Manson and the Spooky Kids,’ in Ft. Lauderdale. It’s just strange that I’ve known him all these years and we’ve never done music together. It’s exciting that we did the ‘You’re So Vain’ cover. We both did it together and it’s amusing that it applies to us in the sense that everybody that surrounded us in the past.
He and I and Damien, all in different ways, are known figures, and all in different ways are going through a total change in life; all in different ways looking at life through the eyes of someone that is un-jaded; all in different ways of everyone thinking that they own something about us or that they know something about us, but they don’t; and us being considered vanquished by feeling liberated by the fact that we’re able to come to those terms.
So that’s been my backbone for most of everything; that I’ve been able to have guy friends that aren’t just my band members, but guy friends that have been through so much s–t. Different s–t. We’ve all been through different shit, and it’s strange because we all think each of us have been through worse s–t. That’s what’s unusual about it. I feel like we all say, “I haven’t been through what you’ve been through.” We all say that to each other and it’s a very interesting, humbling experience and it’s something that you really take to the grave that’s strong.
When I heard that the West Memphis Three were finally getting out of prison, I almost started crying …
I did. I did, man. I mean, that movie [Paradise Lost] makes me cry — it does. When I met him for the first time last night, it was like a brother. I felt like I’d known him forever. I’ve talked to him on the phone for the past year on-and-off, but had never met him in person. It just felt like I had known him my whole life. He’s strong. He’s been through so much. It’s funny because we were having a very simple conversation that he was still amazed that he could send an email off an iPhone. Johnny and I were saying, “Well, hey, we’re in the same boat. We just figured that out too.” [Laughs] The childlike excitement of looking at the world is very much alive in me and in my friends. That’s the only way I was able to make a record that seemed 100 percent authentic to my personality.
I had a lot of people sitting in the room often when I sang. The vocals were all one take usually. You know, of course there’s more than one vocal sometimes. It’s different from performing live because you’ve already recorded the album and people are there to see you in concert. It’s a totally different situation when you have headphones on, there’s other people sitting there, looking at you and all they hear is your voice. It’s worse than… it could be worse than reading a book report in front of the whole class. Instead of that, I took it as an exciting challenge. You rise to the occasion more.
So I had to be better at being entertaining, being interesting or being thought-provoking or whatever the f— I was doing, you know? I was trying to make songs that would make people feel something. Sometimes it was… most often in true rock ‘n’ roll not-cliche, but sometimes cliche, sense that I was trying to get girls excited with what I was doing. [Laughs] It’s very difficult to realize what it is about you that people find attractive. I didn’t realize that some things that I had grown sick of, in the same way that when you live in a house and you’re sick of looking at the furniture the way it is, or whatever it might be — I didn’t realize the things that people found attractive about what I do as a singer.
So I would asks people’s opinions and it would gravitate towards something and a song like ‘The Gardener’ — originally I did that spoken word… I was only doing it because I wanted to record the words, because I had them in my head, so I recorded it, and I went back and I was going to sing it. No one had heard the spoken version of it, and everyone loved the spoken version of it, so I just didn’t redo it. I didn’t know that that was something that was appealing to people, and I realize now that if I had the common sense to think that I started out by, before I had a band, I did… and I’m not even embarrassed to say… that I was reading poetry on open mic poetry nights.
Whatever it is, that I’m not going to question, if people like what I do when I speak, then I’ll do it. So that’s why I did it a lot on the record, and I had fun doing it, and I know that having multiple personalities, I’m sure… [Laughs] I’m not clear on how many, but probably more than I need — I tend to go into different… not characters, but I speak in unusual ways on the album and it’s fun for me to do that, but it’s not supposed to be comedy, it’s supposed to be what it is. You can feel however you want about the record as long as you enjoy it.
I think it’s an awesome way to start ‘The Gardener,’ and it really does my heart good to know that Damien is okay. I read his book ‘Almost Home,’ I wrote him letters when he was in prison… thank you for sharing that.
Yeah, I mean, he’s great. We’re going to do a video together for ‘Hey Cruel World.’ That’s actually supposed to happen tonight [April 8]. I think that that song; he really identified with. I look forward to that, and I think it’s great that you have that strong feeling towards those films, because for me to be a part of helping him get out of that situation makes me feel like I did something really great in my life. I in a different way, was in a f—ing prison of my own device. I had friends that believed in me and got me through it. Of course it’s not the same, but in different ways that’s how we identify with each other.