Tuesday, September 29, 2009

"Transgression" In Rock and Roll According to Marilyn Manson

[Here is the link to this fascinating interview conducted by Stool Pigeon with Marilyn Manson. However, I realize that if I posted the whole thing it may be too offensive to many of my readers ears, so I've extracted some of the highlights that are less offensive. This is not only a rock star's evaluation of "transgression" in Rock and Roll, but also a way musical artists tend to view society and why they create the art they do. I think even Christians can find a lot here they can agree with...I know I do. - J.S.]

- "You can’t really ever make any art without getting someone’s attention...constantly. You have to say something differently, constantly. Dali said that anyone who doesn’t steal isn’t an artist and you have to take things and make them your own, and then when you’ve done that, you have to realize how not to cannibalize yourself, but how to transform constantly."

- "All music comes from heartache and all music comes from pain and suffering. That’s never going to go away, so it’s how do we learn to adapt to the fact that the whole world is able to talk really loud now? You know, everyone’s a journalist now - everyone’s got an opinion - and I think that just levels the playing field. Andy Warhol told us that everyone would be famous for 15 minutes and he was very accurate. So we have to invent new ways to make it interesting to other people because we’re trying to appeal to other people."

- SP: What is the primary role of the transgressive rock star? Is it to provide a safe space for kids to rebel in? Is it to hold up a mirror to society?

MM: No, it’s for girls. It’s so you can get girls. Perhaps not everyone should be simplified in rock’n’roll or art. It’s not a girl in everyone’s case. But I think the only reason anyone makes anything is because they want to connect with somebody. And I think with rock’n’roll it comes down to being a rock star. It’s not oversimplifying what I do to say that; it would be simplifying the reason why I do it. I’ve said it right from the beginning: that I wanted to share the same feelings that I think everybody has. And I wanted to be a rock star because you get away with doing and saying things and not having to do other things. You sidestep the thing you see in front of you - this horrible future of 9-to-5. Slavery dressed up in the form of a paycheck. Right now if I had to do something else, or if I was not able to do what I do, I don’t think there would be a point. That’s not being cynical - it’s just that I’ve seen so much. I couldn’t work like an everyday person.

- "Art and spirituality go hand in hand. But politics and religion are not spiritual - they take things out of the world. That’s not to say that you can’t believe in God. For me, God is the concept of making something. If you don’t have hope for the future, then you can’t be an artist - there’s no point. Everyone thinks I’m a nihilist or a fatalist and I came dangerously close to thinking like that over the past few years. It was when I started to think that I don’t have any feelings any more, so why bother? That is the end. Boredom. Boredom leads to drugs. Boredom leads to, ‘Let’s invent new things because we’ve done them all.’ It’s funny that you bring up the Roman Empire because the kids have always been too cynical and grown up too fast. Kids are senile now. They forget. They have no history . It’s Twitter, Twitter, download, download. I don’t care about any of that. What are you saying? What do you have to say? Can you say something? Can you say something that is passionate? And sometimes, yeah, do I want to shoot some of these people? Sure. You should be worried about what I’d do, if you’re worried about what my music does. There’s gonna be a day when I shoot someone and it’s gonna be myself or someone who says the wrong thing to me and I’m not afraid to do it. I don’t want to go to jail and right now I don’t want to die, so you have to make that choice. Are you stupid or are you passionate? Pick between the two. And sadly, when kids go wild, it’s stupid. ‘When Kids Go Wild!’ It’s a new TV show and they’re going to put my music on the soundtrack!"

- SP: In the beginning rock’n’roll was a hotbed of subversiveness, whether that was underage sex (Jerry Lee Lewis); homosexuality, or the suggestion of it when that was an absolute no-no (Little Richard); and what I guess would have been called, negrophilia (Elvis Presley).

MM: Yeah, you’re correct. I’m sitting in Berlin doing this interview. I was very fascinated with Berlin because of the birth of Expressionism when artists would be killed for saying, ‘I’m going to paint the sky purple,’ and at the same time they [Nazis] were cursing and damning swing dancing and using expressions like that [‘negrophilia’] and they were using expressions like ‘the downfall of society’. They weren’t around long enough to point at rock’n’roll, but they were there to point at what it came from. Last night I was stuck watching television and saw the new Eminem video in which he makes a parody of ‘Jailhouse Rock’ and I started thinking how relevant ‘Jailhouse Rock’ was to modern imagery in modern society.... So I’m sitting here thinking about ‘Jailhouse Rock’ and thinking, ‘Wow, if this video were done today it would still be unbelievably offensive.' I can’t imagine what it would have been like then... It’s all criminals, rapists, murderers etc. dancing to this guy with a hairdo and fucking hips. It’s unbelievable to me. And if you think about what is the downfall of the world - what destroyed everything - rock’n’roll did. That’s where it started. Well, it is and it isn’t. Rock’n’roll is the soundtrack. When they started putting it on television, that’s when it became a real problem. When you combine visuals with audio it’s a very powerful medium...it’s propaganda. It’s Triumph Of The Will [Leni Riefenstahl 1934 Nazi propaganda film]. It’s where Wagner made opera productions that had swastikas and Hitler - who had a homosexual obsession with Wagner - said: ‘I love the way that looks, I’m going to do something with that. I’m pissed off because I’m a bad watercolour artist.’ Everything is about transgression. Every war. Think about nature where you have a female peacock...whatever, pick an animal. They go with a male from another tribe and then they run back to the male from theirs and he is like, ‘I will defend you and I will kill everyone.’ That is the central transgression. So everything is about relationships and everything is about girlfriends, and rock’n’roll defined it because rock’n’roll happened at exactly the same time as media transformed. Rock’n’roll happened when color television was invented. Ironically, JFK was killed the week after color television came out. Or was it ironic? I would say not. If you want to have a million-hour long conversation with me, go and look up [multinational aerospace manufacturer] Lockheed Martin on the internet. You will be so shocked. They also invented the LP record, and the color television. They also invented satellite, and every bomb ever dropped. They invented the black box. They owned the Twin Towers, and the plane that flew into them. Then you become very cynical and angry about the fact that it’s not a coincidence and everybody since the Roman Empire has figured out: ‘Let’s cause people to fight each other and let’s sell them ways to do it.’ And rock’n’roll became the one thing that really fucked it up for them because they weren’t in charge of it. So they became in charge of it. And don’t think that it’s a coincidence that the people who invented all of the control invented the way to hear rock’n’roll.

- SP: Who are the most important transgressive figures?

MM: Citing them? Number one: Elvis Presley. Number two: Jim Morrison. Number three: Sex Pistols. Number four: David Bowie. And that’s just in my life growing up as a kid....

- "It’s aggravation and fear and that does feed a great deal of rock’n’roll music: Madonna, Prince, Bowie, everyone who has toyed with sexuality."

- "I didn’t invent the words and symbols that everyone associates with me, and I didn’t invent any sort of profanity. I wish I could make up a new curse word, but they’ve all been made up already. Can you blame a kid for taking building blocks with letters on them, throwing them down and having them they spell out ‘fuck a kid’ or ‘kill your parents’? No, you can’t, because it’s what’s in your head. So raise your kids. Let them read books, and let them make their own choices. Don’t tell people how to think - they get mad. And then they’ll either kill themselves or kill you."

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