In 1989, Brian Warner was a college student working towards a degree in journalism at Broward College, gaining experience by writing music articles for the South Florida lifestyle magazine 25th Parallel. It was in this capacity that he met several of the musicians to whom his own band would later be compared, including My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult and Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails. That December, he met Scott Putesky, who proposed that the two form a band together after reading some lyrics and poems written by the singer. Warner, guitarist Putesky and bassist Brian Tutunick recorded their first demo tape as Marilyn Manson & the Spooky Kids in 1990, taking on the stage names of Marilyn Manson, Daisy Berkowitz and Olivia Newton Bundy, respectively. Bundy left the band soon after, and was replaced by Gidget Gein, born Brad Stewart. They were later joined on keyboard by Stephen Bier, who called himself Madonna Wayne Gacy. In 1991, drummer Fred Streithorst joined the band under the name Sara Lee Lucas.
The stage names adopted by each member were representative of a concept the band considered central: the dichotomy of good and evil, and the existence of both, together, in every whole. "Marilyn Monroe had a dark side", explained Manson in his autobiography, "just as Charles Manson has a good, intelligent side." Images of both Monroe and Manson, as well as of other famous and infamous figures, were common in the band's early promotional materials.
The Spooky Kids' popularity in the area grew quickly, largely thanks to the support of WYNX-FM DJ Scott David, who would regularly play songs from the band's demo tapes on air, and because of the band's highly visual concerts, which drew from performance art and used many shock techniques such as "naked women nailed to a cross, a child in a cage, or bloody animal body parts." Band members variously performed in women's clothing or bizarre costumes; and, for lack of a professional pyrotechnician, would set their own stage props on fire. The band would contrast these theatrics with elements drawn from their youth: characters from 1970s and '80s children's television made regular, often grotesquely altered, appearances on band flyers and newsletters, and were frequently sampled in their music. They continued to perform and release cassettes—shortening their name to Marilyn Manson in 1992—until the summer of 1993, when they drew the attention of Reznor, who had just founded his own label, Nothing Records.
Reznor offered the band a contract with the label, as well as an opening slot supporting Nine Inch Nails on their upcoming "Self Destruct Tour". After accepting both offers, recording sessions for their debut studio album began in July 1993 with Swans producer Roli Mosimann at Criteria Studios in Miami, Florida. Recording a selection of new songs along with material from their Spooky Kids repertoire, the first version of their debut, titled The Manson Family Album, was completed by the end of September. However, it was not well received. The band's members, along with Reznor, criticized Mosimann's production as being flat, lifeless and poorly representative of the band's live performances. At the same time, Gidget Gein had begun to lose control of his addiction to heroin. Before reworking the album, the band played two shows in Florida under the name Mrs. Scabtree. This band featured Manson on drums, Gacy on keyboard, Berkowitz on guitar, and Jessicka from Jack Off Jill sharing vocal duties with Jeordie White of Miami thrash band Amboog-a-Lard. Four other local musicians, bassists Mark Dubin of Sister Venus and Patrick Joyce from The Itch, guitarist Miles Hie and violinist Mary Karlzen were also involved.
Reznor agreed to rework production of The Manson Family Album in October 1993 at Record Plant Studios in Los Angeles. Gein, who had been hospitalized after his fourth heroin overdose, was not invited to participate. After seven weeks of mixing, re-recording and remixing, the album — now titled Portrait of an American Family — was presented to Nothing's parent label Interscope. As first single "Get Your Gunn" was beginning to receive airplay, Gein received a letter declaring his services "no longer needed" by the band, after he overdosed on heroin for a fifth time. He was replaced by White, of Amboog-a-Lard, who undertook the alias Twiggy Ramirez. The album was released on July 19, 1994 and peaked at number thirty-five on Billboard's Top Heatseekers album chart. The band began its first national headlining tour in December 1994, with Jack Off Jill opening. During the band's stint as opening act on the Nine Inch Nails tour, Manson met Church of Satan founder Dr. Anton LaVey, who bestowed Manson with the title of "Reverend" — meaning a person who is revered by the church, and not necessarily one who dedicates their life to preaching the religion to others, as with a priest or minister. Manson would use this title in the liner notes of the band's following album, citing himself as "Reverend Marilyn Manson".
In March 1995, the band began a two-month tour, this time with Monster Voodoo Machine as support. This would be drummer Sara Lee Lucas' last tour with the band. Kenneth Wilson, better known by his stage name Ginger Fish, then joined the group before they embarked on a tour with rock bands Danzig and Korn. The band then relocated to the new home of Nothing Studios in New Orleans to begin work on remixes and b-sides for Portrait's third single, "Dope Hat", releasing a music video inspired by the boat ride scene from the 1971 movie Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. The proposed single eventually developed into an hour-long EP, titled Smells Like Children. The EP's fifteen tracks of covers, remixes, and sonic experiments also included the band's version of the Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)", which would prove to be their first legitimate hit. The song's music video was placed in heavy rotation on MTV, in stark contrast with the "Dope Hat" video, which the same channel had banished to late-night airplay only a few months prior. A seven-month headlining tour followed, during which the band began to debut new material.
The band's second studio album, Antichrist Superstar, was released on October 8, 1996. The rock opera concept album was recorded at Nothing Studios with Reznor, Manson, Sean Beavan and Skinny Puppy member Dave Ogilvie sharing co-production duties; while members of both Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails also took part in production duties. The process of making the album was reputedly a long and difficult one, highlighted by experiments involving sleep deprivation and near-constant drug use, in an effort to create a violent and hostile environment suited to the album's content. During this time, antagonism between band members was high, which caused the departure of guitarist and Spooky Kids founding member Daisy Berkowitz, with Twiggy performing much of the album's guitar work as a result. Timothy Linton responded to an advert seeking Berkowitz' replacement. He would form a close relationship, even sharing a house, with Madonna Wayne Gacy, who was responsible for the inclusion of one of the major sources of inspiration for the album: Kabbalah. Breaking with the six-year tradition of naming band members after female icons and serial killers, the band chose to name Linton Zim Zum, which was derived from the Lurianic Kabbalah concept of Tzimtzum.
"The Beautiful People" was released as the album's lead single, and made a fairly major impact on the alternative rock charts. It created enough anticipation for Antichrist Superstar that the album debuted at number three on the Billboard 200 with first-week sales of 132,000 copies. Manson also appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone, who awarded the band their 'Best New Artist' accolade in 1997. The year long "Dead to the World Tour" followed, which was the band's longest and widest-ranging tour yet. In the US, however, the band was receiving more attention than ever before, and not all of it was positive. As the tour was getting underway, the band found itself the target of congressional hearings, led by Senator Joseph Lieberman, to determine the effects, if any, of violent lyrics on young listeners. Lieberman would later go on to refer to Marilyn Manson as "perhaps the sickest group ever promoted by a mainstream record company." In addition, nearly every performance of the tour was picketed by religious organizations.
The band released their second EP, Remix & Repent, on November 25, 1997, which featured new versions of Antichrist Superstar's four singles, "The Beautiful People", "Tourniquet", "Antichrist Superstar" and "Man That You Fear". The same year, three previously unreleased songs were included on the soundtracks to motion pictures, "Long Hard Road Out of Hell" appeared on the soundtrack to Spawn, "Apple of Sodom" on the soundtrack to David Lynch's Lost Highway, while "The Suck for Your Solution" featured on the soundtrack to the Howard Stern biopic Private Parts. In February 1998, Manson released his autobiography, The Long Hard Road out of Hell, as well as a live video entitled Dead to the World. It also came to light around this time that Antichrist Superstar would be the first installment in a concept album trilogy, and that the release of a follow-up was imminent, along with rumors of the involvement of The Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan and The Dust Brothers with the as-yet-untitled album.
The band released the second part of their triptych, Mechanical Animals, on September 15, 1998. Co-produced by the band's lead singer with Sean Beavan and Michael Beinhorn, the album moved away from the industrial rock production of its predecessor and was strongly influenced by the glam rock period of the 1970's, particularly David Bowie's 1974 album Diamond Dogs. Corgan served as an unofficial consultant to the band during the early development stages of the album. After playing a few songs for him, Corgan advised them that "This is definitely the right direction" but to "go all the way with it. Don't just hint at it", referring to its inclusion of glam influences. To suit their new musical style, the band also recast itself as a glam rock outfit, setting aside the "rotting-corpse chic" of the previous era in favor of attire more suited to the genre, incorporating leather, platform boots and brightly dyed hair. The band also relocated from New Orleans to Los Angeles, while Zim Zum was replaced by guitarist John Lowery, who dubbed himself John 5. Immediately prior to this, Lowery had been a member of former Judas Priest vocalist Rob Halford's 2wo, who were themselves signed to Nothing Records.
Interscope's promotion of the album was massive, with the label erecting enormous billboards of the lead singer as an androgynous extraterrestrial in both Times Square and Sunset Strip. Repeated appearances on MTV and other networks helped propel the album's lead single, "The Dope Show", to number twelve on Billboard's Mainstream Rock chart, becoming the band's highest-charting single yet in the process. The song's music video was critically acclaimed, winning two awards at the 1998 Billboard Music Video Awards as well as the Best Cinematography award at the 1999 MTV VMA's; while the song was also nominated for Best Hard Rock Performance at the 41st Annual Grammy Awards. The album would go on to debut at number one on the Billboard 200, with first week sales of over 223,000.
After a brief promotional campaign, the band set out on the "Beautiful Monsters Tour" with Hole. The tour would be a problematic one, however, and was marred by frequent on–and–off stage exchanges between Manson and Hole vocalist Courtney Love. Private disputes also arose over the tour's financial arrangements, with Hole unwittingly financing most of Manson's production costs, which were disproportionately high relative to Hole's. The tour was to include thirty-seven shows spanning over a two-month period, although Hole left after taking part in just nine of the scheduled dates. A broken ankle from Manson also forced the postponement of the next two shows, with the remainder of the tour being renamed "Rock Is Dead" and Jack Off Jill and Nashville Pussy taking over select opening slots.
The final four dates of the tour were canceled out of respect for the victims of the Columbine High School massacre. The latter half of 1999 and much of 2000 was a period of relative silence for the band, who refused to take part in interviews and retreated from public life. They shelved plans for a proposed single and music video for their cover of AC/DC's "Highway to Hell", which appeared on the soundtrack to Detroit Rock City. They spent this period writing and recording in a secluded studio in Death Valley, with only the live album The Last Tour on Earth appearing during this time. A studio outtake from Antichrist Superstar, titled "Astonishing Panorama of the Endtimes", served as its only single.
Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death) was released on November 14, 2000. Produced by the band's lead singer with Dave Sardy, the album also features programming and pre-production editing by Bon Harris of Nitzer Ebb. The band wrote over 100 songs for the album, which was a return to the darker, more abrasive sound of Antichrist Superstar. Much of its content was written in response to the Columbine massacre, with the album's third single, "The Nobodies", directly referencing the shootings. Described by the band's frontman as the third part of a trilogy which began with Antichrist Superstar and continued in Mechanical Animals, its overarching theme is an exploration of the relationship between death and fame in American culture, and its lyrics and artwork contain many references to John F. Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald, John Lennon and Mark David Chapman, and Abraham Lincoln and John Wilkes Booth. The "Guns, God and Government Tour" elaborated on Holy Wood's central theme, and with its logo – a rifle and handguns arranged to resemble the Christian cross — Manson made no attempt to conceal what he saw as the source of that fascination.
The band also revealed that within their concept album trilogy, Holy Wood serves as prequel to Mechanical Animals and Antichrist Superstar despite the latter two preceding Holy Wood in release date. Each album contains its own distinct storyline, which can be linked together to create a larger overarching storyline encompassing all three. Manson has offered this much in the way of an interpretation: "[Holy Wood is about] wanting to fit into a world that didn't want me, and fighting really hard to get there. [The album's deepest elements] are idealism and the desire to start a revolution. If you begin with Holy Wood, then Mechanical Animals really talks about how that revolution gets taken away from you and turned into a product, and then Antichrist Superstar is where you're given a choice to decide if you're going to be controlled by the power that you created or if you want to destroy yourself and then start over. It just becomes a cycle."
As part of the album's promotional campaign, the band joined the 2001 line-up of Ozzy Osbourne's Ozzfest, although they initially refused to take part in its June 21 date in Denver–their first appearance in Colorado since the Columbine massacre. After protests from several religious groups, however, the band announced on their website that they would perform in Denver, and planned to "balance out" their "violent lyrics" by quoting Bible text, "so we can examine the virtues of wonderful Christian stories of disease, murder, adultery, suicide and child sacrifice." During the concert, Manson read passages such as Leviticus 20:9 ("For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall surely be put to death") and Psalm 137:9 ("Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones"). The tour was documented by a DVD of the same name, which was released on October 29, 2002. In addition to a compilation style concert [songs from multiple individual shows edited together to appear as a single performance], it includes a thirty-minute short film titled "The Death Parade". This was followed by Guns, God and Government – Live in LA seven years later. Released on Blu-ray on November 17, 2009, it depicts their January 13, 2001 performance at Los Angeles' Grand Olympic Auditorium in its entirety.
Earlier in 2001, the band released a cover of Gloria Jones' "Tainted Love" on the soundtrack to Not Another Teen Movie. The song became the band's biggest international hit yet, peaking at number one in numerous European territories. The video for Marilyn Manson's cover shows Manson bringing several goth friends to a high school party. It features several characters from the film Not Another Teen Movie. It also features former Slipknot drummer Joey Jordison, Chyler Leigh, Chris Evans, Jaime Pressley and Tim Sköld, who was not a member of Marilyn Manson's band at the time.In 2002, Jonathan Davis of Korn invited Marilyn Manson to record vocals on a track titled "Redeemer", which was released on his soundtrack to Queen of the Damned. Manson also appeared in Michael Moore's 2002 documentary, Bowling for Columbine; his appearance was filmed on the same day as their Denver Ozzfest performance. When Moore asked what Manson would have said to the students at Columbine, he replied, "I wouldn't say a single word to them. I would listen to what they have to say, and that's what no one did."
With the "triptych" of previous albums complete, the band was free to begin a fresh project. In 2002, Manson created an original score for the Resident Evil film with former KMFDM multi-instrumentalist Tim Sköld. Soon after, Sköld became an official band member when Twiggy Ramirez amicably left the group, citing creative differences. After finding inspiration through Manson's girlfriend Dita Von Teese in the swing and burlesque movements of 1920s Berlin, the band recorded The Golden Age of Grotesque, which was released on May 13, 2003 and debuted atop the Billboard 200 album chart, selling over 118,000 copies on its first week. It was also an international success, debuting at number one in Austria, Canada, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and Billboard's European Albums Chart. The album appeared on several critics' year-end lists, and won a 2003 Metal Edge Readers' Choice Award for "Album of the Year".
Eschewing the lyrical depth and symbolism found on Holy Wood, the album was relatively straightforward: in an extended metaphor, Manson compares his own often-criticized work to the Entartete Kunst banned by the Nazi regime. Lyrically, Manson utilizes the narrative mode of stream of consciousness throughout the album to examine the human psyche in times of crisis, specifically focusing on the mindset of lunatics and children, as, according to Manson, "they don't follow the rules [of society]." Several songs incorporate elements commonly found in playground chants and nursery rhymes, which Manson would "pervert into something ugly and lurid." The work of Kurt Weill was also noted as an influence, along with the lucid dreams the singer was having during its production, with Manson explaining that he would "wake up and say, 'I want to write a song that sounds like a stampeding elephant,' or 'I want to write a song that sounds like a burning piano.'"
Manson began his long-term collaboration with Austrian-Irish artist Gottfried Helnwein, working together on several multi-media projects associated with the album, including the exhibitions and installation art projects featured at the album's launch party at The Key Club in Los Angeles, the album artwork, the music video to lead single "mOBSCENE", as well as the artwork which accompanied Manson's essay for The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Limited edition copies of the album included a DVD titled Doppelherz (Double-heart), a 25-minute surrealist short film directed by Manson which featured art direction by Helnwein. Another world tour followed, "Grotesk Burlesk", which furthered the album's Weimar Republic-inspired theme by adding Helnwein-created stage dressing and elements of German Kabarett to the group's performances. Manson and the band members began appearing both on-and off-stage in designer suits created by Jean Paul Gaultier.
Lest We Forget: The Best Of was released on September 28, 2004 and was referred to by Manson as a "farewell" compilation. It was the last album released under Nothing Records, as the label was dissolved following a lawsuit filed by Reznor against his former manager and business partner, John Malm. The compilation was supported by the "Against All Gods Tour", as well as a single–a cover of Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus". It was the first and only tour to feature Mark Chaussee of Rob Halford's Fight on lead guitar, replacing John 5, whose relationship with Manson had soured over the previous year. During the band's performance of "The Beautiful People" at the 2003 Rock am Ring festival, Manson kicked and then shoved the guitarist. John 5 responded in anger, throwing his guitar to the ground and raising his fists to Manson, before resuming the song. Former Nine Inch Nails drummer Chris Vrenna also replaced Ginger Fish, who fractured his wrist, skull and cheekbone after falling several feet off his drum riser during a performance at a German awards ceremony.
By late 2005, the band had composed eighteen new songs, but work on their sixth studio album was halted when Manson focused his attention toward various film and art projects, including the development of his screenplay, Phantasmagoria: The Visions of Lewis Carroll, as well as a minor role in the Lucy Liu movie Rise: Blood Hunter. He also launched a self-proclaimed art movement, the Celebritarian Corporation, which included artist Gottfried Helnwein, fashion designer Steven Klein and director Anthony Silva, as well as announcing plans to open an art gallery and publish a book of his paintings. It was after opening the Celebritarian Corporation Gallery Of Fine Art on Melrose Avenue in 2006 that work started on new material, with Manson writing lyrics over Sköld's already existing compositions.
The resulting material was composed and recorded entirely by Sköld, and does not feature writing or performance contributions from any other member of the band. Its content is largely inspired by personal troubles relating to Manson's failed marriage to Von Teese, and his burgeoning relationship with then-19-year old actress Evan Rachel Wood. The band made their debut appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on October 31, 2006, performing their cover of "This Is Halloween" from a deluxe edition re-release of The Nightmare Before Christmas soundtrack. This would be their last performance featuring longtime keyboardist Madonna Wayne (Pogo) Gacy, who would go on to file a $20m lawsuit against the band the following year for unpaid "partnership proceeds".
The album was preceded by the release of a single, "Heart-Shaped Glasses (When the Heart Guides the Hand)", whose music video was shot using director James Cameron's 3D Fusion Camera System technology. The video caused controversy upon release, with several sources claiming that it featured genuine footage of Manson and Wood engaged in sexual intercourse. Wood was reportedly paid "the highest [music] video salary in history" to appear in the video. Eat Me, Drink Me was released on June 5, 2007, and entered the Billboard 200 at number eight with first week sales of 88,000 copies. It also peaked in the top ten of most major international album charts, as well as at number two on Billboard's European Albums Chart. "Putting Holes In Happiness" was released as the album's second single, with a remix of the track by Yeah Yeah Yeahs guitarist Nick Zinner appearing on Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock.
To promote the album, the band embarked on the nine-month "Rape of the World Tour", which featured Sköld on lead guitar, former The Prodigy bassist Rob Holliday and longtime drummer Ginger Fish; while Vrenna rejoined the band as their live keyboardist. The first leg of the tour was a co-headlining set with American thrash metal band Slayer, with support coming from Bleeding Through. In November 2007, Manson confirmed that he and Sköld had begun work on the band's next studio album, with Slayer's Kerry King, former The Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha and Nick Zinner of Yeah Yeah Yeahs set to feature. By the beginning of 2008, however, Twiggy Ramirez had rejoined the band as bassist, resulting in the exit of Sköld, with Holliday moving from bass to lead guitar for the remaining duration of the tour. Future collaborations with Sköld were not ruled out.
In March 2008, Twiggy stated through his Myspace blog that the band had begun work on their seventh studio album. Four months later, former Limp Bizkit guitarist Wes Borland joined the band for their headlining show at the 2008 ETP Fest in South Korea. However, Borland left the group to reunite with Limp Bizkit after just one other performance. He later said that he was reluctant to be a "hired gun", citing the band's refusal to record any of the nine songs he submitted for their upcoming album. R&B singer Ne-Yo claimed in early December that he would hold writing sessions with the band's frontman on new material, although Manson released a statement on Christmas Eve denying this, saying that he had "never even met Ne-Yo. I can assure him that he would not want to be associated with something this godless."
The High End of Low was recorded throughout 2008, with Manson recording vocals at his Hollywood Hills home studio between November and January 5, 2009. Produced by Manson, Twiggy and Vrenna with Antichrist Superstar and Mechanical Animals co-producer Sean Beavan, Manson described the album as containing "extreme" autobiographical content relating to the dissolution of his engagement to Wood, and as being "very ruthless, heavy and violent". Its fifteen songs appear on the album in the order they were written. The penultimate track, "Into the Fire", portrays the vocalist's mental state on Christmas Day, wherein he attempted to contact Wood 158 times, cutting himself with a razorblade on the face or hands for each corresponding attempt. The album's final song, "15", was completed on Manson's January 5 birthday—hence the name. Manson utilized his entire home as a canvas to document the disintegration of the relationship, writing its lyrics on walls and coupling them with paintings and drawings relating to Wood, as well as used condoms, bags of cocaine and other drug paraphernalia.
"We're from America" was released as a free download on the band's website on March 27, 2009, while a Hot Topic-exclusive CD single followed two weeks later. After playing an instrumental version of "Arma-goddamn-motherfuckin-geddon" to Interscope's A&R department, it was chosen as the album's official lead single, with an employee telling Manson, "This is gonna be a hit!". Manson then quipped to the employee, "Well, I'm glad that you have no consideration for what I [might] put on top of it." A heavily censored version of the profanity-laced track – re-titled to "Arma... geddon" – was serviced to radio from April 13, and peaked at number thirty-seven on Billboard's Mainstream Rock chart, becoming their lowest-peaking single in the process. The album was released on May 26, 2009 and debuted at number four on the Billboard 200 with sales of over 49,000 copies, their lowest opening week figure since The Last Tour on Earth debuted with 26,000 copies in 1999. It was supported by "The High End of Low Tour". Rob Holliday did not rejoin the band, with former Wired All Wrong member Andy Gerold performing bass and Twiggy taking over on lead guitar.
Prior to The High End of Low's release, Manson made a series of disparaging comments regarding Interscope and its artistic censorship; as well as its then-CEO Jimmy Iovine, who Manson said "wasn't smart enough to understand what [we] do", and publicly claiming that the label "cares more about Vitamin Water [the private equity venture of Interscope-signed 50 Cent] than music." Reznor – who, as of 2015, remains friends with Iovine – responded by calling Manson a "dopey clown" and claiming that "He is a malicious guy and will step on anybody's [sic] face to succeed and cross any line of decency." While promoting the album in the UK, Manson appeared inebriated in a series of interviews. An interview for Alan Carr: Chatty Man recorded during this time remains unaired, due to graphic language and content. A music video for "Running to the Edge of the World" – in which Manson beats a Wood lookalike to death – was released on November 4 and was condemned as a perceived glorification of violence against women. The band parted ways with Interscope on December 3. Eight days later, they settled the lawsuit filed by former keyboardist Stephen Bier (aka M.W. Gacy), with Manson's insurance company paying Bier's attorney's fees and Bier receiving no monetary value.
Upon parting with Interscope, Manson said "a lot of the creative control on which my hands were tied [has been regained]", while stating that the band had been writing new material while touring their previous album. At the beginning of 2010, Vrenna said that they were "talking and coming up with concepts" for their upcoming studio album. Manson attested that its lyrical content would be "more romantic" yet "self-abusive", and described its sonic elements as being "suicide death metal". That April, Manson expressed interest in releasing the record in a different way from previous ones. Fred Sablan – bassist for Twiggy and Masters of Reality vocalist Chris Goss' project Goon Moon – joined the band in July. By October, Twiggy described the album as being "almost done", and opined that "It's our best record yet. I mean, everyone always says that, but I think this is our best work so far. It's kind of like a little more of a punk rock Mechanical Animals, without sounding too pretentious." The following month, it was announced that the band had signed a joint-venture deal with London-based indie label Cooking Vinyl. As part of the deal, the band would retain creative control over their artistic direction, with the band and label sharing profits equally after the label recoups costs associated with marketing, promotion and distribution.
For much of 2011, Manson removed himself from the public spotlight and ceased almost all communication with fans, only taking a break from his self-imposed sequestration to appear in the music video for "Tempat Ku" by Brunei rock band D'Hask. On February 24, longtime drummer Ginger Fish announced his resignation from the group. On May 22, their website underwent a complete overhaul. A 26-second clip of an unreleased song, tentatively titled "I am among no one", was uploaded to their Vimeo account, along with a new logo. The CMYK coloring was also notable with regard to an acrostic which appeared in a journal entry accompanying the site changes, spelling out the words "Christianity Manufactures Yesterdays Killers".
After being impressed by his directorial work on one of Kid Cudi's music videos, Manson employed actor Shia LaBeouf to direct a short film entitled Born Villain. Contrary to media reports that the project would be a "making-of" video documenting the album's recording, Born Villain was a surrealist short featuring a previously unreleased track, "Overneath the Path of Misery". Containing numerous references to Macbeth, it was inspired by Jodorowsky's The Holy Mountain and Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí's 1929 silent film Un Chien Andalou. To promote the project, LaBeouf and his girlfriend, photographer Karolyn Pho, graffitied areas of LA with its artwork. LaBeouf and Pho later photographed their work, and released it as a limited edition book titled Campaign, which was bundled with a DVD of the film. In November, Vrenna departed the band to focus on other production work, whilst indicating that production of their eighth studio album was "largely completed".
The album was preceded by the release of "No Reflection", which Manson leaked to KROQ-FM on March 7, 2012. Cooking Vinyl CEO Martin Goldschmidt called the leak a "masterstroke", saying "we had all these exclusives lined up around the world, and then Manson blew them all. We're already getting more radio play than the whole of the last record." The song went on to peak at number twenty-six on the Mainstream Rock chart, spending fourteen weeks on the chart, and was their best-performing single there since "Personal Jesus" in 2004. Born Villain was released worldwide from April 30, debuting at number ten on the Billboard 200 and atop both the Independent Albums and Top Hard Rock Albums charts. Internationally, it peaked within the top ten of numerous territories, and spent two weeks at number one on the UK Rock Albums Chart. A remix EP for "Slo-Mo-Tion" followed on November 5. The band embarked on the seventeen-month "Hey Cruel World... Tour" from the end of April, which was interspersed by co-headlining tours with Rob Zombie ("Twins of Evil") and Alice Cooper ("Masters of Madness").
In August 2012, it was announced that Manson would play a fictionalized version of himself in a four-episode arc of the sixth season of TV series Californication. While filming its season finale at the Greek Theatre in LA, Manson met the series' score composer, Tyler Bates, and the two discussed a potential collaboration. Manson confirmed that production started on new material by May 2013, with Gil Sharone, drummer for The Dillinger Escape Plan and Stolen Babies, indicating in February 2014 that he would be performing on the band's upcoming record. Four months later, Sablan announced that he had left the group, being replaced on bass by Twiggy for their 2014 summer tour, with Bates and his friend, Paul Wiley, taking over as live guitarists.
The album was preceded by the release of several new songs. "Cupid Carries a Gun" was the first song previewed, when it was used as the opening theme to Salem from its second episode onwards, which premiered on US television on April 27. In October, a large portion of the album track "Killing Strangers" was predominantly featured in the Keanu Reeves movie John Wick. "Third Day of a Seven Day Binge" was released for free download on the band's website on October 26, and served as the album's first official single. The band performed several new songs live for the first time as they played a handful of concerts around southern California in October and early November. "Deep Six" was released on December 16, with a music video following three days later. It went on to peak at number eight on Billboard's Mainstream Rock chart, making it the band's highest-ever peaking single on Billboard. "Cupid Carries a Gun" was released as the album's third official single on January 8, 2015.
The Pale Emperor was released on January 20 in the US. It is dedicated to Manson's mother, who died in May 2014 after an eight-year battle with Alzheimer's disease and dementia. It was both a critical and commercial success, debuting at number eight on the Billboard 200 with sales of over 51,000 copies, their largest opening-week figure since Eat Me, Drink Me in 2007. Numerous publications referred to it as the band's best album in over a decade. It would go on to appear on several 'best of 2015' lists, with Rolling Stone dubbing it the 'best metal album' of 2015. Music videos for both "The Mephistopheles of Los Angeles" and "Third Day of a Seven Day Binge" were released in May and July, respectively.
The band embarked on the nearly-two year-long The Hell Not Hallelujah Tour in support of the album, which was interspersed by a co-headlining tour with The Smashing Pumpkins titled The End Times. In February 2016, Manson contributed vocals to a version of David Bowie's "Cat People (Putting Out Fire)" on Countach (For Giorgio), a tribute album to Giorgio Moroder curated by Shooter Jennings. A 16-bit music video for the song was released five months later. Also in February, details were announced of another co-headlining tour, this time with Slipknot. The tour was scheduled to begin on June 9 in Salt Lake City and consist of thirty-four dates in Amphitheatres throughout North America, with support from Of Mice & Men. However, the first twelve dates of the tour were postponed after a physical examination revealed that Corey Taylor had broken two vertebrae in his neck. The tour began on June 28 in Nashville, Tennessee, with the postponed shows rescheduled for August. Marilyn Manson are also confirmed to play at both the Mexican and Japanese dates of Slipknot's festival Knotfest.
While touring with The Smashing Pumpkins, Manson indicated a "strong possibility" of working with Corgan on new material, and also revealed plans to collaborate with Korn frontman Jonathan Davis on a "Southern-sounding, acoustic" project. Manson announced in an interview with KEGL in November that work had begun on the band's tenth studio album, while also confirming that Twiggy, Bates and Sharone would all be involved in its recording. Antichrist Superstar was reissued on cassette exclusively in Europe as part of Record Store Day 2016. To celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the album's release, Manson indicated that a special edition of Antichrist Superstar would be issued on October 20, although this failed to materialize. Among its bonus content would have been a previously unreleased film, created during the "Dead to the World Tour".
On July 19, Manson announced that the band's tenth studio album had the working title SAY10, and predicted a release date of Valentine's Day 2017. In September, Manson confirmed that the band were "putting the finishing touches" on the album, and said: "It's not very much in any way like The Pale Emperor. It's pretty violent in its nature for some reason, and it's not emotional in the same way. It's got a chip on its shoulder. I can't wait for people to hear it. I think they're going to be quite surprised." On November 8 – the day of the 2016 US presidential election – Manson released a teaser clip of a new music video, which featured scenes of Manson brandishing a knife while standing over a decapitated corpse, which is dressed to resemble Donald Trump. The video was created alongside Final Girl director Tyler Shields.
Although the band's music has often been labeled as shock rock by mainstream media, Manson disputes the use of the label, preferring instead to identify their work as being primarily rooted in rock and roll. Over the course of their career, the band has produced music which has been ascribed to many genres, including industrial metal, industrial rock, industrial dance, post-industrial, alternative metal, progressive metal, hard rock, electronic music, glam rock, goth rock, death metal, blues rock and pop.
Before parting ways with the band in 1996, Daisy Berkowitz was their lead composer, either writing or co-writing the majority of their music alongside Gidget Gein. Until his departure in 2002, Twiggy was their chief musical contributor, co-writing many of the band's biggest hits with Manson during this period. Despite never receiving a writing credit, drummer Ginger Fish provided substantial pre-production assistance to both Manson and Twiggy while composing demos for Antichrist Superstar. His drums loops and sound effects would go on to be predominantly featured on several tracks, most notably "The Beautiful People". John 5 and Tim Sköld were also prevalent composers, with the latter composing every song on Eat Me, Drink Me; while The Pale Emperor was composed entirely by Tyler Bates.
All of the band's lyrics are written by Manson, whose songwriting style varies between albums. Utilizing aesthetics often found within spoken-word poetry, his writing employs various means of word play for comedic effect, such as puns and double entendres, and he makes frequent use of literary devices such as alliteration and symbolism. These witticisms often take the form of neologisms, delivered several at a time in rapid-fire succession. Lyrical content has emerged from a wide range of subjects, including love, sex and sexuality, sexual abuse, consumerism, politics, revenge, suicide, capitalism, violence and mortality, as well as the Bible and Greek mythology.
Manson predominantly delivers lyrics in a melodic fashion, although he invariably enhances his vocal register by utilizing several extended vocal techniques, such as vocal fry, screaming, growling and crooning. His voice can omit five different tones simultaneously, which mixing engineer Robert Carranza discovered can form a pentagram when imported into a phrasal analyzer. He possesses a baritone vocal type, and has a vocal range which can span more than four octaves. His lowest bass note of A1 can be heard in "Arma-goddamn-motherfuckin-geddon", while his highest note, an E6 – the first note of the whistle register – can be heard on the Born Villain song "Hey, Cruel World...".
The earliest incarnation of the band was conceived by Manson at a Fort Lauderdale nightclub called The Reunion Room in December 1989, where he was introduced to Big Black's Songs About Fucking by his future keyboardist, Stephen Bier. Daisy Berkowitz played in several punk rock outfits before co-founding the Spooky Kids, and was influenced by acts such as the New York Dolls and the Jim Carroll Band, whose "People Who Died" was covered regularly at live shows. Using a Yamaha RX-8 drum machine, they produced several demo tapes of experimental, beat-heavy compositions, similar to Steve Albini's work with Big Black. With the addition of a live drummer, the band gradually altered and developed their composing process, recording techniques and live performances.
As its only permanent member, Manson heads the direction of the band's sound, who has been influenced by the shock rock work of artists such as Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Arthur Brown, Alice Cooper, The Doors, Black Sabbath/Ozzy Osbourne and Iggy Pop. His biggest influence, however, was David Bowie, who he credited with "changing [his] life forever". The two have often been compared by mainstream media, particularly in relation to their ability to shift genre and style – replete with a new look and musical philosophy – with each studio release. For several years, Manson sang "Cat People (Putting Out Fire)" as a vocal warm up exercise before live performances; he later covered the song with outlaw country musician Shooter Jennings.
During their period at Nothing Records, the band's sound gathered sonic elements from other outfits on that label's roster, particularly Nine Inch Nails, with Reznor co-producing their first two studio albums. Manson has cited Queen as an influence on the band's more melodic work, while new wave and synthpop acts such as Depeche Mode and Gary Numan have been noted as influencing their electronic material. Manson said of the latter, "I was always into his apocalyptic fiction lyrics. He pioneered electronic dance music." The work of gothic rock acts such as The Cure and Bauhaus has also been cited, with Twiggy saying that "as far as guitar and bass combinations go", Bauhaus' Daniel Ash and David J were "a really big influence". Manson's other influences include Johnny Cash, Jimi Hendrix, N.W.A, Justin Timberlake, The Smashing Pumpkins, Led Zeppelin, the occult, horror comics, and the King James Bible.
Marilyn Manson have been credited with creating some of the most recognizable and visually defining music videos of the MTV Generation, with some commentators suggesting that their music videos played a significant role in the band's commercial success. Their work frequently incorporates surrealist iconography and purposefully grotesque imagery, and their style has been emulated by other performers. Joseph Schafer of Stereogum said in 2015 that "perhaps no single artist has mastered the music video as a medium so well [as Marilyn Manson]." They have received numerous awards and accolades for their work. Three of their videos – "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)", "The Beautiful People" and "The Dope Show" – received a total of five MTV Video Music Award nominations. The latter won the Award for Best Cinematography at the 1999 ceremony, and two awards at the 1998 Billboard Music Video Awards. "The Beautiful People" appeared at number fifty-four on MTV's list of the '100 Greatest Music Videos Ever Made', as well as at number one-hundred on MuchMusic's 100 Greatest Videos Ever. Their 2003 video for "(s)AINT" was referred to by NME as "one of the most explicit music videos ever made", and was included in lists of the 'Most Controversial Music Videos' by both Time and SF Weekly.
The band have received several Kerrang! Awards throughout their career, and were inducted into the Kerrang! Hall of Fame in 2000. Manson also received their Icon Award in 2005, as well as their Lifetime Achievement Award ten years later. The publication has ranked Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death) as the eleventh greatest rock album of the 2000s, and in 2015 they listed Manson as the twenty-eighth greatest rockstar in the world. VH1 included Marilyn Manson at seventy-eight on their list of the '100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock', and also included "The Beautiful People" at number eighty-six on their list of the 100 Greatest Hard Rock Songs. Similarly, Gigwise included Manson at number thirty-six in their list of the '60 Greatest Solo Artists of All Time'. In 2016, Manson was presented with an Icon Award at the Alternative Press Music Awards. The band has also received four Grammy Award nominations, including two for Best Metal Performance, along with nominations for Best Hard Rock Performance and Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance. Marilyn Manson have sold over 50 million records worldwide.
Several commentators have referred to the band's lead singer as being one of the most iconic and controversial figures in heavy metal music, with some going so far as to call him a "pop culture icon". Paste magazine said there were "few artists in the 90s as shocking as Marilyn Manson, the most famous of the shock-rockers." Rolling Stone editor Lorraine Ali credited Antichrist Superstar with marking the end of the reign of grunge within popular music, writing that Marilyn Manson "[offered] total escapism as a true alternative", elaborating that the album was "a volatile reaction to five years of earnest, post-Nirvana rock." In 2003, Jon Wiederhorn of MTV called Manson "the only major performer today who can justifiably call himself an artist." Graham Hartmann of Loudwire said that the band's best songs document "a career that is unlike any other that came before", highlighting their mix of a "rock 'n' roll mentality with profound lyrics narrating the progression of society in real time, Manson has developed a polarizing identity as both a beloved hero and a reviled villain."
Similarly, Hannah Ewers of The Guardian wrote in 2016 that the band's music has "never been more relevant [than] at this time of cultural and political turbulence. Whether [his lyrics are addressing] America's gun crime problem, sexual abuse, religious hypocrisy or consumerism, Manson remains a relevant cultural figure rather than a 90s one, because he continues to address the times without lapsing into a parody", and opined: "As long as young people are angry (which they are), he will have listeners." Such controversial material has invariably overshadowed the band's music, with Tim Grierson of About.com writing, "The downside to [the] provocative album covers and bizarre appearance was that the songs often took a backseat to his outrageous persona", but said that "in terms of continuing the rock 'n' roll tradition of offending authority, he was one of the art forms most memorable troublemakers."
The band has been noted as influencing numerous groups within metal-associated genres, such as American Head Charge, Avatar, Babymetal, Combichrist, Cradle of Filth, Ghost, Korn, Motionless in White, Murderdolls, Mushroomhead, New Years Day, September Mourning and Slipknot. Outside of heavy metal, both the band and its lead singer have inspired a diverse group of acts, including Avril Lavigne, Charli XCX, Die Antwoord, Eminem, Grimes, Lady Gaga, Lana Del Rey, Lil Uzi Vert, Lisa Marie Presley, Muse, My Chemical Romance, Mykki Blanco, Natalia Kills, Porcelain Black, Skrillex, Skylar Grey and Years & Years. Garbage vocalist Shirley Manson has called Manson an "amazing figure and provocateur and agitator" and said that he was "always challenging you to think about the church, to think about sexuality and to think about society in different ways. We just don't have singers like that anymore." Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins has commended Manson's manipulation of the culture of celebrity, saying: "He's very savvy, in that he lets people think things about him or plays into things to see what will happen, almost like a performance artist. He's a visionary in a way, because he identified a culture that was coming and now that culture is everywhere."
In December 1996, Senator Joe Lieberman, along with former Secretary of Education William Bennett and Secretary of Pennsylvania State C. DeLores Tucker, held a press conference wherein they questioned MCA – the owner of Interscope – president Edgar Bronfman Jr.'s ability to head the label competently whilst profiting from "profanity-laced" albums by artists such as Tupac Shakur, Snoop Doggy Dogg and Marilyn Manson. Earlier that year, Tucker called the band's EP Smells Like Children the "dirtiest, nastiest porno record directed at children that has ever hit the market." The following November, Representative Sam Brownback chaired a hearing of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs titled "Music Violence: How Does It Affect Our Children". At this subcommittee, Lieberman once again criticized the band's music, calling it "vile, hateful, nihilistic and damaging", and repeated his request that Seagram – then-owner of MCA – "start [...] disassociating itself from Marilyn Manson." The subcommittee also heard from Raymond Kuntz, of Burlington, North Dakota, who blamed his son Richard's suicide on Antichrist Superstar–specifically the song "The Reflecting God".
The band's live performances have also come under fire – the Dead to the World Tour, in particular, was followed by protesters at nearly every North American venue it visited. Utah passed legislation allowing state-operated venues to ban the group from performing, forcing the cancelation of their January 11, 1997 performance at Utah State Fairpark. This legislation was repealed six months later, when a group of nine fans successfully sued the state. Similarly, an April 10 concert at the state-owned Carolina Coliseum in Columbia, South Carolina was canceled after the South Carolina House of Representatives voted to ban Marilyn Manson from ever performing on state-owned property. This resulted in South Carolina being forced to pay the band's promoters $40,000 for loss of income. The city council of Richmond, Virginia ordered the cancelation of their May 10 concert at Richmond Coliseum. The American Civil Liberties Union sued the city on the band's behalf.
A July 22 concert at La Luna in Portland, Oregon was canceled following the venue's inability to obtain insurance for the event. Their concert at Calgary's Max Bell Arena three days later was also canceled, with the owner of the venue – Larry Ryckman – citing the band's reputation. He would later be successfully sued by the band's promoters for $66,000 in damages. The New Jersey date of Ozzfest at Giants Stadium was canceled by the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, who cited Marilyn Manson's performance as its reason. The event was only held after Ozzy Osbourne successfully sued the state, which compelled authorities to allow the concert. During this time, schools in Florida threatened to expel students who attended the band's concerts.
On June 30, 2003, the mutilated body of fourteen-year old schoolgirl Jodi Jones was discovered in woodland near her home in Easthouses, Scotland. The injuries sustained by Jones closely resembled those of actress Elizabeth Short, who was murdered in 1947 and was popularly referred to by media as the Black Dahlia. Jones' boyfriend, then-fifteen year old Luke Mitchell, was arrested on suspicion of her murder ten months later. During a search of his home, detectives confiscated a copy of The Golden Age of Grotesque containing the short film Doppelherz. It was purchased two days after Jones' death. A ten-minute excerpt from the film, as well as several paintings by Manson depicting the Black Dahlia's mutilated body, were presented as evidence during the trial. Although Mitchell's defense attorney argued that Jones' injuries were inconsistent with those found in Manson's paintings, Lord Nimmo Smith said during sentencing that he did "not feel able to ignore the fact that there was a degree of resemblance between the injuries inflicted on Jodi and those shown in the Marilyn Manson paintings of Elizabeth Short that we saw. I think that you carried an image of the paintings in your memory when you killed Jodi." Mitchell was found guilty of murder and sentenced to serve a minimum of twenty years in prison.
The band's scheduled appearance at the Park Live Festival in Moscow on June 27, 2014 was canceled moments before they were due to arrive on stage, after authorities received numerous bomb threats, while hundreds of activists affiliated with the Russian Orthodox Church protested outside the venue. The incident culminated in the assault of several members of the band and crew near their hotel. Two days later, a performance in Novosibirsk was also canceled when authorities refused to grant permission for the show to go ahead, accusing Manson of insulting the beliefs of the Orthodox church and of "promoting sadomasochism". Later that year, Manson garnered significant media attention when a video depicting the simulated rape of Lana Del Rey was posted onto YouTube by production company Sturmgruppe. The video, titled "Sturmgruppe 2013 Reel", showed simulated footage of film director Eli Roth attacking Del Rey, which was interspersed by unrelated images from two of the band's previous music videos — "No Reflection" and "Slo-Mo-Tion". Manson's representatives released a statement to Billboard denying any involvement in the production of the rape scenes.
On April 20, 1999, Columbine High School students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed twelve students and a teacher, and wounded twenty-one others before committing suicide. It remains the deadliest high school shooting in US history. In the days following the massacre, media reports surfaced alleging that they were influenced by violence in entertainment, specifically movies, video games and music. The pair were widely reported as being fans of German bands KMFDM and Rammstein, but the majority of blame was directed at Marilyn Manson.
Five days after the incident, William Bennett and Joseph Lieberman cited the band as a contributing factor to the massacre during an appearance on Meet the Press. Soon after, sensationalist headlines such as "Killers Worshipped Rock Freak Manson" and "Devil-Worshipping Maniac Told Kids To Kill" began appearing in mainstream media. The Mayor of Denver, Wellington Webb, successfully petitioned promoters to cancel KBPI-FM's annual 'Birthday Bash', at which the band was scheduled to appear. Coloradoan politicians such as Governor Bill Owens and Republican Representative Tom Tancredo accused Manson of promoting "hate, violence, death, suicide, drug use and the attitudes and actions of the Columbine High School killers," despite later reports that neither Harris or Klebold were fans. The band canceled the remaining four dates of the Rock Is Dead Tour out of respect for the victims, while steadfastly maintaining that music, movies, books or video games were not to blame.
Eleven days after the massacre, Manson wrote an op-ed piece for Rolling Stone, titled "Columbine: Whose Fault Is It?", where he rebuked the ensuing hysteria and "witch hunt", and castigated America's gun culture, the political influence of the National Rifle Association, and the media's culpability in similarly violent events in the future – through their irresponsible coverage – in facilitating the placement of blame on a scapegoat, instead of informing the populous of genuine societal issues.
The controversy connecting the band and school shootings continued on October 10, 2007, when 14-year-old SuccessTech Academy student Asa Coon shot four people before committing suicide. After being punched in the face by another student whilst exiting a bathroom, he shot his attacker – Michael Peek – in the abdomen. Armed with two Revolvers, he then proceeded down a hallway, where he wounded another student and two teachers by firing into two occupied classrooms, before entering a nearby bathroom and committing suicide. Coon was wearing a black Marilyn Manson T-shirt during the incident.
On May 18, 2009, 15-year-old Justin Doucet, a student at Larose Middle School in Lafourche Parish, Louisiana, entered the school armed with a .25-caliber Automatic Colt Pistol. When seventh-grade teacher Jessica Plaisance refused to comply with Doucet's demand to say "Hail Marilyn Manson", he fired two shots, narrowly missing her head, before turning the gun on himself. He died from his injuries a week later.
Studio albumsPortrait of an American Family (1994)
Antichrist Superstar (1996)
Mechanical Animals (1998)
Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death) (2000)
The Golden Age of Grotesque (2003)
Eat Me, Drink Me (2007)
The High End of Low (2009)
Born Villain (2012)
The Pale Emperor (2015)