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The Innovators: Marilyn Manson

There seems to be a resurgence in makeup-wearing, performance-based rock bands of late. Do you see this as a compliment?
I’m not a big fan of the whole “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” thing. It’s people who mistake empowerment for entitlement. It’s beyond the obviousness of these people that think they’re nihilists or punk rock or whatever. They’re either manufactured or very naïve. And what’s worse is when they get drunk on their own popularity–that’s when they’re recognizable as just a dummy, a puppet for the record company. For me, art is more important than the artist unless they’re one and the same.

Is there anything from your career that you regret?
Without being completely snide or bitter, it’s allowing a relationship to almost affect the way I create. [With] my previous relationship, which everyone knows from the red carpet event and the ass that probably shouldn’t have been shown at that particular time, I started to doubt what I was doing. The record from that period, Mechanical Animals, was about what I thought everyone wanted me to be and how that was making me feel. There was a character that was either living or I decided to live out — I don’t know which came first. I acted like I looked. I see my whole life as some sort of gigantic ridiculous opera, but it really needs an operation.

What’s been the most consistently misunderstood aspect of your career?

That I’m a musician! A musician is something I’ve learned to be. People like the aesthetic of Marilyn Manson because they see themselves. I do and say what everyone wants to do and say. I can’t stop doing things — films, painting, cutting and pasting on my website. I have to beat the shit out of the world we live in so there’s a nice place for it to land.

Interview by Andy Greenwald