“I don’t mean to be nosey,” says David Letterman during an interview with Marilyn Manson, nonplussed by the vampirish figure seated before him, “but do you have chrome teeth?”
Marilyn Manson, a stage name combining Marilyn Monroe with serial killer Charles Manson, is Brian Warner from Canton, Ohio. In 1989, Warner was a rock journalist. He wrote poetry and lived in Florida. He formed a band called Marilyn Manson and the Spooky Kids. They recorded The Manson Family Album, which was not well received by fans of the Spooky Kids’ high-wattage theatrical performances. After an overhaul supervised by Trent Reznor, the CD was rereleased as Portrait of an American Family, and by 1994 the Spooky Kids had shortened their name to Marilyn Manson and were selling in the platinum figures. The band’s success seemed to grow in direct proportion to their increasing public image as a collective of dark and controversial degenerates.
Theories circulated that Marilyn Manson’s music may have influenced Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, otherwise known as the Columbine shooters; Congress once studied the possible impact on youth culture of Manson’s lyrics. But ask Manson about this (Michael Moore interviews him in Bowling for Columbine), and he comes off as just another social critic. “Sex, sex, sex!” Manson screams in one song — “And don’t forget the violence!” MTV once called Manson “the only true artist” and compared him to other shock rockers like Alice Cooper. But the MTV argument was that, unlike Cooper, Manson never breaks character and, if you set aside his brilliant songwriting and the androgynous Goth look, that Brian Warner has truly crossed over to some dark side for the sake of his art. This rhetoric may be misguided, but still, I have to wonder what it’s like to be Marilyn Manson.
MARILYN MANSON, House of Blues, Monday, February 25, 7 p.m. 619-299-2583. $60.