“People don’t keep journals for themselves,” Marilyn Manson wrote in his engrossing 1998 biography The Long Hard Road Out of Hell. “They keep them for other people, like a secret they don’t want to tell but they want everyone to know.”
But Manson, one of hard rock’s most provocative button-pushers, has never shied away from his own dark truths – even as he has skillfully blurred the line between debauchery, performance art and cultural critique. The recording sessions for Antichrist Superstar, his eponymous band’s breakout, platinum-selling second LP, have become the stuff of twisted legend.
Working in New Orleans with co-producer Trent Reznor, Manson and company spiraled into excessive drug use, in-fighting (leading to he eventual departure of co-founding guitarist Daisy Berkowitz) and general mania. Meanwhile, the frontman found himself on the verge of mental collapse. “I experimented with different prescription drugs – morphine sulfate, Percocets, Lorcets,” he wrote in the bio, “and shoved sewing needles underneath my fingernails to test my pain threshold because my emotional one had already been crossed.”
To mark the album’s 20th anniversary, here are 10 of the wildest stories surrounding Antichrist Superstar.
1. The band destroyed a lot of instruments and recording equipment during the sessions – from microwaving 4-track recorders to throwing their first drum machine out a second-story window.
One of the most destructive studio moments involved Reznor smashing Daisy’s prized, refinished Fender Jaguar electric guitar, which he’d salvaged from the scrap pile of their “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” video shoot.
“He walked into the live room, excited to find Trent seated there,” Manson wrote in The Long Hard Road Out of Hell. “The rest of us hung out by the mixing console, monitoring the live room through two closed-circuit television cameras. On screen, we could see Daisy excitedly showing off his refurbished guitar to Trent, who actually seemed interested. We watched as Trent reached for the guitar, crooked it under his arm, strummed the strings a few times and then mercilessly smashed it over the amplifier, consigning it to the fate that was meant for it half a year ago. Trent casually left the room, and Daisy stood there aghast for several seconds before storming out of the studio, giving himself the rest of the day off to try and comprehend what had just happened.”
2. Beyond copious amounts of drugs, the band experimented with mind-altering techniques like sleep deprivation and pain rituals.
“I started writing down dreams that I’ve been having over the past five years, and it inspired me so much that I wanted to really open up my subconscious,” Manson told MTV’s Headbangers Ball. “We started experimenting with different things to tap into parts of your mind that you normally wouldn’t get at, like sleep deprivation and these pain rituals and of course, the illegal things like drugs and stuff like that.”
“Masturbation, hardcore pornography and sleep deprivation changed my life,” Manson enthused to Kerrang! “The first time I stayed up for four days straight on crystal meth, we started to put down the music to ‘Antichrist Superstar.'”
Manson circa 1996 Mick Hutson/Getty
3. As their drug usage spiraled out of control, Manson and company also became addicted to acts of public decadence. The most absurd involved a very creative usage of a paper-towel tube.
“It was [a decadent lifestyle],” he told Spin. “I think [Trent Reznor] felt unable to deal with it, and it crumbled our relationship. I would go to bed at 7 a.m., wake up at 4 p.m. and then begin drinking and doing drugs. The funniest point – which is something I just watched a videotape of – was a day when I wore only a blond wig, a Burger King crown and a paper towel tube around my penis. I walked around like that in broad daylight. To me, that’s true rock & roll, and I’m not afraid to go there again.”
4. Nobody expects Marilyn Manson fans to throw roses onstage. But even the band must have been shocked by the bizarre audience “gifts” – like scorpions – tossed around during the Antichrist “Dead to the World” tour.
“Tonight’s crowd is wild, ripping the entire front row of seats out of the theater and actually nailing Twiggy in the arm with a large piece of upholstery,” wrote Rolling Stone‘s Neil Strauss, documenting the carnage. “One beefy kid in the front row keeps trying to challenge Manson to a fight. When someone throws a cigarette onstage, Manson jumps back with a start. After the show, Manson confesses that he thought the cigarette was an M-80 firework. At an earlier show, someone threw a scorpion onstage. Scorpions are one of the few things in God’s world that Manson is scared of.”
5. Manson claims that, at the height of the band’s drug mania, Smashing Pumpkins mastermind Billy Corgan accidentally snorted sea monkeys.
“They’re, like, little fleas that live in the sea,” Manson explained to Select, detailing the bizarre intoxicant. “You can take them out of water and dry them out into a white powder. You can leave them for years – but when they come in contact with moisture, they come alive again. Billy thought it was coke, and he snorted it. He’s gonna have little fleas living in his sinuses for two years. He’s pissing out little prawns!”
In The Long Hard Road, Manson wrote about convincing “some skaggy whore in her forties” and “some goofy tan girl with braces” to sample the stuff. “We let them stay [on our tour bus] and managed to convince them to snort a packet of sea monkey powder. Strangely enough, it was white and came with a small spoon, not unlike cocaine,” he wrote. “I didn’t even have to use false pretenses to persuade them to do this. I actually read them the training manual, explaining that these small creatures are actually brine shrimp and that they will go on to grow inside their bodies for a year. I told them that nothing could be more exciting than having these small creatures flowing through their bloodstream – not to mention the unknown high that might await them.”
6. During the group’s performance of visceral hit single “The Beautiful People” at the 1997 VMAs, Manson compared Christianity to fascism.
Dressed in a revealing black outfit, Manson strode onstage behind a marching band and took his spot at a podium emblazoned with “Antichrist Superstar.” Flanked by a pair of fake Secret Service agents, he delivered a rattling, anti-Christian address.
“My fellow Americans, we will no longer be oppressed by the fascism of Christianity!” he intoned. “And we will no longer be oppressed by the fascism of beauty. As I see you all sittin’ out there trying your hardest not to be ugly, trying your hardest not to fit in, trying your hardest to earn your way into Heaven, but let me ask you: Do you want to be in a place that’s filled with a bunch of assholes?”
7. Antichrist was inspired, in part, by Manson’s disturbing “dreams and visions of of the world being destroyed and [him] being the only one left.”
“It was like an ultimate retribution for all of the things that have happened to me growing up,” the singer told Rolling Stone. “One dream took place some time in the future – it may have even been in Fort Lauderdale. Entertainment had gone to such an extreme that they had taken people and made them into zombies almost just for entertainment’s sake. And I had this strange vision of these women who were completely brain dead – there were just dancing in cages, and their jaws were wired shut so that they wouldn’t bite off the dicks of all these guys that were around them masturbating. It was a complete Sodom and Gomorrah. And then somehow I was there and I was like either presenting the whole event or performing in it or something. That was probably the first appearance of what will be Antichrist Superstar rearing its ugly head.”
8. In March 1997, midway through the tour, Manson attended the premiere of Howard Stern’s Private Parts, which featured Antichrist leftover “The Suck for Your Solution.” The singer met numerous celebrities at the event – from Conan O’Brien to Flavor Flav – and the encounters were mindblowing, at least to read about.
Manson, accompanied by emerging singer-songwriter Fiona Apple, was immediately confused by the red carpet and frustrated by having to “schmooze with a bunch of assholes.” After bolting upstairs, he and bandmate Twiggy Ramirez bumped into Flavor Flav. “We high-fives and we danced around,” Manson wrote The Long Hard Road. “I couldn’t see his eyes, but if I could have he probably would have been giving me the wink that people who use drugs give to one another, whether it’s for real or it’s in your mind.”
He also wound up having awkward exchanges with Conan O’Brien (“He just smiled with that weird creepy baby head of his”) and Tom Arnold (“who was all sweaty and anxious and racy and basically looked like he was on speed of some sort”) and offered some muscle relaxants to friend Billy Corgan, with whom he playfully decided to create a band/”fruit-filled experience called Fruity.”
9. Manson has always been known for Caligula-esque backstage decadence. But one drug-assisted bathroom romp during the Antichrist recording sessions made him question the deeper root of his dirty deeds.
As he documents in The Long Hard Road, Manson and then-girlfriend Missi went out one night to New Orleans bar the Hideout, where the musician encountered a flirtatious woman – a fling from the previous summer – whom he likened to a “Liberace disco ball.” After he drunkenly ventured into the bathroom, the girl squeezed in through the door and awkwardly showed him her clitoris ring.
“I didn’t know if I was supposed to lick her, finger her or fuck her,” Manson admitted. The woman produced a small sandwich bag filled with cocaine and crushed out a line on the toilet tank lid. They took the drugs and began kissing. “My pants were half off, and she pulled on my flaccid cock. I wasn’t thinking about getting caught anymore: All I could think about was urine. I seemed to have inhaled some, because it was all I could smell, and I still had to pee.”
He continued: “I thrust my hand down her pants and violently yanked the ring on the hood of her clitoris, making her yell in pain, surprise or delight. Then I thrust my thumb inside her, bending my middle finger around her and ramming it up her asshole. ‘Why am I doing this?’ I thought to myself. I wasn’t trying to turn her or myself on. I was just trying to be dirty. The situation seemed to call for it. I could have just as easily stuck my hand in a garbage can and accomplished the same thing.”
When he left the bathroom, Missi had already left.
10. A rumor circulated prior to Manson’s Halloween 1996 show that the singer would commit suicide onstage that night.
“I realize, and I can see/That suicide is painless,” Manson once sang, covering the classic MASH theme. But the king of Nineties shock rock stopped short of taking that gruesome step when he performed at the Convention Center in Asbury Park, New Jersey, on Halloween 1996. Ironically, the show was frightening before the band even took the stage: As MTV reported, the venue received a fake bomb threat, which prompted police to utilize bomb-sniffing dogs before fans could file in.
Manson addressed the suicide rumors in the tour-diary section of The Long Hard Road. “I’ve died so much in the past year,” he wrote, “I don’t think there’s much left to kill.”