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Antichrist Superstar era - 1996 to 1997

Marilyn Manson
"Each thing I show you is a piece of my death"
Marilyn Manson band
Ginger, Twiggy, Marilyn Manson, Zim Zum, Pogo

Antichrist Superstar album - 8 October 1996
Remix & Repent EP - November 1997

Dead To the World Tour October 1996 to September 1997.
Ozzfest June 1997. First overseas shows

USA/Canada - South America - Europe - UK (England, Scotland, Wales) - Japan - Australia - New Zealand - Mexico
Festivals: Ozzfest, Reading, various European ones

The keyword for this era is EPIC with the stage-sets and props arguably at their most impressive. The songs and mood are matched by a backdrop of church ruin, complete with stained-glass window depicting a female angel fighting satan, and framed by impaled angels. Pogo/Gacy has a church style pipe organ and Manson a podium to posture upon. There are costume changes, snow machines and bible ripping.

As provocative album titles go, Antichrist Superstar is amongst the best. You need a lot of nerve to make such a title work for you. From everything I've read about the dawn of this era, the band's very survival became threatened by their own behaviour, but they emerged triumphant.

The ACSS album - recorded in New Orleans - is created against a backdrop of sleep deprivation, substance abuse and self-abuse in general for all of the band. Manson is hospitalized through cocaine use but has time to think things over, ditch the drug excesses and 'choose life', as that film says.

Although every step along the way is a breakthrough in itself, the ACSS album, the single released from it ('The Beautiful People') and the tour of the same era, each of these things helps to put the band into the public eye as never before.

The Dead To the World title for the tour comes from the album track, 'Dried Up, Tied and Dead To The World.' I've become quite fond of the song's "...all dried up and tied up forever, all fucked up and dead to the world" refrain.

Of ACSS, Manson says:

We have combined Hebrew Kabalism, numerology, narcotics, and computer technology to create a musical ritual to bring about the apocalypse. Whether it is an armageddon of the subconscious or destruction of the world as we know it, is up to the listener to decide.

The lyrics and ideals expressed on this album are those of a character called Antichrist Superstar, who is portrayed by me and every other person in America. Those who fail to admit and realize this are the ones who will be afraid and offended. This is what you should fear, you are what you should fear.

A retrospective quote:

I think Antichrist Superstar accomplished everything I set out to have it do. It wasn't just about the album, it was also about the reaction to it and the way it made people think, whether or not they liked it or even listened to it. Everyone in America was talking about it and I think that was important to stimulate ideas. It got people arguing is this right, is this wrong? And that's what I wanted to do.

I learned how seriously people take religion in America. That's why it's so important that I did what I did with that record, because I learned that people really do have a long way to go when it comes to thinking about different ideas when it comes to God. Because people were willing to react with violence and the way that they treated me proved all my points.

We were trying to stand up for something that represented 'judge not and love thy neighbor,' and some people completely disregarded that. Usually the people that I'm criticizing, particularly in America where people lack a sense of irony, go on to prove the point. I don't dislike America. I just like to look at things and talk about things that most people are too afraid to talk about. There needs to be someone who comes along every few years and reminds people that they should evaluate what they believe in.

Close-up of Marilyn Manson onstage at Reading

Antichrist Superstar themes and influences

These are my haphazard prompt notes: Iconography, metamorphosis, dystopia, totalitarianism, religious mysticism.

Influences the band say they used: Narcotics, the Kabbalah, numerology, computer technology.

ACSS equals the 'scary', 'ugly' era, somewhat gothic - Anton LaVey - Church of Satan - the Antichrist - Bible - Christianity, fundamentalism. MM's look: blue contact lense - smeared, smudged lipstick - scanty feminised underwear kind of clothing.

Marilyn phones film maker Elias Merhige one night to ask for his help with a video. He tells him he mixed all of the Antichrist Superstar album whilst watching his 'Begotten' film on loop, playing it over and over. Merhige tells Manson, jokily, that he is unsure "that that's the healthiest thing for you to be doing."

In case you're wondering, the plot of Begotten (1991) is:

God disembowels himself with a straight razor. The spirit-like Mother Earth emerges, venturing into a bleak, barren landscape. Twitching and cowering, the Son Of Earth ('Flesh on Bone' or mankind) is set upon by faceless cannibals.

Probably a good match for Manson's mindset at the time though. Manson then sends Elias Merhige the Antichrist Superstar music and gives him complete creative freedom to make a music video. EM also makes an intermission film and does some stage design work for the ACSS tour. He describes that process as being 'a lot of fun'.

The video in question is Cryptorchid (appears on the 'God is in the TV' tape, and the Lest We Forget bonus DVD) but I don't know what the intermission film is, nor what parts of the ACSS stage set he created and influenced. Of the Cryptorchid video, EM said:

It is an amazing looking video and it's debatable, as a lot of people were blown away by it and it was pulled from MTV within, like, three days. It's a very powerful video, I think it's quite good. I really do. I mean, I'm not into music videos, but I like this one, because there is a story to it and there's a power to it and there's a sensual sort of accent to it. It's not just imagery.
Marilyn Manson and Twiggy Ramirez onstage

The ACSS era saw the beginning of many magazine photo-shoots for the band, and for Manson in particular.

Marilyn Manson's Church of Antichrist Superstar

Antichrist Superstar Timeline

1996
Pogo wins Best Keyboards award in the 1996 Circus Magazine Readers Poll.

April 1996 - the EP 'Smells Like Children' climbs from 115 on the Billboard chart to number 60. The extensive airplay given to the track, 'Sweet Dreams', plays a big part in this. Sales reach the 200,000 mark.

May 1996 - Guitarist Daisy Berkowitz quits the band. He is replaced by Mike Linton/'Zim Zum', who originally blew in from the windy city, Chicago. Zim, and about 150 other guitarists, answered an advert in the Village Voice.

Zim Zum's stagename derives from the Kabbala, an ancient Hebrew mystical work.

July 1996 - out comes a single: 'Sweet Dreams Are Made of This'. Sorry Marilyn but the Eurythmics version will always be the definitive one for me. But yours is fine.

August? 1996 - The Edge in Fort Lauderdale hosts the fifth annual Slammie Awards show. Ironically, one of the invited presenters for the night is Scott Mitchell Putesky (Daisy Berkowitz), who recently left Marilyn Manson.

Marilyn Manson win three awards:
  • Vocalist
  • National Release (for Smells Like Children EP)
  • Single (for Sweet Dreams)
For the second year running, however, the band are not there to collect their prizes. The audience consequently boos and jeers every mention of their name during the prize giving. The second irony of the night is that this is the same behaviour Manson encouraged at the 1993 Slammies when Saigon Kick were not there to accept their award. You have to chuckle.

5 September 1996 - the 'Nothing Night' showcase in New York City (Roseland, Irving Plaza?) is Zim Zum's first live show. Ginger is hit - in the ribs, head? - by a microphone stand, one of the many flying objects during the Mansons' set, and he ends up in hospital overnight.

Trent Reznor - a little upset at Manson - makes a definite point of thanking all of the other groups there except MM. Marilyn had been a naughty boy after all. But didn't Trent used to do those things too?

3 October 1996 - Headlining tour begins in USA ('New York Loose' as support band, at first at least), leading to South America and Europe, right into 1997.

8 October 1996 - The Antichrist Superstar album is released and debuts at number 3 on Billboard's chart, just as Manson had predicted.

1997
January 1997 - Manson makes the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.

1997 March? - New guitarist Zim Zum makes his video debut in the video for the first single from ACSS, The Beautiful People.

Friday 5 September 1997 - MM shows off his bare bum to millions watching MTV's Video Music Awards Show.

October 1997 - 30th and 31st. Genuine MM fans are shocked by people who turn up at the band's Hallowe'en concerts, hoping to see Manson - and perhaps the whole band - commit suicide onstage. The rumour of this came about when some of his remarks were misunderstood.

November 1997 - A Senate panel hearing discuss the effects of today's music on American youth. The father of a 15-year-old who killed himself said he felt MM's music contributed to his son's suicide. Manson's Antichrist Superstar was reportedly playing in the portable CD player the boy was wearing when he was found.

Other speakers at the hearing (which included senators and medical experts) were concerned about possible links between expressive lyrics and violence. Manson's response?

Obviously it upset me that someone would think I would encourage that type of behavior. I've always said that people who would harm themselves or others over music or film or books, they're just being ignorant .... It's a wake-up call for parents to teach their kids to be more intelligent, to interpret art with some sort of intelligence. If you want to blame music for someone hurting themselves, then you can just as easily blame Shakespeare writing Romeo and Juliet ... I think the key lesson is that parents don't understand their kids. If you take more time to talk to your kids, your kids are going to live happier lives.

18? November 1997 - Remix and Repent EP released.

"When all of your wishes are granted, many of your dreams will be destroyed"

Mechanical Animals era, 1998 to 1999»