The Relationship of Marilyn Manson and Evan Rachel Wood (Part 4: Marilyn Manson's Theatrics in Promoting the Release of "The High End of Low")

Manson as director, actor, producer and viewer, holding the clapperboard around his face with bloody hands. "...cut, cut, cut, cut..."
 
"It's one big movie. There's parts of it that are stupid and boring, there's parts of it that are exciting, pornographic and violent, there are parts of it that are dramatic and heartwarming, there's all of that. It's just a movie, and that's the only way I can deal with it." 
 
- Marilyn Manson (Suicide Girls interview, 2009)

When The High End of Low was released on May 20, 2009 Marilyn Manson was promoting the album by talking about how his breakup with Evan Rachel Wood led to a major low point in his life. He talked about spending his Christmas in 2008 all alone, calling Evan 158 times, and for each call scarring his face and his hands. Then between January 2-5 Manson got together with his band to record the album, at which time he described his life as being "the high end of low", hence the title of the album. But as I mentioned in my last post, Manson was using theatrical dramatics to promote the album which have little to do with reality.

For example, the real origin of the title of the album comes from Akira Kurosawa's Tengoku to Jigoku – or as it is titled in English High and Low, though the literal translation is "Heaven and Hell", and all of these influences can be seen in the title cover lettering of the two which are remarkably similar, as well as the cover art of the album which depicts Manson staring up at blue and red neon lights that represent Heaven and Hell, and these are themes throughout the album as well. There are also parallels between the theme of the movie and the theme of the album.




There is another parallel between The High End of Low and David Bowie's 11th studio album titled Low, released in 1977. Bowie has inspired Manson's work more than any other artist, so it should not be hard to believe that the album that talks about Bowie's major low point and his transformation would be used as inspiration for Manson's similar theme. When Bowie made this album, it was also around the same time he and Iggy Pop released The Idiot, which is also an album that heavily influenced Manson, in what is known as Bowie's and Pop's Berlin period when the Berlin Trilogy was released. It was the city where the two artists kicked their drug habits and created new art.


In the summer of 1974, David Bowie developed a cocaine addiction. Over the next two years, his addiction increasingly worsened, affecting both his physical and mental state. He recorded both Young Americans and Station to Station, as well as filmed The Man Who Fell to Earth, while under the influence of the drug. Bowie decided he was ready to free himself of the drug culture of Los Angeles and move back to Europe. While on tour in Europe, Bowie became a controversial figure during the tour, as he made comments while in his persona the Thin White Duke, in which he made statements about Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany that some interpreted as expressing sympathy for or even promoting fascism. He later blamed his erratic behavior during this period on his addictions and precarious mental state. He later explained: "It was a dangerous period for me. I was at the end of my tether physically and emotionally and had serious doubts about my sanity." After the demise of the Stooges, Iggy Pop also descended into drug addiction. By 1976, he was ready to get sober and accepted Bowie's invitation to accompany him on the Isolar tour, and thereafter move to Europe with him. Bowie and Pop recorded what would become Pop's debut solo album The Idiot at the studio known as the Château in Berlin in June 1976 and through August. Low was recorded after this, thus marking Bowie's acclaimed Berlin period.
 
It is worth noting that after Bowie's "Berlin Trilogy", he released the album Scary Monsters in 1980, which contains the song "Ashes to Ashes". The following lyrics express well the high-low duality of Manson's The High End of Low: 
 
"Ashes to ashes, funk to funky, 
We know Major Tom's a junkie
Strung out in heaven's high
Hitting an all-time low."


As another film reference, the red/blue duality in the era's imagery is reminiscent of the poster for the French 2007 film Inside (À l'Intérieur) with Béatrice Dalle (who is in another Manson favorite Trouble Every Day) which Manson quoted as his favorite movie of the moment in an interview of that time with director Gaspar Noé. The same director made the film Irreversible, which is a hyper-revenge thriller, another recurring theme in Manson's album and in its promotion, and this film was cited in 2004 as a Manson favorite.

The reason I emphasize the parallels above is to drive home the point that Manson was drawing on these influences while recording the album and promoting it in his interviews. These images that he created, which became his own semi-fictional yet semi-autobiographical story, were often confused with reality, and exploited by future Manson accusers.


Manson's messy bedroom, with projectors and film equipment everywhere, and the album's lyrics on the walls, here photographed by Delaney Bishop.

Revelations From the May 2009 Kerrang! Interview

A case in point is an interview Manson gave for Kerrang! that was published on May 23, 2009. We read in this interview, like in so many interviews, the interviewer describing the weirdness and strangeness of walking into Manson's Hollywood home, as if he was Jonathan Harker entering Dracula's castle. The interviewer first describes how he could hear The High End of Low playing in the background, and Manson asking if he could leave it on:
 
“Do you mind if I leave it on?” comes a voice from the candlelit gloom. “Otherwise I can hear the rest of the voices in my head.”
 
Manson is here using theatrics, knowing that the interviewer would report every detail of his experience. This is a method of theatrics he learned personally from Anton LaVey, a theatrical character himself, which can be read in Manson's autobiography The Long Hard Road Out of Hell, where Manson uses most of a chapter just describing his experience of walking into and around his house. In this and many other interviews, Manson is simply using theatrics to create an atmosphere of how he wants to be portrayed.

In one part of the interview, Manson's cat Lily shows a friendly side to the interviewer when they walk into his messy bedroom, which prompts Manson to comment:
 
“She’s kind of pissed off,” he shrugs. “She’s mad because I’ve ignored her for the last couple of days in the pursuit of other women.”

Then the interviewer comments:

"It's evidence of other girls that can be found in Manson’s bedroom. Next to a bed that may, on closer inspection, actually be just a mattress on the floor, is a bedside table. On top of that, draped over a small lamp, a pair of dirty white knickers lurk."
 
This is further theatrics, since Manson was in a relationship during this time with Stoya. Manson further comments: 
 
“It looks like a serial killer lives here.”

The interviewer elaborates:

"Hanging from the doorway is a large plastic sheet; the sort in which you might bury a corpse. 'It is very conspicuously something you wrap bodies in,' he agrees. 'When I bring people back here who I don’t know I have to say, Honestly, I’m not going to bury you in the back yard. I swear I’m not going to kill you.”
 
Manson commented also on all the writing on his wall:

“The first thing I wrote was ‘Now I really ♥ [heart] you’,” he explains, presumably in reference to Wood. “That was on a day where I thought things were good. Then, suddenly, things went bad. So I tried to correct it to ‘Now I really have to kill you’.”

This is Manson's way of promoting his album as a story of vengeance. Then Manson goes into how he spent three months alone after his breakup with Evan:
 
“I spent Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve and then my birthday entirely alone, except for [his cat] Lily,” he says. “Everyone was calling me because it was the holidays. But I didn’t even speak to my parents. 
 
“It became a real period that I felt I had to go through – like something in the Bible when they go out into the wilderness and fast. So I started writing to address what I was going through at the time. That was mostly my relationship. I don’t think it helped!” he laughs. “It’s not like any of this is really a good thing…” 
 
There were moments he would stop and look around, moments of clarity in which he’d wonder what the fuck he was doing. When, after his third month of seclusion he ventured back outside and invited back friends and girls – for, it seems, Manson was horny after his isolation, given how much he talks about luring women here – he discovered a mixed reaction. 
 
“My bandmates were a little nervous,” he says. “People aren’t very comfortable coming to my house – except girls that I don’t know. That’s amusing to me. If you brought a girl here and said, ‘Hey do you want to sit down and watch a movie?’ Then I think it’s pretty brave if they do. At the very least [this rooms makes it] look like I have issues. 
 
“Maybe I’m a damage magnet. I attract damaged girls because I’m a damaged person. Those are my people. I must have a charm that’s not unlike Hannibal Lector’s. 
 
“It’s interesting that it’s actually quite difficult to discourage people from hanging out with me. The way I compliment a girl now is by saying, ‘I want to throw knives at your vagina’. They go ‘Oh, you’re so cute, you’re so charming’. I say, ‘No, I’d like to set you on fire and snort your ashes’. ‘Oh, Manson!’ they reply. 
 
“Maybe it’s because I’ve allowed my eyebrows to grow back. I think it makes me more cuddly, likeable and loveable. It means I can get away with saying the things I say more!”
 
First, we know that Manson did not spend those three months alone. As mentioned in the last post, Manson was seen and photographed with Isani Griffith in early December in Florida. Also, Manson is playing up the creepy vibe of his messy house and he mocks the type of women that are attracted to him, revealing his sense of humor with his tactics of trying to scare them off in a Beauty and the Beast type of way, but they just stick with him because they know through his vibe that he is just projecting his media and artistic persona. Further on Manson talks about relationships and what The High End of Low is really about, with the interviewer bringing out more of the real Marilyn Manson this time: 
 
He throws himself into relationships wholeheartedly, saying he’s never been able to be “frivolous” about them. He’s aware, though, “it’s such a big undertaking for me to be me so I understand it’s hard for someone else to be around me.” 
 
And what he requires is a lot of validation. Von Teese suggested that part of the reason he spent increasing amounts of time with Wood towards the end of their marriage was that he felt the actress offered him more support. It’s not something he’s ever much denied. 
 
“The biggest problem in my life is that everyone assumes I’m so used to being told ‘You’re great’ that a lot of the time people go out of their way not to say it,” he says. “That can be damaging to your self-esteem. When the person you live with or are in love with is afraid to tell you what they think everyone tells you, then it’s a big problem.” 
 
He’s been striving to become more normal of late. “I try not to demand. I try to show an enormous amount of care and love. I don’t expect anything in return,” he says. “Friendship should be about sacrifice. When you offer yourself you should do it with no expectations in return. 
 
“I haven’t always been the best at doing that and I’ve tried to learn from my mistakes. What I try to do most is to fulfil my promises and obligations now. I want people to be able to believe me when I promise something because I’ve been so unable to have that from my end.” 
 
It’s just part of the rebuilding process over the last year. It’s what The High End Of Low is all about.

'Lucifer', 1999 watercolor by Marilyn Manson

Lucifer Is Back - But Did He Ever Go Away?

This interview with Kerrang! as well as other interviews from this time, including the infamous interview with Spin which we talked about in the previous post, shows Manson promoting an album that connects his current self at that time with his previous outsider and misunderstood and strange self, which went through a period of relationships that almost destroyed who he was, but now has emerged from the ashes. This is a common theme in Manson albums going back to Antichrist Superstar. Manson admits it in this Kerrang! interview when he says:

“I’ve made records in the past about transformation but this was so much more of a dramatic change for me that I wanted to tell other people.”

Manson in The High End of Low has identified himself again with the Lucifer character from Antichrist Superstar. Lucifer is one who gains his wings and loses his wings, and it seems that this is the most common theme of pretty much all of Manson's albums. In the Kerrang! interview he also admitted this:

"When you give up the wings that had come to define you in order to fit in and become loved by someone, then you ultimately stop being who you are and you lose everything. Ultimately, that's what I was going through in my life."

It was repeated in his Suicide Girls interview:

"The record is ultimately about somebody who is falling from grace, [...] and then you want to fit back in and you feel like, maybe I should give up my wings. Maybe I should give up who I am and then I'll fit in. And then you find yourself completely unlovable. You're worthless above and below and that's where I was in the record towards the end of the record."



 
The Lucifer that Manson identifies himself with is specifically that of John Milton and Dante, as he has often said, and we see this same type of Lucifer in the movie Cape Fear. Cape Fear is about the concept of one man’s loss as retribution for perceived wrong doings. Max Cady is the character who is seeking vengeance in the film, and at one point says to the lawyer from whom he seeks vengeance "you’re gonna learn about loss". This line is directly adopted by Manson for the last song on The High End of Low, where he sings on the track titled "15":

"Not letting you win won't satisfy me. I'll teach you about loss."


The High End of Low, portrayed as a film reel

Marilyn Manson's Cinematic Universe

While every Manson album has at least partially been influenced by cinema (largely in the samples used and references evoked), never has this been so prevalent as within The High End of Low.

The cinematic quality to the album has been mentioned both directly by Manson himself, as well as being at the forefront of much of the album artwork (in which Manson is shown in a series of celluloid cells) of the CD itself (which is designed like a film reel) and in the lyrical content. It is quite heavily referenced in the track "I Want to Kill You Like They Do in the Movies":

"Line up
Roll camera
You pretend
I'll pretend and 
Cut, cut, cut, cut"

"I'm a strip strip strip and
I flicker flick flick flick
A flicker of celluloid"

"I was only acting, baby
Only acting, baby
You were only acting, baby
Overacting, baby"

"I want to kill you like they do in the movies
But don't worry there's another one just like you, standing in line"
 
"I wanna fuck you like a foreign film
and there's no subtitles to get you through this"
 
"You're just what I projected"
 
"I hear the afterlife is poorly scored"

In an interview with The Daily Mirror to promote the album, Manson said:
    
"Everything is acting. The new record is very centered around movies. I say on it, 'I want to kill you like they do in the movies'. Am I directing, acting or watching? Who cares. The point is that life for me is not going to be the way it is for" everyone else. I have a fog machine and movie lights in my bedroom."

The same year in an interview for the Suicide Girls, Manson said:

"You think the record's honest, I think the record could just as easily be looked at as a lie... because it's so focused where my head was on cinema. It's partly the fact that I almost gave up music and tried to focus all my energy on making a film. I tend to surround myself with, my friends are either actors or directors, or people involved in that, and it becomes a question, am I acting on the record? Am I directing? And if I'm acting, it's so method acting you can't even understand which person is real -- the character or the actor? It really becomes confusing. I don't even try and question it."

Consider also his companion piece to The Golden Age of Grotesque, the short film Doppelherz, wherein Manson makes a poignant metaphor about the parallel between his life and cinema.
 
"As you are listening, I want you to know that you are nothing but a screen that I project my images of suffering, sorrow, pain, sex and the brief glimmer of happiness I find in the misery of those who are sitting in the theater of which this screen exists."

Further references to celluloid may be found in the opening lyrics of Into the Fire...

"This is the film
 Close to the third act"

The opener during the 2009 High End of Low tour was the alternate take of "Four Rusted Horses" that was appropriately named "Four Rusted Horses (Opening Titles Version)".

In the infamous Spin interview from June 2009, Manson remarks:

"But that damage is part of it, and the song 'I Want to Kill You Like They Do in The Movies' is about my fantasies. I have fantasies every day about smashing her skull in with a sledgehammer."

What is Manson talking about when he says "like they do in the movies"? In the 2007 film The Life Before Her Eyes, Diana (Evan Rachel Wood) becomes the unfortunate casualty of a school shooting.


Screenshots of a dead Evan Rachel Wood in the 2007 film The Life Before Her Eyes

In the June 2009 interview with RockOne, Manson talks about the video for the song:

"Concerning the video for 'I Want To Kill You...', I filmed it with a British actress and I also directed something brutal, and which will probably never be released for legal reasons with my ex girlfriend Evan Rachel Wood. For the time being I'm still sure of nothing. It's a violent portrait I made in only one shot. The spectator will have to decide by himself, after seeing it, of the way he's feeling the thing. I watched it and it's very disturbing as it represents an 'emotional insight' of our relationship. My house became a sort of perpetual shooting and I'm very happy of all I've been able to capture."

This is a particularly interesting insight into a brutal film Manson directed with Evan Rachel Wood that has never been released for legal reasons, and it possibly may be associated with the shot of Evan depicted in the "WOW" video where she appears like the Black Dahlia.


Performance of "The Dope Show" on the 2007 - 2008 Rape of the World tour with Manson surrounded by filming equipment to show the cinematic aspect of the performance.

Concluding remarks:

Manson begins The High End of Low by singing, "And I'll love you, if you let me", but this becomes a foreign entity to Manson later, who finishes the album with "I'll teach you about loss”. Marilyn Manson and Evan Rachel Wood met at a time when Manson had come to a point where he no longer wanted to make music, but instead focus on a film career, and he approached Evan with the opportunity to star in his Phantasmagoria film. This was his primary focus at the time. What ended up happening was Manson making a film with Evan as the main character, but because they weren't together in a relationship anymore he made it through an album. Therefore not just the album but everything dealing with the promotion of the album as well as the tour for the album became a part of this movie. It is a movie about love and loss and revenge and transformation. This is how everything from this time should be interpreted. Those who interpret it literally or any other way won't understand what this movie is all about. Those who use this movie to destroy the character of Marilyn Manson, as if it depicts who he really is, are seriously misled.