All Writing & Content © Nick Kushner Unless Noted Otherwise
The seventh track from The High End of Low, entitled "Running to the Edge of the World", contains a lyric which first arose publicly during the lead up to the abandoned "Celebritarian" era. This "Circle 7" t-shirt reads, "Do not seek death, seek destruction"; a line which would later find itself employed for the album:
"I don't seek death, I seek destruction
Until death we seek destruction
We don’t seek death, we seek destruction
Until death we seek destruction"
Similarly, the lyric "United as one against all others" is a notable parallel to what is said by Manson and Evan in the Heart Shaped Glasses video before plummeting their vehicle off the side of the cliff.
The title of the song itself may be a reference to the 1937 film, "The Edge of the World"
The twelfth track off of The High End of Low -- "We're From America" -- opens with the lyrics "We’re from America/We’re from America/Where we eat our young.” Apart from the analogy’s damning condemnation of the way children are reared, exploited and ultimately destroyed, it is also a reference to a piece of artwork by Franciso de Goya entitled “Saturn Devouring His Children”. The painting itself can be seen during the final scene of The Nobodies video. The painting and Manson’s usage of it are largely tied to a series of alchemical concepts which played an integral role throughout Holy Wood, and the perpetual evolution of Marilyn Manson.
|Peter Paul Rubens' "Saturn Devouring One of His Children" and Francisco Goya's "Saturn Devouring His Son"|
For more on the subject, see the Saturn Devouring His Children & The Nobodies section of The NACHTKABARETT
There's a couple blues-influenced songs here. What were you listening to in the writing process?
Lots of Johnny Cash. But I didn't want to emulate Johnny Cash. I'm not exactly a fan of him, because I don't understand his stance. He's confusing. On one side he's spiritual, on another he's Folsom Prison. But that's what I liked about him. I liked his attitude -- he's not taking shit from anybody. This irony influenced "Four Rusted Horses"; there's irony in all placement of that song, but it's fateful the way it came out. That song really started to dictate what we were going to do on the record. Lyrically, it's almost a nursery rhyme. I realized that I was singing about the band, and everyone thinks initially that I was singing about the apocalypse, but it's more just about the four of us, my band, that managed to survive through all of this, and where do we go from here. It's me asserting myself as the hangman, the effigy, the pariah, the scapegoat.
The eleventh track off of The High End of Low -- "Unkillable Monster" -- contains an open reference to a film by Luis Buñuel in the lyrics:
"Sometimes I dream I'm an exterminating angel
A travelling executioner from heaven"
The film is a psychological exercise into man's descent into animalistic madness. The "exterminating angel" is rather an invisible force which traps an affluent group of party goers in the room in which they congregated. The facade of their social niceties erode to reveal their true personalities and persuasions will culminate in an orgy of violence, childlike reversions, witchcraft, animal sacrifice, outright destruction and finally murder, or so it would have had the party goers not been able to break the "spell" in which they were under just prior to eviscerating the host. Their isolation from the outside world which last for weeks brings the onset of paranoia and outright insanity.
Albeit a brief and understated mention within the album, the reference to this film does however reveal quite harrowingly Manson's state of mind and being in composing the record ; living as a complete pariah from the world without speaking to anyone for months while he and his surroundings slowly disintegrate into a state of madness. As the album art itself documents.
"However, the split prompted the singer not to come out of his house at all. For three months."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.
Notably, the Exterminating Angel is a film written and directed by Luis Buñuel - one of the most significant directors in the history of cinema, as well as being a pioneer in the application of surrealism to film. Manson has previously voiced his open admiration for Buñuel and has mentioned two other films by the director as being of great significance to him circa The Golden Age of Grotesque - L'Âge D'or and Un Chien Andalou (visit our Celluloid section for more on this).
The song is about censorship and about the day that the New York Times said "God is dead" and that the suffragettes protested; there was a protest of the freedom of speech and people held up blank white picket signs. That's what the song is about, and they censored that; but the big zinger is that they didn't give a shit that I said shoot up the mall and the school, and then two or three days ago some eighth grader adds more to my greatest hits of school shootings that I get blamed for...so whose the smart guy now? I don't know. You know I don't advocate it, --I get blamed for it-- if I get blamed for it I should at least get some sort of medallion or Grammy or something. I just get death threats, and blame, and sex.
God is dead but God is still white
This "God is Dead" reference is twofold, both relating to the New York Times article which Manson addressed in the Shockhound interview, as well as to the author of the quote (and a philosopher who Manson has openly cited on several occasions), Friedrich Nietzsche.
God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?
In the middle of the song I say "give me a picket sign, god is dead but god is still white, so shoot up the mall, the school or the president of whatever or whoever wants to fight" and they came to me and said "we're gonna have to drop the word 'white', that 'god is white', and the word 'president'. I said "I'm not gonna change 'god is white',look, I don't believe in god but every picture I've seen of god, he's white. I mean if you show me evidence he is not-- why is that offensive? You're creating something racist by changing it. You're INVENTING a problem by censoring it.
One particular line in the song, "all you fuckers vote beep beep beep" may be a sarcastic political indictment of the 'voters' that seek to effect change through such ineffectual and complacent means as holding pickets up along city streets, bearing simplistic slogans such as "Honk if you're pro life!" or "Honk if you support our troops!". As Manson mentioned in the same Shockhound interview, the fact that this very line is echoed in the long censoring 'beep' replacing "[shoot the] president of whatever" made him quite happy artistically.
As if we need a 'why' I'll be it And I'll be the 'who' for an Apocalypse 'how'.
If the world had one neck my hands would be the 'where' and I would choke all of you down
Utinam populus Romanus unam cervicem haberet! (which translates, "I wish the Roman people had only one neck!")
Caligula is infamously written of as a notoriously vicious tyrant, who served as Rome's third Emperor.
Several written accounts state that oftentimes it was impossible to discern whether he hated his people more than his people hated him. Caligula was said to have put numerous people to death, banished his own wife, and had his own father-in-law comit suicide. Among other vices, he was described as exceptionally (and sometimes incestuously) lustful, breaking apart many families from the affairs he held with married women. While some of this is likely exaggeration, it remains that history has forever solidied Caligula as being one of the greatest villains in political history. As for the line above delivered to the mob, the implication is that if they had only one neck it would be much easier to have them all executed. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Caligula was eventually murdered by Roman citizens less than four years into his reign.
As far as I know, no one’s written a song called “Pretty As A Swastika.” The record company wanted me to take it off the record… [But] to me it’s one of the more romantic, interesting things I’ve said. Is it a compliment? What is it? Is it political? I don’t know. It’s not even a symbol.
Track two is called Pretty as a Swastika. It's something I said to a girl because of her complexion — with black hair, red lips and pale skin. I mean, it was a complex and poetic comment that soon led to intercourse, so I felt no reason for it to be seen as confusing, hateful and destructive. The record label [told me], take it off the album. Rather than do so, I decided to produce it on the inside of the sleeve with a different name, so it'll be sold in Wal-Mart or wherever stores sell guns but are afraid to deal with lyrics. So, I put Pretty as a ($) because all of their motivations are based on money
By the end, though, when he’s showing me the picture on his iPhone of the swastika freshly shaved into his new girlfriend’s pubic hair, I know differently.
“I drew it on,” he’s saying as his publicist ushers him from the room, “with blue eyeliner. I had to call the hotel: ‘Can I have a protractor, please?’ It was 6am. But you gotta, uh, line it up properly. You know?”
|Bunny (ca. 2000)|
Marilyn Manson, watercolor
|Portrait of Tim (2006)
Marilyn Manson, watercolor
What's your reaction to the media scapegoating? I imagine the incident with the eighth grader brought a barrage of calls, letters, emails, etc. What was your initial reaction to the story?
Initial reaction: Where did he get the gun… and why can't I get one? It's shocking to me that it's easier to buy a gun at Wal-Mart than it is to buy my record. And it's entertainment, it's music, but that doesn't mean it has no value. In no way would I say that what I do is just entertainment. In fact, I love to insult shit that I don't like by saying, "Wow, it must be art, because it's not entertaining." But it's just ironic that they can sell a CD in a store, and they won't put the title "Pretty As a Swastika" on the cover, but at the same store they'll have Valkyrie, for example, which has a Swastika on the cover. Now, I'm not even using the symbol, I'm using the word, so the record company sort of created a new curse word, by default, for me.
For more on Pretty as a Swastika, and how it relates to Leni Riefenstahl, click here
For more on Manson's use of nazi imagery, visit the "Degenerate" Art & Fascism section of The NACHTKABARETT.
One of the most enthralling tracks on The High End of Low simultaneously serves as one of the most laden with multi-faceted imagery. Prior to the album release it was erroneously referred to as "White Spider"; however, the difference of just a few letters largely sets the tone for the rest of the piece.
Fans of fantasy and etymology may already be aware of the significance. A "wight" is an archaic terminology that originally derived from Old English 'wiht'’, and its meaning was a creature or otherwise living thing. Through centuries of poetry and fantasy it managed to acquire its more recognizable meaning, which stands at odds with its original definition. The wight is a form of a supernatural entity, somewhat comparable to that of a wraithlike, ghostly figure. They’re akin to that of a shadowy remnant – ultimately being a poor reflection of their former self. As wights are continually trapped in an existence of nonexistence, it is unsurprising that they were portrayed as aggressive, and violently filled with bile and hatred.
|Several shots of the Arma-goddamn-motherfuckin-geddon video take place with Manson against a hellish backdrop, as shadows bend and twist along in the background, occasionally taking form. In the first photo you can see that the shadowy figure of the wight is in an altogether different pose than Manson in the frame, nullifying any arguments of it merely being his reflection.|
Lyrically, its ghostlike nature is explicitly referenced in the outro of the song
"We can't haunt this home
No, no, no, no, no"
If one is to break it down further, etymologically 'Wicht' translates to 'girl' in Low German. This is another dimension to the song; the power and entrapment of relationships, as well as the ability of women to lure and ensnare, only to then consume their partner -- much like that of a spider.
This too is reflected in the lyrics
"Smother the past in a cocoon, or me
And I'll help you move all the bodies"
"I'll wrap my claws round your mouth tight
We'll consume each other
Until there's nothing left to hide
And they can all drown in our blood"
Apart from the supernatural aspect of the wight, and the personal characterization of women with that of a wight spider, a third level can be observed: that of dichotomy. "I'll keep you wet when the world is dry", "If they came for answers I'll wrap my claws round your mouth tight", and the especially clever double meaning contained within "I’ll possess you but I don’t need you to be another one of my possessions" -- possession in this case can be understood in both the interpersonal natural quality of possession (possessing someone's mind, body or soul) or in the supernatural understanding of the word, as previously outlined at the beginning of this article.
It doesn't matter how many times I say it It never gets old, That's why I have to say WOW
Fuck Eat, kill Etc.
When I say, "et cetera," it is the most important part of the song. I've seen on the news, stories about death, rape, murder and they tack on the 'et cetera.,' which shocks and amuses me. Such terrible things have become mundane and reduced people to 'etc.,'. I got 'et cetera' tattooed on my wrist. If I cut my wrist, I would cut through 'etc.,' which is triply ironic.
|Manson's etc. tattoo. Photographer: Chris McAndrew|
I am too busy, but not unaware of the comedy that journalists, etc. etc. etc. I want to make a human offering, To you that are so brave to say what you think. Your address is cheaper than your salary, And you are not "critiques". You are foolish grave occupants. Mark my words. You want to twist my face, my answers, my love, than you should be prepared to face the world i will advocate....a world of ......of kids that only want to shoot schools. that's your fear? And until i suggest, that it should be you... Then... or otherwise, or etc. , etc, etc....
Your life is meaningless, as long as we are.
For every dollar Rent Friendsters made off of me. Attention ONLY to all rapist werewolves: I'm gonna teach you about more than loss. Question is--- does this end with my fist in the front of your face or the back of your head? Everyone else, proceed as not planned. Etc. MM 15