Marilyn Manson is a changed man.
This, in itself, is not news. After all, Manson's a studied rock star who intimately understands every new album cycle requires a new hair style, a new stage outfit, and a new catchphrase to put on t-shirts.
No, this is a more reflective change. He stopped drinking absinthe ("Too much sugar in it. Unflattering to the physique"), he started exercising ("I wanted to go running... and not running from the police, [like] normally"), and, perhaps most startling, the noted nocturnalist/vampire surrogate is now willing to wake up and even venture outside during daylight hours for work.
"I lost my comfort zone," Manson tells Huffington Post Canada in advance of releasing his ninth album, "The Pale Emperor". "Me going out in the daytime to record and finishing a song before midnight proved to me that I was completely incorrect about thinking that 3 a.m. was my most creative time."
Manson created "The Pale Emperor" with new creative partner Tyler Bates, a film scorer by trade whose credits include the "Guardians of the Galaxy" soundtrack, "The Devil's Rejects" and "300". The pair work well together. Largely stripped of any industrial/electronic/metal oddity, "The Pale Emperor" instead unfolds like a straightforward, albeit vicious sounding hard rock record thanks to the simple focus on Manson's dynamic snarl and a loud guitar.
There are vague nods to old blues and rock 'n' roll on "The Pale Emperor" as well as allusions to the sort of Faustian bargains Robert Johnson sang about at the crossroads. The thing is, if, as the commonly held believe holds that Manson sold his soul a long, long time ago, what sort of crossroad has he come to in 2015?
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"I sold my soul to be a rock star," says Manson. "And I think for the past few years he's been knocking on my door, the phone's been ringing and the hounds are on my trail. And I have not paid my bills. And "The Pale Emperor" is payment due plus interest. F*ck you, devil. So 2015 I'm in the clear, I've got the mortgage back on my soul. I got the mortgage back on my soul."
Not having a soul that's been sold to the devil would be a big change for Marilyn Manson.
But the bigger, more genuine change probably has to do with the 46 year old being forced to confront the mortality of his parents. It's created a more (perhaps) empathetic Manson. "The Pale Emperor" is dedicated to his mother, who died in May 2014. And one of the motivating factors in Manson taking an acting role on season seven of "Sons of Anarchy" was because his father really liked the show.
"A lot of things found a place this year and a lot of things that I wanted and willed to happen and they did," says Manson. "And I enjoyed doing them and a lot of people expected me to crumble or fall off point when my mother died, but I think if anything I wanted to make my dad proud and honour in some way the person that I came out of and who loved Elvis Presley and wanted me to grow up being that in a sense.
"My father drove from Ohio to California after my mother's death because he told me that my mother's favourite place was Route 66. He spread her ashes along there. That was something I didn't know... we're on the same sort of brainwave because we're related, it's funny because he gave me a picture of me as a child and him holding me and I said, 'That's funny my dad looks just like me.' Not realizing that I look like my dad."
It's exactly these sort of flashes of humanity which reinforce the "changed" Manson narrative. Sure, he'll still repeatedly declare himself "a rock star" and idly threaten that he carries "a 24-carat gold switchblade" to deal with anyone who "tries to f*ck with me." But he'll also go to great lengths to talk about how much he loves close personal friends like Johnny Depp and Shooter Jennings.
Put another way, where the shock-rock '96 Antichrist Superstar version of Manson would have taken advantage of his connection to the recent controversy about a particularly graphic Eli Roth-created Lana Del Rey video as a catalyst to offend everyone, 2015 Manson has taken great pains to distance himself from the footage.
It's not like Manson, the subject of documentaries and websites vilifying him, isn't controversial anymore. The first song on his album, "Killing Strangers," seems exactly like the type of thing that could be adopted by the wrong sort of person. As someone who's been constantly embattled because of his art, Manson has insight into the recent Charlie Hebdo shooting/Je Suis Charlie movement.
"People don't realize, and this is not in comparison to what happened in Paris, but it is related to me," says Manson, starting into an analysis of how he's perceived in the outside world. "People don't understand that freedom of speech don't comes with a dental plan with me. And also there's a cause and effect in everything you do and I've learned that in journalism and as a musician.
"I knew very much that I was going to have a reaction when I wrote a record called 'Antichrist Superstar.' I didn't expect it not to annoy people and make people crazy. I maybe didn't anticipate the amount of death threats that I would get over the course of year. But my dad said it best, 'If they tell you in advance, they're not going to do it.' It's the element of surprise, that goes for murder, rape and horror films. People aren't going to warn you in advance. That's just them trying to scare you out of being you."
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That said, it's a sideline conversation about his relationship to organized religion (FYI: he has no problem with the Catholic church because they don't "give a shit about God anyway" and he likes Passover "because it's essentially just a big drinking game") and about the Roman Catholic church's attempts to ban "the devil's tritone" which perhaps best illustrates where Manson's at these days.
"A lot of people have been banned and you have to be willing to put your life on the line for what you believe in if you can't live without it," says Manson. "That goes with love, love's a weird word because I love a lot of things. When I say 'I love you' to somebody, I love all my friends, I love people, I don't know if I love you yet ... we'll see how the article turns out. But I love drinking, I love doing drugs, I love having a good time, I love not being dead... a lot of things.
"So love is dedication, commitment, giving someone a guarantee that I will protect you. If someone f*cks with you I will f*ck them up. If I see a problem I'll fix it, I don't want to create a new problem... You have a responsibility to live up to that name and I'm prepared to do that."
Marilyn Manson, faithful friend and defender of love? Perhaps he is a changed man.
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