Marilyn Manson wants to move beyond the controversies that dogged him and his band with the 1996 album "Antichrist Superstar" and subsequent tours.
He's got an odd way of going about it.
Manson's putting an apparently naked picture of himself (though with breasts and no genitals) on the cover of the upcoming album, "Mechanical Animals." He acknowledges that some of the lyrics deal favorably with drug use, and he's making plans for concerts specifically in communities where attempts were made to ban his performances.
"There's a certain group of people who are always going to dislike me and disagree with whatever I say," Manson explains.
He'll simply ignore those people this time as much as he can, he says, as he tries to persuade rock and pop fans who may have resisted him in the past that he's more than a cartoon.
"I've always considered myself a pop artist, so there are a lot of mainstream elements to [the new album]," he says. "But for me it's more interesting to change what the mainstream's about than blend in with it. Being in a more popular position gives me the opportunity to change the direction of music and fashion."
To that end. the new album--due Sept. 15--is more "User Friendly," to cite one of the song titles. The songs are generally more melodic than past work, and the music frequently more colorful and radio-ready. Comparisons to David Bowie--especially the "Diamond Dogs" and "Scary Monsters" model--are fitting. His new look, with bright red hair, is also reminiscent of Bowie's glam years.
The cover picture (which will also appear on billboards on the Sunset Strip and Times Square if plans go through) also reflects the changes.
"The image represents how I see myself and how I think the world sees me in a lot of ways--androgynous and sexless at the same time," he says. "That's kind of the vulnerable way I see myself on this record."
MANSON ROAD SHOW
Before getting into reaching new people in concert, Manson wants to thank loyal fans.
"We're going to do some shows for some fans that may have missed it last year," he says. "We want to go to different cities where it was prohibited [or protested]. Want to pay them back for their faith in the band."
That may not prove so easy. John Bolin, director of the Columbia Coliseum at the University of South Carolina, a facility that canceled a Manson show last year after community uproar, says that trying again will probably prove futile, even though Manson shows went on around the country without incident.
"It would be difficult," says Bolin. "There are some great fans of them here. But the outcry would be the same as last time. To me it's just another shock-rock band, but in this community, when you say satanic things are what you're about [as Manson did in several interviews], this community says no."
More troubling to Manson manager Tony Ciulla, attempts to find facilities in other cities are running into walls as well. The band has been turned down so far by operators of venues in Washington, Tampa Bay, Salt Lake City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Houston, Dayton, Cincinnati and Rochester, N.Y.
"Last time around it was speculation of what would happen in the shows," he says. "And we played them and dispelled the ridiculousness. But it doesn't seem to mean anything. The response now is, 'Oh, the show is great. We just don't want to have to take the heat.' "
MANSON ON DRUGS
One certain hot button with the album will be its numerous references to drug use, including the first single, "The Dope Show."
"I advocate the use of drugs, but have always looked down on the abuse of drugs," Manson says. "The people who misuse them give the rest of us a bad name, and I'm not only talking about street drugs.
There are a lot of references in the album to the prescripted lifestyle that a lot people have followed and numbed out their emotions and become mechanical."
His inspiration, he says, comes from such authors as William S. Burroughs and Philip K. Dick, who "deal with a lot of stories with narcotics as the backdrop."
Manson sees "The Dope Show" as the " 'We Are the World' for drug addicts. I can imagine all the [celebrities] out there who were arrested over the last few years for drugs getting together to do a video."
Having concentrated for the past five years on film projects and music collaborations, Ice Cube is coming back with not just one new solo album, but two. "War" will be released on Nov. 17, with a follow-up, "Peace," expected in early 1999. The former features 18 songs and sports a guest cast that includes Master P, Mack 10 (one of Cube's Westside Connection partners) and Cube protege Mr. Short Khop.
This is Cube's first solo album since 1993's "Lethal Injection," and his first since signing on with the Firm, the management company that also handles Korn, whom he will join on the bill of the Family Values Tour this fall. The Firm's Jeff Kwatinetz says that reaching rock fans is part of the strategy, but not at the expense of the core hip-hop following.
"As he's out there more as a director, writer and film star, he is reaching more people, so it's natural we should try to do the same thing on the music side," Kwatinetz says. "But Ice Cube knows where he came from and will never abandon his base. His fans and that base are what he's most concerned with."