When we originally dialed up Marilyn Manson to preview his Las Vegas shows, it was nearly 11 p.m. the day after Labor Day 2017. He was in the TV room of his LA home, staring at a picture of one of his “biggest idols,” Salvador Dalí, and contemplating going to get a giant back tattoo. News of his 10th studio album hadn’t been made public yet; we were talking about the record with the stipulation of a strict information embargo.
Like the best-laid plans, however, things went haywire. One week before the release of Heaven Upside Down—a fine album encompassing twitching electro, gothic grooves, corrosive industrial rock and cinematic blues—Manson broke his leg after a stage prop fell on him during a show in New York City, forcing him to postpone a run of concerts including his two Las Vegas dates (now back on for January 12 and 13).
A few weeks after that, original Marilyn Manson guitarist Daisy Berkowitz died of colon cancer—and then, two days later, Manson fired bassist Twiggy Ramirez in the wake of rape accusations levied by an ex-girlfriend. In early November, Manson himself courted controversy when he pointed a fake gun at the audience during a show in the hours after the Sutherland Springs, Texas, church massacre.
Back in late summer, however, the charming raconteur held court on the phone for a freewheeling 30 minutes. The rambling conversation was sprinkled with deadpan humor (“I don’t like to gamble, except with my life and my health”) and a few moments of, “Is he messing with us?” But the rocker touched on everything from past Vegas visits (he did acid here, which he calls “a bad choice, bad life decision”) to why Heaven Upside Down’s delayed release date—it was originally due in early 2017—was for the best: The lyrics for “Revelation #12,” the title track and “the most important piece of the record,” the eight-minute “Saturnalia,” wouldn’t have made it to the disc.
The latter song was completed mere days before the musician discovered his dad “was sicker than I thought” and ended up flying to visit him in the same Canton, Ohio, hospital in which Manson himself was born. “I didn’t know I was saying goodbye to him at that point,” he shared. “I got to say, ‘Hey, Dad,’ kissed him, held his hand, and I got to appreciate life in a different way, because he went to get a test and died 30 minutes later—and then was brought back to life. And the next morning, I had to be the one who decided to take him off life support.”
The mood on the phone was understandably somber at this point as Manson continued, “His sister—my aunt—was in the room with him. I didn’t want to see him die twice, because once was hard enough. My aunt told me I was doing the right thing. I didn’t want to be selfish and keep him around if he didn’t want to be there. I think he waited for me to come see him to say goodbye. I never got to play him my album, and I’m so proud of it. It has so much of his influence of me growing up in it. In certain strange ways, I hear it.”
Then, somewhat unexpectedly, Manson’s sense of humor re-emerged. “My aunt said he wouldn’t hold her hand when he finally died, because he had his hand on his dick. My dad would definitely want me to tell you that story, because he went out like a pimp.”
Impish anecdote aside, it was clear that, two months removed from his dad’s passing, Manson was still affected by the experience—even though he had the perspective to see exactly how Heaven Upside Down related to his recent trauma.
“My dad made me promise that I would not fall to pieces and never to be a failure,” he said. “I’ve had points in my life where I’ve not been as great as I thought I should be. So I’ve made an effort to be as great as I can be, and I feel that this record has certainty to it. I don’t think he had to hear it. I know that he knew it when I told him about it.
“I would send him lyrics that I wrote, and he would tell me that they were great. He wasn’t telling me how his health [was] and things like that. I think he was hiding it from me, because he didn’t want me to be distracted. He was being a stubborn father. I probably would do the same thing, I suppose.”
MARILYN MANSON with Amazonica. January 12-13, 8 p.m., $65. House of Blues, 702-632-7600.