The Nine Inch Nails
frontman on life in a funeral parlour, Marilyn Manson and the wordl’s worst
Interview by Chris
You once lived in
Sharon Tate’s house, where the Charles Manson murders took place. Your new gaff
is a former funeral parlour in New Orleans. What’s up with you,
You know, I’m always getting the old, “You used
to live in the Tate house, now you live in a funeral house. Now you hang upside
down at night and sleep in fresh earth.” The reality was we had to build a
studio from scratch, because there wasn’t any in New Orleans with technology past 1975. The
place we used just happened to be available.
Did you inherit any of
the old funereal accoutrements?
I discovered the only artefacts that came with
it when we were renovating. A bunch of us were in the back with the hammers,
sorting out the new laundry room – in what we later realised was the old
embalming room. There was this horrible moment when someone twisted a pipe. I
don’t know what it was that came out, but it was the most foul-smelling liquid
we have ever experienced in our lives. Three of us gagged, two of us were
Still, a funeral home
is good for your miserable, “darker-than-black” image...
I’m always portrayed as a gloom and doom guy –
and that’s understandable from what I’ve written about. But I read about myself
now, and I think, “This isn’t really me.” It’s something to hide behind – a
slightly altered past, something a bit more intriguing.
So what did you do?
I don’t know how much of this I should be
saying. But I found this software on my computer that pitch-shifted my voice –
not like Mickey Mouse, but so I sounded like a woman. I called up my manager
and pretended that I was her – the insane fan. I was screaming, “The shit’s
really going to hit the fan now! I’m not happy with what you’re doing!” – I
thought for sure he’d know it was me, but he put the phone down and called the
FBI. They went around to arrest the woman, and I had to call them up and
explain. There’s nothing like trying to tell the cops: “It was just me fucking
Your manager must have
Oh, we get him like that all the time. Once, I
bet a friend that I could get my manager to go out into the middle of an
algae-filled Louisiana swamp at midnight. I pretended I was looking at a
house to rent, but the bridge was out. So we found these two guys, who were
actually park rangers, but we paid them to act like serious rednecks. “Yeah,
we’ll give y’all a ride out,” they said, and rowed us right out into the middle
of nowhere in a tiny Cajun boat, and stopped. “Now let’s talk about an exit
fee, boys,” they said. My manager went fucking white, and he was like, “Hold
onto your beer bottles. We’re going to have to fight our way out.”
rocker Marilyn Manson – whose album Antichrist Superstar you produced – said in
his autobiography that your antics on tour were utterly depraved...
Hmm. Some revisionist history definitely went
down there. But it’s difficult to describe our tours out of context, because
that context is madness. On the last tour, you’d have us, the Marilyn Manson
guys and the Jim Rose Circus – an even higher level of freaks. Anything goes
when you get an extreme bunch of people like that together – but there was a
morality to it all.
What kind of morality?
It was always just drunken stupidity with us –
there was never any raping, drugging or taking advantage of people. It was
more, “Everybody’s feeling ridiculous, how can we outdo each other?” So I’d
take a stungun, line up a queue of people and see how many guys down the line
it’d shock – that kind of thing. But I was rarely the guy involved. Normally,
there’d be Mr Lifto from the Jim Rose Circus, out to prove again he could lift
more with the ring in his cock than anyone else. So he’s lifting a folding
chair: standing on a table, he’s swinging it around – then it rips, blood pours
out and everyone’s like, “Oh my God.” But then the next man has to outdo him
somehow, and it goes downhill from there.
You had your septum –
the soft bone between your nostrils – pierced before the last tour. Doesn’t it
sting a bit?
I don’t know what the fuck I was thinking when
I did that. It was some phase of self-exploration. It was done by this guy
claiming to know what he was doing, but he put it in too high and it went
through some cartilage. And I was wondering why it still hurt like a fucker
eight months later. And on tour my nose often bangs against the microphone –
once the ball went the whole way through, and blood was pouring out.
You’ve been voted
Sexiest Man in Rock, Most Influential Man in Rock – yet in Britain you could walk into Burger King and no-one would know you...
Right now not many people recognise me anyway.
I’ve lived in New Orleans for the past few years, and that’s a place
where people are much less enamoured of who you are. I also cut my hair when I
started the record, so I went practically invisible. But there’s times when you
don’t feel like being looked at. When you’re standing in Wal-Mart with condoms
and underpants, you don’t want to be judged by the guy behind you.
Someone e-mailed the
office last week with a movie clip of a woman being “entertained” by a friendly
dalmatian. Shall we forward it on?
No – I think I’ve seen that one.
How does it rate among
your filth collection?
Not particularly highly. I found a porn web
page – God knows how I stumbled onto it – advertising home videos people had
sent in for sale. There was this one called Roy’s Nut Hang, with the catchline
“Extreme Male Genital Torture”. So I thought, what the fuck, I’ll see what this
is. A month later, the tape shows up in the mail with no markings on it
whatsoever. I put it in, and it’s an hour of Canadian parliament meetings.
Christ! That’s filth...
No! You see, all of a sudden it fades out – all
that was in case Customs got it. Now, I thought I’d seen some evil shit, but
this one is as bad as it gets. Nobody in the studio has made it through the
whole tape. For example, I’m looking at something that I realise is some guy’s
cock and balls – but it has twine wrapped around it so tight it’s
unrecognisable. Next thing you know, he’s sitting with it on the hot plate. His
cock is bubbling away – and it’s sticking, so he’s digging at it with spatula,
flipping it over. And if that wasn’t bad enough, next thing – it’s time to
remove the problem, man! Full penis removal – and I’ll tell you the part that
really gets you. The final little bit of meat – snap! – coming off.
I know – and it can’t be faked. It’s not as if
we sit around thinking, “Wow! That’s great,” but when the challenge for the
worst porn comes, that one does the trick. It stuck with me for while, I can