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"The choice [of disappearing] was definitely put in front of me," he says. "Ironically, that's what Antichrist Superstar had kind of predicted and set forth--that some day I would be in this great position of power, and I would be famous for being everything America could possibly hate, and I would be forced to decide, 'Will I let this destroy me and what I'm about, or will I destroy it myself and overcome it and become something stronger?' So by finishing what I started with Antichrist Superstar by writing Holy Wood, it closed the whole circle. I had to live out my own nightmare that I created, and that was probably the hardest thing, but it did what I wanted it to do--it made me a stronger person through the whole thing. It definitely was something where I took what was a bad thing and made it into something good...
"I just think it's hard to decide whether the story was being written or it was writing me along the way, but I think it was inevitable, sort of out of my hands, that I would have to learn the lesson that there would really be no point in doing what I do if there wasn't some sort of hope in it. If it was only nihilism and only darkness, then there would be no point to keep doing it. I had done it all, I said what I had to say, I'd be finished with it. So I think just as a person, I had to really discover what I was reaching for."
The question of just what he was reaching for has no simple answer. It has something to do with saving the world by destroying it--or pretending to, anyway. It has something to do with giving voice to "The Nobodies" and "Disposable Teens" and "Target Audience" of which he sings on Holy Wood; in a medium filled with false prophets making mad profits (Fred Durst is angry only that you're not giving him more of your allowance), Manson's the closest thing to a cleric. And it has something to do with offering hope in a hopeless world; after all, no true nihilist chooses music as a form of expression, if only because what fool would take the time to learn how to play an instrument if he thought the end was nigh? Seems like a waste of time. And so he is savior as well as annihilator--the optimistic death merchant who can't decide whether to save you from or shove you down the abyss.
"Savior and destroyer are one in the same, as much as I think the character of Christ and the character of Lucifer are very similar in a strange way," he says. "They're two halves of something. If you look at the symbolism in the Bible, you can't create without destroying something, and that's the basis for Marilyn Manson, I guess."
It would seem, then, the inevitable and final question is a simple one: What have the last five years given him--this Antichrist, this superstar, this devil in a codpiece and mascara. He is quick to answer, quicker to laugh.
"A headache," says Brian Warner, son of Hugh and Barb and self-proclaimed God of Fuck. "I've learned that you grow up and you have a sense of idealism and you think this world's really screwed up, and I wanna be the guy that's gonna change it. You learn that the revolution is not gonna happen. It's not gonna work. You can't change the world. You can only change yourself."