Marilyn Manson, the self-proclaimed “Antichrist Superstar,” became a mainstream antihero, much to the chagrin of conservative politicians and concerned parents. His vision of dark, arty, industrial metal pushed many of his singles — including “The Dope Show,” “The Beautiful People,” and a cover of Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” — into the upper reaches of the modern rock charts during the late ’90s and early 2000s.
Born Brian Warner, Manson was raised in Canton, Ohio. At the age of 18, he relocated to Tampa Bay, Florida, where he worked as a music journalist. In 1989, he became friends with guitarist and fellow outsider Scott Mitchell; the two soon decided to form a band, with Mitchell rechristening himself Daisy Berkowitz and Warner adopting the name Marilyn Manson. With the addition of bassist Gidget Gein and keyboardist Madonna Wayne-Gacy, the group — originally dubbed Marilyn Manson & the Spooky Kids — began self-releasing cassettes and playing gigs, their gothic stage show notable for Manson’s elaborate makeup and homemade special effects. Jettisoning their drum machine in favor of Sara Lee Lucas, the band’s sound began taking on a harder edge, and by 1992 they were among the most popular acts in the South Florida area. In 1993, Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor came calling, offering both a contract with his Nothing Records label as well as the chance to open for NIN the following spring; Manson accepted both offers, and the group’s debut LP, Portrait of an American Family, appeared during the summer of 1994. With new bassist Twiggy Ramirez replacing Gein, the group’s notoriety began to soar. Most infamously, during an appearance in Salt Lake City, Manson ripped apart a copy of the Book of Mormon while on-stage. The Church of Satan’s founder, Anton LaVey, also bestowed upon him the title of “Reverend.”
Manson’s cult following continued to swell, and the band broke into the mainstream with the release of 1995’s Smells Like Children EP, propelled by their hit cover of Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).” Berkowitz quit a short time later and was replaced by guitarist Zim Zum, and the revised group saw their next LP, 1996’s Antichrist Superstar, debut at the number three spot on the pop album charts and sell nearly two million copies in the U.S. alone. As Manson’s popularity grew, so did the furor surrounding him. His concerts were regularly picketed by civic groups, and his music was the subject of widespread attacks from right-wing and religious fronts.
The glam-inspired Mechanical Animals followed in September 1998, becoming the band’s first to top the charts. The resulting tour yielded a live album, Last Tour on Earth, one year later. Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death) came out at the end of 2000, just barely missing the Top Ten, and the band toured to support the album during 2001. That December, Manson’s version of “Tainted Love” appeared on the Not Another Teen Movie soundtrack.
May 2003 saw the release of The Golden Age of Grotesque, which spent a week atop the album charts and ended up on several critics’ year-end Top Ten lists. At the end of September, Manson released a greatest-hits affair titled Lest We Forget. The collection covered the highlights of Manson’s career and included a new cover version of Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus,” whose success helped push the album to gold status in multiple countries.
Late in 2005, the band announced that a new album was nearly finished; however, it wasn’t until 2007 that Eat Me, Drink Me was released. The record was largely written, performed, and produced by Manson and guitarist/bassist Tim Skold, who left Marilyn Manson’s lineup shortly thereafter and was replaced by returning member Twiggy Ramirez. Manson and Ramirez then began writing material for the band’s seventh studio album, The High End of Low, which arrived in spring 2009 and reached number four in the charts.
In 2011, during preparation for the release of the band’s eighth studio album, drummer Ginger Fish announced he had left the group. Later that same year, Manson premiered a short film in support of the album titled Born Villain. The film, directed by actor Shia La Beouf, was not a music video for a specific track, but a stand-alone short. The album Born Villain, featuring the single “No Reflection,” was released in 2012 and debuted inside the Top Ten. Recording began one year later for The Pale Emperor, which saw release early in 2015 on Loma Vista for the U.S. and Cooking Vinyl internationally. Shortly before the album’s release, Rolling Stone magazine ran an interview with Manson that, among other things, proclaimed the record his best work since Antichrist Superstar.