Fifteen years ago this week, the shock-punk troupe known as Marilyn Manson reached a new peak as a commercial entity with its second proper studio album, Antichrist Superstar. Although the record was a platinum-selling commercial smash with hit singles "The Beautiful People" and "Tourniquet," it also reflected the dissolution of friendship between lyricist Brian "Marilyn Manson" Warner and guitarist Scott "Daisy Berkowitz" Putesky, who formed Marilyn Manson and the Spooky Kids in South Florida in 1989.
During drug-addled and debauchery-laden recording sessions with Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor in New Orleans in mid-1996 — which Manson referred to in his autobiography as "trying to find warmth in a hooker's embrace" — Putesky felt so much personal and creative friction from his bandmates that he decided to exit the group.The album was completed without him but included six songs credited to Daisy Berkowitz.
In the years to follow, Putesky assembled other musical projects around South Florida, including his current solo focus, Three Ton Gate. In July of this year, he moved to the Pennsylvania mountain town of Kingston, near Scranton. New Times reached Putesky during a trip to upstate New York to get some reflections on the aftermath of his time in one of the most notorious bands in his era.
New Times: What is the legacy of Antichrist Superstar?
Scott Putesky: I think we were one of the last bands of the '90s to really make the kind of impact that people talk about when they talk about pop culture. In the early 2000s, commercial changes had an impact on the artistic process, people stopped buying music so much, and people stopped getting signed. It was less and less a viable career path for young artists.
Antichrist was one of the last records that, very simply, scared parents. That highlights the problem with being labeled "shock rock." You can only shock so much before you're the Halloween band. Whatever you do is only shocking to people who live in the sticks.
How did it feel to see the album come out after you were outside the band?
When the album came out in October, it debuted at number three on Billboard, and I was shocked. I was shocked and proud that what we came up with got to that level. I couldn't believe a title like that — we generated a lot of anticipation, but... I thought that title would be too offensive. When a punk-rock band has a really offensive title, it gets attention and creates controversy, but would people buy that title on the shelves? I was proud, but I felt worse because I wasn't part of it anymore. It reached its peak. It was a big step, but it was also a negative change because the core had changed. It wasn't anything like a rock 'n' roll Camelot.
In 1996, Trent Reznor was very much a center of the cultural lexicon and seemed to be in control of the direction Antichrist headed.
I definitely feel like he treated us like we were his pet project. Anytime someone would say that our record was amazing, he would feel more like we were something he created than something he discovered... He had to make it look like he was the one responsible for this. He had nothing to do with our development. I appreciate whatever he did for us professionally and career-wise... When the 20th anniversary of Portrait of an American Family comes up, I'd really like to release the original Criteria Studio sessions [recorded in Miami] — the album before the remixes and the rerecords that we did under Trent. When we finished it, he said it sounded like a really good demo. I disagreed, and I thought it was good enough. We didn't need to sound more industrial and more polished.
Then what did you think of the final finished product of Antichrist?
I thought that it was the appropriate record, a more finished record at that time. Something that was hard, dark, and ugly but polished. There's too many songs, and there are too many songs that are too similar. It would've had more impact if it had been 12 songs instead of 16, no matter how good they are, so sit through the album and have it be almost 50 minutes is too much. You want to leave people wanting more and hitting play again.
Which songs would you cut?
I would cut "Mister Superstar," I would cut "Angel With the Scabbed Wings," and I would change "1996" to "She's Not My Girlfriend." [guitarist Twiggy Ramirez] actually ripped off the riff that [former bassist Gidget Gein] came up with on "She's Not My Girlfriend" — and there was legal action over that. I would rather have done "She's Not My Girlfriend" than the new twist on it, "1996."
Your legal action to recoup royalties from that album is finished?
That was all wrapped in '98. If I was really petty, I could go back and find songs that were really similar to work I had done in the past. That would be unnecessarily petty and time-consuming. There's a couple of riffs on Mechanical Animals that I could do that with.
The chorus of "The Dope Show" is just like that of "Lunchbox" — it's just slowed down. Casual listeners don't realize stuff like that, but the writer does. I didn't want it to go on forever, and it's Brian Warner. You are not going to get anything that you ask nicely for. You have to do it legally. I didn't and couldn't sue for being ostracized or abused or people being a jerk to me. That's not why you sue. I had to make sure I got the royalties and gear replaced. It's not petty, but there's no way around it.
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What would you change about the way you approached things at that time?
If people don't give you respect, there's no way to get it. You pay them to respect you; you can't ask them to respect you. You can't hit someone in the head with a frying pan. Maybe if I really analyzed the people's motivations, I could've sat down and rationally and diplomatically dealt with it. It's not too likely. The figures responsible for the bullshit were doing coke and drinking booze all the time. You can't be rational with people who are irrational for those reasons. Anyone else around was scared to go against the establishment.
What did you think about what Marilyn Manson has become today — making headlines for being an Eastbound and Down fan?
The worse the albums get, the more cheesy everything else he does gets. When that came out, people asked me what I think, and it's a good example of how nonmusical his career is now. He's in the news for being a fan of a cable TV show.