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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. Following its October 8 release, the record was a platinum-selling commercial smash with hit singles "The Beautiful People" and "Tourniquet," but 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- 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 several 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 ("an environment of four seasons and deciduous trees where the water is wet and the air is dry"). 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.
County Grind: 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 talked 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 put 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. Any time 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. There was punk saliva dripping off of it. 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.