Very few music partnerships are as fabled as that of Marilyn Manson and Trent Reznor. From Reznor signing Manson and helping produce his first two albums, to its well-documented demise, the disintegration of the partnership of two of the ’90s darkest and creative minds was a sad, sorry state of affairs.
But after an interview on Beats 1 with Manson late last year revealed that he and Reznor have “sort of mended their ways,” it got us pretty excited. Granted, both acts have been tearing it up for years, but most recently, they’ve both been at the top of their game.
Manson returned to form with 2015’s The Pale Emperor and last year’s Heaven Upside Down, not to mention a consuming cover of The Lost Boys’ theme “Cry Little Sister.” All of this is a continuation of his resurgence into God of Fuck-like status, while slinging himself around a headline/festival circuit that’s just about unstoppable.
Meanwhile, Reznor has been busy with the Not The Actual Events, Add Violence and Bad Witch trilogy, embarking on a massive North American tour with the Jesus And Mary Chain, and pretty much just being the boundary-pushing Reznor. The idea of these two behemoths in their own right getting back together to create, well, it’s just been playing around in our minds since they’ve seemingly made up.
So now it’s time we had a look back at their complex and grotesquely beautiful past, including the good, the bad and the ugly—and why we need more.
In case you weren’t aware, the pair actually met way back in the ’80s when Manson was a music journalist (one of us, one of us!) and interviewed Reznor for a lifestyle magazine based in South Florida called 25th Parallel. Now, the internet has not been kind to us in finding any semblance of the article itself, but in Manson’s 1998 biography The Long Hard Road Out Of Hell, he describes the first meeting with Reznor “sulking in the corner” and “thawing” after they began chatting. The most important part of this paragraph is the final sentence: “The next time Trent Reznor came to town, I was his opening act.”
The moment Reznor signed Manson to his label, Nothing Records, an offshoot of major label Interscope, it felt like a match made in heaven. At the time, no one was pushing boundaries and just generally freaking everybody the hell out like Reznor was with his industrial horror-scape sounds. So, naturally, there was no one better suited to nurturing the open-wide, depraved mind of Manson than Reznor.
Helping produce the first two Manson albums—Portrait Of An American Family and the defining Antichrist Superstar—there’s no doubt that without Reznor’s input Manson’s road may have been different. Manson describes the recording process of Antichrist in Long Hard Road as “not only were we not productive, we were destructive.” The shattering of a lot of physical components as well as mental—it’s no wonder that things changed, especially with so much on the line.
After the success of these two albums, and Manson going from weird kid/amateur journalist to public enemy No. 1, it became hard for the lifestyles of two fringe pushers to remain that way. Story after depraved story made its way out while the two were on tour. This was pre-social media and internet immediacy, so it’s unknown how much of it is true, but there’s a level to the legend that’s cemented the estrangement between the two.
Throughout the end of the ’90s, their relationship was strained. As is the way of all bona fide rock stars—God of Fuck included—substances lead to ways of life that some inevitably want out of or some embrace in totality.
Reznor’s removal from this world is ultimately what caused the friction in their relationship, going on record to say Manson had become a “dopey clown.” It’s Manson’s tour diary’s from Long Hard Road, however, that show the distancing took its toll on him, feeling the personal attachment falling away:
“Tried to call Trent again today. They gave us some lame excuse, the same kind of excuse he would have us give when he didn’t want to accept calls from people he hated.”
All wasn’t entirely lost. In the early ’00s, the reveal of Manson in the Nine Inch Nails “Starfuckers, Inc.” video—a song purportedly targeting him—edged the relationship toward recovery, along with Manson joining Nine Inch Nails onstage at Madison Square Garden.
There’s something pure and powerful—albeit terrifying—about seeing the two of them, like a force of nature, just being so themselves. It wouldn’t last, as it all soon fell away again.
After all, this beauty of a clip capturing them both mocking music together (the ’90s were wild for music genres) shows they’re kindred spirits who need to rediscover what brought them together in the first place. Egos be damned, the world needs this!
It would seem that there’s always been an inkling of hope for over 20 years, as an excerpt from a tour diary entry in Long Hard Road would suggest:
JANUARY 29, 1997, LOS ANGELES
…we both told each other “Listen it doesn’t matter, it’s over I don’t care, it doesn’t matter”…
So, while it may not be in the immediate future, or even happen at all, we can’t help but crave the two darkest souls of the ’90s to rekindle their relationship to create something akin to Kanye West and Jay-Z’s Watch The Throne, but darker and with an unhinged totality.
They’ve both undergone growth on their own journeys, so who knows what would materialize from such a mighty twosome. Manson’s current blues-melding metal sound could fit perfectly with Reznor’s frankly abusive electro-industrial sound, especially that of Bad Witch, resulting in a musical bastard lovechild that slaps the world back in order.