It isn't often one interviews a personality whose mere name commands attention - and a healthy bit of fear - around the globe. That name is CHARLES MILLES MANSON. But even with such notoriety, a short introduction to the following conversation is necessary, lest we wish to go the way of the hundreds of media interviews with Manson in the last twenty-six years and merely reinforce the spoon-fed opinions of the imbecilic Geraldo nation. Manson's reputation as the "most infamous mass murderer of all time" has certainly managed to provide steady headlines for decades, not to mention a multi-million dollar cottage industry of movies, true-crime books, t-shirts and television specials. There's only one major flaw in the scenario: Manson didn't kill anyone. And while he may have a media image uncannily similar to that of "the wickedest man in the world", magickian Aleister Crowley, at least the latter walked free.
Convicted of conspiracy to commit the "Helter Skelter" murders of Sharon Tate and friends on August 8th, 1969 and Leno and Rosemary La Bianca the next night, Manson still resolutely maintains his innocence to this day. Is he guilty? Well, maybe, if you still believe in witchcraft - and the resemblances between the courthouses of Eighteenth Century Salem and Twentieth Century Los Angeles may not be coincidental. The real unanswered question of the whole affair still remains: What was the motive? If you would listen to prosecute Vincent "the Bug" Bugliosi, the murders were directed by Manson to jump-start a race war called Helter Skelter. Through circuitous and failed logic, Bugliosi painted a picture to the jury (and readers of his best seller Helter Skelter) of Manson as a simultaneously pathetic misfit and superhuman genius of Hitlerian proportions. While it may not have added up according to the laws of reason, it certainly did in terms of deposits in Bugliosi's personal bank account. With numerous more tenable explanations for the crimes, one wonders how a jury could believe the Beatles' White Album was a blueprint for murder, and besides, why attempt to start a race war that's already been in progress since the beginning of time? So much for common sense in the Court of the People. And what was the tangible long-term result of this farcical trial? Manson is more popular than ever, having been embraced by the disillusioned youth of this country on an unparalleled scale.
LIE wan't the only Manson material to see eventual release, as another set of vintage recordings, titled The Manson Family Sings, saw daylight in an unauthorized LP release a few years ago. Supposedly uncovered in the MCA archives, the tapes feature Steve "Clem" Grogan and some of the Manson girls doing a number of impressive songs written by Charlie, who was unable to participate - at the time of the recording, the Trial of the Century" was already underway. The material has since been bootlegged on CD by another set of musical parasites, UK's Grey Matter label. These same disreputable folks have also issued a CD of Manson's prison recordings, Live at San Quentin - a completely erroneous title as Manson was never even allowed a guitar during his stay there. In the early 1980's, however, Manson was granted extended freedoms while at the Vacaville Medical Facility near Sacramento. It was during a gig helping the prison chaplain that Charlie recorded a number of cassette letters, intended for friends on the outside, that contained songs, stories, and rants - almost all of which were done straight off the cuff, stream-of-consciousness style. Some of the best of the Vacaville tapes were recently collected on the Commemoration CD (White Devil Records) in honor of Manson's sixtieth birthday last year. Excluding the questionable LIE album, Commemoration is the first release of his music ever to be sanctioned by Manson, and given the circumstances under which it was recorded, the sound is surprisingly good. Upcoming releases from White Devil include two 7" singles of unreleased songs, with sleeves feature stunning Manson portraits by his longtime friend Nick Bougas.
How to describe Charlie's music? Well, it has to be heard to be believed. A combination of singing and storytelling - the roots of which lie in the Kentucky Hillbilly Music he grew up with in the forties, and the music and poetry of Beatniks he ran with in the fifties, the subject matter ranges from the deadly serious to the humorous, from the searching to the spiritual. At the bottom of it all is Manson's one main concern: survival. To Charlie, survival on Earth can be summed up as his acronym ATWA - Air, Trees, Water, Animals. Without ATWA, we're all done for. Case closed.
No doubt we'll catch a lot of flak here for trying to "sanitize" Manson's image and downplay his supposed transgressions. But given twenty-six years of bad press, it's only fair that the man should finally get a chance to speak unfettered. No one's claiming Charlie is a saint, least of all himself. In his own words: "I'm god to my friends and the devil to my enemies." Due to his fame and attention, small-minded and jealous prison authorities have consistently mistreated him and denied him his rights which other inmates (who did commit cold-blooded murder) take for granted. The following conversation is a pastiche of numerous discussions, and makes no claim to be remotely definitive in its scope. It is, however, possibly the first time Manson's words have ever appeared truly uncensored in print, which means those of you with thirty second TV attention spans will probably be left in the dust, scratching your empty heads. Some will choose to ignore it and others will take offense, but the bottom line of Manson's outlook is that he knows what needs to be done to save his world. Can you say the same for yours?
SECONDS: What can you tell us about the music you're playing now?
MANSON: I've never really sat down and took this serious, until the last two or three times I've been playing. I've never let this part of me come out. I'm a hobo, and I've been on the road since I was just a little kid. I've got a lot of good songs that I never let anybody see because I don't want them stealing 'em. I don't really open up, 'cause if I open up I'll never live to get out of here. They'll steal every fucking drop of my blood. There's no mercy in these bastards, because they're not even there--there's no intelligent life forms. They're all living in something somebody else made and then retired. Like everybody set their life out in motion, and then they went off and retired, or died, or went somewhere else. Then all these other guys, these kids that grow up--they're wearing everybody else's shoes and riding around in everybody else's car, and they don't have nothing of their own, not really. Everything they've got comes from somewhere else. So when you come up with something new, that's like meat to a vulture. They just sit around and wait for you to do something, and push you to do something, and as soon as you do it, they jump on it and eat it up so quick that it don't even look like you're doing anything.
Charles Manson 'Commemoration'
SECONDS: Seconds gave your CD a four-star review.
MANSON: What's a four-star review?
SECONDS: They said it sounded great.
MANSON: That's cool. If they liked that they sure will like this other stuff. I've got a whole lot better music--that's really repetitious, up and down, kind of country-bumpkin stuff.
SECONDS: What else have you been playing?
MANSON: I've got some new style things--they're not new to life, but they're new to music--like going into a trance, putting yourself in a trance, and coming from the spiritual world with other lifeforms that have lived before. And I'm not talking about something phony--this can be done. But it can't be done for inspection, it can't be done consciously. It has to be a total oblivion, unconscious thing that only happens every once in awhile, it just sneaks through every once in awhile and happens. And I just happened to get some of that, about some Navaho, some Indians, and some different things.
SECONDS: There's not a lot of noise in the background on the CD, which is pretty incredible considering it was recorded in prison.
MANSON: See, where I'm at, you don't realize--there was one place in there where someone was talking, and later on, off the tape, I had to go down and shut him up. If anyone sings on the tier, everyone tells him, "What the fuck, why don't you shut up"! and start cat-calling you and all that shit, 'cause you've got a lot of jealousy in here. And to sing you've got to kind of hold everyone else to attention, and that's not very easy--one guy to hold all these convicts in place while he does something that they don't want to hear anyway. One time we were doing a music session in Vacaville in one cell, and in the next cell some guy got killed. It came out on the tape and they subpoenaed the tape and took it to court! They sat there listening to this music and some guys screaming in the back, "Arrhhh!" It was really a weird tape, kind of a morbid tape.
SECONDS: What are you doing these days, besides music?
MANSON: I've got so many projects that I'm getting involved in. I'm inventing a Hobo Suit....
SECONDS: What's that?
MANSON: A Hobo Suit is one suit of clothes, and then you never have to buy another suit of clothes as long as you live. In other words, you've got a suit of clothes and you can just get up on the road and go. You never have to worry about clothing rooms or clothing stores or nothing. It's got elk skin pants and a shirt, with a pouch like a pocket book that you can throw over your shoulder that you can use to keep your knife, your sharpening stone, your needles, some thread--you know, enough to police your Hobo Suit, to keep it in one perspective. Then you don't ever need another set of clothes, you don't ever have to worry about nothing you can just get up on the road with that.
SECONDS: And elk skin will last a lifetime?
MANSON: Yeah. It'd be like your skin. You just get in the shower once in a while, scrub it down, then run around the block two or three times and you'll be right there. Just give it a bath like you give yourself a bath and it should last you forever.
SECONDS: What else do you work on?
MANSON: I've got other kinds of little projects going. I've got these little plaque projects I'm doing--I put Family people's pictures on these little wooden plaques and then I finish 'em down, and people that have trailers, they put them on the wall in their trailer.
SECONDS: Sort of like folk art?
MANSON: Yeah, and then I've got a couple of guitars I've restored, I mean they're really tremendous. I got one from Spain that's hand-made and I've restored it and I did a painting--I painted the damn thing! It looks like modern art, like something that don't have wheels that should have wheels! It looks pretty cool. This is a strange place; the only thing they've got here is a hobby shop. They don't have no program at all, for anything. They don't have no gymnasium, no auditorium....
SECONDS: They're not even having you run in circles outside?
MANSON: Well no, they don't even have that. All they got's a little square box with one basketball court nobody plays in, a weightlifting bar--and not too many people lift, and then they've got a little hobby shop about the size of the toilet, and everybody works out of there. They make boats, paintings, a little jewelry, a little Pop Art, like you said. You know what I was told yesterday? I can't use my name anymore --I cant sign my name anymore!
SECONDS: They don't want you autographing?
MANSON: They don't want me signing my name. They say that my signing my name is causing too much trouble. It's making too much money. I'm not after no goddamn fucking money! I'm just trying to play on and go back into whatever I was doing before. I had a world I was working in before. I knew all this before. When I got out last time, I knew it was all a bunch of rotten apples. But I didn't figure I was any better than the worst of them, or any worse than the best. It's the same fucking thing, it's just a pile of shit anyway, so why not try to grow some flowers in it? That's when I got out, and I went through these other things, and then I got trapped up in these kids of the Sixties. But I'm not a kid of the Sixties; I'm a kid of the Forties. Bing Crosby was my hero, not Elvis Presley. I never even liked Elvis Presley he was a rhinestone to me, he wasn't a diamond, that's for damn sure.
SECONDS: What are you conveying with your music?
MANSON: I'm not really an entertainer. I'm a hobo more than an entertainer. 'Im like Woody Guthrie, you know I just rap and talk about ATWA, and bullshit...tell poems. 'Im not a Hippie; I'm a Beatnik. I was doing this, beatin' on bongos and shit, before the Hippies came into play. So I got a lot of weird old poems that are not in books, and I've got a lot of chants and tongues that kind of passed down from generation to generation.
SECONDS: What did you think of Rock and Roll? Your stuff isn't really anything like it.
MANSON: I was into Hank Williams and Lefty Frizzell--Hobo Music, Hillbilly Music. Not Country Music, like all those fake Willie Nelson motherfuckers. It's just a bunch of assholes.
SECONDS: They're just selling an image now.
MANSON: I think a guy called Hitler said it: It 's a Jewish problem. Because everything we get going, they'll end up selling it to us. As soon as Hank Williams died, they bought his guitar and gave it to Bobby Dylan, then they told the world that Bobby Dylan was actually Hank Williams, and that he'd been up on the road and that he was a hobo. And they bought up a whole bunch of these I love you babies in my big brass bed, and gave him the songs and put him up as a star, you dig, and they sold the image of Hank Williams through Zimmerman. It's the same thing they've done all the way down the line, every time one of us dies they just buy up the graveyard and sell it back to us. Every time we make a mistake and back up they just move on in, 'til they end up running it. They're slick motherfuckers, they're running it.
SECONDS: What happened with your music back when you got out in 1967?
MANSON: When I went to Hollywood they offered me these positions and I told them, "No, no." And then they want to pick who's gonna play in my band, and who's gonna do this, and I told them, "No, I cant". So then the Jew told me, he said, "As long as you're in this town you'll never get no music out". In other words, they want to control the music. I'm not a racist kind of guy; I never thought one way or another what a guy is, but then I see how the Second World War has made people racists whatever racist is. We're all for ourselves to start with, so that makes us racists. I've got to be for me first. And then I look and see, what the fuck am I? And then I say, well, I'm Irish, so I've got to be with that first. If I'm not with Irish first then how the fuck can I ever be with anyone else? I've got to be with me, and I've got to be with green.
SECONDS: You start at home and move out from there.
MANSON: Yeah, yes sir! But it's hard to get home and straighten 'er out... I've been lost for 700 years, just floating around in space. I didn't know where I come from or go to I never even thought about it until it was thrown on me to think about it. In other words, at the end of your life you look off into the gas chamber and say, "What am I going in here for? What am I giving my life up for everyday? What is this all about?" And then when you figure it all out you've just got to be what you are.
SECONDS: What did you think of Dennis Wilson from the Beach Boys?
MANSON: I liked him. And he cheated me.
SECONDS: They did one song of yours, Never Learn Not to Love.
MANSON: There's more than one song; they stole a bunch of my shit. Here's what he did: I told him, "I sure like this house". He said, "I'll give you this house if you help me write some songs, and teach me how to play the way you play". He said he wanted to make an album on his own, and I said, "Okay, Ill help you". He said, "Consider this house as yours", and then I said, "Well, what are you going to give me for that song?" He said, "I'll give you this Silver Cloud". So he gave me the Rolls-Royce, and I said, "Where's the pink slip?" He says, "I've got to get it from my business manager. It's in the company's name". So he was always getting it from his business manager, and then I would go up to his business manager and say, "Hey, when you gonna pay me?" And his business manager'd say, "You better leave me alone, I'll call New York, I'll call New York!" he was an Italian. And they didn't want to pay me. They owed me that house and they owed me that car, but they didn't want to pay me.
SECONDS: They never gave them to you?
MANSON: Fuck no, they didn't give me shit.
SECONDS: Didn't Dennis Wilson give you a motorcycle?
MANSON: No, Neil Young gave me that.
SECONDS: Did you actually hang out with him?
MANSON: Sure, why not? I hang out with all them people, that's my neighborhood. I lived in Elvis Presley's house, man. He ran me out of the yard. I got mad at him, I was going to to throw some rocks at him, ‘cause I thought he was an idiot, an egotistical fucking punk. I never liked him even a little bit, but everybody else always kow-towed to him because he was rich and everything. But to me that don't mean shit. I don't give a fuck how rich you are, I'll bust you up anyway.
SECONDS: Was there anyone else you ran into back then?
MANSON: Frank Zappa. He's a no good, thieving motherfucker! I knew a lot of those guys.
SECONDS: Tell me how the LIE album came about.
MANSON: A guy come up to me and I've got a tape. He said, "Gimme that tape and I'll make an album". I told him, "Man, I don't give a fuck about none of that shit". He said, "Can I have the album, can I have the tape?" I said, "Go ahead, take it on". So he went on with the tape and he made an album called LIE.
SECONDS: That was Phil Kaufman?
MANSON: Yeah. Now, he went into the record company and told the dude, "Look, I'll give you a nickel for each record you press". The guy made 600,000 copies. He paid the guy a nickel on each one, a nickel on something. I forgot what the fuck it was, a nickel on the dollar, a nickel on the album, or something like that. But he got 600,000 copies in the back of his car, and he went off and he sold 'em for something like five dollars a piece.
SECONDS: He just drove around selling the records?
MANSON: No, no--he put an ad in Easy Rider magazine. And in the Free Press. So he sold 600,000 at five dollars a copy. 600,000 five dollar bills is what? Thats a nice piece of change. And all he had to do was farm out five percent here, six percent here, two cents on the dollar for that--he gave everybody a little bit of the action and he ended up with a big fucking hunk of change--sent me a picture of a Rolls-Royce over in France talking about, "You wouldn't blame me for doing what you would do?" And I told him, "No, I sure couldn't".
SECONDS: He's selling a book about himself now.
MANSON: Yeah, he's got a book and he's over in Nashville. He's still riding on my music, he's still riding on me. All these guys are riding on me...
SECONDS: How did Phil Kaufman get in contact with you?
MANSON: I was in jail with him for a long time. He was cool in jail, he was alright. A lot of the guys are alright in jail 'cause you can touch 'em and you can bust em up if they're not alright. You can get ahold of them. But as soon as they get out and they feel like you can't get ahold of em, you can't get your hands on them, then they can do anything they want. So it's a whole different game. In here, I have guys that I get along with well, they're perfect. But get 'em out the gate, man, as soon as they're out the gate they'd steal my eyes and teeth if they could.
SECONDS: Would you say you play music just for yourself?
MANSON: I play for the experience of--the feeling of--because I like playing it it makes me feel good. And if the other people don't like it, I really don't care. I'm doing it for how I feel. I can't say that someone else's approval hasn't got something to do with it, but not that much. I like doing it, and then once it's done, it's gone. I'm not laboring with yesterday. Yesterday went on down the river. I don't think of too much tomorrow, I can pretty much live on today. So I just try to have a good day and play music and be in harmony in everything I do. I try to stay out of the bullshit and confusion of other people, if I can...
SECONDS: But they'll try to rope you in every time.
MANSON: Yeah, they do. Sure they do.
SECONDS: Misery loves company.
MANSON: Sure, sure it does. So I just play, and trip, and try to stay out of the way of these--I've got a big old jealous snake on me, you see. If I look cool, or I get the attention, then other people don't like that. They want to be the one; everybody wants to be the one. Remember that song: "Everyone that is the one is looking for the door / And if you are the one my friend, you don't need to look anymore / And if you are a two, you know there's no place to go / Reckless hate we cant use, let it go." That's pretty much the same thing. Everybody wants to go through that one door; everybody wants to be that door. And if you see a bunch of little puppies being born; how little puppies will bowl each other over to get to you and they're stepping on each others heads to establish the pecking order.
SECONDS: Who's going to get that nipple.
MANSON: Yeah, and it's always a selection of who's going to be stronger, or better, or taller, or louder, or sing better whatever. And as you and I sit here arguing with each other or squabbling over who's going to do the music, the Jew is paying Michael Jackson to do it.
SECONDS: You saw who he married, didn't you?
MANSON: Yeah, well, he's breeding it all into: goodbye, Moynihan see you later, we don't need your kind anymore! In a country that says We don't like the White males, doesn't that tell you something? Who's controlling the opinion to decide that we don't like the White males and we only want the White pussy? In other words, whose mind are we in?
SECONDS: What's the situation like where you are now?
MANSON: The way this place works is that everybody wants everybody below them, and then they all feel like they're superior. Anytime in any shape or form something rises above them, they all feel like they're a bunch of insecure little kids running around, playing cops and robbers with uniforms on. They really don't know what they're doing, because the people that set up this shit already retired. Its a Mickey Mouse watch, is what it is. It's just a form that was set by the people who died; they're already dead. They set it with necessity, they didn't set it with anything positive, they just set it because they had to, and then it went on to something else. And the only way you can get over it is you gotta create situations where they have to change. You've almost got to go the point of death to get any kind of change and then its only for a second, before it closes right back up. It's like a big mechanical beast that runs on numbers and money.
SECONDS: Are you receiving any letters?
MANSON: No. I can't deal with it. What happens is, it's like you send me a picture of a goat. And then they get here and they say to me, "What are you doing with a picture of goat?" I say, "Well, it was sent to me from a friend". They say, "Well, Section 4453, Supplemented in '39, Made in '42, says: you're not allowed to have pictures of goats". So then they take my picture of the goats and they pass a rule. And then the rule sits out on the launch pad here, and they start making rules to everyone. Then they go around to everybody, they shake everybody's cell down and they take all the pictures of goats, and goats are disallowed all over the place. Well, that puts heat back up on me, then everybody that lost their goat looks over to me and says, "What the fuck, you're causin' us to lose our goat". So I have to carry that shit back through all these fuckin' inmates, and most of them don't have the I.Q. of 39. And then the administrators, they go off drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes and making more stupid things up to torment people. It's crazy, but that doesn't matter because there's no one there anyway. Not really. No one I can find, no intelligent life forms. You see, here's the irony of this whole thing: if I were the emperor of the world, I'd start with you because you let it happen. The reason you let it happen is you let these guys work for you. These people represent you. You're paying these people to do this, and then when they do it to me you say, "Oh, well, I wish there was something I could do", and then you go right on back to doing the same thing that you're doin', in other words, you hold this insanity up, you watch it on TV...
SECONDS: Everyone's holding it up.
MANSON: I'm not saying you personally, guy. When I say you, I mean you as a goat. You as the you that's in all the other yous. Me and I and my mes are on this side of me, you know were not doing that. Were probably worse than that. They're probably a hell of a lot better than we are. Because I would put 'em in the gas chamber. I wouldn't give no probation, that's for damn sure. I certainly wouldn't be feeding a bunch of people that I didn't need to feed, and wasting all kinds of my money. I wouldn't waste my money on this insanity. So probably they're doing a better job than we would do in relation to human concern. But still, its you the Joe Public, John Jones, honest Citizen Kane, whatever, that's doing this because you're allowing these people to do this. All your public servants that used to be serving the public, they're public leeches, they just leech on the public's stupidity. And then they sell the public any fuckin' thing. You watch TV occasionally, don't you?
SECONDS: Every once in awhile.
MANSON: And you see how really far out it is?
SECONDS: I'm always more amazed every time I turn it on.
MANSON: Well, what we should be doing is making the films. I mean, if we're supposed to be the intelligence, then why aren't we laying the patterns out for them, rather than them layin' the patterns out for us? In other words, they've got all kinds of games that they play back to you, and you don't have enough sense to see through it. We should have been out of here a long time ago, and we should have had this thing rolling years ago. The only reason we haven't is because everybody wants to be an individual. No one wants to give up their individual for the collective base. You know, if you don't have a collective atmosphere towards some unity of something for some reason, then you're just a total blob, jellyfish, or whatever.
SECONDS: It was a bad day when everyone decided they were individuals.
BTW, if you are interested in an original copy of this issue of Seconds, Aes-Nihil has a copy. Don't be second to order, he only has one.