While some artists do their damndest to identify themselves with the coolest possible influences and constantly update a carefully curated list of musical forebearers, Claire Boucher, aka Grimes, just doesn’t give a fuck. That’s something she learned from her style icon, Marilyn Manson—a master of popularizing the subversive. Here, Boucher explains how daring to be an outsider as a teenager gave her the confidence to stay true to her artistic vision as an adult.
I started listening to Marilyn Manson when I was about thirteen or fourteen, and I had been raised in a really strict Catholic household and went to a really Catholic school. It sucked and Marilyn Manson represented the antithesis of all the things I was dealing with at the time. I know it’s a juvenile way to see it, but when everything is one way and you’re headed in the opposite direction, it can have a profound effect on your life. For my parents, Manson was the epitome of everything that was bad and wrong, which is why I immediately started wearing eyeliner all the time and white face make-up. They were like, “You look like the devil!” They couldn’t stand it. I mean, I don’t know what the devil looks like, but I imagine Manson wants other people to think that he’s pretty much the spitting image—the opposite of what white Christian America thinks looks “reasonable”. I know a lot of the things he does are also in reaction to his upbringing, so it makes sense that he’d have that same influence.
In retrospect, I’ve come to appreciate Manson’s stage performances even more. He’s basically an aggressive, violent performance artist who makes industrial and noise music and, in spite of all that, became a platinum selling pop icon. I credit him with introducing the visual and musical aesthetics of Throbbing Gristle and Genesis P-Orridge to a whole generation of people who would never have seen it otherwise. Some of it was timing and some of it was just being really smart about what he was doing. I suppose Nine Inch Nails had a similar thing, but Manson took it to another level, another extreme. People today look down on what they consider “shock rock” and Marilyn Manson’s definitely not one of the most “respected” artists right now. I’m convinced he’s one of the most underrated, because I don’t think art and music are necessarily separable, and the visual component of music, the presentation, is something that’s important for people to latch on to in pop. The classical world doesn’t produce the same kind of personalities. I mean, you have like, Yo-Yo Ma, but for the most part classical musicians wear black ties and suits and don’t reveal anything about their personalities. They play other peoples’ music. In contrast, pop musicians sell themselves, which is equally as important as the music they make. I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all.
I’ve never met Marilyn Manson, but I’d love to. I’m just not sure I’m in that “club” yet. It’s not like I don’t view myself as successful, but there are two tiers of success: artistic and commercial. Currently, artistic success takes precedence for me: I get more excited about finishing a track or an album than having my face on the cover of a magazine or people recognizing me on the street. The latter is a measure of success, but I’m not sure how much credit I could really take for that because there’s an entire marketing machine behind that, thrusting your image into the spotlight. On the other hand, I know a lot of people get really down when they receive bad reviews, but that often has nothing to do with the art.
Marilyn Manson was what got me thinking about art and music seriously. Before that, I had been very into ballet and other “normal” things. And then when I was thirteen, I was like, “Fuck it.” I shaved my head and that was the beginning of a decade of being completely ostracized. In school, pretty much everyone hated me and were like, “Claire’s a freak.” I got locked in lockers and thrown in garbage cans. People wrote “Whore!” and “Bitch!” all over my stuff. It was because of how I looked, and I was very extreme about it because I was obsessed with Marilyn Manson. It defined my social engagement with the world. I recognize that it’s silly, but Manson is how I learned that it’s OK to be an outcast; it’s what gave me faith in the things that I was doing artistically. My ability to ignore bad reviews is strongly connected to that. It’s a part of who I am. I just don’t give a shit, and that’s something my parents haven’t made total peace with. They’re still not down with my art and lifestyle because they’re so conservative and I guess they just don’t understand blogs and Internet success. Occasionally, I think my dad would rather see me unsuccessful than have people liking my art with me looking and acting the way I do. ~
Photo: Christina Radish/Kontributor