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Banned MM ads
Photography Riley DW Johnson

The Marilyn Manson Instagram ads you weren’t supposed to see

Alex Kazemi’s Insta campaign was pulled last minute - here he explains why and shows us the clips

With Marilyn Manson’s new album Heaven Upside Down due out next Friday (October 6), there’s been a lot of press surrounding the release (including this interview). Not all of the campaign made it though – including these Instagram clips created by pop artist Alex Kazemi.

The videos were intended to be used for an Insta series that Manson pulled due to timing. But now the ads are being used - like, right now, so have they been pulled? We’re through the looking glass here.

“Marilyn Manson is a friend of mine and we’ve been trying to work together for the past two years, but by some weird alchemy it’s never worked out,” Kazemi explains. “I made this Instagram campaign for his new album and it never got to be released. I believe Heaven Upside Down is his greatest and most prolific work to date – what’s a better way to celebrate than satanic strippers, boys getting hardcore and blood?”

“I wish this could air on TV. This is the kind of thing I would want to disrupt people in their living rooms when they are watching America’s Got Talent or whatever. This is the best time to be bad. These are the kinds of things we should be doing in a world where someone like Trump is in power. America needs rock‘n’roll and Marilyn Manson more than ever. It’s clear Jesus is still around, and that to me is like a a total serious problem.”

Apropos of nothing, Bret Easton Ellis says, “It's crazy, it's radical, it shocked me.” Check out the campaign below, via the Banned MM ads Instagram account.

How did you meet Marilyn Manson and how did your friendship blossom?

Alex Kazemi: A series of bizarre coincidences and magickal events led me to him, and we just kept talking over and over. He was really impressed by my Snapchat movie and the concept of real-time art, and since then I’ve been trying to do something with him. The first time we talked on the phone was from 3am to 10am, and during that talk he said to me, ‘I know all you want is to make a dent in culture’ – and it’s true, that’s all I want. I still think about that all the time.

A lot of spooky paranormal stuff happens whenever I talk to him – I get sleep paralysis, he always messages me under a specific moon phase. It sounds cliché, but people say he could be haunted, and I don’t doubt that. At the end of the shoot of these ads, I looked down at my hand and it was gushing/bleeding. I don’t know what that means, but it happened and I didn’t notice for a while.

What’s the concept behind the campaign?

Alex Kazemi: The truth is, I’ve been rewriting ideas for Heaven Upside Down since I heard clips of it over the phone, and since the ‘say10’ clip dropped we’ve been trying to work together. I kind of was just like “I’m ready to do this, and I’m going to do it” and he wished me good luck and knew I’d bring back something that would make me proud. Everything was very conceptual for a long time; it wasn’t until I met this guy Riley Johnson – who is probably one of the most talented makeup artists I know – (that I was able) to bring this all together in a way that was the closest to the vision in my mind. 

In the video, these characters have taken something and romanticised something from Manson’s work and they’ve tried to incorporate it in their personal and sex life, whether it’s fetishes, fashion, kinks, or drug use. Manson’s music evoked something inside of them to lose control or shed something. Every millennial who encountered Marilyn Manson for the first time as a child either felt comforted or terrified. These to me are the adults who found comfort, not disgust in his music and visuals. 

The campaign should be a reminder that not everyone subscribes to the idea of asking to be accepted, and these clips are supposed to display what it’s like to watch people doing things Christians and conservatives consider to be transgressive, and the things I would want people to be doing and feel inspired to today. It’s no secret that Christianity played a huge role in getting Trump into power. One of my best American friends told me the day Trump won, that he wanted to be more bad and queer than ever – and there’s a kind of malice that seems to be lingering within some people in our current political climate all around the world. This video is meant to touch on it. Be dangerous, be bad but deal with that as an adult. It’s easy to just want to give up, numb out and respond in hedonism as a way to cope. There’s a lot of hopelessness in our world, because of people’s rights being taken away and compromised and Christianity, and religion being one of the root sources to people feeling inspired to censor or hurt others.

I mean is shock the point of this? I don’t know. I honestly don’t think any of this is shocking, but I showed the clips to my Christian family and they were acting like they were forced to watch a snuff film at gunpoint. Religion is a disease and anything dogmatic to me is, and anything oppressive. Anything that restricts creative freedom, or creative thought – does not serve anyone in the end.  I get why some 16-year-olds start screaming ‘satan’ to people handing out Bible pamphlets downtown. None of these people are asking to be accepted, and was it all scripted? I can’t answer that. Christianity is insane and oppressive, and lots of people would argue our modern society is built on the fundamentals of the bible and that is a problem. I will always choose Satan over god.

Were you bummed out when the Insta campaign didn’t get used?

Alex Kazemi: I’ve been working in this industry since I was 15; I don’t think I was bummed, but I was just kind of like ‘Okay, well, onto the next idea!’ because that’s how you have to be – if you ever want to be where you want to be. He was super supportive and kind. It was just bad timing.

The opportunity to work with Manson and has been enough for me always. I also got to shock Bret Easton Ellis, which always is a pleasure, and I was very excited to show him these clips, another prince of darkness. I’m incredibly passionate about this album and I think this is Manson’s greatest work to date.

What I love about him is I can tell him an idea and in five seconds, he can make it better and it blows my mind. He’s always been so supportive. There’s some actual motherfuckers who will set up fake meetings with you, pretend you’re working with them then steal all your ideas. It’s defeating and heartless. Fuck those losers.

Who are the models involved?

Alex Kazemi: Most of them are the makeup artist Riley’s friends, but I casted them pretty specifically and I would be lying if I told you I didn’t cast everyone off of Instagram. Madelina Horn is someone I’ve wanted to work with for so long – she’s an occult stripper in Vancouver, and there’s something very powerful and polarising about what she does. Daron Wood is an interesting girl too, lots of mythology about her in my city. Organ Armani and Hamish Olding are both artists I’ve heard about over the grapevine. There’s a cameo from Riley in there as well. You can’t really work with me unless you have an open mind or creative approach because a lot of people will get a script and be down on email but two hours before shooting, ‘It’s too much.’ Maybe I’m the twisted one, though? 

Heaven Upside Down is out October 6