Interview with Nikolas Schreck, by Metal-Impact
"Charles’s constitutional right to defend himself was denied. Crucial forensic evidence was suppressed and manipulated which presented a completely inaccurate picture of the chronology and crime scene of the Cielo Drive murders. Witnesses were pressured to perjure themselves. Witnesses who could’ve told the truth about what happened were deliberately excluded from testifying. The President of the United States prejudiced the jury by publicly stating that Manson was guilty before the trial was over. Before the trial began, Susan Atkins’s scripted confessional testimony to a grand jury was illegally sold to the newspapers, which guaranteed there could never be a fair trial since millions were exposed to her declaration of Manson’s guilt."
Metal-Impact. Hi Nikolas and thanks for this interview. First, I’d like to congratulate you for this book, The Manson File, which really moved me (And what moved me even more, was to see that my review of your book was on your own website…). What motivated this « Apocalypse Edition » actually?
Nikolas Schreck. Thanks for your kind words. I see you’re going to soften me up with old-world Gallic flattery before going in for the kill! This Apocalypse Edition was motivated by my desire to finally clear away the smokescreen of lies obscuring the truth about Manson. Despite the huge body of mostly sensational and poorly researched hack literature on this subject since 1969, this is the first serious study of every aspect of Manson’s complicated life, thought, and criminal career. I’ve come to accept that Charles will never get the retrial he deserves, despite all the evidence disproving the Helter Skelter cover story painting him as a death cult mastermind. As a counterweight and refutation to forty years of Bugliosi bullshit, my book serves as the case for Manson’s defense that he never got in court. In the long range, as the information in my book slowly becomes common knowledge, I expect “Helter Skelter” will be remembered as the fraud of the century. Just as important to me as finally clarifying what these infamous murders were really all about was offering an equally comprehensive explanation of Manson’s mystical and religious views. In my opinion, that’s his most important legacy. As I said to him not long ago, as long as the public believes he’s a Satanic madman who ordered the killings of random strangers, nobody but a marginal lunatic fringe will ever take his philosophical, spiritual and ecological views seriously. So that was another motivation. I used the word “Apocalypse” in its literal sense of “Revelation” since so many secrets are revealed in its pages. This case provides a perfect example of how history is rewritten by the forces of social control. The irony is that the false Helter Skelter story so many socially conventional good citizens accept as the truth was actually concocted to protect a powerful Mafia drug dealing network from prosecution. I didn’t write this to provide escapist true crime entertainment or to appeal to murder memorabilia ghouls. I hope to encourage even readers who’ve never thought about this case before to ask themselves: if they’ve been lied to about one of the most widely publicized crimes in history, what cover-ups are being perpetrated on them right now?
MI. The fact that this new edition was firstly translated in French was deliberate? Do you think that our sensibility over this subject was more subtle than that of the American readers?
Nikolas. Definitely. The words “subtle” and “American” don’t belong in the same sentence. Our national bogeyman Manson stirs up so much knee-jerk hysteria in the USA it wouldn’t be the right place to begin the historical reassessment of Manson my book seeks to trigger. The French, to their credit, maintain a healthy skepticism about the proud American tradition of twisting the truth. Right after JFK’s assassination, the French media suspected a conspiracy long before Americans began to doubt the official story. More recently, the French refused to go along with the war criminal George W. Bush’s fictional reasons for invading Iraq. The Helter Skelter cover story I’ve exposed is just as explosive in what it reveals about the corruption of the American legal system and media. With all that in mind, my wife’s unerring feminine intuition determined that the truth about the Manson case was best introduced to a more impartial European readership likely to grasp the subtleties of the situation. Another factor arguing for a European release first was that the Polanski side of this sordid epic is a story of European exiles sucked into the peculiar American alliance of the Mafia and Hollywood that’s never been told before. And of course, I expect your Minister of Culture to thank me for my contribution to French literature by awarding me one of those fancy Legion of Arts and Letters medals. If Jerry Lewis can get one, it’s only fair that I get one too.
MI. Can you tell us more about your relationship with Charles Manson? What was the real starting point of this bilateral communication?
Nikolas. As far as “bilateral communication” one amusing and revealing thing Charles said to me recently was “You and me have a communication problem. You keep trying to talk!” Our rapport is deeper and weirder than an ordinary friendship, and as complicated as relatives who fight and make up with each other over decades. A relationship with Charles is like befriending a wild Bengal tiger; you never know if he’ll be a purring pussycat or a snarling beast. A mutual friend who’s heard Charles and me in conversation said that we relate to each other like an old married couple. Although I felt a connection with him as early as 1970, I contacted Charles in late 1985. This was right after Radio Werewolf’s drummer Evil Wilhelm and I became obsessed with a Manson interview on a late-night TV news program. Charles and I had an instant affinity, which was at first based on our mutual spiritual kinship with the wolf as a totem animal. Those who only know him from the crazy Charlie act he puts on for the media might find it hard to believe that he’s often been a fount of wise counsel to me. For example, when I was starting out in the 80s version of the same Hollywood sex, drugs, and rock and roll game he’d floated through in the 60s, Charles offered me practical down-to-earth advice based on his own similar experiences. He warned me that the rock industry and the clubs Radio Werewolf played at on the Sunset Strip were Mafia fronts and that if I stayed in that world I’d lose my creativity and my soul. I took his advice. Because Charles has so little privacy, and has been betrayed by so many people who he and I once trusted, I prefer to keep most of our volatile camaraderie private. Charles introduced me to some of my dearest friends and he’s also introduced me to some of my most noxious enemies. Knowing him led directly to my meeting the love of my life and also led directly to me nearly getting killed. What else can you expect from a guy who’s Jesus on Monday, the Devil on Tuesday, and Abraxas on every other day of the week? We have a powerful but not always easy karmic bond it will probably take a few more lifetimes to fully resolve.
MI. According to me – please correct me if I’m wrong – this book is a demystification of the Manson myth, as a “serial killer” and even as a kind of “modern evil”, as he’s still seen in America. You turned him into a simple citizen, always on the verge of legality and on the loose. Do you think he was a kind of scapegoat for the government, and used as a symbol for the 60’s freedom repression?
Nikolas. Yes, you’re right; my book’s devoted to demystifying the myth, thus the “myth and reality” subtitle. Not only the Manson-bashing myth of the Satanic serial killer, but also the equally untrue Manson fan’s fantasy of the completely innocent political prisoner. If there’s a “modern evil” in this case, it’s not the petty crook Manson but the lawyers, mobsters and show biz sleazebags who used him as their fall guy. It’s too simple to say that Charles was specifically selected by some all-powerful “Them” as a scapegoat. It’s more that right-wing politicians ruling California and Washington shrewdly leaped on the convenient opportunity of “a hippie cult leader” to discredit the counterculture by redefining its revolutionary aspirations as criminal psychosis. With such opponents of peace, love and LSD as the FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover, Ronald Reagan as Governor of California, and Richard “Tricky Dick” Nixon as Commander in Chief, Manson’s media coverage and trial was a tightly controlled exercise in government propaganda. And the way the Manson case was covered really did have political consequences in that it defused the counterculture by convincing the public to fear hippies and dissidents as potential murderers. However, we can’t ignore the fact that Atkins, Krenwinkel and Van Houten cooperated with the official script by convincingly playing the parts of “brainwashed hippie cultists” for the TV cameras at their trial. As I attempt to clarify, if Charles or any of his co-defendants opened their mouths at the trial to reveal even some of the real motives of the crimes, they could’ve brought down Bugliosi’s fragile house of cards instantly. But the girls’ defense attorneys convinced them they could get off if they showed the jury they were mindless zombies under their master’s hypnotic control. And Manson’s loyalty to the underworld code of silence meant that the Establishment knew that they could get away with their “Helter Skelter” anti-hippie theater without being questioned in court. So the government’s scapegoat for the Sixties was at least partially responsible for allowing himself to be scapegoated.
MI. The real story – and I must say that my opinion is very close to yours on this matter – was actually just a struggle between two parallel worlds. Hollywood “glamour” (Dennis Wilson, Sammy Davis Junior, Kenneth Anger, Mama Cass) versus Drug dealers. In your book, the real frontdoor protagonists emerge as the true actors of the tragedy, I mean, Charles « Tex » Watson, Jay Sebring and « Voytek » Frykowski, Polanski’s “friend”. Was this version of the story too Down-to-earth for the conservatives? Did the American people really need a tragedy in flesh and blood to bury the 60’s?
Nikolas. I’m glad you came away from the book understanding that “the true actors of the tragedy” were actually the Watson-Sebring-Frykowski drug dealing network. I wanted to finally cast light on this trio usually relegated to the sidelines as “brainwashed follower” and “innocent victims”. This was never the bizarre story of a cult attacking innocent strangers for irrational reasons. It’s just a fairly typical tale of violence breaking out between two criminal factions who were working together. Actually, though, the cover-up of the drug-dealing nature of the crimes wasn’t inspired by the conservatives. A clique of hip liberal rock stars and film industry players concealed the Mafia narcotics ring being run from the home of one of Hollywood’s leading directors while he was out of town. Also, as my book makes clear, the FBI were preparing a sting operation on Jay Sebring, Leno LaBianca, and Joel Rostau (the mobster who delivered the drugs to Sebring and Frykowski the night of the murders) and others involved in a large-scale Mafia money-laundering scam whose trail they suspected led directly to Paramount Studios. To allow the true circumstances of the murders to be known to the public would have blown the FBI’s agenda. The FBI, the Mafia, and the Hollywood establishment were united in their vested interest to distract the public from the truth with the “Helter Skelter” fairy tale. The utter failure of journalists to question the huge inconsistencies in the official version of the murders is to blame for letting the powers who ruled Hollywood get away with the perfect crime in court.
MI. Your book can be seen as an objective piece of work. But what’s your intimate feelings and opinion over some of the protagonists of the Manson story, Tex Watson, Lynne Fromme, Susan Atkins, Jay Sebring or even Dennis Wilson for instance?
Nikolas. I tried to put myself in the shoes of the main players rather than judging them. You can’t write in such depth about the intimate lives and deaths of even the most flawed people without feeling empathy for them. My subjective feeling is that they were all caught up in the momentum of a needless tragedy that wouldn’t have happened if psychedelic drugs hadn’t been made illegal three years before the murders. I’ll give you my spontaneous impressions of the people you named. Tex Watson: an emotionally impoverished sociopath. His violent temper was triggered by his abuse of amphetamines and Belladonna in the weeks leading up to his rampage on Cielo Drive. He didn’t have a serial killer profile, he just freaked out in a speed-fueled rage. As I once wrote to him, if Watson was the disciple of Jesus he pretends to be, he’d practice what the Bible preaches about “the truth will set you free” and tell the truth about the crimes he instigated. Lynette Fromme: I know her to be of great integrity, intelligence and idealism. She was sincere in her revolutionary zeal to change society and the natural environment for the better. I hope she finds peace in her newly won freedom. I only spoke to Susan Atkins once. She was so guarded it was hard to see beneath her pose of Christian repentance. But she’s a tragic case too, since despite her self-destructive bragging, she didn’t participate in the murders of Gary Hinman and the Cielo Drive victims, but was just along for the ride on what she thought were going to be non-fatal settlings of her friends’ drug dealing disputes. She was promised immunity if she “confessed” to the crimes according to the fictional cover story contrived by her Mafioso lawyers. Her life can only be seen as a complete waste. Jay Sebring: a professional criminal who knew the risks of the dangerous profession he chose – and I don’t mean hairdressing. Violent death is an occupational hazard for high-stakes drug dealers. Sebring was an insecure striver concerned with putting up an impressive front who numbed his anxiety with cocaine and alcohol. Dennis Wilson: a nervous wreck haunted by the knowledge that he introduced Manson to the whole fatal cast of characters, including Tex, Tate, Terry Melcher, Rudy Altobelli, John Phillips, Mama Cass. His last years were a wasteland of remorse. And long before that he was a tortured soul due to the stress of living up to his clean-cut Beach Boys image. All of these people’s lives and the Sixties dream itself were ultimately torn apart simply because a few petty drug burn disputes got out of hand on a stoned summer night. And, as Manson’s pointed out, if a minor but newsworthy celebrity like Sharon Tate hadn’t canceled her plans for staying at a girlfriend’s house that night, the drama would never have escalated into the legendary nightmare it became.
MI. Don’t you think sometimes that Bugliosi was just a puppet whose strings were pulled by both the Nixon Administration and the Mafia? To focus the attention of the American people on a mock trial, rather than on the Vietnam crisis and the influence of the mafia over the entertainment/drug industry?
Nikolas. Not a puppet of the Nixon administration, because Bugliosi was a Democratic Party supporter, and an admirer of Nixon’s liberal arch-enemy John F. Kennedy. As for your second charge of who pulled his strings, it’s relevant to note the Mafia’s long-standing ties with the Democratic Party and the Kennedy family, a power syndicate Jay Sebring was also closely connected since he provided drugs for his most famous haircutting client JFK during his secret trysts with Marilyn Monroe. I find it interesting that like several other shady characters behind the Helter Skelter smokescreen, Bugliosi ardently argues that Lee Harvey Oswald was JFK’s lone assassin and that the Mafia had nothing to do with the Dallas hit. Manson’s told me explicitly that he believes that Bugliosi’s primary task was to conceal Leno LaBianca’s long-standing Mafia activity and “bring New York to Hollywood.” That translates from Mansonese to mean covering up the real circumstances of the crimes to allow the East Coast mob to secure their hold over the L.A. film industry. This hostile takeover was celebrated in the movie The Godfather, which was filmed while several mob figures who could have testified in the Manson trial were executed to keep them from snitching. Bugliosi wasn’t only a puppet. He had his own motives in exploiting the publicity the Manson trial received to push his own failed political ambitions to be elected as the Attorney General of California.
MI. How and why do you think the Beatles got involved in all this mess? Simply because at that time they were the leaders of the counter culture? Was Charles really fascinated by their music?
Nikolas. Whoever had the bright idea of misspelling “Healter Skelter” on the LaBiancas’ refrigerator assured that the Fab Four would be smeared by association for all time. But despite that still unexplained clue, Charles himself was never particularly impressed by the Beatles. Anyone can hear that his folk/country music isn’t inspired by the lovable moptops, which it would be if he was so obsessed with them. If this Beatlemania was so central to Manson’s philosophy, why has he never spoken about it in any of the many sermons he’s given in hundreds of interviews since then? Also, Charles’s close friend and supporter Dennis Wilson knew the Beatles very well, as did the other Beach Boys. So did the actor Peter Sellers and many of the other rock and movie stars who Manson partied with and sold drugs to. If Charles wanted to contact the Beatles so badly, as was later claimed, he was always just a phone call away from his supposed heroes. It was “Little Paul” Watkins and Susan Atkins who were the real Beatle fans on Charlie’s black bus. And it was those two who most closely collaborated with Bugliosi in crafting the fictional Helter Skelter/Beatles race war motive which we now know had absolutely nothing to do with these routine drug dealing murders. Atkins finally admitted that the Helter Skelter motive was a lie in the last document she wrote before her death. There wasn’t a hippie commune in all of California that wasn’t listening to The White Album in 1969. Thousands of young people in that year sought secret messages in Beatles songs, which is what led to the “Paul is Dead” rumors. So I agree with you that the Beatles were dragged into this along with acid, free love, witchcraft, and all the rest of the counterculture cliches to defame the hippie movement as a dangerous threat to society. If the killers wrote “Mellow Yellow” in blood on that refrigerator, that would have been the name of Bugliosi’s book instead. And Donovan would be stuck with the blame for the “crime that killed the Sixties.”
MI. I guess the writing of this book was sometimes like a struggle for you. How did you find the strength to go on writing and obviously face many difficulties? Was it like a quest for the truth, or, so to say, another truth?
Nikolas. Yes, even though there were times I couldn’t bear to even think about this subject again, it really was a quest for truth that drove me to continue investigating the Manson enigma’s hidden history. As soon as I thought I’d wrapped it all up, a new surprising bit of data would emerge. Gathering accurate information about the nights of the murders and how the truth was covered up was especially tricky. It involved gaining the trust of suspicious and powerful sources who’d never broken their silence before and were guarding secrets that had led to others getting killed. Also, it isn’t only the Mafia and Hollywood figures involved in the cover-up who were hostile to my research. Plenty of Manson fans and supporters are in denial about the mundane nature of the crimes, since they prefer to believe that the Tate-LaBianca killings were some kind of revolutionary action, which is nonsense. Also, although Charles rightfully complains about the Helter Skelter cult leader caricature Bugliosi created, I don’t think he’s thrilled about the sleazy truth of his minor after-the-fact role in a drug robbery finally emerging either. Looking into this case for so many years required looking under every rock and digging up every buried skeleton, a task which is emotionally draining in the extreme. It’s overwhelming to realize the extent to which so many well-known public figures conspired to conceal the ugly truth, because it forces you to unravel the spider web of illusions we accept as “reality.” The actual writing of the book was relatively easy once I’d organized the vast amount of information I had to cover into a workable form. My struggle took place during the years of gathering the research without really knowing what the end result would be. Through this ordeal, I’ve come to view the Helter Skelter cover-up as a metaphor for the larger cosmic cover-up which prevents us from grasping the true nature of reality in general.
MI. If this whole affair had taken place nowadays, how do you think it would have ended?
Nikolas. That’s a good question. In the corruption of 1960s Los Angeles, cops and journalists were routinely paid off to prevent the public from learning inconvenient facts. In the 80s and 90s there were several Hollywood drug-dealing murders just like the Cielo Drive murders. However, times had changed and the media and legal system reported them and tried them accurately without misleading the public with fanciful nonsense about cult killings and hypnotic powers. One was the so-called “Cotton Club Murder” which involved some of the supporting cast of the Tate/LaBianca slayings. The other was the “Four on the Floor” or “Wonderland” murders, a Tex Watson-like drug dealing robbery/murder possibly committed by the coke-addicted porn star John Holmes. If some minor actress was killed last night as the result of her ex-boyfriend conducting a drug deal gone wrong, which was essentially all that happened at Roman Polanski’s house, nobody would be particularly shocked today. But in 1969, the drug and sex habits of celebrities were still kept secret. Now, it’s routine celebrity PR to confess to your latest drug addiction on a reality TV show or to “accidentally” leak private porno videos to the Internet. (I mention this because another aspect covered up in this case were the videotapes of celebrity orgies the police confiscated from the Cielo Dive crime scene.) These days, the Italian Mafia doesn’t have the clout over Hollywood and the media it had in the 60s. The movie studios are no longer powerful enough to pay off the police to protect their product as they always had in the past with messy celebrity crimes. I don’t think investigative journalists today would cooperate so willingly with the Hollywood power structure as the media did back then.
MI. Do you think that Charles Manson would ever get out of jail? Does he wish to?
Nikolas. I’d be surprised if any of the surviving “Manson Family” who were convicted for the murders are ever paroled. After all these years of the media pushing the frightening fiction of random cult killings, the public outcry would be too great. Even when Susan Atkins was dying of brain cancer after having one of her legs amputated, they wouldn’t let her out on a “compassionate release”. Regardless of Manson’s guilt or innocence, his trial was conducted illegally. That means he’s technically entitled to be released if an efficient lawyer ever petitioned for a mistrial. Charles’s constitutional right to defend himself was denied. Crucial forensic evidence was suppressed and manipulated which presented a completely inaccurate picture of the chronology and crime scene of the Cielo Drive murders. Witnesses were pressured to perjure themselves. Witnesses who could’ve told the truth about what happened were deliberately excluded from testifying. The President of the United States prejudiced the jury by publicly stating that Manson was guilty before the trial was over. Before the trial began, Susan Atkins’s scripted confessional testimony to a grand jury was illegally sold to the newspapers, which guaranteed there could never be a fair trial since millions were exposed to her declaration of Manson’s guilt. My book uncovers for the first time just how suspicious the circumstances of Atkins’s staged “confession” really were. These are all causes for a mistrial. Even though I’m making these facts public knowledge, no politician in California will risk the political fallout of freeing these notorious figures, even though none of these elderly men and women present any kind of threat today. Does Manson want to get out of prison? I still don’t know even after seriously discussing that topic with him many times in the past twenty-six years. Since 1987, I’ve been involved in several efforts to get a new trial moving. As recently as December 2010 and April 2011, I spoke with two different attorneys of varying degrees of sincerity who volunteered to help Charles attain justice. As happened many times before, once it came down to signing papers to set the legal process in motion, Charles balked. On one hand, he’s always said he wants the rights that were stolen from him in court. But then he’ll say that if he’s released, he’d have nowhere to go since the Manson myth’s made him such a hated monster he’d be even more of a target than he already is in prison. He’s made a few serious attempts to escape over the years. Maybe he’s too much of an outlaw to want to get out the legal way.
MI. Manson is known to be a huge influence – “spiritually” and musically – for various musicians, from Marilyn Manson to Blood Axis or Henry Rollins. As a musician yourself, do you think this fascination is sincere or just a promotional argument based on cheap provocation ? (What do you think of the cover of “Look At Your Game, Girl” by GUNS N’ ROSES, as an hidden track of their album The Spaghetti Incident?!?”)
Nikolas. Any judgment I make about the sincerity of other musicians could only be a subjective opinion open to debate. However, since I’ve had personal dealings with all of the distinguished colleagues you mention, I can offer partially informed answers. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, Radio Werewolf shared a rehearsal studio in Hollywood with Guns N’ Roses at the height of our Free Manson crusade. They were all pleasant enough, but since they never expressed any interest in Charles then, I find it hard to believe that their later cover version was anything more than cheap provocation and negative publicity fodder. I’ve never heard it, so can’t comment on its quality. Henry Rollins sincerely wanted to produce a mainstream release of a Manson prison recording in the mid-80s. According to Charles, Rollins was scared off by all of the negative reactions and death threats that proposed album inspired and dropped out of contact decades ago. As for Blood Axis, despite his faithful devotion to the defamatory LaVeyist party line against my wife and me, I’d say he was the most sincere on your list when it came to actually supporting Manson’s ATWA cause and working to clear up some of the lies about the case. When it comes to the one who stole Manson’s name, I’ll diplomatically reserve comment. The funny thing about all those who claim to be so influenced by Manson is that none of them actually play his kind of country and western tinged Americana. So other than their fascination with the legend of the murders, it’s hard to discern any actual artistic influence.
MI. What do you think of Charles’ music?
Nikolas. One reason I got in touch with him in ’85 was my admiration for his then largely unknown music and his theories about the spiritual effect of sound on the human mind. After much paperwork and persuasion, San Quentin Prison granted me permission to film Charles giving a solo concert with his guitar. Charles Manson Unplugged, so to speak. When I showed up to film the performance we’d planned for a year and a half, the prison suddenly decided they wouldn’t let Charles play his guitar outside of his cell because “he could use it as a weapon.” That’s why in my interview with him in Charles Manson Superstar, you’ll notice he picks up a trash can and beats on it and says sarcastically, “We can’t get any music out of this.” Just like Bobby Beausoleil, Terry Melcher, Dennis Wilson and Neil Young all did, I think Charles has a great spontaneous poetic songwriting talent. It could’ve been developed with the proper producer and recording techniques into something of enduring artistic value. But as he admits, he didn’t have the patience to submit to what he saw as the restrictions of the studio recording process. Even if the Manson album Capitol Records was set to release in 1969 came out as planned, I can’t imagine Charles going along with the show biz routine of promotion, playing the same songs the same way night after night, or obeying a record company’s legal necessities. Some of the songs on Lie have become timeless classics because Charles put a lot of effort into perfecting them and practicing them going way back to 1963 when he was waiting to be released from Terminal Island Prison. The best music he’s recorded in prison was in his Vacaville period, the only time he was encouraged to develop his creativity in a fairly relaxed environment. Metal Impact readers may be interested to know that by the time this interview appears, previously unheard Manson music will be released on vinyl as Horsefly via http://www.atwaatwar.com. Zeena provided the album’s cover art portrait and I contributed the liner notes.
MI. You were yourself an active member of the 80’s counterculture, as the leader of Radio Werewolf. Do you think that counterculture still exists today? Don’t you think that this era of politically correct is just a sterile way to falsely admit what we fear or still refuse, like homosexuality, or racial equality?
Nikolas. The phrase “political correctness” comes from Marxist-Leninism, which also began as a revolutionary counterculture but turned into a tyranny once it gained power. The politically correct mindset ruling the West since the 1990s is a form of social control that sweeps all differences away to create one big bland homogenized consumer group. We learned many lessons about how countercultures function during the Radio Werewolf ritual from 1984-1993. Whatever dominant culture you “counter” strikes back hard in ways you can’t predict. When we were seen as harmless entertainment we were allowed a certain measure of freedom. Once we advocated social and spiritual change and developed a following who sought an alternative to consensus reality, the police state clamped down on us with ruthless efficiency in both the USA and Germany. Radio Werewolf faced official harassment, banning, surveillance and blacklisting. It’s amazing we accomplished as much as we did under those circumstances. Right-wing Christian law enforcement tried to frame Zeena and me for crimes in order to silence us. Leftist atheists tried to get us banned. This strategy successfully interrupted our creative work and forced us to defend ourselves in the mass media to make it clear that we weren’t going to surrender to secret police intimidation tactics. If it wasn’t for some timely last minute warning phone calls from Richard Ramirez (the Night Stalker) and a sympathetic L.A. police detective who we helped investigate occult-influenced crimes, we could’ve easily been branded with the same “dangerous cult” scare stories that were used to destroy other resistance movements before us. Does the counterculture of that time still exist today? No, not that I see. In fact, I don’t think there’s any real counterculture anymore; just niche consumer groups. Sure, the outer symbolism and aesthetic of what we did in the 80s and early 90s still influences popular and alternative culture. But it’s been defanged and neutered into such lightweight Radio Werewolf impersonators as Marilyn Manson and others of his ilk. Just as 60s counterculture imagery was absorbed into the mainstream after the revolutionary spirit was crushed. Our goal of transforming consciousness and creating a new spiritual and social order was hindered by opposition from outside and – as always happens in extremist groups – by internal feuding fanned by agents provocateur from within. That’s why we broke with the received conventions of secular music to provide deeper long-lasting one-on-one spiritual instruction to a few chosen initiates instead. Countercultures, utopias, and revolutions come and go, but human nature remains unchanged. We’ve seen that the only revolution worth fighting is the inner jihad that seeks to depose the tyranny of the ego.
MI. You said in a previous interview that ” The devil we (You and your wife) thought we were worshiping was actually God”. Can you explain us the real meaning of this? Who’s “God” according to you? A concept, an abstract entity, or just a figure created in the purpose of moral enslavement of the masses?
Nikolas. None of the above. I’ll make a very long story short, since your readers may not be familiar with the obscure world of Anglo-Saxon occultism. When I was living in London in the early 80s, I drifted into an informal sex-magical circle inspired by the goofy but interesting British occultist Kenneth Grant. The rituals we did were based on Grant’s theory that the ancient Egyptian god Seth was the prototype for the Biblical Satan. Researching actual Egyptology rather than occultism, I learned that Grant’s depiction of Seth was historically inaccurate. To trace the mysteries of Seth to their source, I went on a pilgrimage to Egypt in ‘83, where I encountered folk survivals of ancient Sethian worship and experienced my first major religious awakening. For a long time after that, my magical work was still conducted under this mistaken notion that Seth was the Devil’s true name. Only in 2001, when Zeena and I were Temple of Set clergy and we were writing our book Demons of the Flesh, did we began to uncover archaeological evidence that Seth was in fact the original prototype for the mysterious being known as God, Iao, and Allah by the three major Middle Eastern religions. Shortly before we, along with sixty other Temple of Set members, resigned from that organization to form a more authentic Sethian religion, Zeena had a vision concerning Seth’s identity and her relationship to Him. This revelation, hinted at in a document released at that time called The Four Horsemen, became the foundation of our resurrected Sethian cult first called the Storm, and later renamed the Sethian Liberation Movement, or SLM. Because Seth and Jahweh are identical with the Gnostic god Abraxas, an important figure in Manson’s theology, I explore this subject in a chapter in the Manson File entitled Le nom secret de Dieu. Anyone crazy enough to be interested in looking more deeply into this arcane matter of divine identity will find several useful sources for further research cited there.
MI. Anton LaVey has often been described as a perverse hedonist, only aiming at money and fame. He was treated as a false and grotesque satanist, but don’t you think at the contrary, that he was the only one to apply the real dogmas of satanism? Putting the Ego over everything else?
Nikolas. I always forget about the small print in my pact with the Devil obliging me to answer at least one question about Anton LaVey in every interview for all of eternity. I can see how you might come to your conclusion based on his public image. But knowing the real human being first as a friend, then as a father-in-law, and then until his demise in ’97, as a mortal enemy, I saw him a bit differently than you do. Was he a perverse hedonist? Considering my own sex life, I’m the last person to accuse anyone else of perversity. But despite all his talk of self-indulgence, LaVey was no hedonist. His sad, angry, lonely and frustrated existence was far less pleasurable than the average sane and healthy person’s. Nor was LaVey a satanist by any sensible definition of that word. Satan was just one of his publicity gimmicks. I’ve come to understand that Satan, by whatever name, is not a man-made symbol but a supernatural being, an angel whose cosmic role is to test and tempt initiates at spiritual turning points. Placing ego over everything else is a normal symptom of every unenlightened being’s selfish grasping. So it takes more than just excessive ego or a lust for money and fame to make one a Satanist. Actually, LaVey didn’t strike me as particularly interested in money either; he wasn’t a very ambitious con man. There’s an old saying that the Devil must be paid his due. LaVey ended up as he did because he made the arrogant atheist’s mistake of playing with Satanic symbolism without acknowledging the spiritual reality those symbols represent. His own daughter spelled this out quite succinctly in her 1990 open letter to Temple of Set founder Michael Aquino seven years before LaVey’s death. Unfortunately, the damaging effect he’s had on the gullible remnants of the Anton LaVey Memorial Fan Club and all of the suffering he caused for his own family and followers will assure that he’ll find out just how real Hell is for a very long time.
MI. What are your beliefs nowadays? Religious and social? Did you find peace?
Nikolas. Appropriate that you ask about peace, since it’s very relevant to my religious practice today. The abbreviation of the name of the religious body I serve as a priest are the letters SLM, which not only stand for Sethian Liberation Movement, but is also the ancient Egyptian word for “peace”, the state of mind one can attain through Sethian gnosis. And when I converted to Buddhism, the monk conducting the refuge ceremony renamed me with a Buddhist word for “peace,” the name by which my students and closest friends refer to me. As for my social beliefs, I’m convinced that as we fall ever deeper into this terminal Kali Yuga, or unlucky age, society in general is fucked beyond repair. I’ll spare you my anti-Internet lecture here, but I believe the worst social ill of our time is the mass addiction to social media and digital gadgets of every kind. Zeena and I remain ecology and animal rights activists. We’ve protested Communist China’s genocidal policy in Tibet. And as part of our left-hand path devotion to the feminine, we’ve supported the cause of women’s rights in Iran and India. As a prerequisite for being initiated into SLM, candidates are required to volunteer in some socially engaged altruistic activity of their choice in their local communities. For the most part, though, the futile game of partisan human politics is of no concern to us. We’ve discovered that lasting peace isn’t based on outer material or social circumstances. It can only be realized by diligently taming the mind’s deluded interpretation of reality through meditation.
MI. As a musician and a music listener, what’s your judgment over the whole Heavy Metal scène of the 1990’s and 2000’s years?
Nikolas. I’m far too much of an old-fashioned square in my musical tastes to be qualified to answer your question. The last time I paid attention to contemporary popular music was during my wayward youth in the late 1970s, and even then I was never a great admirer of the electric guitar. If it’s any consolation, here’s what I listened to while I answered your questions: Zero Gravity, a pioneering 1975 Moog synthesizer album, Matrix 17 by one of my all-time faves, Krysztof Penderecki, and – another French connection! – an amazing album called Musique de la Gréce Antique. If your readers want the full Sensurround interview experience, they should read this interview again with that music as a soundtrack. No guitar solos in any of them, alas.
MI. The final word for the readers of Metal Impact?
Nikolas. What more is there to say but AEMINAEBAROTHERRETHORABEANIMEA?
MI. Thank you very much Nikolas.
Nikolas. My pleasure.