What would it be like to tour with one of the biggest and most controversial rock acts ever during the highest points of their career? I spoke to Zepp Savini, a name you're probably not familiar with. That is, unless, you've seen the backstage footage from Marilyn Manson's Dead to the World or God is in the TV tours - in which Manson can be heard screeching "Where's Zepp at!?". As Zepp tells us, this is a phrase he heard daily during the seven years he spent as Manson's personal assistant.
Where are you from and how did you get into music?
I was born in 1964 in Reading, Pennsylvania. It's the place Monopoly got Reading Railroad from. At around age 10 I became interested in digging through my mother's record collection and soon found myself listening to Janis Joplin and The Chambers Brothers. By the time I was approaching my teens, I discovered The Beatles, and when I turned 13 I discovered KISS and it was all over.
I would paint my face up and wear the high heel shoes that a neighborhood girl gave me, and I'd walk down to the corner candy store dressed like Ace or Gene or Peter. I don't recall doing Paul's star, I think it was too plain for my taste. Anyway, my bedroom was plastered in KISS posters for many years. That was the '70's.
INTERVIEW BY ADAM DE VILLE - ALL photography © ZEPP SAVINI
Where did the nickname Zepp come from?
Well, as the end of the '70's approached, I expanded into AC/DC, Blue Oyster Cult, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. When I was about 18, I began to hang out at a local mall where some kids would gather at a nearby pavilion to smoke pot. These were the days when boom boxes were common. I had an 8-track and a cassette version, and I would frequent this weed smoking den, always with music in hand - and it just so happened that at that particular time,
I owned more Led Zeppelin tapes than anything else. When I wasn't around, or hadn't shown up yet, the other kids would say "where's that Zepp dude?". That's how it started. My first tattoo was Jimmy Page's ZOSO rune and contrary to what it says in Marilyn Manson's autobiography, it's NOT regrettable. In fact, I currently have about 40 tattoos and I refuse to cover the ZOSO. It's extremely symbolic. Of course I still love all those bands, but when 80's metal hit, I dove in head first. Then came Death Metal, then came Grind. Always the heavy stuff, it was my first choice. That said, my music collection is very, very diverse. There isn't much that I do not listen to when the time is right. You gotta be broad or else you lock yourself into a single style and that doesn't allow for expansion or exploration.
ZEPP backstage IN ITALY - 1997
How did you first meet Manson and start working with the band?
In 1994 I was going through a deep Nine Inch Nails addiction when I read that Trent started his own label and signed a new band. Because of my intense respect for his genius, I figured any band that he would sign had to be superior - so I bought Portrait of an American Family and that CD stayed in my player for a year straight! Sometimes I would listen to it all day, over and over. Then I saw Marilyn Manson open for Nine Inch Nails and began to follow them around the northeast United States trying to catch as many shows as possible.
Those early shows were so intense. The level of violence and creepiness, coupled with the Satanic elements, really drew me in and the guys in the band sort of freaked me out. There was an element of the unknown that I feared and it created a curiosity that I found myself compelled to examine. On a very cold December night in Philadelphia, I decided to wait in the parking lot after a Nine Inch Nails/Marilyn Manson show at The Spectrum to see if I could make contact with any band members as they left the venue in hopes of getting a snapshot. Determined as I was, I waited until finally at 3:30am, Marilyn Manson himself and Twiggy Ramirez came walking out to get in an old white van they travelled in. This was our first meeting. I got the snapshot I wanted along with a complimentary Dope Hat baseball cap. I was ecstatic. So I enlarged the photo from that night into an 8x10, and showed up at another show seeking a paint pen autograph on it. I got it, plus I got another picture, which I again enlarged and repeated the whole process over, each time grabbing another picture to get autographed next time around.
It was always really strange because obviously it's mostly always girls who got backstage, but for some reason the manager at the time, Frankie, was cool to me, and every time I was backstage and in the presence of the band members, I didn't really say or do much, so none of them minded or became annoyed by my presence.
ROLLING STONE MAGAZINE SIGNED FOR ZEPP in japan - MANSON HAD Japanese girls in his hotel room help him with THE characters
I'd kind of just chill out, sip on beers and act like it was no big deal although inside I was probably losing my mind. When the Nine Inch Nails / Marilyn Manson tour was over there was a break where Marilyn Manson was preparing to embark on the Smells Like Children Tour of 1995. During that period I used a cheap black and white video camera to record myself in my living room lip syncing to Get Your Gunn. I was dressed a bit like Manson and it really was nothing special except for the fact that for some unknown reason, I appeared semi-invisible in the video and you could actually see right through my body to objects that were behind me! It was like magic or something. At the end of the song I held up a card with my telephone number on it, then I mailed the tape into the Official Marilyn Manson Fan Club in Florida.
A few weeks later I woke up one morning and went to check my messages on the answering machine, and one of the messages was someone claiming to be Marilyn Manson. The caller went on to say that it was late and I was probably sleeping, but he hoped that when I woke up, that I would find my bed filled with little black boys trying to molest me or something to that effect. In all honesty I actually thought it was Manson himself and because of my phone number on the video - it wasn't hard to put 2 and 2 together. But he left no return number and I spent the next few weeks basically sitting by the phone day and night waiting for him to possibly call back. He did. I was there to answer it, and the rest is history.
When the tour started I went to a bunch of shows, each time getting access to the band before and after the shows. One of those times Manson wanted to know if I'd use his personal Hi8 Camcorder and film the show, because he was interested in reviewing the footage from an audience perspective. That one night turned into many nights, which turned into me traveling on their tour bus up and down the east coast. The whole thing was truly indescribable. But after about a month of poor hygiene and a terrible road food I came down with the flu and at a show about 75 miles from where I lived, I abandoned ship and let them finish the tour without me.
I never really knew what to make of the experience, but I did know that If they ever called me again, I'd do it all over in a heartbeat. Needless to say, they did call again, and the same thing happened - soon I was put on the payroll. It was an absolutely exhilarating feeling when I received my first paycheck with "Marilyn Manson Incorporated" stamped on it! That's the long story. The short version is, I was just a dedicated fan who was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, with a little known band that was about to explode on the scene.
manson and Zepp with an after show pass 1995 Theatre of the Living Arts Philadelphia, pennsylvania
Did you have an official title during your time with
Marilyn Manson and what would a typical work day consist of for you?
I suppose my first title was videographer. When the Dead to the World Tour began in 1996 I was listed in the official itinerary book as Manson's Assistant and Wardrobe. At one point, I think maybe during Mechanical Animals, I was listed as Satan's Little Helper. I wore so many hats through the years that just plain Zepp was my true title. I mean, I was always the Dressing Room Coordinator, but was never listed as such. I was Manson's assistant, band assistant, dressing rooms, wardrobe, live-show-clothing-quick-changer and gag support, luggage porter, laundry boy, hot girl gatherer and so on. When I lived with Manson and Twiggy in Hollywood I was also the errand boy and dog sitter. Many, many times over the years I was referred to as The Hardest Working Man in Rock-n-Roll by people in the business who had seen and done a hell of a lot more than me, so I figured they were probably telling the truth.
I was very naive about the whole business so I just worked my ass off non-stop 24/7. It became extremely stressful as time went on. Manson always expected perfection and I was hell bent on delivering it. Some of the toughest experiences were the quick changes between songs during the live shows. The song ends, the lights go out, and you have about 90 seconds to get Manson out of one outfit and into another by the dim illumination of flashlights. The normal routine was for him to come off stage screaming and flailing about some sound or lighting issue, arms swinging around and legs kicking - and the whole time you're trying to undress and redress him for the next song. Try strapping stilts on someone who's super pissed off. Or buttoning up a shirt on someone who's throwing punches into the air. It ain't easy. That was my life for 7 years.
Off-stage Manson is usually calm and reserved, but during the shows he becomes possessed and turns into a violent raging lunatic. Anything goes and everyone was fair game. There were many times I feared for my life or at least serious injury from flying mic stands and whatnot. You had to really pay attention every single second. He pissed a lot of people off and there were times I'd give late night pep talks to the crew in order to keep morale up. I'd tell them not to take anything personal, that we were selling tickets in good numbers and if Manson had to become the Tasmanian Devil on stage in order present those songs in the fashion they were meant to be presented, then so be it. The way he acted on stage was indeed the best way to perform those songs. If someone got caught in the crossfire, it was par for the course.
STILL FROM THE DEAD TO THE WORLD VIDEO - ZEPP UNDRESSES
A BLOODY AND ANGRY marilyn MANSON AFTER A SHOW IN 1997
ZEPP AT ELVIS PRESLEY's graceland, memphis tennessee 1995
MARILYN MANSON LIVE DURING THE SMELLS LIKE CHILDREN TOUR IN 1995
Did you do any drugs in Marilyn Manson's infamous "White Room" at his home in Laurel Canyon?
No. All my drug days were long gone by that point. I smoked a lot of excellent Californian skunk bud while I lived there but that's it. Long before I met Manson I had some serious issues with old school meth. Not like the shit that's out there today, but addictive nonetheless. Of course, I did a lot of cocaine too when the speed wasn't around - so by the time I arrived at the Manson camp, I had learned some hard lessons in life and was determined not to repeat those mistakes. I remember one night in 1995, I did a line of coke with Manson after being clean for a few years and it made me feel horrible. I knew right then and there that I had to stay strong. And I did. It's a big misconception with many people that I must have done some hard partying with the boys, but in reality I was basically sober except for some smoking. I had to be. There was way too much to do on a daily basis. A habit would have fucked that all up.
How did the Jan Terri private show with you on the stage with her happen?
Ya know I'm not sure. Manson loved her act and had her perform backstage after shows quite a bit. It was probably just another night and Manson dared me to go up and get on stage with her. Many times when she would karaoke I would picture that ball that used to follow the words in old cartoons, so I thought it appropriate to get my testicles out and pretend like they were bouncing along to invisible words under my balls. She sang and I bounced the balls to the words. It was pretty funny.
You did some impromptu dancing on stage with Monster Magnet, how did that come about?
Oh Dave Wyndorf and the boys were so cool to tour with. Monster Magnet forever! Every night during Spacelord they'd bring out various girls to dance during the song and one night Dave had the bright idea of asking me if I'd join the girls for a dance. I don't know, I guess he was just mixing things up a bit. The thing that made it so crazy was that it was Easter Sunday in Philadelphia and my mother was in the audience along with a bunch of my friends. So I got out on stage and did a strip tease act, mimicking the moves of so many strippers I'd seen over the years. It was crazy. My mom later told me she didn't look. I'm sure Jesus did though.
You met so many famous people over the years, were there any particular musicians or celebrity stories that stick out?
Oh jesus. Where do I begin? As far as meeting people that I looked up to personally - Pantera on Ozzfest '97 (RIP Dime!!!), Slipknot and Black Sabbath on Ozzfest 2001. Also Britney Spears, Courtney Love, Melissa Auf der Maur, and Traci Lords come to mind. As far as stories that stick out? There was the time that I was doing my usual bit of packing shit up in the dressing room after a show and some of the guys from Slayer just happened to be there. Well, I was talking to someone and in mid sentence, out of nowhere, Twiggy came up and spit right into my mouth. For some reason I wasn't even phased by it and just kept saying whatever it was I was saying and completely ignored what just happened, and out of the corner of my eye I saw Kerry King say "I thought I'd seen it all up until just now!" Ya know, the way I see it, if I could stun Kerry King with a backstage antic he'd never seen before, I've done good.That very same night I was hand fed a shot of whiskey by Dimebag Darrell. That's a serious claim to fame. I was even on the wagon at that point in time but of course not at that particular minute.
There was such a big controversy and fallout with the Marilyn Manson/Hole tour in 1999, what was it like behind the scenes?
I never really did understand that one. There was something going on that I wasn't aware of I guess. I was disappointed though. I think it's possible some off color comments were made about Kurt just to wind her up a little and she was basically like 'fuck you, I'm outta here'. When things started to really fall apart, I made it a point to tell Courtney's assistant that despite the atmosphere, I wasn't part of it and that I was a great admirer of Hole. In fact, at one point during that tour there was a certain roadie who was confident that he could talk Courtney into letting me eat her pussy. I didn't believe him, but he assured me he could eventually set it up. So I told him if he could set it up, and I got to lick her crotch for even 30 seconds, I'd pay him $1000. I was dead serious. It never happened. Fucking fraud.
Ya know, over the years I did a lot of stupid shit and I was fired and rehired several times by Manson's management. The beginning of the Hole tour was one of those times. I had gotten fired in Perth, Australia and was gone for quite some time when I received a phone call saying they needed me back because the shows weren't going so well and that they'd up my pay $300 a week more if I got on the next flight. So I did. The very next day in San Francisco, Courtney's dressing room caught fire from an electrical fan and I risked my life trying to wheel racks of her clothes out before they went up in flames. The SFFD had to treat me for smoke inhalation. I thought Jesus Christ, welcome back, here we go!
You feature in the photo booth images in Dave Navarro's book 'Don't Try This At Home', do you have any memories from visiting his house?
It's funny because that directly relates to the last question. Dave was doing a lot of heroin at that particular time, and every time I was over at his house he was shooting straight smack or speedballs. Usually he answered the door wielding a shotgun. He had this funny habit of only doing half the shot, and he'd let the needle hang there in his arm while still holding a complete conversation. Then after about 5 minutes or so he's do the rest. So finally after visiting him multiple times, I told him how I used to have a similar problem with needles. He just looked at me with disbelief and said apologetically that he didn't mean to do that shit in front of me because it was probably torture for me.
In reality, I was so rock solid in my conviction that it did not phase me at all. That's the power of Satanism at it's finest. Where AA fails you, the stubbornness that goes along with Satanism can throw up an impenetrable wall of confidence. Anyway, I know Dave eventually cleaned up his act, probably just by the Power of Dave alone, and I'm glad to have had the opportunity to do naked beaver shots in his photo booth. Those didn't make the book.
marilyn manson calls for zepp backstage
on the rock is dead tour in 1999
ZEPP IN DAVE NAVARRO'S BOOK 'Don't try this at home'
marilyn Manson, Twiggy ramirez & Zepp - Lancaster, pennsylvania 1995
Manson took eyeliner and said "I'll make your eyes look like you have an infection" circa 1997
Zepp and Jan Terri in Chicago 1999
monster magnet's powertrip signed to zepp from dave wyndorf
Were there any band members you got along with better than others?
That's hard to say. Probably Pogo. We were roommates in the early days before the band budget was big enough for separate hotel rooms. It was always Manson and Twiggy, Ginger and Daisy, and Pogo and me. Although Pogo was probably the most insane of the bunch, he was also very smart. If I were a contestant on the TV show Who Wants to be a Millionaire I'd definitely have him as my phone-a-friend contact. Manson always called him a conversational terrorist because once you got him going on a particular subject, he'd tell you more about it than a fucking encyclopedia. He's crazy, yet down to Earth. Philosophical and foul mouthed. I think some people would describe me as such, so it was easy to relate to him.
Did you have a favorite Manson song that would be played live?
Early days? Get Your Gunn, Wrapped in Plastic and Misery Machine. Later Years? Angel with the Scabbed Wings and Astonishing Panorama of End Times.
Which tour do you look back on with the best memories?
Smells Like Children in 1995 absolutely. The shows were so fucking violent and raw. Manson was always bloody by the end of the set and shit was getting destroyed right and left. Nothing was sacred and no one was safe. The audiences in those days were spellbound and mesmerized by the spectacle of it all. It was very intense. Dead to the World in support of Antichrist Superstar in 1996 and 1997 was a continuation of that for the most part, but things began to change because the whole thing just blew wide open and everybody in the world began to want Marilyn Manson to come to their town. Which we did.
ZEPP AND COURTNEY LOVE BACKSTAGE AT THE BIG DAY OUT AUSTRALIA 1999
a sign that was used quite a lot in 1999
You visited so many places around the world, did you have any that you looked forward to revisiting every time?
Australia without a doubt, then Japan. I love Australia. I wish I had been born there. The weather is perfect, the food choices are outstanding, and nature abounds with many interesting plants and animals. The whole atmosphere is spectacular and the Aussies themselves are one of the finest groups of people there are. The same can be said about the Japanese. They have a level of honesty and etiquette in their country that is unparalleled. Their crime rates are extremely low - Americans could use a little influence in that area.
I'll never forget being in bustling downtown Tokyo and watching a small flatbed truck pull up to a high rise building. It was loaded with a hundred little packages like a Fed Ex or DHL company or something. The driver grabbed a box and disappeared into the office and left his entire cargo unsecured with literally hundreds of pedestrians strolling by while he made his delivery. I stood there and watched for about 10 minutes until he returned, and in that time not one single person gave those items on his truck a single glance. The thought of stealing anything didn't even enter anyone's mind. It was beautiful. A perfect model of how things should be. I was in awe. I could deal with living in Hawaii too. I do good on beaches. The Sun is my friend. The Sun is my God.