Holy Wood (In The Shadow of The Valley of Death) - Recording and Production

Recording and Production

Manson began writing material for the album as early as 1995, prior to the release of Antichrist Superstar. Initially the material consisted of loosely scattered ideas. Manson isolated himself in his attic, where the early material was worked into a usable shape. At the conclusion of Manson's three-month hiatus the band embarked on a year of writing and development of the material. Band members maintained a low profile; Manson stated that their official web site would "be my only contact with humanity."

"I'm at that point in my career where I wanted to make this film and I'm making this new record, where I really examine suffering and where celebrities come from. How it all kind of traces back in religion, and celebrities and Hollywood all kind of relate to each other. And that's very American."

—Marilyn Manson

The album is the group's most collaborative effort to date, with everyone contributing to the songwriting process, resulting in a more unified sound. Most of the effort was shared by Twiggy Ramirez, John 5, and Marilyn Manson; keyboardist Madonna Wayne Gacy provided input on the songs "President Dead" and "Cruci-Fiction in Space", while Ginger Fish provided all of the drum work. Manson said that his songwriting sessions with John 5 were very focused; most of the songs were complete before being brought to the band for consideration, where they were enthusiastically received. In contrast, his sessions with Ramirez were far less rigorous, as the two experimented with absinthe. During the process the band wrote a hundred pieces, of which 25 or 30 were developed into songs. Of these, 19 tracks were selected for the album.

Recording took place in several "undisclosed" locations, including Death Valley and Rick Rubin's The Mansion Studio in Laurel Canyon. Locations were chosen for the atmosphere they were intended to impart to the music. Mix engineer Dave Sardy co-produced the album with Manson. Bon Harris, of seminal Electronic body music group Nitzer Ebb, supplied programming and pre-production editing. Manson announced on December 16, 1999, that the album was progressing under the working title "In the Shadow of the Valley of Death" and would be represented by the alchemical symbol for Mercury.

The band took numerous excursions to Death Valley to "imprint the feeling of the desert into minds", in order to avoid composing songs that sounded artificial. Experimental recordings and "acoustic" songs were recorded using live instrumentation. Manson later explained that the acoustic songs were only "acoustic" in the sense of not being produced electrically; the album's sonic landscape is fundamentally "electronic". Harris' programming skills proved instrumental, as the band recorded found and natural sounds, which he manipulated into new sonic elements.

The band rented recording time at The Mansion Studio, as its cavernous rooms are suitable for recording drums. Inspired by the space, the band spent a lot of time there; they found they could accomplish more there than in the limited space of Manson's home studio. Ramirez later had blurry recollections of the sessions; he found there were "a lot of different emotions racing around ". The house, which once belong to escape artist Harry Houdini, is rumored to be haunted. Gacy said that he spent the majority of his time working on a computer and synthesizer, "mess around with prime number loops where they only intersect every three days and I'd check up on what kind of music they'd be making. You never know what's going to happen." In contrast, Fish worked constantly; the bulk of his contributions to the recording process took place at The Mansion.

On February 23, 2000, Manson delivered a 20-minute lecture, via satellite, at a current events convention titled "DisinfoCon 2000", aimed at exposing and dispelling disinformation. Six days later the album was officially titled Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death). By April 12, 2000, the band had reached the final stages of recording, and Manson posted footage of the recording studio. In pre-release interviews he noted that the record would be "a very sharp pencil" that would appeal to Marilyn Manson fans.

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