Daisy Berkowitz: Portrait of an American Ex-Marilyn Manson Member
The ex-guitarist for Marilyn Manson is now battling stage-four colon cancer and has a hell of a lot of stories to tell.
Scott Putesky co-founded Marilyn Manson and was the guitarist for the group until 1996. His stage name was Daisy Berkowitz, a name that combined Daisy of Dukes of Hazard fame with David Berkowitz, otherwise known as the serial killer Son of Sam. He stayed with Marilyn Manson until a third of the way through recording Antichrist Superstar, when he departed the group amidst disagreements with Brian Warner (bka Marilyn Manson himself) and Trent Reznor, who produced the record.
I first met Scott through a friend in December of last year. He didn’t look the same as the rocker that was on a poster in my room as a teen: no longer sporting long green hair with the top shaved off and drawn on eyebrows, Scott looked like a dapper adult instead of a rock musican. His mind was the same though. We got along great, which I partly attribute to the fact I grew up on his music and ideas. We all shared a few nights of drinking on the town and joking around. He even sang “Lunchbox” for karaoke with a friend of mine.
Scott has been battling stage-four colon cancer since September of 2013. When he has the energy to he has been making collage artwork and collecting vintage TV, movie, horror and sci-fi memorabilia. He gives a lot to friends as gifts. The 14-year-old in me nearly had a heart attack when he sent me a vintage Wonder Woman figurine. We recently chatted on the phone to discuss the birth of Marilyn Manson, battling cancer, and dead cows.
Noisey: What was it like moving down to Florida from New Jersey?
Scott Putesky: It was awful. I was really comfortable and as young as I was I had a plan to finish school and go to New York and work there as an actor or a performer or musician. That’s what I wanted to do. It’s a tough point turning thirteen. It’s a rough time to be separated from your friends and your environment. Florida is so drastically different. We moved to a place called Coral Springs, which was a relatively young town at the time. GE (General Electric) actually established the town in the mid seventies. I don’t know why. I’m still afraid to look it up. I didn’t know anybody at all. Not only was it a fairly new town but the subdivision we lived in wasn’t finished. So the view from my bedroom window was just this empty landscape of sand and dirt and weeds. I got into model rockets because there was so much room.
What did you dress like in junior high and high school?
I didn’t wear what I would consider to be cool clothes. I tried to get as close as to what I would consider cool clothes, as close as I could with what my mom would buy for me. When I started driving I discovered thrift store and added some new wave and punk to my wardrobe. But I was a misfit until pretty much my junior year. I had a few cool friends most of which turned me on to really good music and were in bands and I could play with them. Middle school up into the first few years of high school was pretty lonely. And the humidity was so oppressive. It’s bad enough when you’re socially and emotionally uncomfortable and you go outside and it’s March and its 85 degrees, 70 percent humidity.
What kind of music did those kids turn you on to?
Psychedelic Furs, Joy Division, lots of other stuff. Police, U2. Motley Crue, Black Sabbath, other stuff. I had a good diversity of friends in a diversity of musical taste. The British stuff and the punk and the new wave were the stuff that got me the most.
When did you start playing in bands?
I started playing guitar at fifteen. I was playing with my friends by sixteen.
When did Marilyn Manson and The Spooky Kids start?
I met Brian Warner [otherwise known as Marilyn Manson] at a club we used to hang out at called Reunion Room in December of 1989. He had never been in a band before and I thought it would be interesting to work with somebody who hadn’t been in a band but who was a writer. He had cool ideas. I did the music and the recording, and he did the lyrics and vocals.
You told me before that got arrested around the time you met Brian. What was that story again?
The day before he first called me on the phone I went down to Miami Beach and on the way back I got into a car accident. The officer that showed up on the accident scene thought I was drunk and he gave me a field sobriety test and I was really shaken up so in his mind I failed the field sobriety test. So, then he gave me a Breathalyzer test. This was 1989 so things were a lot different procedure-wise. The Breathalyzer was below .08 and he had me do it again. The second one was even lower than the first. I had to spend the next day, in jail in a black turtleneck and herringbone paints. I wasn’t home to get the call and a few days later I finally spoke to Brian on the phone. He said, “Yeah, I called and asked your mom if Scott was there and she said, No. Scott’s in jail.” So I immediately had more street cred than him. Two weeks later I got a letter from the DA office that the charges were dropped for lack of evidence.
The names you chose for Marilyn Manson and The Spooky Kids (the original band name), did you and Brian choose them together? (The band was known for combining the names of beautiful women with serial killers.)
In January of 1990, Brian told me he had this idea for this character, Marilyn Manson. But he had no idea where to go with it other than being a rock singer. So I thought to compliment that, the band members should have similar names and I thought it would be funny to use the name Berkowitz and instead of David use Daisy. And the other band member names followed suite.
Scott in 1991
Did the band blow up really quick?
Quicker than I thought it would. When we started out, we were just having fun. I didn’t really plan on going anywhere so to speak: commercially or financially. But our concept was together. We started promoting before we even played out. We had like three months in advance promotion for our very first show, which was not great, but we created a lot of awareness. A lot of people were aware of our name and were disgusted by our fliers. So, I guess for our first five shows we had a decent amount of people just out of curiosity and when crowds started getting bigger I was surprised. I didn’t think anybody would be into it. We were filling a gap. We were doing something other bands weren’t.
What kind of need were you guys filling?
We had a show! We had a crazy, interesting, funny, weird, and repulsive show. And we weren’t writing about the same things other people were. We had a totally different sound than anybody else. There was a very folky sound going on at the time, which was popular. The popular style was punk-funk which had a flat bass that we just hated. We countered those styles as much as possible. It was a lot of fun for me because I wasn’t writing the music to be attractive. I was writing it to please myself. I wrote it with somewhat of a pop format where it was distinct and repetitive and was enjoyable, but not conventional. It was just for us. And I didn’t think it would be that attractive but it was. It was fun for us as a band and it was fun for the crowd. By the next year we were packing clubs.
The album Portrait of an American Family had a lot of comments about media hypocrisy in the United States. Is that a decision you decided on with Brian together?
Yeah. That’s one of the things I liked about his writing. When we started out it was more psychedelic. It was weirdness. We played up weirdness rather than anything socially pointed. We got more social and political as things went on. Like with our song, “Get Your Gunn” [a 1994 song inspired by the murder of a Florida OB/GYN doctor, David Gunn] that definitely wasn’t something that we started out doing.
Tell me a crazy tour story.
Our bus broke down once in the middle of nowhere. A place called Two Guns, Arizona. Our driver got out and walked to this gas station that we could see in the distance. I couldn’t tell how far away it was. It looked like a couple miles. It looked like he had been walking all day. So we were hanging out in this spot and there was nothing to do. So we got out. I walked down this hill and I found a cow carcass and its head and hooves were missing.
Oh dear god. How did that happen?
I don’t know. That’s another thing I’m afraid to look up. So I’m looking at this thing and then I hear a keyboard. Ginger Fish, our drummer at the time, he’s coming down the hill with my old Casio keyboard playing, “Summer Wind. Keep moaning. From across the sea.” I was like, Am I tripping? I’m in the desert but am I tripping? Anyway, the bus got fixed and we moved on. I was like I’m going to remember this. It was really funny. I think that was the point when we started shaving our eyebrows off. I remember that was in the Southwest that we started doing that, and Ginger was new in the band. He was the first one to do it. I did it after him and was like oh, it is that easy.
When it came to your style, was it inspired by anyone?
Not really. Just rock and roll craziness. My eventual trademark hairstyle was inspired by a band from the sixties called The Monks. They were actually four army guys, an army band. A rock band but they were in the army together. They shaved the tops of their heads. You could tell they were really smart and funny by their lyrics. My hair was already green and I shaved off the top of it.
When you were touring, was there a lot backlashes from towns that did not like the band or what they thought the band stood for?
Yeah. Not much I can remember from early on. We had protesters. In the beginning it was local but it wasn’t so much religious. By 1994 we definitely had religious opposition. In 1994, we were opening for Nine Inch Nails in Utah. The owners of the venue, it was a stadium, prohibited us from playing. They didn’t want Marilyn Manson playing. We thought that was cute because Nine Inch Nails was okay but were not. It was obviously proof that they hadn’t done their homework.
Why did that happen so much with Marilyn Manson? Do you think this had to do with the image more than the actual lyrics?
Sure. Its just image reaction or rumor reaction I guess you could say. Something slightly weird or unusual happens and a sensitive parent hears about it and then their neighbor, who is a conservative Christian, hears about it and all of a sudden there’s a big alert: Parents tell your kids not to listen to Marilyn Manson. And that’s exactly what made [kids] listen to Marilyn Manson
So they did you guys a big favor, really.
Absolutely. I’m surprised we didn’t call ahead and tell parent groups and Christian groups that we were coming. You know, under a fake name. Tell them that Marilyn Manson is coming to town. Because they would have picketed us and that would have promoted us. The news would be there at every venue.
Any crazy groupie stories?
I can only think of one crazy groupie story right now. A girl, as I was leaving the venue to our tour bus, a girl tried to handcuff herself to me. and our tour manager Frankie stopped it, with almost kung-fu like accuracy, and the claw of the handcuff scratched the top of my right hand. I still have the scar. It’s small.
Why did you leave Marilyn Manson midway through Antichrist Superstar?
I left because I wasn’t getting the respect and appreciation and work I deserved. I did a lot of demos more or less a year before we started recording. When we started recording I had about ten or a dozen demos for Brian to listen to so we could develop something. I don’t know if he listened to any of them but he never wanted to work on any of them. We had a number of unreleased songs that were contenders for Antichrist that Brian didn’t want to do or Trent didn’t want to record so I was being slowly muscled out as far as my contribution. And, that’s pretty much it.
Was it weird to not be in the band?
It’s been a difficult thing ever since I left. The band has changed every year, every album cycle so it hasn’t been the band, really since I left. No concern for keeping the same lineup, no concern for the same writers.
Afterwards you worked a bit with Jack Off Jill.
Jack Off Jill was established already. They were our sister band. We were friends with them. Band members dated each other. I didn’t write any of their material. I helped develop new versions for an EP they were putting out in the summer of 1998 so I worked on some tracks of theirs and I toured with them over the summer. It wasn’t intended to be a full time replacement.
Has fighting cancer changed your perspective on life and music?
No. Not really. It’s become a huge annoyance. It really gets in the way. It doesn’t get in the way with the kind of work I do, but the amount of work I do. When I started chemotherapy in September 2013, I thought I would have down time where I could relax and work on music or artwork. But, I quickly realized that downtime would mean extreme fatigue where I didn’t really feel like doing anything. The most I could do was catch up on movies. I didn’t realize how much it would take out of me. I have lots of plans that have just gone to the bottom of the things-to-do list.
Have you got a lot of support from friends, fans, and family?
Absolutely. I got a lot of support. Ultimately though, I fight it alone. It’s tough. I’m doing well with it but sometimes it will be the middle of the night and I’ll be trying to sleep and I’ll start thinking negative thoughts. It just happens. There’s this kind of socio-psychic element to it. It’s like when you get a new car you see that kind of car everywhere you go. I’ve noticed with cancer, now I’m surrounded by it. I notice it and hear about it from other people. People want to give me stories about their loved ones or people who died of it. I’m trying to stay positive.
Any future plans?
I really want to produce other people’s records. I’m really bad at enforcing my own deadlines. I work better when I work with somebody else so I really want to put it out there that I want to produce other people’s stuff. I was chatting with someone online and talking about how Katy Perry has a record that was never released because the label she was on decided to drop it for some reason. So it was never put out. But somebody has it somewhere. I was talking to this other person and we said wouldn’t it be cool to revive that record? That’s something I would like to do. That album is ten years old, not real old but old as far as pop music is concerned. Doing something like that would be cool: Unreleased records from the past.
That would be really cool. I’m sure a lot of people would be interested in stuff like that.
I own the Spooky Kids collection: all the unreleased Marilyn Manson and spooky kids material from 1990 – 1993. The tracks that I have are the demos and they are still in good condition but what I want to do is make a full album of newly recorded versions of these songs with different guests and producers involved. It would be a big project, but definitely a worthwhile project.
Gina Tron is a writer living in Brooklyn. She's on Twitter - @_GinaTron