Long before the fear, the media fixation, and cult of personality surrounding what we’ve come to know publicly as CHARLES MANSON, a 27-year old inmate at McNeil Island Penitentiary, dubbed “Little Charlie” by those on the inside, found true respite and solace in the form of a six string guitar. Late-blooming aside, MANSON took to the guitar like a fish to water. This initially came much to the surprise of his first guitar teacher, fellow inmate and legendary Ma Barker Gang heavy Alvin “Creepy” Karpis. Sympathetic to MANSON‘s tumultuous, institutionalized upbringing (which saw him in countless orphanages, reformatories, and prisons all throughout his young life), Karpis would later pen “it (was) time someone did something for him.” And as Karpis would stick to his pledge, Charlie would not disappoint. By the time of his release in 1967 (some 6 years after his first lesson from Karpis), MANSON wandered into the streets of San Francisco already quite the accomplished singer and songwriter.
True to form, and no less than a year later, MANSON found himself both on the radar of major producers and in front of the boards of a legendary studio session funded by BEACH BOYS drummer Dennis Wilson. That recording would be titled LIE and ultimately saw release on ESP Disk on March 6 of 1970. To this day, it serves as MANSON‘s only formal studio session between his parole from prison in 1967 and the historic death-penalty-turned-life-sentence ruling handed down in 1970. Yet the influence of MANSON‘s music continues to be immeasurable. Wilson himself would re-pen the MANSON cut “Cease to Exist” in 1969 for the BEACH BOYS, who in turn recorded it for their “20/20" album under the new song title “Never Learn Not to Love.” At the height of their popularity, and a full 24 years later, GUNS N’ ROSES covered “Look at Your Game, Girl” on their 1993 album “The Spaghetti Incident.” Current popular acts such as ALKALINE TRIO, SYSTEM OF A DOWN, and MARILYN MANSON continue the tradition with numerous covers, vocal references, and homages to both MANSON‘s songs and his life. Unquestionably, with each passing decade, the list of mainstream and underground artists covering songs from LIE and/or referencing the musical and philosophical work of CHARLES MANSON becomes both undeniable and impressive.
2011 marks a solid 41-year stint of incarceration for CHARLES MANSON under his life sentence. Through all that time, MANSON has been by all accounts almost monk-like in his commitment and continued work toward both his music and a personal environmental philosophy he coined “ATWA” (an acronym for “Air, Trees, Water, Animals”) specifically.
AIR, TREES, WATER, and ANIMALS is a 4-part, seasonal album series by CHARLES MANSON on Magic Bullet Records that brings together these two passions. Each individual album features previously-unheard, authorized, and exclusive songs with a sharp focus on the non-sustainable environmental conditions mankind has wrought for itself. The recordings span numerous sessions and are presented in their raw, natural, and unadulterated form. Each installment also features striking artwork and careful presentation centered around the tenets and philosophies of ATWA (including exclusive paintings rendered by MANSON himself). When all of the sensationalism, fear, projection, and knee-jerk response is stripped away, all that remains is a man named Charlie, strumming and picking away on his guitar and sending his passions into the ether.