Jahr 1990




Fall 1990


Nine Inch Nails


Words: Paul Hart






Despite the impression you might have gotten when you first glanced at this page, Nine Inch Nails is not a collaborative effort. Nine Inch Nails is one man, and one man alone - Trent Reznor (standing to the immediate left of this text). And the hard-edge, industrial-crunch music Nine lnch Nails pro— duces is this one man‘s vehicle to ex— press his vision and internal conflict conflict with his environment, conflict with God, conflict with himself. NIN‘s debut LP PRETTY HATE MACHINE is nothing more than a gallery of thematic works created and performed exclusively by Reznor to give the listener a peek into the world behind this troubled young man‘s eyes.

“I wanted to do everything myself on the album,“ says Trent, “because there really isn‘t room for collaboration when you‘re trying to express very Personal feelings and internal angst. Collaboration leads to compromise, which can only water down the impact. What would a Van Gogh be worth, artistically, if he had other artists dabbing their paint brushes on his canvas. Mood and emotion are very personal things. I know a lot of people lump me in with industrial bands like Ministry and Skinny Puppy, but I’m coming from a totally different direction than they are. Their music is very politically oriented with grandiose statements about environmental issues, animal rights and other stuff on a global level. My material so far has been very introspective - it‘s about what‘s bothering me in my life at the time the piece is written.“

Much of Trent‘s music is very dark and ominous. Would this then imply that much of his life is also?

“I wouldn‘t go so far as to say that my life is dark and ominous, but I wasn‘t the happiest guy in the world when I was writing PRETTY HATE MACHINE. I was in a period of kind of internal collapse. Anyway, I’m much more motivated to write about things that bother me than to write about things I enjoy or am complacent about.“

At the time Trent wrote a lot of PRETTY HATE MACHINE, he was in a transitional period in his life, leaving the rural isolation of Mercer, Pennsylvania for the urban hub of Cleveland, Ohio to record the album.

“I just didn‘t fit in in Mercer,“ recalls Trent. “Those small town kinda places force you into a very narrow path. Live in a trailer, work in a gas station, marry some pig at 20. Yeecchh! It wasn‘t for me. And maybe some of that isolation and alienation manifested itself on the album.“

In Trent‘s case, it seems isolation built character. He taught himself to play guitar and to use MIDI samplers and other digital rhythm machines. Because he was a classically trained pianist, he was able to master keyboard techniques to follow along with complex programs. This combination of talent and determination forced several renowned “industrial“ producers to take notice - Adrian Sherwood (Ministry, Cabaret Voltaire), Keith LeBlanc (Tack head and other Wax Trax stuff), Flood (Depeche Mode, Nitzer Ebb) and John Fryer (Love & Rockets, Cocteau Twins). All were instrumental in making PRETTY HATE MACHINE a masterful production for TVT Records. Nine Inch Nails was ready to face the masses head on with its unique and raucous construction of pounding bass, unnerving rhythm sequences and caustic guitar riffs. (If anyone out there is thinking of doing some sort of near-future, Blade Runner type film with a decaying, inner-city industrial zone as the setting, then boy do I have a soundtrack for you.)

“To take the music out on the road, I wanted some young, unpolished musicians, who had the attitude I had and were easy to mold rather than to take out some musically proficient prima-donnas who would have too many of their own ideas about how to do things.“ It seems Nine Inch Nails will remain strictly a Trent Reznor project for the foreseeable future. And why not, he has always done everything on his own terms, and has made it work. True integrity in art is just that. With his crew of young proteges, (above, l. to r.) Chris Vrenna, [Trent], David Haymes and Richard Patrick, Trent has subsequently toured with and blown away the likes of Jesus and Mary Chain and Peter Murphy. Their hyperkinetic, off-the-wall live show caught the attention recently of another artistic maverick, David Lynch.

“David told me that he was going to propose a treatment (directional script) for Nine Inch Nails‘ next video,“ exults Trent. “Shit man, the thought of him doing our video freaks me out. I‘ve worshipped his work for a long time. We even discussed the possibility of some sound track work for a film of his.“ (It wouldn‘t be about an inner-city industrial zone, would it?)

A lot of important (and not so important) people took notice of NIN on the last tour. And it was probably because the music and its presentation on stage were so raw and for real.

“From the beginning, when we first went out on tour,“ explains Trent, “we had a definite objective - not to fall into the trap a lot of ‘dance-oriented‘ bands fall into, which is to basically fake it on stage using tape loops. Like Nitzer Ebb did; everything was on tape. It was three guys basically faking their way through a show, which made for a pretty fucking boring show. We‘re gonna sweat and get dirty with real instruments in our hands. I think a crowd can sense that. It‘s more intense.“

The future surrounding NIN has gotten pretty intense itself. The band‘s appearance during the recent New Music Seminar in New York caused more of a commotion than that of any other band who appeared.

The future indeed seems bright for Mr. Reznor, but considering the fact that “internal decay“ has up to now been the moving force behind NIN‘s music, could such an optimistic outlook be what a band like this needs to keep it on the cutting (and slashing) edge? Stay tuned.