dance band Nine Inch Nails travels the dark road paved by Depeche Mode. At the
turn of the century, technology is the instrument of the Ď90s.
"People come up to me like Iím this grim,
have-a-noose-around-my-neck-at-all-times kind of person. Thatís not the case at
all," says nine inch nails' Trent Reznor. "Iím not the happiest guy
in the world. Iím not sure why. But I can't say, "Itís because someone
stole my bike.""
Trent, a 24-year-old keyboardist from rural pa,
dropped out of college in '84, moved to the steel wasteland of Cleveland and took a job as a studio
technician to learn music engineering. Though he's a trained classical pianist,
he hasn't looked at a piece of sheet music in five years. He didn't want
traditional music theory and technique to interfere with nine inch nails' raw,
uncalculated debut LP, pretty hate machine. Reshaping '80's mope rock, Trent
and producers John Fryer and Flood fuse misery with technology. They take
advantage of the massive appeal of The Cure, Depeche Mode and the smiths (the
dead on expression of post-adolescent discontent) and make it danceable. The
album is a collection of dense electronic noise, synthesized beats and powerful
laments that wallow in introspection, attack with violent screams and haunt
with seductive, droning whispers. the songs - the first Trentís ever written - are fraught with
religious references, Trent sometimes putting himself in Christís
"I believe in god," he says. "I
was brought up going to Sunday school and church, but it didn't really mean
anything. Things upset me a lot. It was just a theme I kept coming back
to-religion, guilt and doubting. I believe there's a god but Iím not too sure
of his relevance."
On stage, Trent and the touring band he formed in Cleveland are lost in a sea of smoke, leather
and skin. Covered in cakey white powder, black lipstick and eyeliner, he moves
slowly, provocatively, then erupts into a wild, uninhibited dance, yanking his
guitar player around the stage by his ponytail and spitting beer onto the
crowd. unlike his harsh, aggressive music and dramatic stage performance, Trent
Reznor-a little over five feet tall with long jet black hair, shaved on both
sides, wearing a hoop earing and black combat boots-is, in person, a bit shy, a
bit melancholy. "Iím not the cool rock guy who has a motorcycle," he
says. Although, for fun he does ride a mountain bike.
"I was raised by my grandparents, the
greatest people in the world," says Trent. "I try to tell them, "Youíre
not going to hear my music on the radio. Iím not going to be on soap operas
singing this." I can imagine what my grandfather tells people: "it's
called nine inch nails - here's the video. And here he is lying dead at the end
of it." I warned my grandfather that the church might be after him."