Jahr 1991




Oktober 1991


 Industry and Commerce


  Autor: Alan di Perna









Recordmakers ‘91


Industry and Commerce - Trent Reznor steams into production

By Alan Di Perna

Meet the man who’s made the strident yowl of industrial music sound sweet to the major labels: “I don‘t know how integral we are to the whole industrial genre,“ demurs Nine Inch Nails‘ Trent Reznor. “But I think we helped open up people‘s eyes to the point where they could say, ‘Hey, this stuff is a viable commodity. Let‘s go out and start scooping up industrial acts.‘ I‘ve heard this comment a lot: ‘Typically I hate this kind of music, but for some reason I like your band.’ “

Part of Reznor‘s power to convert listeners is his finesse with high tech. He did Nine Inch Nails‘ Pretty Hate Machine as a one-man band using just a Mac Plus computer, an E-max sampler and a few guitars. But more importantly, beneath NIN‘s future-shock snarl there‘s a fairly traditional sense of pop songwriting. Even if you‘re mad at the world, you can still be melodic -as is proven by Nine Inch Nails‘ alternative hits “Head Like a Hole“ und “Down in It.“

“I was raised on Queen and Kiss,“ Reznor admits: “your basic verse, chorus, bridge, outro kind of upbringing. I incorporate that into what I do. And that‘s what I listen for in any music. Even wild experimental stuff kicks in better when there‘s some structure. I like giving people something to hang onto, but make it a bit hard to get at. I always thought the first Jesus and Mary Chain album was really good: simple, structured songs but arranged in such a hideous fashion that you had to get past all that to like them.“

Reznor‘s production philosophy has made him a hot commodity, so hot that Sire recently signed him to a production deal, giving him complete freedom to choose the acts he works with. Pretty good for a guy whose sale credit is Pretty Hate Machine, a record he did in conjunction with a quartet of established post-modern producers (Flood, Adrian Sherwood, John Fryer and Keith LeBlanc). But the Sire deal has raised the hackles of TVT Records, Reznor‘s label for Nine Inch Nails. A legal battle seems likely.

The ironic part is that Reznor has always gone out of his way to avoid complications like these, deliberately shunning the majors early on in his career. “I knew I was still moldable. I didn‘t want to get into a situation where a big label comes in and says, ‘Okay kid, we‘ll hook you up with the guy who remixed Fine Young Cannibals, he‘ll smooth things out a bit and you‘ll be the next Information Society.‘ I knew I didn‘t have the confidence or maturity to say no to a lot of that stuff.“

Reznor grew up playing keyboards in bar bands around Pennsylvania and didn‘t write his first song until 1988. By this point he was working as an assistant engineer and programmer at a Cleveland recording studio. Hard-pressed to find musicians, he decided to draw on his studio know-how and make Nine Inch Nails a one-man project.

“A good part of ‘88 was spent just figuring out what Nine Inch Nails‘ persona was going to be. I didn‘t want to write a bunch of unconnected songs. I wanted a dense piece of work that was coming from a definite standpoint.“ Reznor‘s the kind of guy who spends months writing in his journal before he commits a note to tape. Lyrically, Pretty Hate Machine‘s gloomy mood was “an amplification of just one aspect of my personality,“ says Trent. “I‘m not that despondent in real life.“ Musically, the goal was to approximate the net effect of five or six different personalities flailing away in the studio.

“Although I don‘t listen to Prince any more these days, he was an influence in the past,“ says Reznor. “Because whatever instrument he was playing, he could come up with his own identity on it. It was my goal to try to do that on Pretty Hate Machine. But it‘s a time-consuming process.“

After all his solitary studio labors, Reznor got to experience the other side of the coin when Pretty Hate Machine was released in 1990 and he assembled a live band to tour behind the record. Each time Nine Inch Nails crossed the country, the songs seemed to get more aggressive and the band‘s popularity seemed to take another leap. The climax came with the Nails‘ inclusion in this summer‘s big Lollapalooza alternative rock tour, exposing Reznor and friends to a wider audience than ever.

“The live show reflects where I’m at right now - although the material is old. The show is hinting at what the material on the new Nine Inch Nails album will be like.“ Though he‘ll be doing the new record on his own again, Reznor has plans to incorporate the lessons he‘s learned about live performance dynamics. “I’ve got lots of long [sampled] loops of friends of mine playing drums. It sounds a lot like real drums.“

This time, of course, a lot more people will be paying attention to what Reznor comes up with in the studio. But having held on to his creative control thus far, Reznor‘s not likely to cave in now. “The funniest thing is seeing all these A&R people who are now desperate to sign Nine Inch Nails and realizing they‘re the very same people who wanted nothing to do with us when I played the exact same songs for them two years ago.“

The Nailman’s Bag

There’s a room in Trent Reznor’s house that’s furnished as follows: a Macintosh IIfx running Sound Tools, Deck, Turbo Synth, Studio Vision and, occasionally, Performer. Two Akai S1100 samplers with internal and removable hard drives, an Oberheim Xponder, MiniMoog, Prophet V5, two Neve channel input strips, a Soundcraft Delta 32 console, Gibson Explorer and Jackson guitars plugged into Marshall 8000 Series and Demeter amps, and assorted outboard gear.