Ten guitars are
destroyed every night during NINE INCH NAILS‘ band-battering, water-flinging,
chaotic riots on the mega-successful Lollapalooza tour. Hiding behind the amps,
TERRY STAUNTON risks electrocution to join the Campaign For Real Nail. Inch perfect:
San Francisco, city of peace and love. Perhaps
the last refuge of the beautiful people who advocate making babies, not bombs.
But, hey, get out of the ‘60s, we don‘t have
that mentality any more. It‘s 1991, the year of The Terminator (slight return),
and Trent Reznor has declared war on anyone within guitar-slinging distance —
and that includes the rest of Nine Inch Nails, as keyboardplayer James Woolley
discovered to his cost.
“It was just one of those shows,“ explains an
almost apologetic Trent, a couple of weeks after the “Frisco Incident“, as it
has become known among the Lollapalooza entourage.
“Every single thing was f—ing up; monitors
weren‘t on, guitars were out of tune, the mic stand was nowhere to be seen.
Every little f— up that could happen happened. Also the crowd was a little weird
and I just snapped...
“I just went totally violent, really scared a
lot of people. I picked up my out of tune guitar, turned round, and smashed the
f —in‘ thing on the keyboard. Then I turned around and went about my business
of the next song.
“A couple of songs later our road manager ran
by and said ‘It‘s OK, the medics are finally here‘. I just looked at him and
said ‘Medics? What f—in‘ medics? What for?‘. Then I turned around and saw James
scowling at me, with all this blood trickling down his face. Seems a piece of
guitar busted off and hit him in the head. Oh well, that‘s showbiz.“
Violence is nothing new to Nine Inch Nails
shows. James and guitarist Richard are used to being attacked mid-song by the
intense and troubled Trent Reznor. But the frontman sometimes forgets to hold
back, and he‘s not a latter-day punk playing to the gallery. He means it, maan.
Nine Inch Nails are genuinely frightening. They
scared the shit out of the suits and pony-tails at last year‘s New Music
Seminar in New York, trashing their instruments and each other during their
showcase gig. And 12 months later, watching them from the side of the stage
during the Boston shows of the Lollapaloozatour, I can‘t remember when I last felt so
terror-stricken. I want to go home!
Lollapalooza is the brainchild of Jane‘s
Addiction‘s Perry Farrell; a touring package designed to showcase a rag-bag of musical
styles while offering freedom of information and a forum for debate. As well as
the bands, each stadium-sized show boasts stalls where one can learn about
Greenpeace, gun control, civil rights, censorship, seven shades of political thought
and hey, there‘s even a place where you can get a tattoo!
Smack dab in the middle of a seven-band bill
are Nine Inch Nails, immediately following Ice-T and preceding Living Color.
The bulk of the acts are self-explanatory, but NIN are proving to be the wild
card, combining the industrial terrorism of Ministry or Front 242 with the more
organic manic guitars and polyrhythmic mayhem of Jane‘s Addiction.
“Nine Inch Nails is Trent Reznor“ claims the
sleeve of the ‘Pretty Hate Machine‘ album. Subscribing to the auteur theory, Trent picks a bunch of blokes to flesh
out the sound of live.
“I’m not looking for virtuoso musicians all the
time, it’s an attitude that I’m interested in,” says the curiously
mild-mannered off-stage Reznor. “They have to have fire in them, and also be
able to take orders from me.”
co-workers also have to be tough enough
to take physical batterings on stage each night, and risk their lives as
buckets of water are thrown over all manner of electrics. More that one
Lollapalooza stage-hand tells me it’s a miracle that nobody’s been killed by
taking 10.000 volts up the backside – yet.
thinking about that only last night,” muses Trent. “There I was on stage, standing in
a huge pool of water, water dripping from my hair on to my guitar and my mouth
against the mic.”
Trent, you’ve been doing this show for
couple of years now, and you only thought about the danger last night?
to be danger, we have to instil a
sense of fear in the audience, and in ourselves. Rock’n’roll deserves that.
“Censorship has been the big issue in recent
years, in fact it‘s a big advertisement for your group to get banned in some
way. But how many things that have been censored are really dangerous?
“So somebody says ‘f—‘ on their album, big
deal. Anyone can say ‘f—‘, there’s too many people banking on that word as
dangerous. When The Beatles and The Rolling Stones started they were seen as a
genuine threat, it was underground and exciting, but too many people are doing
the same things now and the danger is missing.
“Wanting to be a rock star is as legitimate as
wanting to be a fireman or an astronaut, there‘s almost an established career
path. Every beer commercial has some asshole playing guitar, it‘s all become so
safe. It‘s like being a doctor, only you get more girls to take their clothes
off for you and you get to f— them.
“Anybody can try and look like David Lee Roth
and base a career on an old Van Halen video and I just find that sickening.“
audiences get their first taste of Nine Inch Nails this week, with the start of
the band‘s debut tour over here. Having opened for Guns N‘ Roses at Wembley
last weekend, terrorist Trent is about to put the frighteners on the
frequenters of smaller club venues — stay away if you scare easily.
More than 17,000 stunned spectators must have
had nightmares after the Boston shows. With the mic lead wrapped
tight around his throat, Trent Reznor stumbles on to stage, screaming blue
murder and slinging water into the stalls. Then he turns on the stage crew and
soaks the amps, cables and monitors.
Les Harvey of Stone The Crows, Keith Relf; the
Electrocution Hall Of Fame runs through my mind as I hide behind a speaker
Joined by the rest of the band for the second
number, Trent snaps. He charges across to guitarist Richard, slamming him to the
floor on top of the monitors. Writhing in agony, Richard forgets about his
guitar, he is seriously hurt.
Trent throws a mic stand into the drum
kit, crosses the stage to James, rips the keyboard from its stand and sends it
back towards the agony-stricken Richard.
Realising he has demobilised two instruments, Trent screams to a roadie to give him a
guitar. But he doesn‘t try to play it. The axe is hammered into the floor, as
Richard squirms his way to safety, cursing Trent through clenched teeth.
grabs a bottle of mineral water and performs a mock ejaculation, emptying the
liquid onto Richard‘s discarded guitar. He turns and attempts a kung fu kick at
the bass drum, before demolishing any remaining microphones.
Then something very strange happens. James
picks up his keyboard and returns it to its stand — and Richard‘s back with a new guitar, shouting
his backing vocals into a fresh mic on a hastily reassembled stand. We‘re into
the next song and they‘re carrying on as if nothing has happened! Roadies
chortle to themselves, standing by with replacement mics and guitars, geared up
for the next demolition.
And to it goes. By the end of the set countless
guitars have been wrecked, various Nails are sporting shiny new bruises and
gallons of water have left the stage looking like a boating lake Just another show, it seems.
The Who almost bankrupted “themselves in the
early days by smashing instruments once a night, how can Nine Inch Nails afford
this regular ritual slaughter?
“Well, we’re kinda goin’ overboard for
Lollapalooza,” grins Trent. “We’re getting paid pretty well
and we’re gonna end up with a nice little kitty, but we have been able to set
quite a bit aside for repairs and what have you.
“Every night we can afford to have ten guitars
waiting in the wings ready to die. Sometimes I feel kinda bad when I look out
and see all these kids lookin’ up at me totalling a guitar. You know what
they’re thinkin’, ‘I’ve been savin’ up for one of those for months, man, and
you’re killin’ it in seconds!’ You have to put it into perspective, I guess.”
Advocating violence with attitude, Nine Inch Nails
is Trent Reznor, axe murderer extraordinaire.
But is he the ultimate showman taking rock ‘n‘ roll to the edge, or a calculating
charlatan with a neat line in shock tactics?
Nine inch Nails have to be seen to be believed,
decide for yourself if it‘s choreographed chaos or unbridled grievous bodily
harm. Having seen James‘ San Francisco stitches and Richard‘s Boston bruises,
my money‘s on the latter. Mind you, the music‘s pretty good.