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Jahr 1992

 

Melody Maker

 

 

5. Dezember 1992

 

Nine Inch Nails - Murder He Wrote

 

Autor: The Stud Brothers Report

Pictures: Kevin Westenberg

 

He‘s just moved into the house where Sharon Tate was slaughtered by the Manson Family. The video for his new single‘s just been banned because it features scenes of torture, murder and genital mutilation. His records — ‘Pretty Hate Machine‘, ‘Broken‘ and the new remix EP, ‘Fixed‘ — are essays in homicidal rage und self-destruction, murderous cacophonies that offend and appal. They also sell by the shit-load and achieve platinum status in America. He is Nine Inch Nails — and his name is Trent Reznor.

The Stud Brothers report.

Pics: Kevin Westenberg

HELTER SKELTER

Trent Reznor‘s moved. He now lives in Los Angeles— Beverly Hills to be precise. Trent‘s new place isn‘t particularly big, not by Beverly Hills standards, anyway. It does, however, have a history. And, in LA, where they‘ll fix a brass plaque to anything pre-Reagan, history is a big plus.

Get this. On the large paved parking area where Trent now leaves his pick-up truck, a young black woman discovered the dead body of an 1 8-year-old boy. He‘d been shot four times and had his face and arms slashed. On the nearby lawn where Trent now plays ball, she found two more bodies. One of them, a man, bad been stabbed 31 times, shot twice and struck 13 times over the head with a blunt object. Everyone agreed that he‘d fought hard for his life. Near the man lay a 25-year-old woman. She‘d been stabbed 28 times.

But it‘s what they found in Trent‘s living-room that realty gives the house its name. Just a few feet from Trent‘s bedroom, in the room where Trent now watches TV, police discovered the body of a hairdresser. He‘d been stabbed, beaten and shot. Someone had even tried to hang him. Beside him was the body of a young, blonde, very pregnant woman. She‘d been stabbed l6 times. Someone had also tried to hang her.

That‘s one hell of a history. Another interesting thing about Trent‘s house, Trent tells us, is that you can make an unbelievable amount of noise without disturbing the neighbours.

The first thing that occurred to many upon learning that Trent Reznor is renting Sharon Tate‘s house, site of the Manson murders, is that he‘s sick. The next is that that is exactly what Reznor wants us to think. Those who already regard Reznor as a charlatan, a puerile pop poseur masquerading as a hardcore industrial manic depressive, will view his move from New Orleans to LA, and this particular house in LA, as a singularly grotesque and obnoxiously theatrical way of proving that he really is a pretty f***ed-up kinda guy.

Three weeks ago Reznor told Melody Maker that his renting of the house had come about by accident rather than design. He claimed he was looking for a large, isolated home where he could begin writing and recording his next album.

Reznor maintained that it was only just prior to signing the contracts that he learned of the house‘s history. Nevertheless, didn‘t he understand that by taking on the property he‘d be playing right into the hands of his critics?

Sitting in the bar of a west London hotel, Reznor ponders this (he is a big ponderer) and then sighs resignedly.

“Obviously I‘m aware that I‘m setting myself up,“ he tells us. “I know people are gonna say I only did it to prove how ghoulish I am. But the honest-to-God truth is that it was a cool place and it was the place we‘d picked anyway.“

So the house‘s allure is in no way connected to its history?

“Obviously it‘s intriguing to live in a house like that. I was initially just interested in what it‘d be like to live in LA for eight months, and now I know. I hate it, it sucks. But, if you’ve gotta be in LA, that‘s the place to be— it‘s an a hill, it‘s go to beautiful view and it‘s above the smog. And, obviously, so be living in that area, Beverly Hills with the rich and famous, is a cool culture shock for me. I know this Tate business looks like the most gimmicky thing I could do, but the house real is cool. And, besides, I don‘t think anyone with the vaguest sense of curiosity, given the opportunity and the resources to live there for a while would turn it down.“

Reznor has many times been accused of using violence as a gimmick. Whether he does so or whether he‘s genuinely preoccupied with violence is difficult to say. What is true is that violence, towards the self and others, is Nine Inch Nails‘ central theme. Just the title of their debut album, “Pretty Hate Machine“, is testament to that.

Their new mini-album, “Broken“, and even “Fixed“, the follow-up EP of remixes, are generally agreed to be the most visceral releases this year, both in terms of content and execution. A fortnight ago, one of Nine Inch Nails‘ videos on what was to have been a video EP was refused a certificate by the British Board Of Film Classification —which, to all intents and purposes, means it‘s been banned.

The nicest thing that could be said about the video is that it‘s a cross between “Hellraiser“ and the Acid Queen sequence in “Tommy“. The most truthful is that it depicts a naked man being sexually tortured, then torn to pieces. Two previous NIN videos have also incited controversy. A year ago, Island Records were forced to pull the video for “Sin“ because of scenes of genital piercing and gay men smearing blood all over each other. In 1990, misplaced footage from “Down In It“, which featured a half-naked man being thrown from a building, fell into the hands of the FBI who believed they‘d stumbled across pieces of a genuine snuff movie and initiated a murder investigation.

The man, it turned out, was Trent Reznor, who was ‚of course, alive, well and touring with  The Jesus And Mary Chain. The FBI were left with egg on their face. You can‘t buy publicity like that.

Trent Reznor quite clearly and profitably wallows in pain —his and other people‘s. The question is why.

“I admit,“ he says, “that I‘ve always been interested in murder and murderers. And if we‘re talking about Manson then, yes, I find him intriguing. He‘s obviously a really intelligent guy. I‘m not one of those people who‘re totally enamoured by him and his life— I‘m not into that. I think what he did was not cool. I‘m just into the motivation behind it all. I can understand in some ways the empowerment it must give someone to kill someone, to commit the ultimate violation of somebody‘s rights by ending them. I‘m not endorsing it, I don‘t wanna do it myself— but I am fascinated by lt. I read somewhere that the serial killer is ultimately fearless, he actually goes out and does what everyone wants to do. It was in this fanzine, totally illegal, that deals in murder and paedophilia and everything completely taboo.“

Doesn‘t it say something terrible about society, and particularly American society, that murderers and rapists are celebrated as subversives, as revolutionaries?

“It does. It most certainly does. And that‘s a good reason to be interested in this stuff. The sad f***ing thing is that one way of impressing a very violent world is to be more violent.“

He pauses.

“I mean, what on earth has it come to when kids have to take guns to school, when you‘re no longer afraid of being beat up by the bully, when you‘re afraid of getting shot in the hallway? Violence is all over. I mean, just before I came over here I decided to come back down to earth from my lofty Beverly Hills residence and take a driving tour of South Central. Five minutes in, there was a corpse lying in the parking-lot. It was like, ‘Holy f**! Five minutes from my f***ing house!“

Violence. All over.

Just five minutes from Trent‘s new place.

REVOLUTION

Trent Reznor‘s self-penned press release described “Broken“ as “an ugly record“. One review commented that it was “as close to excruciating as is possible without the skeletal touch of Genesis P Orridge“ (by the way, another Manson afficionado). Reznor‘s voice, at the best of times an anguished howl, is digitally ravaged on “Broken“. Great cusps of guitar threaten so burst the eardrums. Rhythms move sickeningly exact thwacks to nerve-wracking machine-gun rattles, and underlying it all is the packed racket of churning, copping machinery.

Did he deliberately set out to release something that even his most vociferous critics would agree was, if nothing else, harder than the rest? Was he observing his own sick little maxim that one way of impressing a very violent world is to be more violent?

“I admit same of it I did do for shock value,“ he says. “I wanted it to be fairly relentless and, from people‘s comments, I already know it bums people out. And partly it was a knee-jerk reaction to all those people who say things like, ‘Well, you got Skinny Puppy and Ministry here and you got that pussy industrial pop fag band Nine Inch Nails here.‘ So it was a kind of ‘F*** You‘ to them. Not in a macho way, because in Metal and Industrial there‘s already too much of that bi dick male stuff. It was just to show that our records could be as hard and intense as the live shows already are.

“But the idea that ‘Broken‘ was contrived, that it was made coldly, isn‘t true. It genuinely reflected my state of mind. In some ways, I was unmotivated. I was scared because I hadn‘t written songs in years, and I was in a real shitty mood because I’d been on tour for three years - getting shuffled around, with all the highs, lows, self-abuse, meeting people constantly, having to prove myself again and again. I became a total prick, bitchy, real hard to be around.“

Beyond Belief?

One of the weirdest things about Trent Reznor is that he finds his own success intensely embarrassing. Ever since “Pretty Hate Machine” took off (it’s now gone platinum in America), he‘s been offering thinly veiled apologies. He tells us – confesses to us – that where he is at the moment is where he had originally planned to be in five years time. It‘s not that Reznor doesn‘t believe he deserves his success, it‘s just that he‘s handicapped by that  indie mentality that equates obscurity with credibility. Reznor fears that one reason NIN might have become so big is that there‘s something visibly and audibly naff about  them. Reznor believes naffness sells.

Proof of this is that “Fixed“, the remixed “Broken“, was to have featured a Butch “Nirvana” Vig reworking of “Last”. However, when Reznor heard Vig‘s version, he immediately recognised it as a potential Top Tenner and threw it away.

“The idea with ‘Fixed‘”, he says, “was to just farm out the tracks on ‘Broken‘ to other people and let them do their own thing. I got Butch Vig to do ‘Last‘ out of curiosity. And it was a curiosity, completely inappropriate.

I told him to make it rock, like he normally does, and he did. He played all the guitar and bass, gave it a whole new groove. I appreciate the amount of work that went into it, and it’s well done for what it is. But it transformed my song into something I f***ing hate. It‘s sooo rock, sooo MTV.“

Reznor says this with predictable but impressive disgust. There‘s no doubt that he sees himself as a maverick—successfully opposing the mainstream.

“In our lifetimes,” he says, “we‘ve seen rock music completely legitimised. It used so be a force for change, it used to wanna change itself. Now it‘s just stale. Now it seems as legitimate an option in life as being a banker. You can even go to rock college. And through MTV and Guns N‘Roses be so massive, everything‘s become homogenised, everyone thinks guitar-bass-drums is the only way to be. But I say why not break out of that?

“ I know to some extent Nine Inch Nails plays the pop music game—we make albums, videos, we get on MTV occasionally, we write songs that have choruses. I‘m aware that, compared to Throbbing Gristle and Skinny Puppy, we‘re very conventional. But I don‘t think, sonically, we‘re a safe option —we‘re not completely within the guidelines set. I mean, I think Nirvana are great, I‘m glad they‘re up there instead of Bon Jovi. But they certainly  aren’t confronting us with a new form of music. Sugar, Soul Asylum, The Replacements, The Black Crowes— maybe they can write a good song but, musically, they bore me senseless. They‘re so derivative of other things.

“I know we are, too, but I do always try to throw something in there that ‘ I‘ve never heard before. My goal, and I know it sounds amazingly pretentious and I‘m far from attaining it, is to do something like Hendrix did, make something that‘s great because it’s so wrong. I have to try.“

Broken

The reason NIN are viewed so sceptically in certain quarters is because Reznor tries so hard. Too hard. For some, “Broken“ is just too heavy, the videos are just too sick, and Sharon Tate‘s house… Sharon Tate‘s house is just too much. For some, NIN are just an icy, pompous exercise in schlock The argument as to whether NIN are a genuine voice of despair and anger or a cynical exploitative facsimile will doubtless continue. What no one can argue about is that NIN are quite extraordinary. No one is presently taking the enormous chances Reznor is taking. And rarely does such chance-taking pay such enormous dividends.

“Broken“ is indisputably one of the albums of the year because it‘s bleak and brilliant, obscene and disgusted, visceral and cerebral, because it makes noises you have never previously heard. And because it proves that a record that raises eyebrows even in the most liberal and bohemian circles can go Top 10 in America. Its success demands that others take similar chances.

Whether “Broken“ is a true testament to Reznor‘s misery and loathing or the product of some sinister masterplan is ultimately an irrelevance. The bottom line is that Nine Inch Nails are one of the few groups whose music, videos and attitude can honest described as extraordinary. Honest

oben