Itís a mere two hours before Trent Reznor is
due on stage for another show supporting The Downward Spiral when he phones in
from Cleveland. Iím just pleased as a pig-in-shit to have the
vocalist on the line. We were fortunate to be at Woodstock í94 and experience what millions of
fans the world over have finally discovered in Nine Inch Nails: The awesome,
in-your-face, tremendously emotional roller coaster ride that he and his
comrades out an audience through. He is brilliant. Brilliant in the recording
sense. Brilliant live. No one can bring out the darker side of each of us
better than Trent and we love it. Every once in a while a sincere artist emerges in rock
and roll, rising above the bullshit weíre forced-fed everyday, and believe me
or not, this is it. And donít any of you dare to call him a sellout, a rock
star, nuthiní! Heís more legit than everyone else in our time. Enough
accolades. Letís cut the shit and get to Trent.
RIP: What possessed you to get into the mud at Woodstock?
TR: We were right out by the big mud pit and
watchin' everybody, I thought, well, this looks like a lot of fun. At that time
there wasn't that many people that were muddy, but the people that were in the
mud looked like they were having a great time and we thought 'Fuck, y'know we
kinda can't actually do that.' But we didn't have showers backstage at the time
either, so we went back and hung out backstage, and it was just a real nervous
day. Then on the way to stage I pushed Danny, our guitar played, and he just
fell face-first into the mud. Then he tackled me and it turned into a kind of
all-male mud wrestling thing. It was actually really funny. After we did that,
all nervousness kind of subsided.
RIP: And now you've become the talk of Woodstock.
TR: Yeah, I can't tell you why that is. I guess
RIP: And you're selling more records now. Does
that alleviate some of the pressures from the record company?
TR: Well, we've never really had any pressure
from the record company. I mean, with the downward spiral, when I delivered
that record, it was the record I wanted to make and I felt It was artistically
where I was at the time and still pretty much am right now. I did have a bit of
reservation, just because I thought it was commercially limited and I thought
there wasn't many singled on there, if any. I obviously didn't care, 'cause I
released it anyway. But at the end of the day I'll put the marketing-guy hat on
and say 'okay, now if I was going to try to sell this to people, what would I
pick as a single? Or what would I make a video for?' I realize in the
marketplace now, it's dominated with bands like Soundgarden and with the
ready-made singles and Pearl Jams and. . . The nature of the music business is
competitive. You're trying to make your product succeed in ways that other's
people's don't. In some ways, I found myself getting caught up in that and then
I thought, 'what the fuck? This is the record that I like and I wanted to make.
I've made it, here it is.' And it debuted that high on the charts and took
everybody by surprise. And then you find yourself getting sucked back into that
game of 'okay, what's the next single going to be? Is MTV going to play the
video for this?'
RIP: But MTV's finally playing the video (for
'closer'). Do you think they're catching on or just succumbing to the public's
TR: I don't think there's much of a danger in
playing a NIN video right now. I think that we've been branded safe and
acceptable and I don't think any programmer's gonna get fired for playing a NIN
song-especially after the Woodstock thing. So, I mean, when we did Woodstock, I thought we would be, y'know,
number 25 in the list of 50 bands that were playing there. When it kinda worked
out that we've been getting a lot of attention from it, I never expected that.
I don't exactly know why, 'cause I thought our performance was shitty.
RIP: Do you take the same philosophy as you do
with your music for your label and your acts?
TR: I play music, I'm in the music business
because I like music and I love music, it's my life. And yeah, it is nice to
not worry about paying a gas bill at the end of the day, I'm not complaining
about that. But that's not my reason for being in it. With the label, it's not
looked at at all from a monetary game-point, as much as it is. . . I feel that
NIN is in a pretty fortunate position with Interscope. They have enough faith
in me as an artist, that if I say 'Hey, I wanna do this video, and I wanna do
this, and I wanna make a record, go on tour and lose money'. . . They think
'there must be some reason to this, okay, we don't understand it, but we'll let
you do it.' And they do, and then I think at the end of the day they realize
what the master-plan was. I like working that way because if I get an idea, I
can execute it. I don't have it approved by 15 people whose opinions I don't
respect anyway. To be able to offer a version of that type of situation to
other bands, that makes me feel good.
RIP: Are you the A&R guy for your own
TR: Yeah. Well, it's John Malm, my manager, and
myself. We work close to the scene together. And we haven't gone out actively
pursuing, trying to sign up everything in the world. When this idea of a label
came around, honestly, I ha d been wanting to help out Marilyn Manson in some
way - who I always thought was a good band. Maybe they could be a band on my
label, so I talked to them about it-a couple of major labels had been dragging
their feet with them- and I thought of them as a perfect example of a band that
I thought really had a good vision. They had a unique stance - something to
say, good songs to back it up with, and they were good musicians. In the wrong
hands, that could be shaped in to something that was very mediocre. In the
wrong hands with the wrong pressure, it could shape into something that's not
true to what it should be, and what it is. If they smooth off a rough edge
here, take that lyric out of here and don't do that on stage there, pretty soon
it's not the true thing anymore. I just wanted to provide them with an avenue
to just do what you wanna do. Then that even ran into trouble above me, when
Interscope said 'well, I don't think we can release this 'cause it's offensive
to us. Would you considerÖ ' 'No. I will not change a fucking thing on that
record. If you don't wanna put it out, then we'll shop it for someone else.'
Then they realized it was kinda silly. I personally don't find it offensive at
all. I don't think rock should be safe anyway. If there's something offensive
about it, then good, there's not enough of that today, in my opinion.
RIP: At the end of this tour are you going to
go into your own self-imposed hiatus-seclusion-or are you too much of a workaholic?
TR: I've become a workaholic just because I
have nothing else to do, really. As long as I keep working I don't have to deal
with every other aspect of my life. Besides that I just feel, like, a burst of
creativity that I wanna make a record that's going to be opposite of Downward
Spiral. That's not as isolating a process and perhaps a lot more collaborative.
RIP: Have you already started writing for the
TR: No. What I have done is I've started coming
up with sets of rules to work with it. I've got about four different little
game plans, I'm gonna try to find out which one makes the most sense. I need to
do that. And then I write within those guidelines. Which might sound silly,
but. . . For example, with the Downward Spiral, I constructed a big theme
through the whole thing and kind of an, ah, almost storyline. Then wrote out a
list of things I wanted to address thematically. Then I tried to write songs
which fit the guidelines and in a roundabout way, kinda succeeded, although I
didn't think I could do that. This time, I'm in the process of formulating how
I want to approach this. Whether it might be a complete collaborative thing
with three other people, or it might be getting rhythm ideas from different
people and then constructing them into something and then farming it out to
somebody else, while I'm not involved, see what comes back. Right now, if you
ask me this second, I'm more into the idea of collaborating-you never know, I'm
a moody guy.
RIP: The mainstream media is finally showing
their support for NIN, but something's still holding you back from blowing
completely open like a Pearl Jam or someone.
TR: It's as simple as this. NIN doesn't have
the mechanical structure, or isn't the kind of band that can ever be a Pearl
Jam. It's appealing to a limited cross-section of people. Pearl Jam, to me, are
a good band at what they are and they're also all things to all people. They've
managed to be labeled alternative, their songs are already on classic rock
stations, there's not one element or anything that they've ever done that would
offend your grandmother, there's a cute guy in the band, it's teen-throb, it's
alternative rock in theory, it's corporate rock. They're on every chart.
They're everything to all people. And they're politically-fuckin' correct.
They're standing up for the rights of the concertgoer-fighting some silly fight
about ticket prices-which I don't think that many people give a shit about. And
NIN is not that and never will be that, and it was never meant to be that. It's
bigger now than I ever dreamed it would be and I went through a phase of really
hating that fact. It is easier to go on tour in a van and play clubs opening
for some band with no expectations and if you do good, then people go 'why,
man, these guys are really great. You blew the headliner off stage.' It's cool
to be in Alternative Press, and it's cool to be in Option magazine- they think
you're cool 'cause nobody's ever heard of you. It's comfortable, it's nice to
have that kind of support from the truly alternative fans who I think do have a
bit more integrity than the people who are spoon-fed MTV videos all day.
However, if it happens that you do start to sell more records, whether you've
done anything consciously to sell out, or people just started to listen to you,
there's nothing you can do to stop that. I could say 'I'm never gonna make
another video again, and I'm never gonna make an album, I'm gonna make an album
of sheer noise, just to bum everybody out. "But that's not being anymore
true than if I sat down and said 'I'm gonna write 15 'Head Like A Hole's' so
that I can be Eddie Vedder.' I'm not saying Eddie Vedder does that either.
RIP: No, but you've got it straight at least,
most artists don't. You've got it right. You're just right now-and this is no
offense to you-but for the moment you're flavor of the month, and next record
you may not be.
TR: Well I don't think this record was
(flavor), and then through a series of whatever it is-'Closer' gets added on
MTV and somehow people at Woodstock think we did good, somehow the timing of
Rolling Stone finally offering us a cover-seeming like it was all
perfect-planned, which it's not. It seems like 'hey, flavor-of-the-moment,' and
then there's a danger in that where you also become yesterday's news the next
moment. I've been aware of that and I've never had any desire to be
'heavy-rotation-MTV-boy' or anything else. I know when I go to sleep at night,
I've made the record I wanna make, without any compromise. If that is a
sellout, then I'm a hundred-percent sellout 'Cause it also means I made a record
I wanted to make, and a lot of people like it. Then great. I'm not going to go
up to somebody and say, 'You live in Ohio, you shop in a mall, hey fuck you,
you're not cool enough to listen to my music.' That's fuckin' fascism. That's
more fucked up than anything else. I was one of those kids. If people like it
great, if you don't like it, it's my fault too.
RIP: At what point does demystifying yourself
become detrimental? I didn't like the MTV interview, it made you seem so simple
and it broke down the 'wall.'
TR: I don't. . . I'm uncomfortable enough
reading anything that comes out of my mouth-other than my own lyrics-as in
doing interviews-that, I feel like enough has been said now, time to go away
for a while. At the same time, there's a side of me that. . . I'm into
confusing people and I'm into right when you think you've got it figured out. .
. 'Cause I've read so many interviews where I'm about to kill myself. Where I'm
this fucking thing. That sometimes if I'm caught in the wrong mood or if I'm
just in a different mood. . . We talked to Woodstock live right after we got offstage-I
almost fell asleep. Because I finally felt like all this weight and pressure
had been removed. They were talking and we ended up joking around a little bit
and. . . I know what you're saying . . .I don't have any kind of cohesive
answer for that. I agree with you to a certain point. It's just a matter of
being truthful, where do I wanna allow people to know what I'm like?
RIP: But everybody's going misinterpret anyhow,
it's better for me to read you in print even though a lot of times it's
misleading, because there's still a wall, cause, 'cause you don't know the real
Trent. It's much funnier watching you in
a video and trying to figure you out.
TR: You're making good sense and I think I've
always opted to have that there because I don't want people to know. . . your
point about videos is good, because it does remove a layer of interpretation
from the journalists point of view. But anytime I do things in press, regardless
of how I act, they're usually looking for something and they find it whether it
was there or not. If it was to portray me as X, Y, or Z, if it was to portray
me as king of the vampires, or, in Option's case, 'king of the pretentious
assholes' or whatever it might be, it doesn't really matter what I'm saying
other than some facts.