Jahr 1995


Live Wire


Juni/Juli 1995


 Blood, Guts, Body Parts,

Mental Torture and Twisted Sex


  Words: Martin Popoff

Photographs: Paul Harries



Nine Inch Nails Frontman Trent Reznor opens up for a look inside the mind of the God of industrial grind!!!

By Martin Popoff

Trent Reznor seems calm, resolute, bent on reflexively riding out the work, as Nine Inch Nails, the gleaming metallic, cyborgian futuro-entourage that is his bigger self, sodbusts through North American concert venues in support of the man’s itchy new masterlab The Downward Spiral, NIN’s flame-roasted wigging-out party, follow-up to a duo of stage-setting releases, Pretty Hate Machine and the breakthrough Broken EP from ’92. We spoke in hushed, serious and deliberate tones to Trent, who despite his former rep as a difficult, crazy nugget, comes across as earnestly concerned with the thorny creative trip he has set upon. For Trent, it is all about the work, something he sees as a make or break on why anybody would ever ask him el grande queries.

There‘s no surprise really, that the stress point for The Downward Spiral is depression, in all its gray-black permutations, Trent digging deep within a do-it yourself solitude made possible by an intelligence and sensitivity colliding with disgust at humanity.

“Lyrically, the record‘s pretty well all autobiographical, basically me expending an emotion, letting it go. I wasn‘t trying to make a record that depresses people, although most of the inspiration was depression. For me it’ll be therapeutic. I relate the lyrics to situations in my youth. When I was feeling depressed, certain records made me feel better, stuff like Pink Floyd and old Cure. It was good knowing that someone else was feeling the same way I did” He offers somewhat apologetically that his influences might seem a bit irrelevant these days, adding that his tastes were constrained by what he had access to growing up in a small town.

The Downward Spiral is probably one of the most difficult releases of the decade thus far, truly repelling its three-legged rhythms and poisoned, sonically sabotaged layers.

It is long, and it demands headphones. Selecting time and place for a downward spin is a challenge in itself but rewards can by scraped and foraged from the record‘s bewildering smorg of sounds. Surprisingly enough, the album finds its self-lacerated legs within its second half which many may never have had the patience to reach.“

Nine Inch Nails was starting to box itself into a corner, having to be harder and faster and noisier all the time, which, when I sit down to write, is not always the way I’m feeling. I’m trying to go more full-range. My main criteria is to make it as challenging to me as I can and to live up the standards I set for myself without repeating things I’ve done before.”

With Trent, one gets a sense of his contempt for the whole circus ride that is his life. His remarks point to a mixture of exuberant participation and dreams of escape. But overall, one gets a sense he’s master of his chaos, calculating every move with a sound realization that all is fleeting and bound to fade.

“The main goals I have set for my life, which I foolishly thought would bring me some sort of satisfaction, I have achieved - being where I never thought I would be. I have to remind myself when I am sitting around depressed or when I don‘t feel like writing that I am fortunate to be able to make a living doing this. Five years ago I was literally cleaning toilets. I much prefer working in a studio! It‘s cool to be grinding away, knowing that someone out there has an interest in what I come out with. That usually makes me feel that much worse.”

Trent finds it fairly difficult squeezing these records out of himself.

“Sure, I guess creativity is my highest ideal. I mean, I play music because I have to, but the writing process is not something I do for fun. I’m not one to say I can‘t wait to sit down and write. I find it painful and I don’t exactly know why. I need to find the self-discipline to make myself find time when I can inspire myself, also making sure I have the tools around me to get my ideas down. I have a short temper and I tend to get frustrated a lot. When I’m stuck, I have little tricks like just stopping and doing something else that usually gets me going again. Sometimes ten minutes of just walking up the street clears my mind.”

In terms of process, Trent works on music and lyrics “… separately but simultaneously. I have a bunch of ideas in both departments, then at some point I’ll editorially decide which fit to which, try to make some make sense and try to make some not make sense. In terms of maybe being satisfied with my body of work, so far I feel I can write much better stuff than I’ve done before. Give me a couple mare years, then I’ll start dancing in traffic.“

I asked Trent about other stuff he’s listening to currently or has admired in the past.

“Probably my biggest hero is Bowie. He’s been a huge influence both musically and lyrically. I also like Morrissey’s lyrics.”

Favorite act of all time?

 “KISS“, he answers followed by a barely detectable snicker.

Current stuff?

“I haven’t heard the new Kyuss record, but I liked the last one, and definitely Pantera. Amazing guitar sound.”

In general however, Trents cynicism at the whole biz seems to grow with every jaded day.

“I think rock ‘n roll is in bad shape. That’s a very global statement, but it seems to me rock has became very homogenized, so incredibly safe and politically correct for the most part. Whatever danger might have existed at its inception has been packaged, labeled, marketed, and sold as product. And I blame that on MTV for pumping rock ‘n roll into everybody‘s house twenty-four hours a day. I think it’s demystified music. I also blame the birth of the compact disc, the corporate nature of record labels and small-mindedness of music programmers who work at radio or MTV. It’s all led to a very safe, very conservative climate. Nowadays, you‘re a star if you have one song with a hit video. It seems to be crushing or overturning our so-called new wave of alternative music. I mean, what’s alternative about Pear Jam: they‘re a ‘70s rock band. REM. is now considered alternative. To what? I want to see if they somehow work Aerosmith into the alternative.”

“As I become more and more disgusted with, the music industry side of things and how silly the foundation of the whole thing is, I’d like to move ahead into something else. But I haven‘t had much time to explore what that might be. Four years ago, the tour bus started rolling, and I haven’t had an extended period of time off where I can clearly assess the situation. In that time, pretty well every aspect of my life has changed, and I’m not yet fully aware of all the  resources I have available. I’d like to get more into production and soundtracks. I’d like to do a Nine Inch Nails project that is just guitar, bass, and drums, with no obvious electronics other than treatment. I think I could make that sound unique. And my lyrics I think are going to change a fair bit, based on what I’m putting into my notebook these days. There‘s a million things I want to do.“

So is it all moving too fast?

“In a way yes, I wish I had more time to devote to different things that come up. For example, in between tours we had five weeks off, and in that time I finished editing a whole soundtrack did a Nine Inch Nails song, remixed another song, worked on three new videos and all at the same time. I don’t think your best work can come from that forced situation. You need a little more time to allow creativity to happen naturally. If I could change anything?... On the one hand, I really want to do a long tour, and on another, I really want to be in the studio for some insane reason.“

One gets the feeling that The Downward Spiral’s blood, guts, body parts, mental torture, and twisted sex are like a detachable set of sorry circumstances from the functioning whirlwind of work that is Trent Reznor, finding in the man no apology or even recognition about the horrific qualities of the record. Again, it comes down to a guy using die absolutely newest tools of the trade to expunge the demons that are crowding his cranial ranch. It‘s a lonely pursuit and Trent is not all that concerned about what his fans get cut of it. Although he feels cognizant of the public when writing, he just hopes they have the same urges he does. If they don’t there‘s nothing he can do to accommodate them. He remains focused on riding out the tasks at hand, playing the role of control freak and, as much as he likes to downplay his skills, media manipulator. And in the spirit of good central planning, the tour is a balls out spectacle, lots of people, lots of effects, lots of attention paid to reproducing the Spiral scratch with human hands versus silicon chips.

Finally, Trent offers these thoughts on the anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s suicide, measuring his words with a true empathy which kind of took me by surprise.

“I didn’t know Kurt. It a real shame… I started thinking about it, and really couldn’t think of anybody else in his position who really took their life willingly, except maybe Ian Curtis from Joy Division. Mostly, I just felt sad. I wasn‘t t’ sure his addictions had a lot to do with his lack of clarity, but if he hated rock ‘n roll, he shouldn’t have done it. People need to realize that suicide is definitely not the answer. I’ve felt that way. I’ve thought about suicide and I’ve been close to it, but at the end of the day there are always alternatives.”

There’s that word again.