"I'm willing to acknowledge that I have
changed as a result of my success, my financial status, my everything else. The
fact that I can afford this house. I can pay my gas bill… I’m a fuckin’ poor
son of a bitch from white trash nowhere. I know I’m not that same person, and
I’m not trying to pretend I am, but I’m also…. I’m probably more sad right now
than I’ve ever been, because I have the added baggage of this didn’t fix it,
you know? Like I always thought, ‘Man, if I could ever be a rock star….’"
A New Orleans tour group stands in front of the
rather ominous two-story 132-year-old Greek Revival mansion in rapt silence.
Who amongst the innocent tourists dares to wonder aloud just what evils lurk
beyond the ancient ironwork fence, past the flickering gas lanterns, on the
other side of that dark door where, unbeknownst to them, the walls of the eerie
foyer are spattered with drips of a deep, bloody red. A few whisper of a
bizarre murder that took place here, and that the present owner not only works
in a disreputable funeral home nearby, but also once occupied a house where one
of the most grizzly slayings of the century occurred.
And something very strange is beginning to
happen within. The entire front room of the house begins to vibrate violently,
yet beyond the closed drapes the onlookers cannot detect a murmur, they cannot
see the pictures literally failing off the walls, they cannot hear the deep,
booming, evil voice that suddenly shakes the entire darkened den- What madman
doth reside in this dwelling?
Well, it's just Trent Reznor, who, along with
his trusty dog Daisy, has just finished watching a laserdisc of Barton Fink on
the large, retractable movie screen in his ultra-soundproof den. Now he's
laughingly showing off the tester film for his high-wattage THX sound system, a
ridiculously loud gift from the at Interscope Records. "YOU UNDERESTIMATE
THE POWER OF THE FORCE!I!" booms Darth Vader, as two framed pictures are
shaken off the wall by the throaty vibration. Reznor grins as the short
compilation of blaring sound-effects-laden clips plays on.
Nothing wicked this way comes, except for an
ale or two and numerous shots of some sweet elixir. It turns out that the
rumored murder did not take place here, as far as Reznor knows, though it's
true that this former resident of the site of the Manson killings does work in
a funeral home - albeit an abandoned one, which he has converted into a
high-tech recording studio.
"We hear stories about how that place got
shut down for, like, 'Improper disposal of bodily fluids," Reznor laughs.
'I don't know if that's true though. It has a pretty good vibe.
"The singer did import to New Orleans more than a touch of necessary evil,
however, as the studio boasts a souvenir of sorts - the actual door of the Tate
mansion on which the Manson family once scrawled the word "PIG" in
blood. This city of dark magic has welcomed Reznor with open arms, even being
so kind as to print a photo of his house, address included, on the front page
of the paper the very day he moved in.
"And here's where the rock star Trent
Reznor of the band nine inch nails lives," announces yet another tour
"They come by the front every day,"
says Reznor. "I'll be opening the window In my underpants and It's like
But Reznor's been almost too busy to notice
these days, as he's been working on a variety of projects, including the
soundtrack to David Lynch's new movie Lost Highway, a new band called Tapeworm,
and long-awaited new work from nine inch nails.
Raygun: How did this Lost Highway project come about?
Trent Reznor: I had tried to track David Lynch
down years ago, just to see if he was a fan and if he'd ever be into doing a
video or anything like that. And then one day I got a call through lnterscope
saying that he was doing a new movie and, much like the Oliver Stone Natural
Born Killers thing, "Would you be interested in doing a soundtrack on
[Reznor's label] Nothing?" I said "Well what is it?" and
"I'm a big fan so, yeah, I'm interested." So I talked to David on the
phone and he said, "Would you be into me coming to New Orleans and maybe we could sit down and try
to score some bits of the movie?" So I said, "Sure." I didn't
expect that. And he ended up coming to New Orleans and I had one of the most nerve
racking situations I've ever been in. He comes in the studio and it's David
Lynch, right, my hero. And he's bigger than I thought, he's exactly that
character on Twin
hard-of-hearing FBI agent. (booming voice) "Trent! Well, whaddaya say we get
started?!" And I'm sitting there nervous out of my mind. I'd gotten the
script and I'd read it. And he goes, "Okay! Here's the scene. The guy's
being pursued in a car by the police and I want this sound of chaos." And
he's talking real loud, he's real animated. I say, "Did you bring any
footage?" (loudly) "Nah! I didn't bring any footage. Okay! See what
you can come up with!" And he just sits back on the couch. And I thought,
"Oh my God."
RG: "This isn't exactly how I work."
Reznor: Yeah, but I couldn't ... I was like,
"All right." And the thing that impressed me was in a way he knew he
was putting me on the spot. But he was really cool about it. It wasn't like in
a shitty way at all. Super nice guy. And it was like three days ... we did some
good things. It was definitely one of those cool experiences like, "Wow, I
think I held my own with someone who was my hero." After that it turned
into, "Okay, do you want to do a nine inch nails song for the
record?" and "Can you coordinate this bulk of music?" which was
partially Angelo Badalamenti, which is like prog-orchestral-dissonant, and
some, like, pop songs. Smashing Pumpkins has a now song, our new song, Marilyn
Manson did a new song, "Apple Of Sodom," Barry Adamson did new stuff.
Trying to make a record that was palatable and lived up to what the movie was
I'm not a big fan of soundtracks. On one hand,
if it's Mortal Combat, pop songs with no relevance to the movie, obviously I want
nothing to do with that. And David's not about that either. On the other hand,
I have a responsibility to sell ... there had to be some commercial sense about
it. And I hate wearing that hat. It's like I'm concerned that a fan of nine
inch nails that might buy it 'cause there's one now song or a David Lynch fan
... satisfying everyone's needs. I hate kind of being....
RG: Balancing everything.
Reznor: Yeah. When I do a nine inch nails
record I'm responsible to satisfy only my own "this is what it is." A
thing like this needs to be representative of someone else's thing and I want
them to feel good about it.
RG: So you wrote the new nine inch nails song
especially for the movie?
Reznor: "The Perfect Drug" lyrically
and thematically was inspired by the film, but musically the way it happened to
come out.... It was one of those: One week. Write a song. Mix it. Done. I don't
like to work that way. But I reached the stage where I was excited about it,
yet it wasn't necessarily appropriate for the movie. And at the end of the day
I am nine inch nails and I have to do what's right for me. So I gave it to him
and said, "I don't know if this is the right thing for your film
sonically, but this Is the song I had to write right now and I had to be true to
RG: "This is where I am."
Reznor: Yeah. And it's not in the film worth a
shit. There's ten seconds of a bit of it buried somewhere, but it was just ...
I don't like being put in that "make a record commercial, add this nine
inch nails bullshit thing to it." Musically, I was on a whim going way out
and it doesn't sound like nine inch nails, I don't think. But it was what I had
RG: Are you happy with how the whole project
Reznor: Yeah. I am. For me it's a minor thing,
I like it for what it is, but it's not my next major statement. I realize, like
in the last year, my detractors will say, 'Where's the new nine inch nails
record?" I don't really write when I'm on the road and I've always felt
shifty about that. And I made a point when I started the last tour that I'm not
gonna do what I did before: just fuck off. But then I got done with the two
year tour and what did I do? I fucked off. But the way I write is when I have
clear head space and time to think and really be myself. On tour you don't have
RG: Is it difficult to switch gears and get
back into writing?
Reznor: Very much so. When you get off the road
... I'm not particularly inspired about anything. And that's when the idea of
the Marilyn Manson record came up and the Quake video game soundtrack and minor
things we've been doing. Distractions for me, where I could get outside the
pressure of nine inch nails. With nine inch nails I really feel like everything
I do has to really be important. And the chance to work with Manson in the
producer capacity was a challenge I hadn't really had before and it was really
rewarding. I came up with shit and we got along great and they were my best
friends and that was fun.
RG: But it all sort of kept you from nine inch
Reznor: What I thought would take two months
ended up taking seven months, which further delayed things. And then the
soundtrack to Quake, which was fun in a different capacity. Maybe my time could
be spent better writing nine inch nails songs from a sensible career point of
view. It would be better if a nine inch nails record came out every year
instead of every three or four years, but I really didn't have it in me to
climb back into the hole and start working, 'cause I wasn't motivated. Now I
am. I'm in the trenches working on it and I feel good about it.
RG: So where are you now?
Reznor: Now there's two main things. One is
Tapeworm, which is this other band I'm working on, and there's nine inch nails.
Tapeworm, the idea behind it was - a couple of members of my band, Danny Lohner
and Charlie Clouser - it started as kind of a dumping ground for ideas they
might have that weren't right for nine inch nails, and it's kind of evolved
into having its own identity where tentatively I'm more the singer/producer and
they're writing the music- It's more of a collaborative thing.
RG: How does it differ from the nails stuff?
Reznor: I want those guys to contribute things
and once in a while I'll come up with something that I think is cool, but it's
not the giant leap.... Like, if I think the nine inch nails record has to be
all dobro and Jew's harp, then it has to be that. But maybe I'll write a cool
fuckin' riff that isn't right for whatever new artistic plateau I'm hoping for
nine inch nails, and if I establish this other ground as a place to relax and
have fun and maybe make even better music, that's what Tapeworm initially was.
RG: Is this your first real collaborative
Reznor: On this level, absolutely. My first
true collaboration musically was the Manson record, where I helped write some
of the songs. Twiggy and Manson would come in with a song that wasn't fully a
song yet and I'd say, "Okay how can we get a bridge?' or "How can we
make the chorus kick ass?" The band kind of became us. It was a cool open
thing and a cool vibe. I told those guys at the time. "I envy you guys,
you've got a band." But with Tapeworm, I see that side of it.
RG: And you're doing nine inch nails at the
Reznor: Some of the Tapeworm stuff may end up
being nine inch nails stuff, but in my head right now I'm looking at nine inch
nails as something that comes more out me directly- But it's also more of a
thematic thing. That's another reason the nine inch nails record didn't start
up right away. I need a blueprint before I start building the house and I don't
just write a bunch of songs and say, "Okay, I have a record."
RG: What's the blueprint looking like so far?
Reznor: If this makes sense, it's more song
oriented. Less dense, more about the song, and less about ten songs that are
all about this thing. That may change, but the way it's going right now it's
more minimal and more organic, but more electronic at the same time. But less
parts, and each part is more important than on, like, Broken, where there's a
million parts on top of each other. I'd like to have a good melody, and that
doesn't necessarily mean more accessible or commercial. I'm more into studying
the art form of writing a good song.---
RG: What's an example of a "good
song" that you've done in that sense?
Reznor: Probably like "Hurt." But I
don't mean it has to be quiet and small like that. I'm working with Rick Rubin
on the new record and I've told him I need someone outside my head to oversee
ideas. Working with Manson, I realized I could see where they were blind. I was
outside them. On my own stuff, sometimes I don't have that sounding board I
need. With Rick at this initial stage I've been like, "Give me short term
goals as to what to do." One of my first things now is I'm gonna rent a
house on the ocean somewhere ... by myself with my dog, a notebook, and a
piano. And write songs with no electronic equipment, no synthesizers, nothing.
Just try it and see what comes out.
RG: Have you ever done that before?
Reznor: No. The only song I wrote unlike I
normally do was "Hurt," at a piano. I normally get some kind of a
groove or a drumbeat or a bass line and fit it around that. And when I say I'm
more interested in the structure of what I think is a good song, I'm not saying
Gang of Four doesn't write a good song in a groove kind of way, but I'm also
interested in the way Tom Petty writes good songs or XTC or White Album
Beatles. Not that it has to be retro- I really hate the idea of retro and a
song that you've gotta it. be able to play on acoustic guitar. fuck that. But
I'd never thought about a melody, ever. I just write lyrics and music and I go
sing it and randomly something comes out and it's the melody. I'm just trying
to milk something out of myself. I don't want to do another record the way I've
done it. I'd like to think I could stumble upon something really great.
RG: What has inspired you lately, musically?
Reznor: I look at what I listen to now, which
is almost entirely ambient or jungle or hip-hop music. No rock at all. Some of
the shit that has meant the most to me lately is going back and discovering old
Iggy Pop records and stuff I didn't know at the time, like Rick turned me on to
the White Album. I'd always hated the Beatles 'cause I hated the people that
liked the Beatles when I grew up and I was tired of "Love Me Do" and
all that shit. But I'm completely bored by rock music now. I'm sick to fuckin'
death of it. I got turned on to jungle and drum 'n' bass stuff and it's the
only shit I've heard lately that sounded like, "I've never heard music
done like this." "The Perfect Drug" song was a direct result of
listening to drum 'n' bass stuff. I didn't want to be a white guy trying to
sound like drum 'n' bass, but I tried to incorporate what I liked about that
into what I do. And it's jungle influenced but not imitating it. it a through a
distortion pedal and fucked-up ... and we did an EP; Goldie is doing a remix,
Aphrodite, Meat Beat did one, and Orb's doing one. It's kind of interesting.
The only records I've liked lately have been the Fugees, De La Soul, A Tribe
Called Quest, and shit like that. Then Wagon Christ, Aphex Twin, shit like that
really hit me, like, there's some fuckin' cool shit going on and it's not in
the pop music arena, really. Just the idea of cross-pollinization ethnically
has been real interesting to me.
RG: Anything is good these days that seems to
have some new idea, or where at least somebody's trying....
Reznor: Yeah, trying something. Bush. Go away,
man. Go the fuck away- And it's so disheartening to see. This is what people
like. Safe crap. Even Bush write good songs for what they do, but what they're
doing is so soulless and so fucking ... I couldn't sleep at night.
RG: Bush was brilliant to come along when they
did from a commercial standpoint. They hit the nail on the head.
Reznor: Well, you hit the nail on the head.
"From a commercial standpoint." And that breaks down to, "Why
are you doing it?"
RG: Is there anything wrong with just purely
trying to sell a ton of records?
Reznor: Not at all. But I think of it as art,
as life, and as something that needs to make a statement. I don't have a
problem - well I do have a problem - with crass commercialism bullshit. I'm not
trying to be shitty, but there's a degree of ripoffness where if you can't see
it, either you're a dumbass or you're lying to yourself and you can't sleep at
night. If I sound like a snotty nosed art rock critic turd ... it's just, if
it's been done, why the fuck do it? Though there's nothing wrong with
borrowing. I've borrowed out the ass.
RG: It's the "nice guy" syndrome with
Bush, though- Nice guys- Talk to 'am and they'll tell you their hearts are
totally into it.
Reznor: Yeah, they're the guys that probably
think they're changing the world, but I could tell him he's just written a
Pixies song- I'd have more respect for them if they were calculated careerists
that knew, "Yeah we're ripping them off. We're rich," than dummies
who don't realize the obvious. Not to sound harsh, I don't hate them, and I
hope that's not the big bolded sentence of your fuckin' article. But I see the
band that's number one and go (makes cringing face). One of two things. First:
What a sad situation. And secondly: Are people really that dumb?
RG: The top of the charts....
Reznor: Alanis Morissette. I remember exactly
the first time I heard that "You Oughta Know" song. I was finishing
Smells Like Children with Manson- I didn't have my studio yet, so we were about
an hour and a half north. It was dawn, we'd been up all night, we'd just finished
the last mix. There's a 30-mile bridge that goes across the lake right above
us. Everyone's in the van, I'm in the front seat. I'm almost asleep, sun's up,
seven in the morning, driving across this bridge. And that song comes on and it
woke me up because I couldn't believe how bad the lyrics were. Like, "Did
she just say, 'I'll go down on you in a theatre?"' (laughs) And everyone
woke up and was like, "Oh my God, this is the worst fuckin' thing I've
ever heard!" And in the back of my mind I'm going, "This is gonna be
the biggest fuckin’ single of the summer.
RG: That's so weird, because I remember exactly
where I was, too. I was driving down an offramp onto the 10. And I was
thinking, "Oh, man, this is gonna be the biggest song......
Reznor: What a terrible thing! (laughing)
People go, "I remember where I was when Kennedy was shot." Well, uh,
we remember where we were when we first heard "You Oughta Know!"
(laughing) Oh! Here's a chick that got dumped! She's bitchin' at you, "I'm
not ganna just leave!"
RG: And we both remember when we first heard
it- That's pathetic.
Reznor: It's true though! (laughing) There's
other things like that. When I heard (sings) "She Drives Me Crazy," I
was thinking, "That's a big hit," but I liked it in a guilty kind of
pleasure way. Same with (sings) "Groove Is In the Heart." That was
the best single of whenever the fuck that came out, as a guilty pleasure. But
goddamn this Alanis Morissette.
RG: If you can hear a hook on the radio and
know it's a smash hit, do you ever hear that in your own head? Something so
stupid and commercial that you might not, or might, use it?
Reznor: When I'm writing my own stuff?
Reznor: Not really. What I do think about when
I'm writing a song, like "Perfect Drug" - probably unlike a Skinny
Puppy or a Neubauten - I am involved with reeling the listener in and keeping
enough --- it's like sugar and it's something to cling on to. This song was
almost a study in tolerance, where there was basically no melody at all and right
when you're about to give up (snaps) - probably the poppest chorus I've ever
written in my life. I think in those terms, but it's hard for me to tell when
I'm writing a great song. When downward spiral was finished and I played it for
the record label I said, "Look, I have to apologize, not for the content,
because this is what I have to do, but I don't think there's anything radio is
gonna play, there's no 'Head Like A Hole."' And they said, "'Closer.'
Big hit." And I said, "You're kidding me." For me, that was the
scariest song I had ever written at that point 'cause it was so obvious in a
silly disco way with like the Prince harmonies like help me, and all that shit.
I thought, "Man, people are gonna think I'm a pussy if I put this
Reznor: Yeah. But that's what I should feel. I
could make a million "Happiness in Slavery" screaming, snarly ---
that's what people would expect and that's what fishnet-wearing men,
skirt-wearing Propaganda readers would expect, but to do something that really
opens me up for attack....
RG: Do you feel you could easily get
RG: RAYGUN did an interview with David Bowie
recently where he said something like that about you. That he really admired
what you did, but that you could easily back yourself into a corner with the
"bummed out" heavy type subject matter you usually deal with. At some
point might you have the need or desire to project some sort of brighter side?
Reznor: You've got a good point. That's one of
the things that Rick Ruben brought up. 'You've gotta realize the danger is that
you paint yourself in that corner." And I realize that. My last record was
probably the most extreme I could do of that. But I've also entered a new level
of maturity where, like --- I never thought I could be married before. And it's
not like I'm ready to do that, but it doesn't seem as foreign to me- I'd like
to have a kid someday. I never thought I'd ever .. again, I'm not set up to do
RG: I'd imagine this house would be pretty
foreign to you a couple of years ago.
Reznor: Absolutely. So I'm also willing to
acknowledge that I have changed as a result of my success, my financial status,
my everything else. The fact that I can afford this house, I can pay my gas
bill...I'm a fuckin' poor son of a bitch from white trash nowhere....
RG: It would be difficult to sit here and put
yourself in the same mind state you put yourself into a few years ago.
Reznor: I know I'm not that same person, and
I'm not trying to pretend I am, but I'm also.... (long pause) I'm probably more
sad right now than I've ever been, because I have the added baggage of ... this
didn't fix it, you know? Like I always thought, "Man, if I could ever be a
rock star..... Some stupid fuckin' naive dream, and then you get it and ...
I've been at the lowest point, and I'm not just saying this; it didn't work,
man. I mean, my job Is ... I wake up and make music and work with people I
respect, and David Bowie will take my call, so why .. do I want to kill myself,
you know? It sucks.
RG: No matter how good things get around you,
what's in your head is still what's in your head.
Reznor: See, artistically I've got so many more
things I've gotta do. It's not like I feel I've done anything real. I've made a
couple of decent records and that's it. I've got a million more things I wanna
do, but just as a fuckin' human that wakes up every day I realize that I hate
people. I don't got along, I don't like people, they don't like me, I've....
(sighs) I'm tired of living here alone with the dog. It's shifty. And on top of
that I'm attacked by every fuckin' level.... I mean, off the record....
RG: (Reznor tells the story of how some people
screwed him over recently, then a while later we move on to happier
relationships, such as his possible collaboration with Dr. Dre.)
Reznor: Dre's a fucking genius. Rick Rubin and
I met him in the valley like two weeks ago ... he's expressed interest in
working with me in some capacity and, like, the same day Ice Cube sent me a fax
saying, "I want to work with you," and Ice Cube, I think, is the best
rapper I've ever heard ever.
RG: So are they gonna remix stuff or .. ?
Reznor: No, that's our whole thing. Not to make
it a remix situation where it's like white boy remixed by so and so or me
singing on a Dre track or Ice Cube singing on a nine inch nails track. The idea
is to have it become the impetus to make some new kind of music. When I talked
to Dre it was like, "Let's change music."
RG: So it won't be like Anthrax playing on a Public
Reznor: Exactly. That for me is what's
inspiring about the idea of true collaboration, cross culturally, where I could
say to Dre, "Don't think I can only do this one thing. I'm gonna give you
something that will blow your mind. Let's try it. Maybe it sucks and we don't
put it out, maybe it's great. We could change the fuckin' world."
RG: As you've broadened the thing you started
out with and it has gotten more popular, do you worry about people....
Reznor: I've commercialized a respected form of
RG: That wasn't what I was gonna ask, but....
Reznor: I'm very proud of what I've done. I
sleep well at night knowing that, but at the same time another part of me knows
that I kind of cannibalized a couple of forms of music that I was very much a
fan of and synthesized 'am into something. But that's the art part of me saying
that. The other part of me says, "All you did was bastardize this into
this." And I don't fully believe either one of those. It's kind of both. I
do think that I've done something really good.
RG: You can't worry about the
"underground" people who might say you "sold out."
Reznor: I can't dictate what's cool and what's
not cool. I got over that whole thing about that elitist underground:
"Okay, you're unknown so you're cool, now you're known so you're not
cool." fuck you- But that's where / was once, so it was difficult to
divorce myself from that- I was the guy that had that Psychic TV import and
paid 15 bucks for it and it was shitty but no one else heard it so it was cool.
I understand that.
RG: What I was gonna ask before was, do you
worry about maybe not being as relevant after waiting a while to put a record
out? I mean, now you've gotta worry about the commercial potential.
Reznor: I do.
RG: Are you worried about....
Reznor: Whether I'm pertinent a couple of years
from now? RG: Yeah. Reznor: Yeah. I think about it. Absolutely. Times change.
RG: People have short attention spans.
Reznor: Absolutely. Will I be upset if my next
record sells 100 copies? Yes, I'll be upset to a degree. I'd like to say,
"No, it doesn't mean anything to me," but it does. But I use that
kind of fear as a motivation factor to work on new music. 'Cause I hate writing
music at night. I'm afraid of it, I'm afraid of myself and I'm afraid of my
head and I'm afraid that I don't have anything new to say at all. And it's
easier to take on a lot of projects, to be honest with you, that don't mean
anything, like Quake or Manson or Lost Highway or whatever the fuck else to avoid
the real issue. That's always been the way my brain has worked.
RG: Other projects are almost a form of
Reznor: Absolutely. I'm the laziest
motherfucker in the world. Any way I can waste time or avoid the painful
self-examination of writing- I could do the next 15 David Lynch movies and it
would be easy and I wouldn't have to deal with what I don't wanna have to deal
with. The thing that pisses me off is when I get labeled as insincere or
whatever if I allude to bring normal and happy or whatever 'cause I'm enjoying
the benefit of something that's gained me that. But the act of creation is the
most joyous and the most painful thing as a human that I've ever experienced.
RG: People accuse you of, "Oh, he's not
this miserable character from his songs," even though, it seems to me,
that in interviews you've been pretty honest about what kind of person you are.
Reznor: When I started out with nine inch nails
and it went from my journal entries to songs to "You've got a record deal,"
I thought, "I'm not as interesting as Perry Farrell." Like, I wasn't
a male prostitute or a heroin addict and I'm kind of a normal fucker. I'm just
a fucked-up guy that just wants to say why I'm tucked-up. And I don't have this
elaborate weird lifestyle, but I thought if I have the chance, well, maybe I
should portray myself as somebody. And I thought, "No, I couldn't really
keep the lie up so I'll just be truthful." And when I was truthful and
said. "This is how I feel, this is how I am, who I am," it's followed
by, "Oh, you're not really this vampirish, suicidal, Joy Division hanging
yourself kind of guy." Well, that is part of my personality- For some
reason part of my brain doesn't work right. I'm not happy. The only time I
really want to murder people is when some fuckin' writer claims I'm fabricating
everything just to be this thing. I hate doing interviews, 'cause I feel like
I'm spreading my butthole open. You're talking to someone who gets to tell the
world their version of you.
RG: And who might paint the "sad"
thing as some sort of act.
Reznor: When someone asks me, "What are
you sad about?" it just tells me that the person asking that has never
attained any goal they've set out to do, because it's not about reaching your
goals. Part of me is like, I feel extra shitty that I'm not elated at what I'm
doing. But another part of me that I've been thinking about recently, when I
realize I'm still sad in a weird way ... when I was doing Broken, I said,
"All I want to do is finish the record so I can get out on tour."
Because the only time I'd ever felt like I belonged to anything is when I was
on tour and getting some kind of reward. fuck, man, you're sitting in your
bedroom writing, ready to kill yourself, and then you're on stage and you're meaning
this and you're ready to start crying and seeing people mouthing back your
words. And you see people that seem to understand.
RG: At the level you're at now, does that still
mean as much? Like making eye contact with a kid who gets it?
Reznor: Abso-fuckin'-Iutely. At Woodstock ... and as I've said a million
times, we did that just to make money to pay for our tour .. I got on the stage
and we sounded shitty and I was so fuckin' nervous.... But I got off the stage
and I don't care how the fuck we sounded because I felt like I made contact.
RG: But then some people probably don't get it.
Reznor: When we first went out ... I remember
the agony of writing those lyrics and going through that shit and finally you
meet people backstage and you think, "is this what the fuck I ....? Why
did I go to such effort?" Some guy's like, "is that song about
Satanism?" It's like, what!? I realized after meeting some of these
people, like, fuck, is everyone an idiot? No one seems to get what I meant. Then
I realized I wouldn't be the guy waiting backstage to hang out. Walking down Bourbon Street and seeing a karaoke bar and
hearing "Closer" with frat guys singing - that's not the ideal forum
for that song. That's as inappropriate as I could ever think it would be, but I
can't say it shouldn't be there. But I do think there are people that get it.
If I didn't think that....
RG: With the type of thing you write about, the
mental state of being in a hole or whatever...
Reznor: All I ever wanted to write about was a
way out. And not a pretentious philosophy of something, just --- when I wrote
this shit it made me feel better about myself. People say, "Oh you're so
negative blah blah blah," but by my screaming about it and getting it out
of my system, it helped me- And when people say, "Hey, I know how you
felt," whether they do or not, who cares? It's a catalyst, and that's
what's cool about it. And I'll say another stupid thing, though it'll probably
look bad: People were saying I'm painting myself in a corner, you say Bowie even said that.... I see that, and
there was a point where I realized, kind of sadly, when I was starting on
downward spiral and I thought about when I saw the Police when I was a senior
in high school and I thought about this whole arena full of people singing,
"One world is enough for all of us." And there was this positive kind
of weird good vibe going on ... but I'm sitting there thinking, "I'm on a
fucking path to self-destruction ... and I wish that there was some kind
RG: Some cathartic negative
"statement" to sing along with?
Reznor: I was thinking about ... a lot of times
it seems to me the statements in my head and the words and the sentences and
the lines I come up with that are the most dramatic.... When I write them down
and I think, "That's a good line," they also have a kind of ... they
also sometimes are for the drama of the thing. Certain things I've written,
like even something as ridiculous as "I wanna fuck you like an
animal," I knew it would be ... it's an attention grabber and juvenile in
RG: But the funny thing about that line is you
thought that song might make you look like a "pussy"…
Reznor: Musically, that's what I was saying.
Why I thought that line would work in that song was the music was the most
obvious silly disco, Prince, Soft Cell type thing and to put something like
that over it....
RG: To hear that song on the radio you're kind
of off the hook because of that line, just because you're sort of getting away
with something obviously extreme.
Reznor: There's another way to look at that,
too. That's the strip bar anthem, the frat bar anthem ... fuckin' bullshit. And
what gave that some integrity, I think, was the video, which is great and which
I had very little to do with. Mark Romanak did it. And then it was flattering
and irritating to see many other bands step right up to the plate and rip it
RG: One thing that bugs me is people doing
shock value stuff just for the sake of shock value. With no content....
Reznor: Yeah. I could take a video of me taking
a shit and here's a close-up of the turd coming out and that's offensive. But
it's not ... anyone could do that.
RG: Just going back to Marilyn Manson ... I'm
open to whatever people wanna do and I've got nothing against them, but they
really push that "shock" thing sometimes. I don't mean to imply
something stupid like, "it is bad for the kids?" but....
Reznor: Is it responsible? Is that what you
Reznor: There was one moment when I was sitting
with Manson and all the people from Interscope and one of their songs ended
with a big long diatribe of a computer voice saying, "You might as well
kill yourself. You're already dead.' And I had the president of Interscope
looking at me like (blank face). But I've created an arena where I'll never
tell anyone who I invite in, "You can't do that." I swore I'd never
fuck with the art or whatever you wanted to say. And I thought on downward
spiral when I wrote that poem over the song "downward spiral" that
talked about killing yourself and making it kind of sexy, I felt like I needed
to do it when the record came out. But the worst thing I could ever hear is
that someone fuckin' shot themselves.
RG: "Trent Reznor told me to do it."
Reznor: And I never ... that's not what ... I
meant to demystify it by acknowledging it there.
RG: That you had these feelings as well.
Reznor: Exactly. To me that was the ultimate,
"I'm not the only person that felt that way growing-up' shit, where I
felt, "I can't fit into this fuckin' world. fuck, yeah. Someone else
RG: That's why I mentioned It with Marilyn
Manson. Personally, I got the impression that you put a bit more thought behind
it than he might.
Reznor: There may be a different end result. I
did personally talk to Manson and say, "Realize the repercussions. If
you're a band that sells 5000 records that's one thing, but the bigger you get,
the more people want to fuck with you and the more responsibility you
have." I'm an advocate of no censorship, no one should be able to tell you
what you can or cannot experience and I think empowering the individual is the
key. My parents: "You wanna try drugs? Here, do 'am. You wanna have a
drink? Here, have a drink." Puked on the rug that night. And then,
"Well, how was it?" It was demystified.
RG: But some people might not be smart enough
to deal with that.
Reznor: I can't believe that I'm smarter than
anyone else. I don't have the right to think I can say....
RG: You know that you're smarter than anybody
who would be stupid enough to....
Reznor: There is a degree of responsibility.
But I'm all for dangerous material getting into the mainstream. As I've gotten
bigger and infiltrated the Kmarts and the fuckin' ldahos, I'm into putting a
record out that gives them something they've never heard before and might be
dangerous and their parents might be pissed off about it. But at the same time
now, as a human being, I think there's a degree of ... I'm not gonna say, 'Take
a knife and cut your throat If you're bummed out," kind of vibe. I'm not
RG: But that Marilyn Manson "you might as
well kill yourself" thing is along the same lines.
Reznor: You may be right in a way, but there's
a schtick to the whole thing. And they'll get to maturity where they'll see
that. But also try to understand what I've tried to offer the people around me
is this protection. And when their first record came out, Interscope, who is
now making a lot of money off the new one, wasn't gonna put it out. Why?
"'Cause it's alluding to rape and..-." "Well, I'm not changing
it. fuck you. Don't put it out."
RG: But can you imagine a limit?
Reznor: I know what you're saying, just from a
responsibility factor. It's all fun and games in the studio and it's funny to
say this and that, but It's another thing when someone fucking kills
themselves, some impressionable....
RG: I'm just playing Devil's ... well, Devil's
advocate might not be the right term here. I'm just asking.
Reznor: I know that. I know exactly what you're
RG: Like, "Mom, I want the new Marilyn
Manson CD for Christmas." Just one look at the cover and Mom is like,
"What the fuck?"
Reznor: That's what's great about it! It should
fucking piss off your parents. It should be ridiculous. And where I think
Manson has a somewhat dangerous message within that, it should do that. See,
now rock is pumped into your house every second, every day. It needs a kick in
the ass. To what degree of extremity ... who knows?
RG: But you have to have something beyond the
Reznor: I fully agree with what you're saying.
I'm 31 now, and I've thought about kids and marriage and adult things and stuff
I never thought I'd ever dream of. I'm not saying I'm an old man now, but I
also see that the new challenge is how to promote yourself in a way that's true
to who you are. I don't want to be singing "Head Like A Hole" at age
50. I'm aware that maybe my appeal had been this extreme statement that appeals
to whoever. But everything that I've done has been honest to where I've been at
the time and it always will be.
RG: Do you feel as you get older .. when you're
a kid you get really excited and music is the way you -
Reznor: - identify yourself. Absolutely. The
bands you like, that's your club.
RG: That's your thing. What was the first record
Reznor: The Partridge Family, the one that had
the phone number on it.
RG: What was the first concert you saw?
Reznor: The Eagles with Fleetwood Mac and Boz
Scaggs. It was the greatest thing. My dad took me and I had a hit off a joint....
RG: I'm asking just because, when you're a kid
music things like that start to form the way you look at life. Those memories
are emblazoned upon you. But as you get older----
Reznor: But it's a different thing now, too.
Think about this: back then, like, I grew up in a small town and MTV wasn't
pumping information at you, and you looked forward to staying up on Friday to
watch "Midnight Special" or whatever.
RG: "Don Kirshner's Rock Concert."
Reznor: Yeah. You didn't have ... like I think
about Aerosmith now and every 15 minutes there's fuckin' Steven Tyler on TV.
It's safe now. You don't have to seek that out.
RG: Weird musical milestones on TV stand out
for me, like the Plasmatics on "Fridays," when they sawed their
guitar in half.
Reznor: Yeah! "Fridays" with Michael
Reznor: I can totally fuckin' remember that! I
remember KISS on that from Music From The Elder, when Gene Simmons was crying.
But now it's ... not to sound like an old turd, but it's different now.
RG: But maybe it's not. What I'm getting at ...
is there a way to put yourself into that mindstate to realize you're doing that
for people now? Fifteen years from now they'll talk about you like this.
Reznor: I think we, as people our age, have to
understand the medium has changed from the Internet down to MTV pumped into
your house every second. It's different now.
RG: Just accessing something that others don't
have is harder.
Reznor: It's again that elitism of music and ...
also understanding that for me personally music has been... I remember songs
that I first heard, where I was. That's my soundtrack to life. And not
everybody is about that. Like I remember (sings) "Fooled A-round And Fell
In Looove-" That's was what was playing at the Eagles concert at the
stadium when I got passed a joint with my dad, and that was the coolest thing I
had ever done at that point. I had a T-shirt that I got made at Kmart with
iron-on letters that said "EAGLES" 'cause they were my favorite band-
There are people that maybe now Marilyn Manson is doing that for them, but
juxtaposing a different situation on it and realizing it's a different climate.
One thing I always thought growing up was like, "Man, I hope I never get
to the age where I don't like toys anymore 'cause I love Christmas and I love
getting toys." Later I thought, "I hope I never got to the point
where I lose touch with what's going on musically." But then you realize
this weird thing of maturity creeps in- Understand that I'm not saying I'm Mr.
Old Guy right now, but I've gone through changes and I realize I'm not 21 right
now and I still like innovative, cool things ... but I'm lying if I think my
brain hasn't changed.