The Great Dictator Self-destructive workaholic,
arch hedonist with an eye on marriage, control freak who insists he's a
"nice guy" - the man at the heart of NINE INCH NAILS is a mass of
contradictions. Will the real Trent Reznor please stand up?...
FOUR-FIFTHS of Nine Inch Nails are rolling on
the floor in the dressing room, their faces and hands covered in talcum powder.
Sadly, this isn't a homo-erotic ritual but Robin Fink, Danny Lohner, Charlie
Clouser and Jerome Dillon's idea of entertaining the Kerrang! Photographer.
Trent Reznor isn't around to join in the fun.
Welcome to the fifth date of Nine Inch Nails'
first tour in four-and-a-half years. We've been waiting in Copenhagen's K B
Halle (a modern, 2,500-capacity sports hall which Type O Negative have sold out
later this month and NIN haven't tonight) for two hours, but we've yet to catch
a sight or sound of Trent Reznor. In that time two Danish journalists have been
led up to his first floor dressing room for their appointed interviews (neither
lasting more than 15 minutes); three others have had their slots cancelled. It
is now 7.30pm, and according to those in the know Trent Reznor doesn't talk to
anyone after 8pm on show days.
So far; so true to expectations. Reznor is,
after all, the dark lord of doom and better that he be locked in a pitch-black
room brooding than be caught pedalling merrily away on an exercise bike. I
retire downstairs to wait in the catering area - a room filled with tea urns,
formica tables and laptop computers which would be anonymous were it not for
its deeply bizarre floor to ceiling murals of naked men and women playing
tennis. A matter of minutes later, I'm joined at my table by a pale gentleman
dressed head to toe in black who looks like the result of a genetic splicing
experiment between Robert De Niro and Tim Wheeler. He extends a hand, smiling.
"Hello. How are you?" he says in a
soft voice which carries the trace of a lisp.
Hello, Trent Reznor. And how are you?
SINCE WE ask, Trent Reznor is feeling better
than he has for a long time. After two years of living by fluorescent light in
his Nothing Studios in New Orleans making 'The Fragile', he took NIN to the
Bahamas for the month of September. Here, besides rehearsing for this tour,
Reznor and his cohorts indulged in such unlikely pursuits as scuba diving and
swimming with sharks. He doesn't appear to have tanned.
Kerrang!: How does it feel to be back on the
Trent Rezor: "Good. At first I wasn't sure
if it would. I kind of fell back into being in the studio: the seclusion and
the lack of people intruding on you and working at your own pace. I got real
comfortable with that, so when it got time to be in this environment - with
every minute taken up and no time to be by yourself - it was a little awkward.
But the shows I really look forward to. The training wheels are coming off and
we're remembering how to ride the bike."
Kerrang!: You have to surrender total control
of NIN on tour. Is that difficult?
Reznor: "No. Because when we started off
NIN in 1990, it was an experiment in taking music that was done on a computer
in the studio and seeing how you could present it live. It didn't need to sound
the same. And when we got done with 'Pretty Hate Machine' it was way better
live than on record. The instrumentation - a guitarist, drummer, keyboard
player and myself - was meant to add aggression and make a show that people
could see and go, 'F**k! I didn't expect that!'. The last thing I wanted to do
was to have two guys with a drum pad and a tape.
"The musicianship of the band now is such
that I don't have to ride people as I did way back. The drummer's excellent,
Charlie's being utilised a lot more than he ever has - it makes for a lot less
work for me. There's respect there - both ways, I think. Some things sound like
the records, some don't. What I'm looking forward to on the next phase of this
tour is getting deeper into the new record. A number of the tracks had a lot of
arms to them and paths that we turned down to make them sit on the record
right. That really could open itself up to being interpreted live. And we're a
good enough band to do it."
Kerrang!: How do you go about integrating a
work as complex as 'The Fragile' into a live set?
Reznor: "There's a lot of experimentation.
The main thing that's changed is that the new record has a lot of mid-tempo and
slower songs. Too many of them in a set, it gets a bit redundant. The life band
used to be based on aggression, and it's tough to fit in six Cure-like, droning
song and keep people interested. There was a lot of questioning about pacing.
"We learned 12 or 15 songs off the album.
And the ones that you think are going to go over really well live don't come
off so good, and some of the ones you didn't think come off so good are a lot
better. We spent a lot of time on the set-list to see what made sense. There
was a lot of hair-pulling and re-working."
SOME THINGS you notice about Trent Reznor: he
is smaller than you expect - five feet 10 or so. He smiles more than he's
supposed to, but rarely makes eye contact and is good-natured but firm about
dismissing questions he feels are too personal. Contrary to recent rumour, his
hair is his own - he tugs at it or his sleeves throughout the interview. When
the other band members are being interviewed, the catering staff clatter
cutlery, mobile phones constantly ring and techno blares out of a stereo in the
corner. All of this stops the second Reznor starts to speak. Lately, he hasn't
seen or heard much new music that's excited him. Apart from Atari Teenage Riot,
who are supporting NIN on this trek at his invitation and one of whose T-shirts
he frequently wears.
Kerrang!: Did you check out the competition
before this tour? Filter; for instance?
Reznor: "Some things I do. There hasn't
been much that's really blown me away. The Filter record I've got and I like.
Richard (Patrick, Filter mainman and ex-NIN guitarist) is still a really good
friend of mine, so I don't look at that as the competition so much as a
contemporary doing his thing. What he's doing is good. "The immersion of
hip-hop and rap is cool right now, so everybody is going, 'Let's get a DJ in
the band'. That's real tired to me. It's suburban mall culture - white trash,
in my humble opinion."
Kerrang!: The lowest common denominator?
Reznor: "Of course it is."
Kerrang!: How would you feel about playing to
14-year-old Korn and Limp Bizkit fans?
Reznor: "The show is catered towards doing
the best show we can and not towards fitting on MTV's 'Total Request'. I think
some of mine and Korn's messages occupy similar emotional territories, but I've
not had to cater - nor will I - to things I don't understand.
"I'm not sure how's out there now, but
there does seem to be a wider age bracket than there's ever been. I'm just
trying to do what's true to me, and when I get into making music I don't
believe in because 'the kids' want to hear it, the I'm f**ked. I haven't done
that yet - and if I ever do, call me on it."
Kerrang!: Have you thought about how much
longer you could and/or should do this for?
Reznor: "Yeah. When it doesn't seem real
to me any more and it doesn't seem truthful. I honestly feel that I've made
music that is where I am spiritually and mentally at the time I've done it. If
I didn't feel I had anything to say, or the next NIN record was more of a
departure and it wouldn't work in a live environment, then that's it for that.
"Then there's other things I want to do -
different bands, different concepts and production of other bands that I can
fill my time up with. Because I really don't want to outstay my welcome. You
see that so much; there's many people to point the finger at who're guilty of
that. But I still feel we're pertinent enough at this point in time. At least,
that's my perspective of things."
Kerrang!: To what extent is making a record
like 'The Fragile' an enjoyable experience?
Reznor: "There's times when it's
enjoyable. With every record I've made, but with 'The Fragile' in particular,
the team I had was a very enjoyable and supportive one. But we knew we were in
it for the long haul, and it goes from being the greatest time ever to the
worst. It's frustrating, maddening and defeating. Then you get it right and
everyone's excited. It's a rollercoaster, and the weight of it is on my head -
coming up with the idea and executing it.
"You wouldn't want to be in the same
studio when I'm doing vocals. That's never the time for anyone to be around me
or make my acquaintance. Finishing the mix, yeah, then I'm a nice guy. But when
I'm doing vocals, every inadequacy I have is on display for anyone to critique
- including myself. That's also when you can really tell if it's shitty or not,
and if you've been lying to yourself all along. It's a plethora of emotions
that you give yourself over to in the studio. I don't by any means think I know
how to write completely effectively yet. I'm still working on how to express
myself differently and better."
NINE INCH Nails prepared for this tour, says
Reznor, by "eating unnaturally healthy things and spending time
outside". Reznor himself has stopped drinking. The tail-end of the
two-year 'Mr Self Destruct' tour was a different story. By then, Reznor was
telling people about the backstage enema contests that he, Marilyn Manson and
Jim Rose would supervise with a retinue of willing groupies. Robin Fink visibly
shudders at the mere mention of that tour. It was, he notes wearily,
It took Reznor two years to recover.
Principally because, straight after coming off the road, he spent 12 months
producing Manson's 'Antichrist Superstar' album and then months going mad in
isolation writing the 'Quake' soundtrack. Around this time, an infamous photo
of him on a David Bowie video set appeared in various magazines: he looked fat
Kerrang!: What did you think when you saw that
Reznor: "I didn't see that one. But I
remember where I was then. Take two-and-a-half years of touring and then do a
record with Manson and you wind up at a certain place in life. And it's a place
to move away from.
Kerrang!: How did you move away from it?
Reznor: "I kind of went through an
overhaul in my life when I started working on this record. It was realising
that I was on a path of self-destruction that was leading nowhere but to
ruination. Sitting down and working on this record turned everything into a
place of repair. And maturity has crept in. I don't think it's overwhelmed the
tone of NIN, but it's definitely added a different texture and outlook. I feel
"The chemicals in my brain have changed.
Also I never would have considered stability or having kids. Now I'm like,
'Some day I'd like to do that'. I've really stopped my life to do Nine Inch
Nails and I let that get to a really unhealthy level. I'd convinced myself that
I only had X amount of time before no one was going to care what I had to say,
so I'd got the rest of my life to be normal. But you let that go for long
enough and pretty soon you need to be human, too. That's what I've been thinking
I have to do. I haven't done it yet, but I at least know I have to."
Kerrang!: Are marriage and having a family
things that are likely to happen in the near future?
Reznor: "Er, it's possible. It's not as
far away as it has been. It's not tomorrow. How's that for a vague
Kerrang!: You're not the typical celebrity. No
one sees you at film premieres or music biz parties. Will that ever change?
Reznor: "I don't know. Sometimes I'd like
to feel that I could get sucked into that world someday. But I know I never
will. I've tried to make NIN come from an honest place – a place where I can
express how I feel intimately and nakedly. To then counteract that with a
personal image of me that undermines everything I'm trying to say: 'I'm full of
shit. Here I am kissing everyone's ass and I've started a movie career'. Being
around all those people that I've just written about and hate. "I don't
really feel connected to people. I know that sometimes I get my ass kissed by
people and it's not because I'm me, it's because I'm 'somebody'. It irritates
me. You know, 'Just treat me like a normal person. Quit kissing my f**king
ass'. And I hate it's 10 people all kissing each other's asses and bullshitting
Kerrang!: By popular perception, you are the
dark lord of doom. Discuss.
Reznor: "It comes with the territory. What
I've focussed NIN on is an aspect of my head and personality, and it's been
more about the negative than the positive. I think that I have a good sense of
humour and I'm not always depressed.
"I think it's because you don't see me at
the movie premiere. When you see someone in that light too much, they become
more human. There's a glaring example that I can come up can come up with here,
but I don't want to bring it up now. There's a demystification involved. I've
tried to keep a degree of mystique about NIN and myself.
"I've met a lot of guys in band, and I've
really liked their music, and when I meet the person they're so full of shit. I
realised in my head that I've constructed this magical quality to the music – I
read so much into it and it means so much to me – and then I see the place it
really came from and I can't revisit it knowing it was all a charade. I don't
personally feel that I'm full of shit, but I think it's a good thing to keep at
THE NEW Nine Inch Nails live experience is as
dynamic and draining as it ever was. For 90 minutes, Trent Reznor, his eyes
locked in a dead stare, exorcises his personal demons to a soundtrack that
stretches from bleak to blistering to coldly beautiful. In the audience tonight
is a rotund man in fishnet stockings ad leather mini-skirt, a pair of grubby
white Y-fronts poking out between the two. Onstage, a harassed gentleman
returns Reznor's mike-stand to an upright position every time he sends it
crashing to the floor, which is often. He's been doing the job seven years.
After the show, NIN will drive to Amsterdam. They'll watch 'Braveheart' and
'Heat' on their tour bus' video until the early hours. This time, Trent Reznor
will join in the fun.
Kerrang!: Would you describe the band members
Reznor: "Yeah. But none of us would choose
to call each other to go and see a movie. I was thinking about this the other
day, because none of us hang out together. I don't really know Jerome that
much. But I think Danny an Charlie and myself, from being in close quarters
around each other for a while, we know how to co-exist but not get in each
Kerrang!: Do you make friends easily?
Reznor: "I'm not very good at friends. And
the friends I have are able to… Hey, if it's six months before we're in the
same room again, they know what I've been doing. I get on one track with
something that I have to do and try to minimise other things. I'm bad at multi-tasking
things. I think about things like phoning and writing and then it's, 'F**k,
it's been a month'. And then it's six months, I'm bad at shit like that."
of an American family
Keyboardist/theramin weilder. Joined NIN for
1994's 'Mr Self Destruct' tour and spent two years working on 'The Fragile'.
Has also played on Rob Zombie's 'Hellbilly Delux' album and remixed tracks for
NIN, Zombie and Deftones. Looks like Ginger after several decent meals.
Where did you first meet Trent?
"I was in LA doing a lot of drum and synth
programming on Marilyn Manson's first record, which brought me into his world.
Right from the beginning I was extremely impressed by the amount of care that
the guy puts into stuff. He's never one to rubber-stamp something and say it's
good enough. I know that contributes to the slowness of our operation, but it's
good in the long run because the fans know that they're getting something
that's been sweated over."
Did you ever think 'The Fragile' would never
"I thought we could see an end in sight
when we had enough material to fill one disc. But Trent's quality control being what it is
resulted in additional months fleshing it out to two discs. It didn't start to
seem like a long time until the very last few months."
How different is this tour to the last one?
"We're all a bit older and a little
calmer, at least in terms of before- and after-show activities. This may change
as the months go on, because I think the way we were behaving at the end of the
last tour was a result of it being so long. Hopefully, we won't get bored out
of our skulls and go quite so crazy and indulge in so much hazardous behaviour.
"But onstage we're starting off with as
much carnage as we had at the height of the last tour - in terms of smashed
equipment, band members flying into the audience and that kind of hockey game
violence. I'm very glad to see that it's every bit as violent and
Drummer. Spent four years in alternative
rockers Howlin' Maggie before moving to LA to work with soundtrack composers.
Looks like actor Crispin Glover's less eccentric younger brother.
How did you come to join NIN? "I went down
Orleans in March to audition and I've been with the guys ever since. Doing
movie soundtrack stuff helped when it came to working with Trent, because a lot of what he does is
actually very cinematic."
What were your fist impressions of Trent? "I didn't have any
preconceived notions of what he was going to be like. But it was surprising
that he was as approachable as he is - a regular-guy type. Very, very funny. He
had me laughing within the first 10 minutes of meeting him. He's very
gregarious. And I felt very comfortable working with him musically. "I was
most impressed by how quickly he works in the studio. He's extremely prolific
and he works at a blisteringly fast pace. The record is definately art, and a
certain amount of pain goes into creating any form of art. I think for Trent it was an ecercise in seeing how
far he could push himself. That's pretty inspiring."
NIN drummers suffer at least one painful injury
onstage per tour. Any worries? "The last drummer (Chris Vrenna) got craned
upside the head with a mike-stand in San Francisco. So I was planning on showing up in
a football helmet. But my drum tech is taking good care of me so far - there's
been a couple of projectiles that he's batted out of the way. And I tend not to
take my eyes off Trent very often.
"People may get the wrong impression that
it's totally for show and calculated. The bottom line is: Trent expects the musicians he plays with
to convey emotion behind the song more than he expects them to play the notes
perfectly. Everybody in this band makes a commitment to do that, and sometimes
you literally have to throw yourself into it."
Guitarist. Met Trent Reznor in 1993 and joined
Nine Inch Nails for the lengthy "Mr Self Destruct" tour. Left to
become musical director of touring circus Cirque Du Soleil and then spent two
years working with Guns N' Roses on their "The Chinese Democracy"
album. Rejoined NIN in the summer. Offstage attire consists of a bandanna,
tracksuit trousers with elasticated bottoms, and dogs.
How does it feel to be back in the band?
"The first day, when we started going back through some of those older
songs - 'Terrible Lie', 'Wish' - we broke quite a sweat and it felt f**king
great. Better than any of us felt it would. And then getting to know the new
material has been inspiring and challenging. So far, so good."
What did you think when you heard 'The Fragile'
for the first time? "I expected to be floored and I was. Mostly with the
hint of optimism in some of the tracks. I feared that Trent was never going to
get to that place, so when I heard songs like 'The Fragile' that were a little
bit more hopeful, it felt really good. And, of course, sonically and
intelligently, technically and dynamically, there's nothing like it around.
"I'd made the decision to come back before
I'd heard the record, which is something I did intentionally. I'd been in contact
loosely with mostly Danny through the past couple of years, so I knew what
stage they were at and that they'd never replaced me - they'd never needed to
for a live situation.
"It was a difficult decision to make
because I was so wrapped up in what I was doing at the time and I was proud of
the work I'd done. But when it came down to it, I couldn't imagine NIN going
out without me or with somebody else. I'm in a good place right now."
It's taken you four shows to injure yourself...
"Unfortunately, Trent and I were dancing, he dipped me and we both fell
down. I got six stitches above my left eye. Usually, it's bruises and stuff
that goes away.
"It was really quite alarming - only the
second song into that set and I was pretty much maimed for the rest of the
show. It was a long hour-and-a-half. But that kind of comes with what we're
doing. Anything goes."
How bad did things get at the end of the last
tour? "It was difficult for me. The Manson crew and the Jim Rose Circus
were with us for most of a year and it got pretty stupid. Then coming off the
road and landing in New Orleans - that's a tough place to try and re-collect
yourself, because it's a city built on night-life and alcohol. I had to do
something that was the complete polar opposite to Nine Inch Nails. So I joined
the circus! Then Axl Rose called me up.
"But I had to rein back from the way
things were at the end of the last tour, because after a while you get pretty
warped. I couldn't do 'Mr Self Destruct' again, so this has to be different."
Guitarist/bassist/keyboardist. Has been in NIN
for six years. Like Clouser, he worked on 'The Fragile' for two years and also
played with Rob Zombie. Looks like Ryan Giggs going to a fancy dress party as a
York gangster. Talks very quickly.
Describe Trent Reznor. "Really cool,
mellow and calm. Not at all like a rock star. When he's working, he's really
hard on himself. Before, he used to not ever want to work - it was always a
pain in the ass. These days he can just churn it out." Tell us one thing
about 'The Fragile' sessions. "We used to joke about what the tour shirts
would say. To start with it was '1998/99'. Everybody really laughed when
'1999/2000' was suggested. I didn't know when it was going to be over. But there's
a lot of material for the next record already recorded - there's at least 30
What's the best thing about being in NIN?
"Trent's vision is a lot more exiting than most of the other stuff out there.
Obviously, we're part of something really good. Even if it doesn't sell the
same as some other heavy metal bands or something, who cares? I'm a big fan of
Pink Floyd's "The Wall" and that whole era, and NIN continually touch
"It's trying on your patience and spirit
at times to be involved with someone as talented as Trent is because it's hard
to bring something to the table that's good enough too be used. But it's a
What's next? "I've got tons of material
that I submitted for 'The Fragile' that I could use elsewhere. Me and Charlie
both worked with Rob Zombie, and I'm sure we'd do that again if he asked us.
And if you know anybody, give them my number."
Nin, Tool and Pantera men team up in Tapeworm.
But will we ever hear it?
TAPEWORM, the star-studded band featuring
members of Nine Inch Nails, Pantera and Tool, may become the greatest project
never heard. This impressive alliance of industrial/metal names formed in 1995
has yet to issue any music. This, plus the fact that the three bands involved
have either just released a new album or are currently working on one, has cast
doubts as to whether the ‘Worm will ever surface.
Tapeworm/NIN member Charlie Clouser predicts,
rather boldly, that we’ll hear the band within the next 12 months. “It might
appear on a B-side to a Nothing Records release or a movie soundtrack, he adds.
NIN mainman Trent Reznor - at whose Nothing
Studios in New Orleans the Tapeworm sessions began - told Kerrang!
That, for once, he should not be blamed for the project’s lengthy gestation
Everyone should not wait for me to tell them
what to do, he protested, because that’s not how democracy works. Nine Inch
Nails is a dictatorship where everyone gets served their food rations and their
day-to-day itineraries. Tapeworm requires multiple people having leadership
qualities and making decisions. It’s all on the agenda, but it could be moved
along if other people start pushing a little bit.
Tapeworm/NIN man Danny Lohner reveals that
Tapeworm presently have only three songs completed, along with a clutch of
We did some really heavy NIN-meets-Pantera
stuff with Phil Anselmo, says Lohner. We also did some mellow Pink Floyd ‘The
Wall’ - type songs with him where he’s actually singing.
Danny adds that Tool singer Maynard James
Keenan has contributed less extreme material: The stuff we did with Maynard has
very psychedelic, groove-oriented verses and anthemic choruses. Ex-Helmet
leader Page Hamilton has also teamed up with Clouser to write some material.
Tapeworm’s music is electronic with big
guitars, beats and melodic yet aggressive vocals, says Lohner. It’s something
that Trent will bring up every couple of weeks - and every couple of months we’ll
do some work on it.
Adds Clouser: Tapeworm is a way for us - and
Trent especially - to do music that doesn’t fall under the same scrutiny as
NIN. He doesn’t have to micro-manage every single nut and bolt.