"Nothing is more odios," posited
Chopin back in 1910, "than music without hidden meaning." Celebrated
composer Schopenhauer took it one step further, swearing that music was
"the occult metaphysical exercise of a soul not knowing that it
philosophizes." But leave it to the middle-path-seeking Confucius to hit
the aesthetic nail on the head several centuries earlier, with "Virtue is
the strong stem of man's nature, and music is the blossoming of virtue"
and its cutting corollary: "If a man lacks the virtues proper to humanity,
what has he to do with music?"
No artist these days feels that final irony
more acutely than goth-industrial demigod Trent Reznor. Like Jackson Pollock
splatting violent spurts of color across his cabin canvas, the mouse-quiet
mastermind of both Nine Inch Nails and its label/studio Nothing has turned
claustrophobic anguish and self-recriminating torment into a cool-for-cats
cottage industry. His last epic, the Dantean descent into a carnal inferno, The
Downward Spiral, went platinum five times over. But just how virtuous was its
composer? Just how good a man?
And taking the Confucian tack if Reznor
wasn't such a great guy, what the hell was he doing trying to blossom on such a
stem of lance-sharp thorns? He openly confesses the minute you sit down with
him that he recently despised himself for "turning into someboyd I
didn't think I'd let myself turn into I was truly a mess." Absolute
power, he found out, corrupts absolutely. Would Reznor end up like Pollock, a
broken man, bereft of vision, just another abstract expressionist statistic,
dead before his time?
"Right here was where it happened,"
murmurs Trent Reznor, swivelling in his private-office captain's chair in the
New Orleans-headquartered Nothing Studios. "In this very chair," he
adds, thumping the armrests with his palms. His doors are closed. One portal
leads deep into the high-tech bowels of the place room after
equipment-stacked room, even a little nook where his personal web page is
run/updated. Outside the other door? Pandemonium, as countless Nothing
cohorts/employees man faxes, phones, whatever they can get their busy hands on,
all to usher in the first NIN product in five years, the two-disc, 23-track
magnum opus The Fragile. A four-in-one surveillance monitor a Dymo label
mounted on its surface reads "Fuck the world" eyes all entrances to
the huge property, once a velvet-draped funeral parlor. Dogs wander to and fro;
Reznor loves animals, so Nothing is animal-friendly. A coffee-table-wide
labrador named Ethyl wangles the most attention; Reznor's beloved Weirmaraner
Daisy May isn't around this particular morning ("She's sleeping in,"
her master explains).
But, sequestered in this office a few weeks
ago, surrounded by grim Joel Peter Witkin photographs and even grimmer Gerald
Scarfe artwork from the film adaptation of Pink Floyd's The Wall, it finally
occurred. Hearing his own completed Fragile masters played back for the first
time, in an order scheduled by none other than the original Wall producer Bob
Ezrin, the black-garbed, sinister mystiqued Reznor broke down and cried. Bawled
like a wee lost lamb in the woods. A fitting image. He'd been lost for five
long years. And it was only through The Fragile that he at managed to find
It wasn't such an embarrasing thing, letting
the tears stream down, confesses the 34 year old, still a bit awed by the
actual moment. Towards the tail-end of an excruciatingly long recording
process, Reznor and co-producer Alan Moulder sensing they'd lost all
objectivity on over 40 disparate numbers put in a last-minute call to their
idol, Ezrin. Would he be interested in flying down to N'awlins for a week-long
project? "I've got a bunch of music to lay on ya," Reznor warned him.
"And I'd like your interpretation of what's there." Dutifully, the
legendary Ezrin (who'd been in ten-year retirement until recent projects by
Kula Shaker and Catherin Waeel lured him back to the mixing desk) disappeared
into Nothing's recesses and emerged three days later having compiled, Reznor
recollects, "pages and pages of notes. And he was like, 'Let me explain to
you what record you just made.' And it was just like a professor grading a
paper, and it wasn't all just ass-kissing. He was like, 'Here are some weak
spots, here are what I think the strengths are, here's my vote for what
shouldn't be on the record, and here's my running order.'
"And I thought, 'Alright!' So I put it on
and listened to it, and it was... it was..." Reznor pauses for wickedly
dramatic effect, "Terrible! Halfway through the first side I was
daydreaming, I was looking out the window." As he says this, an
octegenarian Louisana local drifts past said window. Reznor's concentration is
broken for a minute as he studies the interloper, like a mongoose might study a
cobra from its den. Decked out in fine Western duds and tugging thoughtfully on
his handlebar moustache, the passerby glances at his reflection in the
onyx-shiny glass specially tinted windows allow Reznor to see you, while
you'll never catch even a fainting glimpse of him in reciprocation. Voyeurism,
you might say, taken to a NIN extreme. "Man! Sometimes you see the
strangest things pass by here..." Two minutes later, an entire Girl Scout
troop giggles past, heading in the opposite direction. A minute after that: the
old Cajun again, trotting hurriedly after the Girl Scouts. Best not to think
too hard on that one.
Besides, Reznor's already doing enough thinking
for ten ponderous guests. Imagine how difficult it was for him, he continues,
to inform the mighty Ezrin that he'd failed, that his track listing just didn't
add up. Then the performer began to doubt himself. Had he completely lost a
handle on his enormous dawn-'til-dusk labor produced merely a gelatinous mass of
unmarketable mood music? Would the album promised for so long it had almost
become an industry in-joke ever truly be completed? Ezrin took the criticism
in stride, merely smiled and submerged into the studio depths again and got
busy burning more CDs. "And it got to the very last day Rob was supposed
to be here," Reznor sighs. "I came in that morning, and there were
some new CDs sitting in front of me. I was kinda numb that day I wasn't
particularly in a bad mood, but I sure wasn't in a good mood. And I wasn't very
optimistic about what I Was gonna hear.
"So I sat down right here and I put it on.
I didn't have a list of the songs, so I didn't know what was coming. And
halfway through the first CD was when it hit me, when I started crying. And I
was thinking, 'If it ends now, it'd be perfect.' Then I immediately put the
second CD on, thinking, 'Well, this can't be good because all my favorite songs
are on the first CD. I, uhhhh, think... what else could be left?' But it
finished and I was stunned like, 'Fuckin-A! Alright!' I couldn't believe it!
I had goosebumps!" Reznor looks down at his forearm, grins like a goofy
kid. "Look! I've got goosebumps now, just thinking about it! I mean,
that's pretty ridiculous, right?"
Poker-faced, Reznor called his Svengali into
the office, had him sit down on its huge leather couch. "I looked at him
and said, 'You did it.' And he looked back att me and said, 'I know.' I'll
remember that moment always, just a classic little exchange 'I know.' So I
said, 'Well, why did you fucking wait 'til the last day then, smartass?' And we
did a quick hug. It was... it was good."
INTERLUDE No. ONE: DISC LEFT
You've got to hand it to Reznor. He starts with
a quick sonic jab to the jaw, via the waddle-riffed buildup of "Somewhat
Damaged" and its visceral wordplay: "Broken bruised forgotten sore...
Poisoned too my rotten core/Too fucked up to care anymore." A 21-gun
salute couldn't have announced his intentions any better. The tired segues into
a dissonant/quiet alternator, "The Day The World Went Away," then
tiptoes into the piano-based introspection of "The Frail" (the first
of many instrumentals). An anvil chorus and haunted vocal shrieks soon shatter
the mood ("The Wretched," with its memorable couplet, "Stuck in
this hole with the shit and the piss/ And it's hard to believe it could come
down to this"); it's proceeded by the scratchy, disembodied experiment of
"We're In This Together" (in which Reznor cedes to a lover,
"I've become impossible," then discovers that she might not be with
him for the long haul) and the chain-clanker of a title track ("I won't
let you fall apart," he howls throughout the chorus, sounding like far too
little too late). Instrumental two, "Just Like You Imagined," feels
like Dvorak on lithium bridling with intensity, piano struggling against the
mix but pales beside the next numbers, the screaming cry for help "Even
Deeper" and the downright scary processional "Pilgrimage." (Dead
souls marching toward the river Styx? Could well be.) A typical NIN slugger,
"No, You Don't," bleeds into the gorgeous, thoughtful "La
Mer." The set closes with the soft atonal pluckings and still softer
reflections of "The Great Below": "Ocean pulls me close/ And
whispers in my ear/ The destiny I've chose/ All becoming clear." As clear
as an unmuddy lake, to quote A Clockwork Orange.
There was a time, not so long ago, when a hug
from Trent Reznor had become the metaphorical equivalent of a rub-crushing
python squeeze. The man, like many a rock cipher before him, trusted no one
outside of a small circle of friends and bandmembers, the belief apparently
being that if you dared to embrace him you most likely had a dagger
concealed somewhere up your sleeve. The scary part? A good deal of the time,
given the fickle nature of show business, his suspicions were probably correct.
Richard Patrick the guitarist who left NIN in 1994 to form his own platinum
Filter outfit remembers seeing Reznor morph from within as the nascent band
rode the first Lollapalooza festival to fame via its Pretty Hate Machine debut
on TVT. "I loved Trent, but Trent didn't love himself he was just
mean." Initially, when they met in Ohio, Patrick adds, "Me and Trent
were punk rock before punk hit Cleveland. We used to just show up at bars
and throw shit all over the place, throw beer bottles because we didn't care.
There was no method to our insanity it was like, 'How crazy could you be?'
And you've gotta understand, musically we were trying to do things that were
different, but we were smart people, and we built up this animosity toward
anyone who wasn't with us."
Pretty Hate Machine -- released in '89 and now
triple-platinum wasn't necessarily a big icewater shock to the rock system.
Ministry, Skinny Puppy and countless others had not only coined the industrial
term/technique, but had been aggressively assaulting audiences with it for
several years. But the Pennsylvania-bred Reznor wasn't just some lucky stiff
who happened down the pike at exactly the right moment. In early Hate singles "Head
Like A Hole" and "Down In It," he brought a certain commercial
savvy to the formerly elitist music, an instinct that practically spelled
stardom. Where Skinny Puppy's "Dig It" staunchly retained its
dirge-like quality, and Ministry's "Jesus Built My Hot Rod" boldly
went one manic riff over the line, the young NIN evinced a way with a
powerchord-inspired, synth-meets-metal-scraping-guitar hook. Confucius would've
been proud. Reznor had learned well and quickly -- from his
As a kid in tiny Mercer, Pennsylvania, Reznor
says he and his pals used to sit around, desperately trying to find something
to keep them occupied, something to do that wasn't on the usual small-town
menu. He'd stare at the television, knowing full-well there was an exotic
highball world on the other side of the screen, but not having the faintest
clue how to reach it. With minimum effort, he aced his way through high school,
moved to Ohio, then finally mustered the courage to go for NIN broke. Mailing off a
demo to TVT sealed his fate. Soon success hit, ensnaring him in legal
complications he had to wrangle his way out of the TVT contract; he had to
combat piece-of-the-pie-hungry nutcakes, like the tour-trailing filmmaker who
made an hour-long video anthology of Reznor at his maniacal worst, yelling at
Patrick and other backstage unfortunates. Then he moved to the old Sharon
Tate/"Helter Skelter" murder house in Los Angeles to begin work on his creepiest
concept yet the Downward Spiral story of one unforgiven soul systematically
destroying everything, everyone near and dear around him. While the discs
overwhelming mainstream popularity paved the path for later soundtrack projects
with directors David Lynch (Lost Highway) and Oliver Stone (the controversial
Natural Born Killers), as well as the opening of his own record company (formed
with his manager, John Malm, clients include Marilyn Manson, Meat Beat
Manifesto, The The), it also created a monster. A monster that, as Patrick
hinted, was already breaking out of its shell post-Pretty Hate Machine.
"I've had a weird life because I thought I
knew who I was up until the first record came out," says Reznor. He's
wearing army boots, army-fatigue trousers and a black T-shirt with the Nothing
logo stencilled, barely legible, across it, also in black. He's buff, almost
beefy, and periodically does little chair-lifts pushing himself up from the
sturdy armrests, then sinking slowly back down into the comfy cushion. The hair
as always, jet black is short, but not as short as in several recently run
photographs. He's letting it grow into a parted-down-the-middle shag, and it
somehow seems to fit, somehow complements the new, more adult persona projected
on The Fragile.
Reznor continues, "Then suddenly the magic
door opened up 'Now everyone likes me! Wow! Everyone wants to date me,
everyone wants to be my friend. People wanna give me things, and it's a party
for me, every time we play!' It's a weird education, and you come out of it
changed. You come out of it... different. I saw things change in my own
personality and I began to start believing the hype a bit.
"And the time comes when the tour bus
stops, you get off, and now you're back to the shitty little apartment you
lived in and you think, 'Now I'm gonna be back to being the real me, not the
one on the tour bus in fancy clothes, but the 'me' who scrubbed toilets, the
guy I left behind.' And you're not that guy. You've become someone different,
not the guy onstage necessarily, but you aren't who you thought you were."
This overtook Reznor during the Pretty Hate Machine juggernaut. "And the
same thing happened to me on the Downward Spiral tour, only to a much greater
extent. Now it was truckfuls of people, and busses and planes the success
level went up another big notch. And then it got into the dangerous realm. If
you're a little band, a little underground band, it's more fun because there
aren't as many people watching you, not nearly as many people,' and Reznor
hisses the words through clenched teeth, "waiting to destroy you and tear
you down and rip you apart. As soon as you cross some threshhold into success,
it's surprising how people start turning on you, and the same magazines that
couldn't wait to champion you are like, 'Oh, you're a little too big now,' and
the can't wait to tear you down. Watch MTV does it all the time. You couldn't
turn it on without seeing Milli Vanilli a few years ago, but then they couldn't
wait to point at 'em and say, 'You're fake!'" And now, one member of the
duo is buried in his grave. "Yeah, and that's a fuckin' sad story,"
Reznor snaps. "They were two dummies. They didn't know what the fuck they
Reznor is no dummy. He goes on with his
cautionary tale, and it takes a little time. He wants to sketch each
unexpectedly fateful step with care, so you get the complete picture. The
Spiral tour got ugly, he begins, very ugly. Band members at each other's
throats, everyone sick of playing the same songs night after night that sort
of thing. So he signed 'em all up for a prestigious set of opening slots for
David Bowie ("A totally pressure-free context"), then returned to New
Orleans to produce (and non-stop party with) his Florida protιgι, Marilyn
Manson. The sessions ended their friendship (so permanently that it inspired a
bilious Fragile indictment, "Starfuckers, Inc."), and sent the singer
off on a Thoreau-ish quest for peace that led to a cliffside-cabin residency in
"At that point, I had the self-imposed and
externally imposed pressures of 'Okay it's time to get down to business and
do your record.' But I really was in a spot where I wasn't sure who I was, I
didn't understand what I wanted to do."
Big Sur drove the poor fellow stir-crazy. "I knew
what I didn't wanna do was sit in a room by myself and think about things. But
I was avoiding starting work on this record because I was so generally unhappy
that I couldn't..." Reznor falters for a second. "It didn't make
sense to... nothing brought me joy. After I got everything I ever wanted, I was
fucking worse off than I was before. I was letting a lot of shit go that I
needed to fully address." His grandmother passed away, someone with whom
he was incredibly close. Initially, he felt nothing but numbness. Once the
brunt of the loss sunk in, it suddenly felt "like I was in a hole I
couldn't get out of. It had a profound effect on me. But it also served as a
catalyst for me to really sit down and get my shit together."
In his earlier work, he adds, "I've always
flitered around with depression there's a romantic side to it, like I'll be
bummed out on a rainy day and I'll put on a Cure album or This Mortal Coil.
That's one thing to flirt with it, but it's another thing when it's a lot
blacker and deeper and darker, like 'I don't even wanna get out of bed, and
what could possibly make me feel better? I can't think of anything'. I mean,
dark cloud! Stuck over my head! Still, I really needed to hit bottom."
A therapist shed some comforting light on the
situation: The patient hadn't scripted his own downward emotional spiral. He
actually suffered from a small degree of clinical depression. Relief turned
into motivation. Reznor stopped looking outward, began doing what he'd dreaded
all along looking inward. All his life, he'd despised organized religion; he
began to comprehend the gulf-wide difference between it and spirituality, began
to waive pleasurable pursuits in favor of studying his own decadence-ravaged
soul. Hell, he'd moved to New Orleans looking for decadence. (And if even
half the Bacchanalian rumors circulating around Reznor are true, me most
assuredly found it.) Now he'd rather discuss how "my heart is rooted in
emotion, and my soul is rooted in my innate knoledge of right and wrong my
truest core. This is the bottom, the foundation for me. And I haven't gotten my
hole life-creed thing down yet, but it's grown leaps and bounds from where it
was a few years ago. Maybe it's a maturity/age thing, I dunno. But I feel
better about myself as a human being right now than I ever did."
INTERLUDE No. TWO: DISC RIGHT
All through the interview, Reznor repeatedly
refers to his depression as a "hole," a grim mindset from which he
had to clamber to regain self-respect, some sense of normalcy. This record
begins with the climb. It opens, aptly enough, with the slow synth wash of
"The Way Out Is Through," which builds to a devilish crescendo and a
defiant credo: "All I've undergone/ I will keep on." A
locust-humming, percussion-peppered "Into The Void" comes next
(chorus: "Tried to save myself but myself keeps slipping away"),
followed by the twisted keyboard/slide guitar exercise "Where Is
Everybody?", the Frankenstein-lumbering instrumental "The Mark Has
Been Made," and the ruthlessly carnal "Please" (Wherein pleasure
leads directly to pain). "Starfuckers, Inc." is classic NIN anger;
its bluesy "Complication" counterpart keeps the bitterness pumping.
The Fragile at last sees some light at the end of the tumescent tunnel on
"I'm Looking Forward To Joining You, Finally" (a click-clacking study
in minimalism), the clattered, cluttered "The Big Come Down"
("There is a game I play/ Try to make myself okay," Reznor yowls,
acknowledging that it is, indeed, a game of some sort), and the acrid
"Underneath It All" (in which our hero surveys what seems to be the
wreckage of a shattered relationship, possibly his own superstar self, and opts
to move on with the memory intact). The coda, "Ripe (With Decay),"
gently ushers the listener out on a trickle of acoustic chords/notes, as if to
shake the cold, steely impulses of reclusive stardom with the warm embrace of
humanity. Would Reznor like to buy the world a Coke? Teach it to sing in
perfect harmony? Probably not. But at least he's willing to smile politely and
shake its hand.
Bowie recently likened Reznor to the
twisted Austrian conceptualist Hermann Nitsch, who dredges up inner demons via
artwork often comprised of real gore and blood. "I don't think Trent has been doing it quite so
consciously, with such an artistic premise in mind," pondered the Thin
White Duke, a decadent from way back. "But he's definitely kind of in that
place, where he feels like you just have to get right into the miasma of your
being and haul out of this gunge. I think it's a really dark place to be I've
touched upon it myself in the '70s and it's not a pleasant experience. But I
just hope he gets through that I think he's one of the most talented writers
of his generation, in this country, and I would expect to still see him around
in ten, 20 years' time. I just hope he gets through all this so he can be here
with us for that long he is truly a talented kid."
Reznor is quick to return with the compliment.
"What impressed me about Bowie, when we were on tour together, was seeing
somebody who's gone through it all and arrived at from what I could gather
a really good place. Watching Bowie kinda told me, 'It's gonna be okay.
Just keep your shit together.'"
Bowie hadn't heard The Fragile yet, and
he couldn't wait to discover how Reznor was coping, surviving. And truth be
told Reznor coped and survived, understood and overcame, simply by making
music. Few contemporary artists could endure such a rigorous catharsis. Nor
would most subject themselves to it. But Reznor is a different breed; a
composer who's actually fallen in love with composing, all over again. It was
something he'd lost in the rolling wake of fame, he believes, in retrospect. Of
the first instrumental he penned for this project, the gorgeous keyboard
passage "La Mer," he explains, "I remember sitting down and
playing the piano and thinking, 'How did I ever forget that this is what
brought me joy? How the fuck did that get lost in the mess? How did I let that
happen?' It's not doing interviews, it's not fucking live shows, not backstage
passes and bank accounts all that shit doesn't matter. I did this because I
And so The Fragile -- after numerous false
starts was finally on track and chugging. Sure, Reznor had mnaged to right
his capsized Exxon tanker of a personality. But his problems were only
beginning. Like a proud parent, Reznor wants to walk you through his studio,
show you every hidden chamber where The Fragile coalesced. "Can you
imagine?" he shudders, pointing to one windowless cubbyhole. "just
sitting in here, day after day, playing the same guitar part? Trying to get it
down perfect?" Like the Beatles' recently resurfaced Yellow Submarine,
Nothing is a surreal, self-contained ecosystem why deal with the Blue Meanies
outside when you can stay creatively aloof, intellectually warm and safe
inside? Reznor was more than happy to snip the umbilical to the outside world.
Occasionally, he says, he dropped by Tower Records for a new CD or two; turned
on MTV here and there; maybe watched a litle CNN. Mostly, however as in some
flickering series of time-lapse photographs history, names, places and events
in the news, even a few music trends passed right by him, undetected. And
when he and Moulder were nearing completion, they considered the full gravity
of their achievement and decided that this music did not resemble anything
being produced today. A good or bad thing? They had no idea. Only when Ezrin
gave corporeal form to the creature did Reznor buckle beneath the sheer
majestic magnitude of it all.
"Alan and I both thought, 'We're not being
objective about this at all,'" recalls the Number One Nail. "Like,
'La Mer' was one of our favorites, and it was gonna be the first song on disc
one. The nit was 'Nah, let's make it the first song on disc two.' Then 'Nah,
lets make it the first single!' 'No, wait! Let's call the album La Mer!' And
you approach a song like that with reverence you cherish it so much, you're
not being objective about where it should go."
Other musicians watch the studio clock,
counting off the costly hours in two- and three-week sessions. Reznor knew no
such contsraints he owns the damn place and only lives a few blocks away. Or,
as he puts it, "The routine became, work as long and as late as you can,
go home, sleep, come back as soon as you wake up, and keep going, going,
going." The instrumentals appeared first; Reznor wasn't comfortable
writing any new lyrics at the time. He was too unsure of himself, too worried
where that depression might lead him. But the music finally flowed, he sighs,
"almost on a subconscious level, likke I was channeling it. It got to
where I thought, 'I dunno if I'm even writing this, 'cause I can't imagine how
I could come up with that.' And we would try things that I would've taken short
cuts to arrive at in the past.
"Like, instead of a background noise off a
movie which is what Downward Spiral was all about We'd go find the original
place and mic it. Instead of sample a cello, it was like, 'Let's borrow one
from down the street and see what happens if you put the wrong strings on it.
Whoa! Check this sound out!' We had space and time to try that kinda stuff. And
sure, there's a danger of crawling up your own ass and wasting time doing stuff
that doesn't matter ,because you're feeling like it's free. And, I admit, we
did do some of that getting off on weird tangents. Almost everything on there
is guitar, but it doesn't sound like it. I even forgot things I'd hear
something and go 'How'd we do that? Oh yeah! That was two strings playing the
same note, and us putting a toaster next to it with three mics, until it made a
strange humming sound.' This was the first time I had resource real, true
resource -- to find great moments like that."
Trotting through his compound, Reznor is
greeted by various hard-working folk. "How's the throat, Trent?" asks
an engineer, looking up from his board. "Better, thanks I think we'll
nail it today," the boss responds. He was coming down with a something,
possibly a cold, and yesterday's vocal takes were shot to hell. Out into the
foyer and up the purple-carpeted stairs is the NIN game room, packed with
original arcade editions of Scramble, Sinistar, Tempest, Donkey Kong, you name
it. Even a vintage Kiss pinball machine. Reznor's personal chauffeur waiting
for his next assignment is busy blasting away at a classic Robotron machine.
Robotron is the popular one, with the entire Nothing staff perpetually trying
to one-up each others' scores. Downstairs: the new Sega Dreamcast system
beckons, already loaded with the ghoul-shooting House Of The Dead 2 -- one of
the bloodiest, and most addictive games ever created.
A fax comes in. Surprise. It's yet another
glowing review of The Fragile, this one from some glossy tech mag. And surprise
again! The Fragile just debuted at Number One on the Billboard charts, scanning
nearly a quarter of a million units. Reznor reads these reports avidly, pores
over them like one would a profit-margin pie chart. The pain hasn't morphed
into fun. The pain is now big business. Ask Reznor what his worst moments have been,
the times he thought the pain couldn't get any worse, and he graciously demurs,
"Oh, there were a couple like that,"
he grins, cryptically, then reiterates that he "really needed to hit
bottom. And now, in retrospect, it was my personality that was seeing the worst
in all situations. It wasn't like the whole world was out to get me, but it
sure seemed like it. But the record's complete, it's the end of an era, and now
I've been forced to talk about it. So I'm filling in the blanks with what may
be not quite accurate information, but it's the information as I remember it.
But it all seems to make more sense to me now than it did when I was in it. And
it really, really seems like... like...." Reznor scratches his ebon
coiffed noggin, stymied. "Shit! I lost my train of thought!"
A gaffe like that is understandable, this late
in the Fragile game. Outside, on the front porch, a Fed Ex delivery man is
urgently ringing the buzzer; he's got two huge boxes of the vinyl edition of
the new Nine Inch Nails three discs long and featuring two bonus tracks,
"The New Flesh" and "10 Miles High." Everyone in the office
looks up at the monitor to see who it is. Everyone looks up to see that same
Dymo sticker, those same three words that have come to epitomize Nothing, Nails
and Reznor himself: "Fuck the World." Confucius couldn't have
put it any plainer.