admitting to himself that he was in the merciless grip of alcohol and drug
addiction, Trent Reznor (aka Nine Inch Nails) got himself clean four years ago.
The only question was: could he cut it as an artist while sober?
The road to success and happiness as a rock
star is littered with hellish mistakes, misfortune and bad intentions. For
Trent Reznor, the only ‘industrial rock Star of the 90s to successfully make
the transition to the top flight, those things included becoming addicted to
booze and cocaine; a public nervous breakdown Nine Inch Nails‘ — ie. his —1999
album The Fragile); his best friend
being murdered; even a very ill-advised dalliance with that walking advertisement
for pregnancy being legally intelligence-tested, Courtney Love.
But now that Reznor has dealt with the worst of
those problems (and got over his friend‘s untimely death, and kicked coke and
booze), he‘s ready to release With Teeth,
Nine Inch Nails‘ new album and greatest artistic statement since NIN‘s 1994
album The Downward Spiral.
But now that his days consist of orange juice
and early nights, can he still cut the angst-ridden and hellishly programmed
With Teeth is markedly different
from The Fragile and even The Downward Spiral. Do you think that‘s
in any way down to lifestyle changes you‘ve gone through?
For sure. I don‘t even know where to Start.
With The Fragile, it was the first
album I’d recorded from start to finish in my own studio. And this time I just
got back to demo-ing things again, like I did with Pretty Hate Machine a million years ago. I moved up to Los Angeles with a bunch of chord changes, for
a change of scenery, and said I‘ll finish a song every two days — done and playable.
And at the end I had 30 songs that I was happy with. As for lifestyle changes,
I was finally coming to terms with being an addict.
This was alcohol and
Yeah. But it could have been anything. It could
have been floor cleaner if it would have gotten me high. Without wanting to
sound like I’m at an AA meeting, it is impossible to underestimate the changes
that quitting has had on mc on all levels. The reason the record took a while
to get going was I just wanted to take some time to come to terms with what was
My troubles began around the time of The Downward Spiral. It seemed like the
sudden explosion of fame, money and tension, set against the background of being
on tour forever... I didn‘t really know who I was, and I was defining myself by
what I read about myself. And discovering during that tour that I loved
cocaine. As soon as you realise that and you‘re on tour, you also realise that
everyone you know on tour has always got drugs all of the time.
When did you kick it
In 2001 my best friend at the time was this
black guy from the projects [ low-income housing areas] who worked for me. I
trusted him with my life; he had keys to my house and everything. He got
murdered. Someone shot him in the face. And that was what it took for me to
take my situation seriously. I suddenly thought that I would be next. I might
not turn up with a bulletin the face, but I could see that I was going in end
up killing myself in a car or falling out of a window or something stupid like
There are some
positively upbeat moments on the new album. Is that down to the ‘new you‘?
I agree, but I don‘t think the record is cheery
overall. But I have new things to think about. And I‘ve found I can think again
and I can concentrate a thousand times better. Also, it is less internalised
and more about external concerns. All of these songs were written a couple of
years into being clean.
It was odd, because when I would work on songs
like Only and All The Love In The World and realise how they were coming out, a
voice would pop up and say: “Oh, that‘s not right for Nine Inch Nails“, or ‘You
do this as an experiment, but you can‘t release it“. But I had more courage to
say in the voices in my head: ‘It‘s up to me what‘s right and what isn‘t right for
NIN“. I like it. Maybe it isn‘t the ‘right‘ thing to do, but it was what I
wanted to do.
How did Foo Fighters‘ Dave Grohl end up being
One thing that I wanted to employ on this
record was live drums. What I wanted was music that supported the message. And
the message wasn‘t real secure. On a few of the tracks I wanted this real
‘bashing‘ element, and one of the phrases that would come up was Dave
Grohl-esque drumming. And we all knew what that meant. Not just in Nirvana, but
in Queens Of The Stone Age, Probot and Killing Joke as well, the drums stood
out as an exciting element. And after a while I just thought: “Why don‘t I call
Dave Grohl?“ And he said he‘d love to work on the album, and within a few days
he was at the studio recording. I‘d met him a few times socially, but he wasn‘t
a friend or anything. It was a great experience. He understood immediately what
How did you feel when
you heard .Johnny Cash‘s cover of your song Hurt?
I‘d been friends with [ record producer] Rick Rubin
for a long time, and he called me and said: “How do you feel about Johnny Cash
covering it?“ And I just said okay and that was it. To be frank, I thought the
work that Rick did with Johnny was really good, but there was the occasional
song that felt forced, a cover that felt a little bit gimmicky, and I hoped
that it didn‘t fall into that category.
The [Johnny Cash] CD turned up when I was in my
studio, and I wasn‘t really in the right frame of mind, and to be honest it
just felt wrong. It was a tasteful rendition, but hearing his voice on my
song... I didn‘t know about that. I was like: “This isn‘t your fucking song,
this is my fucking song“.
A little bit of time later I saw the video, and
that‘s when it grabbed my attention and I really started thinking about it. And
by the end I had goosebumps and I was welling up with tears. I couldn‘t believe
how powerful it was. Suddenly the song made complete sense. And I said goodbye
to my song because it wasn‘t mine any more.
When Courtney Love
took up with Kurt Cobain, Julian Cope took out a full-page ad in the NME
saying: Free us from Nancy Spungen-fixated heroin a-holes who cling to our
greatest rock groups and suck out their brains‘. Do you wish you‘d seen that
Did he really do that? Oh, that‘s right, he got
‘targeted‘ for a while didn‘t he? The poor guy. I like Julian Cope. Yeah, I
wish I bad seen that advert.
NIN‘s With Teeth is released out now on