1. Why do your records
take so long to make? Was there any writer's block involved this time?
...to come out. The actual record, formally I started writing it at the
beginning of 2004, last year. Within 5 months I had about an album and a half,
maybe two albums worth of stuff written. I recorded it last summer, mixed it
last fall, done. So, the actual writing/recoding process is faster than normal
for me on this point.
And it took a lot to come out because my life had kind of unraveled into
addiction and despair, and I needed to address that. And in 2001, fresh off the
last tour, I did address that. And I decided to take a little time off to just
get to know myself, get to feel a bit more comfortable in my own skin and start
to clean out the closet of skeletons that have accumulated, and kind of
reassess my desire to make music and get more comfortable with life in general.
Then face the question to see if I had anything to say, you know, sober, and if
I had the ability to even say anything. And thatís when (words?) came around, I
moved out to Los Angeles and setup a room to work in and the results turned out
really well I think, you know. I regained my self-confidence. I regained my
spirit, my passion for music and I feel good about things now. So, thatís why
this record took a long time.
And I could also clearly say that that was in the works and why the last record
took a long time because, you know, this wasnít something that I woke up one
day and found out youíre an alcoholic. This had been something that had been at
work for years that Iíd been trying to brush into the rug and blame on
something else, and denying just the whole typical crap that you go through as
2. Are you hard on yourself creatively? Do you scrap a lot of work that doesn't
meet your standard?
Well, this time around in the studio I donít feel like I was as hard on myself
because I was in a much different kind of mindset. I was working a little bit
with Rick Reuben(sp?) as kind of a mentor capacity. And heíd encourage this
kind of safe environment to try things out and, you know, kind of nurturing ďno
bad ideaĒ type situation that really worked out. So, the editorial part of me
was kind of on hold for awhile and I allowed myself to try some things.
And as I was working I liked a lot of what was coming out so I just let it roll
and I didnít spent a lot of time really agonizing as much as I remember doing
that in the past. So, at the end I wound up with a lot of stuff I did like and
I knew that I could be editorial later and decide what was good or bad. But
right at the beginning I wasnít quite as much of a dictator as I have been in
And I think a lot of me doing that in the past was just because I was so afraid
of a lot of things. I was afraid of my lack of talent. I was afraid of maybe
this isnít any good. I was just afraid. Fear really governed a lot of what my
work was up to this point. The process felt very different this time around.
3. This sounds very much like a NIN record. In your words, how is it different?
The writing with (teeth?), I have mixed feelings about how- I mean Iím very
happy with the way it turned out that I feel in some ways like it reminds me of
pretty (hate machine?) a little bit in a way that I would never expect it
before I started writing it. And if I think about why that is I think the
process of writing it was pretty dramatically different than any record Iíd
done in the past.
In the past I would, especially on (the fragile?) and even down (at spiral?), I
would go in a studio and write in a studio. The writing and the production, and
the arranging and the sound design, all took place at the same time. And I
would start with a sound or an idea, or a texture or a vision, or a
description, and nurture it until I could fit a song into it.
You know, and this time around I came out to L.A., I setup a room with only really a piano and a
drum machine, kind of a four-trackish type setup, and set a deadline of say
every ten days Iím going to write two songs with finished vocals and lyrics.
And it forced me not to get too finicky with the arrangement and the sound
design, which I could go off forever tweaking sounds. I enjoy doing that. But
writing words and melodies, thatís hard.
So, I find that I avoid it if I can and I can feel like Iím busy but filling
myself with clutter that I donít need to do. So, I figured this is a good way
to kind of break through that and force a discipline to get results.
The result, I believe was that, you know, I thought I would start with the song
and add the layers and dress the set later, and when I got a number of tracks I
really liked and I went to New Orleans over the summer to do that, to orchestrate
them a bit and record them properly, I found I didnít need that much stuff. You
know, only having a few elements worked instead of layering stuff as bits and
So, it sounds like this record is more song-based to me. And it sounds like
each song could stand on their own a little better than a song off ďThe
FragileĒ could stand on its own, which those songs sound good to me if they
have three or four of their friends around them to support them. And this is
less about a big epic thing and more about a collection of smaller epics, you
know. So, that aspect of it feels differently to me.
4. You seem to be doing some new things with your voice. Are you approaching
the mic in new ways?
The whole process of recording on this record was a bit different because I
think the main difference is I felt freer and less frightened, and more sure of
myself. So, I allowed myself to try things I probably would have been afraid to
do in the past. And I think that some of the phrasing and some of the way I
sang felt like I wasnít as tethered to this idea of what was right for Nine
Inch Nails, you know.
Iíve said somewhere that I thought this record was more honest than the ones
Iíve done in the past. And every record Iíve done at the time seemed like the
most honest work I could do, but I could look back at how I did some of the old
albums and realize that I was so afraid during a lot of that, so unsure of
myself, or so kind of worried about what the world might think that it pushed
me in a way that was limiting somehow.
So, this time around I felt like some shackles had been freed. And as a person
I was carrying a lot less baggage around with me. And I think it all kind of
translated into a different more liberating, creative experience, best I could
5. What state of mind produces your best work?
The state of mind that produces my best work, if you asked me that question
what state of mind produces my best work ten years ago, I would have said pain
and despair, and desperation and aggravation. And given the choice to punch a
wall or write a song, Iíd have to be in that mindset to get something out that
mattered, or utter defeat, or one of those things was the motivation to channel
that energy into something that might be considered positive instead of
And I think what I learned on this record was that I can create without relying
on that thing and I donít need to be in a place of wanting to kill myself to
write a song. And in fact, not being in that place allows me to think a lot
more clearly about things than I could if I have to be in that place to write,
you know. And I was wary of, you know, creating in sobriety. I didnít know how
that was going to work or if it could work, or if I was one of those tragic
figures that has to rely on whatever to get to whatever state, you know.
And much like every other role that drugs or alcohol played in my life, I
realized that that also was more hindering than it was freeing, and a lot of
that was a lie and a cheap way to get to something. It wasnít real anyway. I
could function much better creatively as well as, you know, in life general,
6. Talk about "Hand That Feeds" and one or two of your favorite
The first single off the record itís been decided is ďThe Hand that FeedsĒ. And
itís run by me but Iím not that involved, should I say? Iím not that overly
concerned about like whatís chosen as a single. Not entirely true but it feels
like marketing to me. It feels like Iíve made this thing now youíre trying to
figure out to sell it and someone decided that was accessible track, which I
agree it is.
I like that track a lot. ďThe FragileĒ didnít have any songs like that,
(words?) really think did, songs that kind of announce themselves right out of
the speaker out something tangible that you can catch onto right away. But the
price that those songs pay usually is theyíre the first ones that you get sick
of, you know. And so, as much as I like that song Iím okay, I donít need to
hear it for awhile because I had spent time mixing and recording, and teaching
it to the band, and shooting a video for it, and some other things.
But that song in particular, you know, as far as my own views on it Iíve always
tried to keep Nine Inch Nails pretty much about- or I should rephrase that. I
havenít set out to say Nine Inch Nails is lyrically going to be about a certain
thing, but in general a rule has been if Iím going to talk about something it
has to be real, and I have to feel it, and it has to be my own experience.
And as much Iíd love to, you know, have written Clash songs Iíve never had a
real world change in outlook. Itís mainly been about thereís too much chaos
inside my own head. I canít really go about changing the world yet cause Iím
not sure where Iím at. Primarily a lot of music has been about internal kind of
politics and my relations or my feelings, or reactions, to situations, people
With ďHand that FeedsĒ I couldnít ignore what was happening in America and is
happening in America of having a lunatic run the country, having the insane
right wing Christian idiots get involved, the genius job the Republicans have
done of getting them and big business all under the same umbrella using fear
and intimidation, and, you know, leading to what could be the end of the world
in my opinion, you know.
And it was a heartbreaking day to see that, you know, the sliver of hope of
revolution got crushed. We rewarded this guy with four more years of what I
feel personally is insane behavior, and that kind of came out in that song.
Itís probably the most blatant that the outside world has really come into the
world of Nine Inch Nails. So, thatís kind of my thoughts on that. Iím pleased
that it turned out to be a kind of sing-along pop song. So, hopefully through
some imagery and whatever itís a way to get a message out.
7. How did you select the musicians for the album and tour?
For the record, I play pretty much everything. I did play everything myself
minus drums. I knew I wanted to have a lot of live drums on this record and I
kind of wanted the aggression of real playing as opposed to programming for the
most part. And a lot of the record is based on performance.
Pretty much everything on it was played and not really fixed, all the synths,
drums, vocals. There wasnít a lot of studio shenanigans to get them all perfect
cause I wanted it to support the message. And I wanted it to sound exciting.
And I wanted it to sound imperfect just like I am. And I wanted it to sound
organic in a sense.
So, when it came time for drums my drummer in my band, Jerome Dylan, played a
portion of them. And some of them I wanted a real aggressive- you know, I was
using Dave Groll(sp?) as a point of reference, as a type of drumming for some
things. And I finally said: Why donít I just call Dave Groll(sp?) and see if
heíd want to do it?
You know, I called up Dave and Dave not only is like a sweet guy, and easy to
deal with and get along with, but he really understands with very little
explanation, hereís the music, he got it immediately. The tracks went from this
good to that good. And it was just a really pleasant experience involving him.
And I think it, you know, it changed the sound of things all for the better.
Also, it came at a time where no one had really heard the music so getting his
feedback, which is positive, was like a good little pat on the back boost of
confidence, itís (word?).
Aside from Dave and my drummer, Jerome, nobody played on the record. That was
it. I got a band together after that, I mean as the record was being mixed. I
had decided I wanted to tour, you know, as much as needed or necessary to
support the record, and I wanted to get a band together that was the right band
to do that. Decided to not get the old band back together and get some guys
that were really based around the album, the instrumentation of the new album,
the spirit of the new record. And then see what happens with the (word?).
So, Jerome Dylan was my drummer from before. I used him. Heís the best drummer
really in the world for Nine Inch Nails because once again, whatís cool about
him is he can take a track that was constructed through loops and machines and
everything else, and somehow interpret it (words?) real drum (word?) to where
it gets the spirit of what the track is but can make it sexier somehow. And it
feels like someone playing, and heís just really good at that. So, I knew I
And then Iíve got Jordy White(sp?) from Manson. Heís an old friend. That was
the core. Then we found keyboard player Alessandro Cortini(sp?). And then it
took me forever to find the right guitar player which is kind of the most
important element. And after seeing a number of people, it wasnít until the
very last guy that I looked at whoís Erin North(sp?) formally of the (word?)
I didnít think I was looking for that kind of guy. I didnít know what I was
looking for but everything I saw was not the right thing. And as soon as he
came in he brought kind of an air of chaos. I was convinced he wasnít the right
guy until the first note came out, and then it was like everything changed. The
band suddenly was together and it was good, and we hired him on the spot.
And spent quite a bit of time working on the new album, figuring out how to
play it live and then branching off into older material, and really getting it
to where it feels vital and pertinent. You know, and I was afraid because we
had been away for awhile and Iím not getting any younger. You know, I was
questioning how pertinent or vital or relevant the older music or me as a
performer was. And, you know, (words?) will come in once we actually start
playing but it feels really surprisingly good to me.
You know, I can look at a set with thirty songs or so and thereís nothing Iím
dreading playing. Thereís nothing that feels like: Oh, man, I wish I hadnít
written that song, you know, cause Iím sick of it. But everythingís really
coming together. So, Iím looking forward to a new extensive tour and seeing how
8. What new things are you doing with technology that you're excited about? And
without getting too techy, have you found new ways of distorting things?
Well, with this record we recorded everything on the computer again, but one of
the things I wanted to make sure was I think that as- you know, if you walk
into a recording studio today youíll find that tape decks have disappeared and
everybodyís using computers or (pro tools?) as a recording devices which Iíve
been doing for years.
But I think what ends up happening is if you listen to what musicís coming out
these days, because itís very easy to fix things and to make perfect records, and
put drums in time and to correct tunings, and put vocals right and perfect
things, that things start to sound a bit overproduced and (homogenous?) to me
in general, you know.
And the feel I was going for in this record was quite the opposite of that.
Now, I wouldnít consider reverting to tape which would seem stupid to me and
creating a lot of problems. I just couldnít imagine doing that. But I did want
to treat things in a different way. And I wanted to maintain performances. I
wanted to resist the temptation to hit the ďfix everythingĒ button, you know,
and try to make a record that sounded like people playing, and sounded like it
had some rough edges and not too many things were fixed, to kind of give it the
right framework for the message of the music and the lyrics, that things arenít
too slick and overdone. And I think this is the least produced record, in my
own opinion. Itís the least fiddled with that Iíve done, and sparsest by far.
And also a thing that was like a big component of this record, you know, as the
kind of the sound designer guy I really was attracted to old analog modular
synthesizers and things that you canít really perfect because you canít save
the sound. And itís a matter of plugging things in and getting unexpected
results. And Iím not saying in a (retro-y?) kind of way but it just helped the
whole cohesion of the record. It made everything a bit less recallable.
Youíd play something and get a sound and that sound was gone once you touched a
knob because it could never come back. And it made you treat everything a
little bit precious, you know, and consider performance and consider things,
moments in time that canít be recalled.
And the bottom line is it was done and thereís a lot of primitive methods we
did. You know, we didnít utilize everything you can in a modern recording
studio to fix things. You just keep it live and exciting. It sounds that way to
(Storing?) things, again we used a modular synth for quite a lot of stuff. You
know, what I found is I was a big proponent, and I still am, of software synths
that have come out where you can do a lot of things that would have cost
millions of dollars, hundreds of thousands of dollars of (old?) crap. But what
I found is when youíre plugging in a cable from one thing to the next, to the
next, to the next, to the next, every bit of that has its own inherent flaws,
and the jacks might be dirty or the (VCMS?) is overloaded. In software, I find
itís impossible to emulate all that stuff.
So, plugging everything together it just sounds like somethingís about ready to
catch on fire, you know, letís see what the vocal sounds like, letís run the
drums through it. And Iíd like to say everything was very planned out and I
knew that this would add this much harmonic distortion, but the reality is we
just plugged a lot of stuff together and things started to sound cool. Iím not
exactly sure why some of it was that way.
There was an element of that and on the other side of the spectrum thereís a
program called Reactor that we use a lot, that is really just a building block
to being able to create any kind of processing device you can imagine, but itís
an awful lot of programming and messing around. And we treated that kind of
like a guitar effects pedal. You know, we had it in and out in the computer
with a thing that we could then plug a bass into and then run that into an amp
like it was a pedal on the floor.
It was like having the worldís most interesting distortion pedal that you can
tweak to your heartís content, and we used a lot of that (type of a?) process,
(usually?) taking a high tech scenario, applying it in a very low tech kind of
9. Does a certain visual style apply to the album as a whole, or will different
songs get different video treatments?
Video-wise on this record, I really donít know what weíre going to do. You know,
at the moment weíve just filmed a video for ďHand that FeedsĒ that was kind of
a reaction against music videos, you know, this big budget, high concept, smart
ass video director (who?) kind of (words?) right now.
And as an artist I always find itís frustrating because I can make the record
sound the way I want it to and I can come up with the record Iím proud of, and
then when it comes time to market that record, okay, do a video. And because I
donít do videos then Iíve got to take a chance on somebody whoís usually a
jackass, that charges more money than it cost to make your whole record to do
the three-minute promo clip that theyíre using to get a movie made that they
want for their demo reel. And I might sound a bit cynical and bitter here
because I am.
And then if youíre a cool band you can hand pick from the five cool video
directors that are out there that will give you a cool ironic treatment. And
all of it seems a bit fake to me, you know. It all seems a bit like safe and a
bit dated. And I mean video channels donít play videos that Iíve noticed
anymore. And it seems kind of like a bloated whole kind of concept to me at
this stage in time.
So, the video we just did is us playing the song, thatís it. You know, and I
think itís a good song and I think weíre a good band, and I think we play it
well. And it here it is and fuck you, and thatís the video. So, it might get
thrown out cause I havenít seen a rough edit of it yet, but thatís the idea.
Shot on video, no bullshit, no, you know, anything.
So, I think this recordís going back to basics. You know, a lot of bullshitís
been cleared out of the way. You know, it made room for the song. It made room
for the message. The live show weíre doing right now is not explosions and, you
know, flying pigs. Itís just us playing. And itís us playing and thatís all it
needs. I think thatís refreshing in a way, you know. So, thatís where my headís
at right this second.
10. How do you balance beauty and ugliness?
The balance of say beauty and ugliness, you know, is something thatís kind of
always intrigued me, you know, from like say in the art world like Joel Peter
Whitcan(sp?) photograph of something thatís, you know, well shot and excellent
composition. And you look at it and itís a sawed in half cadaverís head or
something, you know, that could be repulsive.
And Iíve always liked that kind of juxtaposition of that sonically, as well,
and lyrically, maybe a very ugly message in a very delicate background, or vice
versa. Or maybe a very ominous, mechanically sounding background with a frail
human voice stuck on top of it. You know, just the meaning of those things has
always intrigued me to some degree.
And, you know, I think on this record I didnít consciously think too much about
that concept. And it generally feels more organic to me in general and less
about that particular kind of interaction that very much was what the ďDownward
SpiralĒ was about, and in some degree ďThe FragileĒ.
But, you know, just going back as I recently have to remix ďDownward SpiralĒ
(and ďSurroundĒ?), it was interesting cause I was in the process of arranging
this record when I went back and did that. And it was cool hearing those tracks
dissected and remembering how I constructed sound back then which was a lot
different than how Iíve done it now because of technology. Technology was much
more primitive then so I had much more limited resources and it made you work a
And it was cool hearing that because it sounded like to me a different band
playing. And I remember how I did and it was like revisiting an old friend. I
wouldnít do that again but it was cool hearing how I did do it then, you know,
and it just felt pretty cool, the whole experience.