Jahr 2007



Alternative Magazine


April/Mai 2007


 The Upward Spiral


 Text: Samara Naiba

Pictures: Rob Sheridan






Sobriety hasn‘t made Trent Reznor any happier, but he‘s no longer lost in self-pity. The man behind Nine Inch Nails is back and this time his stalking enemy is no less than the American administration. Alternative magazine‘s Samara Naiba talks exclusively to Trent Reznor...

For somebody who is said to hate promotional duties, Trent Reznor is as talented at concealing it as he is at crafting noise. In fact, despite a hectic, punishing tour schedule he is in a engaging mood. “It‘s a tough show to sing,“ he says clearing his voice, “it was a pretty brutal schedule for us with not much time off. It has literally been 3 days on, one day off, 3 days on and one day off.“

What‘s more, Reznor has become equally‚ focused on a new recording regime. Twelve months ago he promised his fans that they wouldn‘t have to suffer the same five-year wait they endured between ‘The Fragile‘ and ‘With Teeth‘ but back then no one could imagine that a new NIN album would be out as early as April l7th of this year. But lo and behold — one year on and Reznor is ready to deliver ‘Year Zero‘ - a bleak contemplation of the way the world is going.

Looking back at the pre-‘With Teeth‘ era, Reznor blames his past drug addiction for the intense writer‘s block he suffered. “I used to believe that I needed drugs to be creative and I think there is this romantic notion around the idea of the artist taking drugs. For some people it might be necessary... I can say with authority in my own case that drugs and alcohol were a hindrance to my creativity. Whatever voice I had was being silenced by just being too fucked-up and numb.“

The price was ultimately paid for that as he realised he simply couldn‘t write anymore. ‘ My ideas weren‘t good and I couldn‘t think clearly about anything and then I was caught up in that fear...“ Fear is a word Reznor continually returns to throughout this interview. Describing writing as ‘the hardest thing I never had to I don‘t have any good ideas? What if that was the best one did?“

But gradually, he has come to realize that each song may not be the best thing he has ever done, but nonetheless he will keep on writing until something feels good to him. “Being sober allows me to realise that I might suck, but so what? That‘s why ‘With Teeth‘ took that much time to come out. I wasted my time being afraid the whole time until I eventually reached the point where I was either dead or better and I chose to get better, but then I didn‘t know whether the price of getting better meant I could never write“

Slowly climbing back up his downward spiral, Reznor is clearly still fighting his insecurities but now he has an objective eye on the direction his music career is going to take. “I was at a point where I had been clean for a few years and I had taken all the pressure off my plate for a while and allowed myself to feel ok by being in my own skin. Now I have to answer the question, can I write sober and do have anything to say?“

However, Reznor hasn‘t faced his creative recovery alone. He also required a push from famed rock producer Rick Rubin. “I always admired Rick Rubin‘s work and known him as a friend for a good ten years at that point... I spent some time in his place and as I started writing, it went from being something terrifying to something fun. He was making me write two songs a week. I’d never ever done anything like that but somewhere along the line, I felt that I knew what I wanted to sound like.“

Regaining his confidence, Reznor realised he no longer needed assistance “That s not to say that what Rick was adding to it wasn‘t good; I just needed to do what I wanted to do without checking it with anybody, so we talked about it and it wasn‘t me firing him or anything like that, we just had been working informally. I just told him I needed to go off on my own and do this.“

If you‘re looking for proof that Reznor has finally faced down his creative demons, you have to look no further than Year Zero‘ – a complex and deeply impassioned collection of tracks that belay the rough and ready approach he initially took towards writing them. “I started writing on the last tour because I was really bored. I enjoy touring for the two hours a day on the stage but the other 22 hours can be a bit tedious... I never had any luck writing music on tour because I thought I had to have a full studio and candles lit and the right temperature and several hours to sit.‘

Indeed, Reznor gradually found the limitations of working on a laptop to be a great inspiration. “If I had a free half an hour here and there on a bus ride or backstage before a show, I’d sit down and see if I could come up with some musical idea. I didn‘t work on lyrics at all but I did stumble around on ideas until I came up with a way of doing things that really sounded inspiring to me. I didn‘t start off with a plan that this was going to happen but through needling around, I stumbled on some things that really excited me, and exciting is the kind of criteria to move forward.“

Once he had found a sound he liked he realized he needed a message behind it. Fortunately, it wasn‘t hard to find something to say. “It probably felt like the most focused work I have ever done. It felt like I had a sense of purpose. It was clear early on that it was going to be a record about the state of affairs of the world and much less about me and more about the way people are treating each other and interacting and how it feels from an American point of view.“

Reznor is clearly interested in raising some serious issues. In ‘Year Zero‘ he opens up his political stance and makes his bete noire the wheels of the American administration. Inspired by current affairs and the tragic events the world has seen unfolding on its TV screens, he has found that it is frighteningly easy to forecast the dystopian future that awaits us. “What I’m trying to get across with this record is a portrayal of what the world might be like if we continue down the path that we‘re on; the path that is dictated by greed and a lack of concern for or compassion for other people or any sense of human life, in a world that is run by big business.“

With maturity has come a real sense of worry arid concern about the way that the American administration is behaving and treating its people and the rest of the world. “It was only a few short years ago that we re-elected them because unfortunately the conservatives, the neo-cons have lined themselves up and portrayed themselves as being the world of Jesus Christ. They use polarising issues such as gay marriage to align themselves with the Christian side of things, and there‘s lots of these people and they‘re very organised and they came out on the road in the last presidential election and got this guy back in office.“

Naturally, central to his concerns with the American administration are the way they‘re running the war in Iraq.

“Every reason that we were told to go there was a lie. Seeing that the war has turned into what it is; that there wasn‘t a plan and there was no reason to go to Iraq. All that evidence is coming out. The facts are lining up but 1 don‘t think people realising that Bush is a liar can fix the problem because the infrastructure is set up to keep someone like that in power. Big business is powerful and they‘re not going to allow their fortunes and their future to be left to change.“

Added to this bleak political climate is a litany of other troubling issues which have become crucial to Reznor, “That swell of evangelical Christians that feel that it might be a good thing to promote the end of the world and the portrayal of all Muslims as evil that we see in the west, the fear of religion or fear of homosexuality or fear of the unknown, of the East. The manipulation of all news that we receive, this propaganda, it‘s hard to tell what‘s real and what isn‘t real... That‘s not a place I think we want to end up and I thought about writing about it and trying to make it as real and as scary as I can.“

Cleverly, Reznor has decided to talk about these issues by setting ‘Year Zero‘ in a fictional future where the damage has been done. The question he ran into upon completing the record was how to convey this idea without sledge-hammering it home in the liner notes. Toying briefly with the idea of making a movie that the album would soundtrack (something that would take too long and involve too much ass-kissing), ultimately he decided to sell the idea with a carefully co-ordinated viral campaign.

“For those who are interested, the fact of discovering it and piecing it together is part of the whole thing. It‘s not meant to be figured out by one person; it‘s meant to be sifted through by the community. It is satisfying for me to see that come together and hopefully in the process it inspires some dialogues and thoughts about some of these issues I’m discussing.“

The future is bright for Trent Reznor. You can see it in his eyes. He‘s learnt a vital lesson: it‘s not what people think of you that counts; it‘s what you have to think for yourself.

“I hope that there‘s some people out there that will want to get the album and get into it,“ he adds, “But I don‘t care if it can t be played on the radio I don t care if there aren’t any singles if the record label doesn’t like it, if it’s unmarketable, I don‘t give a fuck if there is a video for it or not. I’m doing what feels right for me to do,“ he insists very articulately, “And if it‘s not fashionable I don‘t care. I don‘t like what‘s fashionable right now.“

With these words and a strong desire to make up for the time being numb, he reveals that he has already started writing the second part of ‘Year Zero‘. Nothing it appears, can stop him now.



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