Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree explains why he
was blown away by the industrial monolith that is Trent Reznor‘s “masterpiece“.
Interview: Jerry Ewing
I got into Nine Inch Nails with the previous
album, The Downward Spiral. I can‘t
remember why I particularly picked up on them, but it totally blew me away when
I got it in 1994. Production-wise it sounded like nothing I’d ever heard
before. And I‘ve always loved industrial music, very repetitive music. That‘s
something I‘ve kind of grown up with too. Reznor was using industrial music and
fusing it with the great albums I grew up with in the 70s, the progressive rock
and concept albums. He was doing that in a completely contemporary way. The
same kind of ambition and a very alienated perspective on the world, almost in
the tradition of people like Roger Waters in his lyrical perspective. And no
less ambitious when it came to making huge monolithic statement records.
The Fragile is really the zenith of that for
Trent Reznor. In a sense everything has been a continuation of The Downward Spiral.
“The scale of The Fragile is huge. He worked on the record for five years, and
there‘s something about it. Two hours of music that has everything from
instrumental interludes and instrumental overtures to conceptual continuity and
themes that would reappear in later songs. it seems to have a scale and a
conceptual unity that maybe the other records hint at. This, for me, was the
“It also has a lot of other musical forces; [guitarist]
Adrian Belew is on the record, as is Mike Garson, the piano player who worked
with David Bowie on Aladdin Sane.
There‘s a sense he‘s reaching out to other generations of musicians. Which is
something that Porcupine Tree have also done recently. And I like that feeling
of completing the circle in terms of using musicians from other generations.
Bob Ezrin, who worked on that other great concept album of the 70s, [ Lou Reed‘s]
Berlin, is credited with providing
continuity and flow‘ as well. And I definitely see The Fragile in that conceptual tradition for sure
“I like to think there are parallels between
what we do and what Reznor does in Nine Inch Nails. Maybe I’m flattering
myself. The people who have always influenced me are not the musicians, not
even the singers, but the auteurs, the people who have the whole vision for the
whole song and the whole sound. You have someone like Reznor, who thinks of an
album on a higher level than a collection of catchy radio songs. He‘s created a
whole aesthetic vision that‘s totally his own.