One: Trent Reznor on Year Zero
You've said that writing Year Zero is an example in what inspiration you
followed. Is that because you feel what's going on in the world right now is too
big to ignore?
frankly that's what I think is happening. Any time I start working on a record
I realise that the only thing I can talk about with any authority is something
that I truly feel. Up until this point my means of doing that was opening up my
journal and putting music to it. But over the last few years, what's happening
with the world has become really important to me. I don't know if that's a
product of getting older, or if the world seems a lot less sane than it might
have several years ago."
So this was quite a different process to making
your last album 'With Teeth'?
think I felt strangely at ease with myself and my confidence was back. When I
look at how I wrote 'With Teeth' I was pretty afraid because I hadn't written
in a long time. I was relatively newly sober, my life seemed weird- good, but
different- and I was cautious through that whole process. On this record I felt
like I wanted to take a chance.
There's a difference between being an artist with
an opinion and being a political artist. To what extent are you wary of
crossing that line?
"I wanted to
flex my fictional muscles a bit with this record and see what happened. I have
a love of science fiction, so I set it in fiction and I set it in the future.
The ultimate goal was for it to mention some of the characters that may have
inspired parts of the story, but not to sound preachy and not time-stamped to
be 2007. I wanted to do something that was seductive enough that it could suck
people into it, but at the core could get into some issues that need to be
thought about. So it's entertainment, but it has a little more depth if you
choose to seek that out."
On 'With Teeth' you deliberately went back to
writing songs but on 'Year Zero' you've done almost the opposite with collages
"Yeah, I didn't really care about songs on this
one. I wanted to make something that conveys a certain feeling and gets the
point across. If it breaks some of the rules, I don't care."
At what point did you realise that 'Year Zero' was
going to be a concept album?
"On the last tour I had a nice laptop rig set up
with some software that I really felt was inspirational. If I had a spare 20
minutes I could come up with a cool beat or passage or chunk of sound, so I had
the time to stumble into the thing that felt good to me musically. That
happened to be kind of noisy, sample-based, loop-based collages of sound."
And in terms of the lyrics?
"I started formally writing last summer when I
moved out in the woods for three months. I thought I'd see what would happen if
I wrote a story about the future and what it could be like if we continue down
this path of madness that we, the United States, seem to be on; somewhere everything is based on greed, where human
life doesn't mean much, and no one cares about anything except their own
preservation. I wrote this full place out before any words or lyrics. Then I
thought of writing the songs as if they were from the points of view of people
living in this world, and that's how the record came about. It had happened
quickly and it happened as an experiment."
Tell us about the campaign around 'Year Zero'....
"I had a problem when I finished the record
because it was like I'd written the soundtrack to a movie that wasn't there.
But I had written an elaborate backdrop and I wanted to find a way to tell that
story where you experience what it's like to be in that world. We decided to do
it by trying to make the world real, so people are starting to uncover things.
Like there are a lot of websites that seem to have been sent back from the
future by this place accidentally. I'm watching it unfold on message boards and
fan sites and it's cool to see it happen. The point is that some of the sites
you visit and some of the things you discover are pretty disturbing and they
induce a sense of paranoid. Shortly after the record is released the community
will have pieced together a pretty clear picture of the whole place.
You're referring to 'Year Zero' as part one. Does
that mean there's even more to come?
"We're not touring very much with this record but
I'm going to go back home and write the conclusion to this, because it doesn't
resolve. This record takes place at a pivotal point in mankind's existence and
on the next record I'm deciding the fate of the world. So the next plan is to
have the next record out around the same time next year, if I can pull it
TWO: TRENT ON THE NINE INCH NAILS LEGACY
When you were working on (debut album) ‘Pretty Hate Machine‘ did you
have a vision of what you wanted Nine Inch Nails to be?
“I did. ‘Pretty
Hate Machine‘ was the result of about two years of messing around with
equipment at nights in the studio where I worked and really trying to figure
out what I had to say. One time I set a journal entry to music. I never
intended anyone would ever hear it because it was too personal. But when I
finally let someone hear it and they reacted the way they did, I learned that
people could pick up on the fact that it feels genuine and there’s truth behind
it. That was when I started to focus Nine Inch Nails into some thing. Musically
I was inspired by bands on the Wax Trax! label, Skinny Puppy and Ministry. But
the vibe was a bit different to that because it was coming out of the innermost
pain and private places.“
Can you still identify with (94’s) The Downward Spiral‘ and the person
who made it?
‘real‘ life now, whatever that is, I don’t feel that way. Getting sober is a
catalyst but it‘s also examining my own life, which comes from maturity and
asking questions. I’m a lot less at war with myself than I used to be. It
seemed like I was the enemy and I would set myself up to fail. I had very low
self-esteem and I felt like I didn‘t deserve anything I got. I’m not sure where
all that comes from – I’m working on it - but I’m not quite that way as much. I
can play those songs live because it‘s still in me and it doesn‘t feel
irrelevant, but I couldn‘t write ‘The Downward Spiral’ again.“
There seems to be a perception that (99‘s) ‘The Fragile‘ is your least
The process of making ‘The Fragile‘ was the best and worst of times. I know now
what my life was involved in then and I wasn‘t in a good place. I was in denial
and l was slipping down the hole. My brain wasn‘t working right at all so I found
ways that did work and I would exploit them. I would just play and play and
experiment. I could write music but it was like 1 had cotton in my head. So
it‘s frustrating for me to hear that record on some levels, but an other levels
I’m very, very proud of it.“
Is there a least favourite album?
asked me today it would be ‘With Teeth‘. It may not be tomorrow but it is right
now, just because the record I just made is much more me being me. Ialways fear
the day when the time comes to make a new record and it feels like I’m out of
ideas. I feel the opposite of that right now, but everybody starts making
really shitty records at same point in their career so I know it‘s coming!“
Were you aware when you wrote ‘Hurt‘ that it had the potential to become
such a powerful and important song?
wasn‘t. I wrote that at the very end of ‘The Downward Spiral‘ and I remember
that being one of the songs where you put your pen down and it just comes out.
I wrote it because I felt the record needed an ending. I wanted something that
felt remorseful, reflective, bittersweet and gentle. I knew when I finished it
I really liked it and it was powerful. But the version that‘s an ‘The Downward
Spiral‘ I chose to hide in noise because I didn‘t want it to seem too obvious
and that kept it pretty underground for a while. It‘s one of my favourite songs
and probably the best ‘sang‘ I‘ve written. It‘s certainly one of the ones I’m
most proud of.“
What did the Johnny Cash cover mean to you?
very flattering. Any time someone chooses to cover your song it‘s very
flattering. But when an excellent songwriter chooses to cover your song,
especially someone with the history of Johnny Cash, it blew me away. Let alone
the fact that it became a sort of eulogy for him. It‘s weird to think that I
know right where I was sitting when I wrote it. I was sitting on my bed out in
LA at the Sharon Tate house, jotting these words dawn that came out of some
late night moment of feeling a certain way. I whispered the song into a mic in
the studio quickly at the end of the record, and a few years later this guy
inhabits the song and makes it his own. The recognition I got from that was
much, much, much more satisfying than something like a Grammy. It‘s up there
with the most important moments in my life in terms of feeling appreciated.“
It‘s always such an amazing moment live. Is it for you too?
weird, isn‘t it? In the States there‘s always some asshole shouting ‘Trent!‘ in
the quiet bit, but it‘s flattering to see how people respond over here. I‘ve
been trying to see how quiet I can get that sang because I can tell if the
audience is with me or not. To see a crowd moshing on One song and then to be
able to bring them right down a minute later feels good to me. That‘s an
The album ‘Year
Zero‘ is out on April 16 an the single ‘Survivalism‘ is out now, both on
Bassist Jeordie White on Nine Inch Nails versus Marilyn Manson...
Nails is actually work - it‘s fun but it‘s challenging. With Marilyn Manson I
was just on autopilot doing what I do and people watched me. With this I have
to live up to certain expectations that aren‘t mine. Any artist demands a
certain perfection and working with anyone‘s challenging. But Trent‘s probably
a better role model. He’s a better boss to have, it you want to call him that.
Jeordie White on the highlights of being in Nine Inch Nails...
start to get bored in this band Trent always pulls out something different that‘s
neat to be involved in. It never ceases to amaze me, all the stuff he does that’s
outside the music. This album especially has got a whole other life to it,
which is really fun. Obviously the music impresses me, but it‘s also all the
other stuff, like Trent going to places with music and performance that no
one‘s gone to before.“
Drummer Josh Freese on playing in Nine Inch Nails...
challenging than I thought it would be and it‘s nice to work alongside someone
who‘s so focused and cares so much about every aspect. Trent
is so involved every step of the way. You‘ve got to be real attentive and on
your toes all the time. It I was slacking at all he would let me know, but then
I probably wouldn‘t be here. He deserves to have the best people working for
Josh Freese on ‘Year Zero‘...
Trent‘s doing his best stuff right now and I really can‘t say that about a lot
of artists still making records. He still seems hungry and passionate. ‘Year
Zero‘ is getting back to the essence of what Nine Inch Nails is about. It‘s
really a classic Nine Inch Nails record without sounding dated. It sounds
modern and progressive and he‘s still pushing boundaries.“
Keyboardist Alessandro Cortini on joining Nine Inch Nails...
probably the least ‘hired gun’ gig I‘ve done because there‘s so much to do and it‘s
always challenging. The last two years have been stressful because no matter
how much people think, Wow, you’re in one of the biggest rock bands in the
world!‘ It‘s still a job, but in a good way for sure. I don‘t mind going to sleep
and feeling tired because I feel like I‘ve done work.“
Alessandro Cortini on Trent‘s best qualities
admire most is the fact that he can be so determined to do something,
especially in a working environment. If he starts working an something he‘s
going to get it done, which is something that a lot of people don’t do. Also,
he reinvents himself all the time. The new album sounds really innovative to me
and there‘s always something to grab your attention.‘
Guitarist Aaron North on leaving The Icarus Line for Nine Inch Nails...
from a band that was all about hate and my preconception was that it would be
the same in Nine Inch Nails. The Icarus Line took the sex, drugs and rock ‘n‘
roll thing to the extreme and I didn’t want to do that anymore. When I started
hanging out with Trent and Jeordie I realised that here were two people who had
done all that shit too but bad come through it. Trent
probably took more cocaine than anybody I know and drank himself almost to
death. But they showed me there‘s life on the other side and it was like a new
family to me.“
Aaron North on the concept for ‘Year Zero‘...
record is the first one where the songs aren‘t about Trent.
They‘re not about his battles because there are other demons beside the ones
that are inside. There‘s shit going an outside that needs to be addressed,
because it‘s not being addressed by enough people. It‘s bald for Trent to say
the kind of things he’s saying an this record, but why aren‘t more, younger
bands saying something? Because they‘re chicken shit.“
Aaron North on his onstage antics...
“I did the
same shit in The Icarus Line for years. Once l was in Nine Inch Nails 1 didn‘t
even ask what to do, it was take it or leave it. Trent
knew my old band so he knew what was corning. So much bullshit stacks up during
the whole day, so it‘s my release valve. I have to freak out or it‘ll bottle up
and III explode. Plus, I have a different perception of Nine Inch Nails than
the rest of the guys. I grew up watching the videos on MTV and to me it looked
like the most reckless dudes bouncing oft each other and breaking shit, and
that was a huge part of the appeal.”