Trent Reznor Surfaces From Self-Imposed Exile To Reveal Mental Torment
Nine Inch Nails leader speaks about dark period that first delayed, then
informed upcoming The Fragile.
Dressed all in black and seated in a red velvet chair, Nine Inch Nails leader Trent Reznor
surfaced from a self-imposed exile Thursday (Sept. 9) to discuss what he said was the mental
torment that largely has kept him off the music scene since 1995.
Reznor, sporting short black hair and smiling weakly at times, discussed NIN's upcoming
third full-length album, The Fragile, with MTV reporter Kurt Loder. He hadn't spoken in depth
to the media in nearly five years.
"I was really unhappy, and I was really disillusioned with a lot of things, and I didn't trust
anybody," Reznor said about the time following what he described as a falling-out with former
protégé Marilyn Manson in 1996. He didn't elaborate on what happened between the two.
"I wasn't sure what I wanted to say musically, and so I didn't,"
Reznor said. "I thought, rather than put a record out that was an
unfocused mess ... I really wasn't ready as a person."
Reznor said part of what held up the recording of The Fragile — a
two-CD set due Sept. 21 — was his grief over the 1997 death of his
grandmother, who raised him. Consequently, the album is rife with
the kind of enigmatic, morose titles on which the industrial-rock
band has built its career.
Reznor, in a recent statement, described the music on the album
as a chronicle of "systems failing and things sort of falling apart."
Among the 23 songs slated for the album, which is more than 100
minutes long, are "Somewhat Damaged," "The Wretched," "The
Great Below," "Into the Void," "Ripe (With Decay)" and the new
single "We're in This Together" (RealAudio excerpt).
To get to a point where he felt he could communicate through
music again, Reznor said he spent a lot of time watching the
disturbing 1976 Martin Scorsese movie "Taxi Driver." In the film,
Robert De Niro played a man descending into madness.
In a voice-over during the airing of the interview, Loder said Reznor
claimed his obsession with "Taxi Driver" inspired his 1997
collaboration with veteran rocker David Bowie on the video for
Bowie's song "I'm Afraid of Americans."
"Oddly at the time," Reznor said, "I was on a kick of watching 'Taxi Driver' for some reason. ...
I think I was losing it there. This was right at the time where I was ... 'What am I going to do?
I'll just watch "Taxi Driver" again. Maybe that will make me feel better.' And it didn't. I don't
recommend that anybody do that."
Reznor said he sought help getting out of his funk by visiting a therapist, but ultimately he
decided he had to find his own way. "I reached a point where I said I just want to deal with
things on my own terms," Reznor said.
In the statement describing The Fragile, Reznor said it features a number of unusual stringed
On previous records, NIN's sound was marked by heavy blasts of distorted guitar,
programmed drums and keyboards. Reznor experimented with stringed instruments on the
1997 single "The Perfect Drug," from the "Lost Highway" soundtrack. That song featured what
sounds like frantically plucked violin strings over a skittering jungle beat.
The Fragile was produced by Reznor and engineer/mixer Alan Moulder at Reznor's New
Orleans studio over the past two years.
The album features the work of NIN keyboardist/drummer Charlie Clouser and guitarist Danny
Lohner. Also expected to appear on the album are former King Crimson guitarist Adrian Belew
(who also lent a hand on NIN's most recent album of new material, 1994's The Downward
Spiral). Other players are ex-Ministry drummer Bill Rieflin, former Chic/Powerstation drummer
Tony Thompson and keyboardist Mike Garson, who has played with the Smashing Pumpkins
and David Bowie.
Among the songs that already have been released are the moody ballad "The Day the World
Went Away" (RealAudio excerpt) and the hard-rocking "Starfuckers, Inc." (RealAudio
excerpt), which were issued in single form.
The Fragile will be NIN's third studio album. In addition to their 1989 debut, Pretty Hate
Machine, featuring the alternative hit "Head Like a Hole" (RealAudio excerpt), and The
Downward Spiral, NIN have released a number of remix projects, including 1992's Broken and
Fixed EPs and 1995's Further Down the Spiral.
Reznor told Loder another difficulty he faced in following up The Downward Spiral was what he
described as intense pressure to "save" rock 'n' roll. "All during this time, I'm getting, 'Please
come save rock,' " Reznor said.
"I don't have to save rock," he said with a slight grin. "I don't even like rock that much."
About two years ago, Reznor decided it was finally time to get his recording career back on
track, he said.
"It came down to really just sitting down and facing myself again and [remembering] that
playing music has always saved me in the past," Reznor said, "and made me feel like I had
something to offer."
Among the revelations Reznor offered about the new album was the origin of some ominous
choruses of caterwauling vocals that Loder suggested mark several songs.
"Typically, 11 at night, we'd figure we need some people to yell something, so we'd empty out
the bar across the street," Reznor deadpanned. "And a bunch of drunk guys come in and
mumble something. I think we assembled the most atonal group of females I've ever heard.
They're just comically horrendous."
Senior Writer Gil Kaufman (SonicNet is a division of MTV Interactive.)
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