The Pleasure of Pain
If you want people to think you're darkly twisted, where better to set up shop than in the
California house where Charles Manson's minions murdered Sharon Tate and friends on a still
night in 1969?
Trent Reznor - who is, in essence, the one-man industrial-rock band Nine Inch Nails - has
taken over the notorious house perched on a promontory with a stunning view of Beverly Hills.
Having temporarily moved from New Orleans, he is living and working there, recording Nine Inch
Nails' second full album in a studio he's fitted into the white-walled living room where Tate
Given the brutal nature of Reznor's music, the house seems fitting. But sitting in a
dimly lit corner of the studio, swiveling in an office chair and biting his fingures, he
explains that setting this site was the result of serendipity, not willful perversity or
conscious image mongering.
"It's a coincidence," says Reznor, who is twenty seven, swearing that he decided to rent
the house before knowing of its notorious past. "When I found out what it was, it was even
cooler. But it's a cool house anyway and on top of that has a very interesting story behind it.
"The whole thing of living out here, I didn't even think of it," Reznor says. "I didn't
go on a press campaign saying 'I live in Sharon Tate's house, and I'm really spooky'."
Not spooky at all. The sketchy public image of Reznor is of an obsessive, moody and
demanding recluse. He seems cynically willing to let that stand unchallenged. "I'm the lyrics,
that's me," he says, referring to the images of hopelessness and degradation that mark his work.
that gives enough of me away. I don't want to talk about who I'm dating or if I'm an asshole in
real life. Everyone assumes I am, so okay."
On this drizzly Sunday afternoon, though, the trait that makes the biggest impression is
of a still-young man worried about his ailing golden Labrador, which he just brought back from
an emergency trip to the vet.
But he is unquestionably spooked, haunted by his own formidable ghosts. The music that
made Reznor industrial rock's first bona fide mainstream star - by virtue of 2989's bleak yet
catchy single "Head Like a Hole" and NIN's stealing the show as the underdog hero of the 1991
Lolapalooza tour - speaks of edge-of-madness paranoia and disconsolate submission. The recent
EP BROKEN, which debuted at a remarkable Number Seven on the Billboard pop-album chart, is one
of the most anguished, fiercely haunted collections ever to crack the Top Ten, echoing in part
Reznor's frusterations with the contract wrangling and ego wrs between himself and TVT Records
head Steve Gorrlieb, which prevented him from recording for two years.
The rural-Pennsylvanian native never wanted to do anything but to make music since he was
a preteen piano student and, later, teenage rock fan infatuated wth Kiss and Pink Floyd. This
threat to his pursuits was almost unbearable.
"My whole life became my career, essentially," Reznor says. "And then I was faced with
the fact that my career could easily have been over becasue the people that controlled it are
fucking assholes. It's a horrible feeling. On one hand, Nine Inch Nails had a platinum album
[1988's PRETTY HATE MACHINE]. On the other hand, I thought it was over because I was not doing
another album for Gottlieb. And I was told litigation [to get off the label] would have taken
two years. That's where a lot of the rage on BROKEN came from."
That also, it would seem, is where the images of the first video from the EP clip for the
song "Happiness in Slavery" shows a dour man dutifully submitting to unspeakable horrors in a
mechanical dungeon. It shocked even the most jaded music-industry insiders and, needless to
say, never got close to airing on MTV, save for a few very brief excerpts in new reports
"It wasn't a conscious decision to make the most vulgar thing we could do to get press,"
Reznor says, "which it could be easily be attacked as being. But it was a chance for me to
finally be able to do something I wanted without having to ask someone who has no fucking idea.
The question came up 'how far can we take this?' I said: 'Let's just take it as far as we think
right. Forget that it's a music video, forget that it's basically a promotional clip, forget
standards and censorship.' Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, it's
The freedom to make such a video comes from a complicated deal that allowed Jimmy Iovine's
Interscope Records, which released BROKEN, and a collection of remixes called FIXED. But don't
look for that freedon to bring about any mood life for the next album, which Reznor hopes to
release before summer, with at least a year of touring with a band to follow.
"I realize the strength of Nine Inch Nails - there's not much room for happy songs,"
Reznor says. "And I like that, I don't want that to change."
What changed is the status and prominence of the style of music Reznor makes. "I think
we're largerly responsible for a lot of that attension," he says. "After Lollapalooza, this
band came out of nowhere, apparently, to major-label ears. I think the knee-jerk reaction to
that is where you see Front 242 now has a deal with Epic, the Thrill Kill Kult is on Interscope,
Ministry's doing great, Skinny Puppy's looking for a deal, which they'll get."
The downside is that "in a lot of ways I'm looked at as the sellout of the whole genre,"
Reznor says, because he brought the industrial rock out of it's exclusive cult status adn into
the pop limelight. Reznor acknowledges that he accusations weigh on him a bit, but then so do
concerns that fans of "Head Like a Hole" might have found the less accessible BROKEN material
off-putting. How any of this will play on the next album, he's not yet sure.
Perhaps looking for guidence, he does seem open to inspitation from beyond as he prepares
to go back to his slow, methodical work this day. Luckily, he's got something that might
balance whatever negative vibes are hanging in the house: a Mellotron that once belonged to John
Lennon, on loan to Reznor from Ted Field, the billionaire who is the money behind Interscope. A
mischievous twinkle in his eye, Reznor remarks: "We've got John Lennon and CHARLES MANSON in
Rolling Stone, January 1993 - By Steve Hochman
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is provided courtesy Keith Duemling and Tracy Thompson from the collection previously
located at SUS.