NIN's Trent Reznor Opens Up Just As His Tour Does
As European outing gets under way, reclusive
singer says years of painful soul searching led to
MILAN, Italy — Nine Inch Nails mastermind Trent Reznor is talking —
and not to himself.
He's chatting with the press, telling them about his life and his music,
where it's been and where it's going, and what it all comes from. And
when you're talking about Reznor, that's worth noting.
"I had to do some soul searching to see what was inside of me to record
this album," Reznor said during a press conference Tuesday at the
Sheraton Hotel. "[1994's] The Downward Spiral was darker, because it
contained what I felt at that time. Right now I feel more mature, and I
think The Fragile is a more complex and mature work."
The enigmatic and reclusive songwriter, known for his
dark, industrial-rock sound and pained lyrics, said that
while The Fragile may be as moody and disturbed as
his others, it shows signs of a man emerging from his
pain and finding himself.
Like most of his work, this record chronicles what the
34-year-old singer says he has suffered through in the
past five years.
Reznor said it took the long-awaited release of The
Fragile, the third NIN album, to coax him from the
isolation in which he had immersed himself over the
past five years.
Not only is Reznor making appearances, albeit only a
few, to talk about the record, but he has embarked with
his four-piece backing band on an 11-date European
tour. The outing, which began Sunday in Barcelona,
Spain, is the band's first in almost four years.
And he has decided to talk extensively to the press,
who he avoided for nearly five years.
"I spent the last two and a half years in the studio
working on this album in New Orleans. I was a shell of
isolation," Reznor explained to a room of about 40
journalists. The press conference took place the day
before his Wednesday concert at Alcatraz.
He arrived accompanied by the members of Nine Inch Nails' live band —
Jerome Dillon, Danny Lohner, Charlie Clouser and Robin Finck — who
sat on each side of Reznor at a long table. But even if the reporters in the
room were directed to ask questions to all bandmembers, and even if the
other bandmembers were prepared to answer back, Reznor alone acted
as the spokesperson.
Dressed in his trademark black, and speaking slowly in a low voice, the
NIN frontman explained that he willingly made himself a recluse in the
years that followed The Downward Spiral.
But in exiling himself, he found that he became more and more detached
from the outside world, he said.
"I knew there was an inherent danger in doing that; that the best result
could have been to find out what I had in my mind and that that was more
unique than communicating what was going on around me. But the worst
result could have been to be left with the stillness that comes when
there's not much going on around you."
The result, the double-CD The Fragile, has received widespread critical
acclaim, even though it has fallen steadily on the Billboard 200 albums
chart since it debuted at #1 with sales of 228,000 copies. For the week
ending Nov. 14, the two-CD set sat at #106 with sales of 15,389.
Nevertheless, the album has been certified platinum (1 million units
shipped) by the Recording Industry Association of America. On the
album's 23 tracks, Reznor moves from hard rockers, such as
"Starfuckers, Inc.," to such multilayered songs as the current single,
"We're in this Together" (RealAudio excerpt), which includes guitars,
keyboards and electronics.
Reznor's lengthy period of isolation left him free of any outside musical
influences, other than the music he choose to be exposed to, he said.
And while the tortured songwriter said he paid some attention to the
growing musical trends of the past few years, such as electronica, he
said that particular trend didn't move him.
"I'm not really impressed by what's going around. I'm not saying I'm better
than that, but I'm not impressed." Reznor said. "From an American
perspective, it seemed that electronica was going to take over the world,
and that just didn't happen.
"I spent a bit of time exploring club music and drum & bass, and I found
that interesting," he added. "But I spent more time trying to like that
music more than really liking it."
Nine Inch Nails released their first album, Pretty Hate Machine, in 1989,
developing a sound that by the early '90s had blossomed into a critically
acclaimed crossover of industrial music and pop melodies. It is a sound
that has since influenced countless artists.
Songs such as "Head Like a Hole" (RealAudio excerpt) showcased the
dark and self-obsessed mood of Reznor's lyrics: "Bow down before the
one you serve/ You're going to get what you deserve."
The Downward Spiral established Reznor as one of rock's most popular
and notable performers. The album spawned two hit singles, "Closer" and
"March of the Pigs," and is certified four-times platinum by the RIAA. It
peaked at #2 on the Billboard 200 albums chart.
Reznor, who works mostly as a one-man band in the studio and writes all
of NIN's songs, explained that the painful feelings of his music come out
of his personal struggles. He has based all of his work on those feelings,
In wrapping up his commentary on the album and the past five years of
his life, Reznor made a brief reference to his much-talked-about falling out
with former protégé Marilyn Manson.
Though he didn't elaborate on what happened between the two, when a
journalist asked what had sparked the bad feelings and what was his
relationship with the shock rocker now, Reznor replied, "It was personal,
and we're friends now."
Contributing Editor Gianni Sibilla reports:
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is provided courtesy Keith Duemling and Tracy Thompson from the collection previously
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