of Trent Reznor have often lamented that his earlier work in Nine Inch
Nails basically took a respected form of underground music-within the "industrial"
genre-and commercialized it to ill results. Then again, you could train
a monkey to sit in the basement and bang on pots and pans with a buzzsaw
and a vacuum cleaner blaring in the background. Mind you, said monkey would
not end up appearing on lofty lists such as this Pop 50, touring and collaborating
with the likes of David Bowie, nor setting up a creative shop in a former
funeral home in New Orleans to nurture the careers of other like-minded
developing musicians such as Marilyn Manson. Although that would be kind
the end of the day, nobody frets about the validity and merit of Nine Inch
Nails' output-and the creatively lethal trappings of the record industry
machine-more than Reznor himself. Reznor is a thought-provoking artist
who has also establishe his own label, Nothing Records, for, as he puts
it, "bands who want an environment where they're artistically free to do
whatever they want to do and who should be educated as to how the sleazy
record business can work." Currently, he's in the studio working on his
own record, the follow-up to Nine Inch Nails' last full length album, 1994's
The Downward Spiral. Here he provides a glimpse into the nature of his
Gun: What can you say about the new record right now?
Reznor: Well, everything I say will be used against me at some point....but
we've been working pretty steadily the past year on it. I went into it
kind of blindly, but with the intention of reinvention, which is a semi-pretentious
thing to say. But I kind of came to the end of what I thought the first
phase of Nine Inch Nails is or was, and it just seems like its time to
close that chapter and move on.
When we did the Ray Gun cover story about a year and a half ago, you had
just finished "The Perfect Drug" and the Lost Highway soundtrack and you
were planning to rent a place up in Big Sur to be alone and write the record.
What basically happened from then was I went up to Big Sur and the frame
of mind I was in....I look back now and it was somewhat unstable, kind
of unfocused, and I was a bit disenchanted with...the industry element
of the music.
Which has always been a concern of yours.
Yeah, I don't know if my skin softened up a bit, but things started to
bother me more.
Just the whole picture of being the popstar. I honestly got into this to
make music and try to make a difference that way. But you watch your personality
distort and you see people around you distort....the corporate side of
it, the selling of you as merchandise....
You have to somehow work within that.
Well, if you're a musician making music which has a degree of accessibility,
you are, at the bottom line, selling some sort of product. And I embrace
that to a degree because I think you can do it. The challenge is to have
some degree of accessibility, but make it interesting and expand the art
form. You're selling a CD in a store, but it can be a piece of art-something
that challenges people and challenges yourself. The great thing about popular
music-I don't mean "pop" music necessarily, but music of the time-is the
way people of that time can relate to it. But I just went through a phase....I
didn't really know what I wanted to do. Going up to Big Sur was interesting
and disastrous at the same time, being totally alone on the side of a mountain
an hour away from the nearest grocery store with just your dogs and a violent,
loud ocean. And it turned into that crashing rocks isolation chamber with
started to drive me insane.
Not to generalize what your music's all about, but it seems like that would
fuel you. That madness and isolation kind of thing.
It did and it didn't. It accentuated all those things, but it also almost
drove me crazy. I realized I needed to be around more people. So I came
out of that, then we started about a year ago, and I approached things
a bit differently than in the past. It was not planned out. It was open
for mutation. Right now, I'm looking at 45 songs and trying to work my
way through-and that's after weeding through to the ones where "That HAS
to be on the record." Pretty soon it was "It has to be double CD now."
Then it gets into pretension land, but what's happened is that there's
enough broad ranging stuff here that if we take one of each type of element
or different style then it doesn't make as much sense than if they're in
the company of similar elements. The songs need to be supported by the
other songs. It's aspirations are enormous...and its completely set up
to fail miserably right now.
So does that mean you think its really great?
I think it's....I know it's the best stuff I've ever done. I don't know
how fashionable the record will be, but it's really exciting to me right
It's definitely going to be a double record?
At this stage right now, I'd say yes. That's not gonna make the label happy,
but I think it makes sense. The key is not to make it a pondering thing
"Look what I can do, check it out. I can do 15 minute drony crap."
Is there any way to describe the general feeling of the record?
It's a lot slower. And sparser. And that doesn't mean happier or full of
ballads, because it certainly isn't that. But there's a lot of organic
instruments, there's a lot of...my guitar playing came into it's own doing
this. There's a lot of real instruments, like strings and stuff we experimented
with. Its not a cold sounding record necessarily.
Basically, the last song from Nine Inch Nails was "The Perfect Drug." Does
any of the stuff have that kind of feel?
Its nothing like that. In the context of doing a song for a movie that
was just kind of thrown together in two weeks experiment. I was listening
to a lot of drum 'n' bass then, and it just soaked its way through.
Did any of that element, or the newer "electronica" type stuff seep into
I listen to a fair amount of that, but I really don't think that in any
obvious way it has. I'd say that an old Tom Walts album sounds more like
some of this. It's sort of odd. This past Christmas, we all took a break
for a month, and when we got back and listened we all said it sounded more
like Nine Inch Nails than we thought it did before.
When you say "we"....The last time we talked you said you'd maybe like
to record this next record with more of a band unit instead of just yourself.
Well, one of the ideas I had for this wave of recording was to get more
of a playing band together, but that's been put on the back burner. I have
a great team of collaborators here now, but I basically just did this myself
again. I have no idea how we're gonna play it live. I put no effort into
that in the recording of it. I don't mean from a lazy point of view, but
in the studio if I think "It would sound good if we had an upright bass
here," we'll try it. I'd need at least six different complete bands and
an orchestra to get through some of this, but live we'll just have to reinterpret
and rethink it.
You also mentioned a number of possible collaborations. Dr. Dre, Ice Cube,
Rick Rubin as producer.
Dre and I are still in the works. We've almost gotten together several
times, but both of our schedules fucked it up. Cube and I worked on a Bowie
remix a bit, but I'm planning on having him involved on at least one thing
on this record and possibly another thing for Nothing Records, a compilation
we're going to put out. And Rick Rubin...there may be some degree of consultation/collaboration,
but I started doing this myself and realized I needed a kind of undiluted
amount of time to splatter my brains all over a piece of paper. I keep
getting flak that this record's taking a long time. It's not that there's
no ideas and I'm grasping at straws. There are too many ideas right now
and.....I'll put it out when it's ready. It'll probably be done by the
end of the summer and come out sometime in the fall.
So did the process wind up being enjoyable?
It's been fun. It got me back on track because I'd do something and I'd
realize, "I do enjoy this." That's why I was in it in the first place-not
to get into and arguing match with some guy in another band or to be sad
because I was number two instead of number one and shit like that. Though
you can't help but let it effect you.
No matter how thick-skinned you are.
It started wearing me down and I realized this whole career just hadn't
really filled that hole that I've always had to some degree. So it's been
an awakening process. It's like I've come out of a cloud of depression
and aimlessness-and once again music has come through to guide me along
and save me.
Again, not to generalize what you're all about...but did that translate
into the record having any of that "emerging out of the darkness" kind
There's quite an element of darkness but...I'd say it's a David Cronenberg
movie instead of Tetsuo the Iron Man. This one's much less of a baseball
bat in the head.000000
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