Back in circulation: Nine Inch Nails out touring,
promoting new album
The hibernation is over.
It was a long winter for Trent Reznor -- more than
two years holed up in
his New Orleans studio, a former funeral parlor,
meticulously crafting the
follow-up to Nine Inch Nails' magnum opus, "The
Not that he was exactly uncomfortable there. Reznor
is the quintessential
creative loner, an artist who plumbs the depths of
his psyche and drags out
all the messiness he finds there. His music has long
not-so-delicate notion of self-isolation, the battle
between "I" and "them,"
and the new album's title track, "The Fragile,"
sustains that theme: "We'll
find the perfect place to go where we can run and
hide/I'll build a wall and
we can keep them on the other side."
But it's time to crawl out for a bit. So the man who
made industrial music
palatable for the masses -- detonating classic pop
hooks with 3-ton
explosives -- is back on the concert trail. NIN will
stop at Omaha's Civic
Auditorium Tuesday night.
On tour, says Reznor, "it's a different kind of
isolation that creeps up.
Especially when you're on the road a long time.
You're surrounded by
everybody but still separated from everybody. You're
rarely connected on
a one-to-one, personal-type level."
Upon its release in September, "The Fragile" fetched
mixed reviews from
critics and fans; at two discs and 23 tracks, the
incessantly layered, wildly
lurching album was tough to digest. By the end of
the year, they'd gotten it.
The album landed on myriad top 10 lists -- including
No. 1 in Spin
magazine -- and some devotees have chalked it up as
the best work of
The rock world has morphed dramatically since Nine
Inch Nails incarnated
Woodstock '94 and Gen X rock with a razor-edged,
performance. For Reznor himself, life has been
transformed. The five-year
gap between Nine Inch Nails albums wasn't merely a
product of the artist's
legendary perfectionism: Amid it all, he lost his
grandmother, who had
raised him, and battled disillusionment with
Sitting down to talk about his return to the concert
world, Reznor was
reliably thoughtful and affable in discussing his
Q: If a voice came from on high and demanded that
you choose one or the
other -- studio or stage -- which would it be?
A: I'd hate to have to choose either one, but today
it would have to be the
studio. That's where my best work comes from. It's
soul-mining, all about
creativity. There's no limit, no audience expecting
anything, nothing except
what can come out of your head. Live, it's a lot of
responsibility -- you
need to be here at a certain time, you need to play
this certain song because
people want to hear it. That's not to say that when
you're connecting it's not
the greatest feeling in the world. But forced to
make a choice, the art I
create in the studio would be it.
Q: You're obviously not gripped by commercial
considerations -- three
full-length albums in 10 years isn't a mark of
hunger for sales. But there had
to be some relief in the success of "The Fragile"
(which debuted at No. 1),
knowing that people still wanted to hear what you
had to say musically.
A: Very much so. I've convinced myself we're
starting from scratch. I didn't
know if everyone was still out there. I had to tell
myself, it's a new era, a
new climate. A lot of things have changed. The
business has changed --
record labels don't appear to like music anymore.
It's a very hostile climate
So I put out a record that's longer than most,
denser than most, costs more
than most, requires you to listen harder. What could
I expect? I'm surprised
with the success it's had. I'm also surprised with
the lack of support
Seagrams (owner of Interscope Records) has given it.
The development of
art means nothing to them. It's all, "What's the
next Britney Spears?" That's
disheartening to see a climate like that, to see
your favorite labels like 4AD
or Creation evaporate.
Q: After being quarantined in the studio so long, I
imagine stepping back
out into the world was kind of startling.
A: It's a new Backstreet Boys world. Socially, I'm a
hermit by nature. My
living in New Orleans reinforces that. Then to come
out, to have to be on
stage, presenting my material to people ... it's
shifting gears from where
every day I made my own schedule.
Q: There was so much hope in the early '90s that
rock was going to be
saved. It's got to be distressing to see that the
cycle has just reverted back
to the fluffy stuff.
A: It is distressing, and I like to think there are
people like me and you who
demand depth and want to be moved by music and
intrigued and want to be challenged by it. I can't
go around believing we're
part of the last generation that thought of music
that way. The business has
changed. It's not so much that people's taste has
changed as it is the labels
force-feeding them. I guess I can sit back and bitch
about it or make music
that matters and hope people listen.
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