May 2000

Up From The Downward Spiral

Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor exorcises his personal demons on the "Fragility V2.0' tour

By Ian D'Giff. Ian D'Giff is a freelance writer.

IT'S BEEN FIVE long years since Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails last unleashed their digitized mayhem and ferocious bombast at a live show or released a full-length studio album -but we've all heard that story. Reznor couldn't handle the fame. He couldn't handle the pressures of the road. He wound up hating himself and became clinically depressed. So why will the "Fragility v2.0" tour be any easier than the last, and how has Reznor changed so that he'll be better able to cope? Perhaps passing glimpses of those questions can be found when NIN takes the stage for two shows May 9 and 10, at Madison Square Garden and Nassau Coliseum, respectively.

Unfortunately, if Reznor has changed, he's done a good job of obscuring it.

The same morbid curiosity that led him to record 1994's "The Downward Spiral"-a mechanized marriage of sex and death, in the infamous Hollywood Hills home where Charlie Manson's disciples butchered Sharon Tate-is still alive and well.

For his latest studio effort, "The Fragile"-which is easily interpreted as documenting the systematic meltdown and subsequent reconstruction of Reznor's still-wounded psyche-he moved his studio to a renovated funeral home in New Orleans. He even took the front door from the Tate residence with him.

Presumably, change is in the eye of the beholder. But change is slow, and Reznor now comes off as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

It seems the "Downward Spiral" tour was traumatic for Reznor.

"At the end of two and a half years of touring, we got off the bus, and everything was different," he said in Rolling Stone. "I saw myself change on tour, because I could. It was like, 'You mean, I can treat you like ---and get everything I'm supposed to? Great!'" Ironically, the sadistic persona didn't suit him.

"The 'Downward Spiral' came true," he told USA Today. "The process was healthy, but I arrived at a very raw place. I neglected things that make me human. I gave up friends and relationships, thinking, 'I'll get to that later.' I wasn't strong enough to make another record. I wasn't tough enough to be critiqued and picked at. I wanted to hide out and get away from me." Reznor was soon being treated by a psychiatrist who placed him on anti-depressants (Effexor and Paxil), but that didn't last long.

"I was in an abnormally positive mood all the time," he recently told Spin.

This ultimately led Reznor to quit therapy.

"I turned a corner, and I didn't need someone chewing at me to do things I didn't feel were right for me, like medication," he said in Rolling Stone. "But that whole procedure made me realize I didn't like myself anymore and that I had to come to terms with certain things." So he poured himself into his music. His self-prescribed, personalized therapy, if you will.

"I remember sitting down and playing the piano and thinking, 'How did I ever forget that this is what brought me joy? How did I let that happen?' It's not doing interviews, it's not live shows, not backstage passes and bank accounts...I did this because I love music," he said.

"The Fragile" provided Reznor's first steps out of the black. "To me this record is an attempt at repair. It attempts to put the pieces back together," he said. But that was just the beginning.

These days, Reznor's intense self-prescribed therapy plays out every night on tour, where he escapes into his music and faces down his demons. And it seems Reznor's skies are finally beginning to clear.

"This is the bottom, the foundation for me," Reznor said recently. "I haven't gotten my whole life-creed thing down yet, but it's grown by leaps and bounds from where it was a few years ago. Maybe it's a maturity/age thing, I dunno. But I feel better about myself as a human being right now than I ever did."


Nine Inch Nails: with A Perfect Circle.


Tues., May 9 at Madison Square Garden, 212-307-7171, and Wed., May 10 at Nassau Coliseum, 1255 Hempstead Tpke., Uniondale, 516-794-9303.

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Nine Inch Nails
Nine Inch Nails
This article is provided courtesy Keith Duemling and Tracy Thompson from the collection previously located at SUS.