Band's Hot Image Rooted in Woodstock '94 Mud
The sound you are hearing is Nine Inch Nails hammering into the pop
Since its celebrated, mud-caked performance at Woodstock '94, the group -
actually the stage name for performer-writer-producer-techno whiz Trent
Reznor - has turned its hot cult status into a multimeda, mass-appeal buzz.
It is the hottest rock band of the moment. After hitting No. 2 on the
Billboard charts after its March release, Nine Inch Nails' latest album,
"The Downward Spiral," is again on the rise. Once a club-sized cult act, it
now is taking its visceral and violent stage show to 15,000-seat arenas and
Reznor, 29, recently was on the cover of Rollin Stone magazine, and David
Letterman invoked the group's name almost every night for a week after
Woodstock '94. Reznor also is affiliated with the hottest film of the
moment. He produced the soundtrack album for Oliver Stone's "Natural Born
Killers." The album, released on Reznor's own Nothing label, reveals a
flowing sonic pastiche that mixes dialogue from the movie with the songs
Stone used, including the new track "Burn."
That isn't bad for a guy who produces some of the darkest, most
provocatiove pop around. You probably won't find such lines as "I focus on
the pain/the only thing that's real" in the Ace of Base songbook.
"They're not simple pop songs," said Reznor. "The message of the music is
not mass acceptance-type stuff. 'The Downward Spiral' is essentially a
noncommercial record. Regardless of what I do . . . there's only so much
expsure these songs will ever get."
Knowing that, Reznor said, makes it easier to embrace his new success.
"It's still kind of strange," he said, "but although we've become a fairly
big band, it's been done outside the channels of the mainstream media. I
really feel like I've done things on my own terms."
Reznor said the anger that fuels his music goes back to childhood. His
parents were divorced when he was 5, and he was reared by his grandparents
in rural western Pennsylvania. He focused on music, setting himself apart
from the athletic mentality of his peers.
Guilt plus alienation plus restlessness equals pain and artistic
expression; it is an equation that has resulted in memorable rock music for
more that just Reznor. By the time Reznor moved to Cleveland during the mid
'80's, hsi mind-set was well formed. "Pretty Hate Machine," the title of
Nine Inch Nails' debut in 1989, defines it.
"I base everything on the aesthetic that it comes from my own head and
seems like the right thing at the time," Reznor said. "When I did 'Pretty
Hate Machine," I felt it expressed how I felt very honestly at that time in
my life. When I look back now, I can remember who I was then and accept the
expression of that."
Forming a touring band, Reznor played granite-hard performances on the
first Lollapalooza tour. Nine Inch Nails also was the tour's top T-shirt
seller. Both the 1992 EP "Broken" and "The Downward Spiral" found Reznor
crafting an even harder edge.
"I remember when I was making 'Broken' thinking that 'I'm going to burn out
a lot of my fans, a lot of people who liked the lighter moments on 'Pretty
Hate Machine,'" he said. "I can't start to cater to that. I have to
approach it with the same idea - how do I feel about things."
In person, Reznor is hardly the bile-spewing demon his music suggests.
"Probably because I don't bite heads off pigeons, I'm going to disappoint
some people," he said. He also acknowledges a certain amount of
theatricality in what he does. "What we do is closer to Alice Cooper than
Pearl Jam" he told Rolling Stone.
John Malm, Reznor's manager since 1987, said his client's goal as artist
and as record-company executive is simple. "He makes music to please
himself," Malm said. "His whole position is if 10 people like it, great; if
10 million people like it, that's great, too."
Veteran guitarist Adrian Belew, who played on "The Downward Spiral," said
he found Reznor to be a "very sweet, intense, shy-sounding person. He does
have a very personable side. He doesn't say much, though."
The Woodstock mud bath was Reznor's crowning touch. The band had been at
the festival site for a while, enjoying the first night's rave and growing
nervous about its own performance. It didn't help that security guards had
barred the musicians from bringing guests on their tour bus or that a
utility pole had fallen on the bus, forcing everyone to evacuate without
touching the metal sides.
So while Nine Inch Nails was walking towards the stage, Reznor decided to
shove guitarist Robin Finck into the mud. Finck responded by tackling
Reznor, who "realized it was too late to undo that. After that, we felt
really good, all covered with mud. It ended up being a little painful after
a while; the mud got in our eyes and stuff.
"That show certainly wasn't technically perfect, but we had a lot of fun
and felt really good about being on stage."
By Gary Graff (The Detroit Free Press)
Downloaded to Smashed Up Sanity by Tracy@JCU (Tracy Thompson) 9/29/97
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is provided courtesy Keith Duemling and Tracy Thompson from the collection previously
located at SUS.