The End Is Nigh

As he prepares to press the pause button on Nine Inch Nails, Trent Reznor reveals why it's time to end his defining era and what the future will hold...

By Ian Winwood for Kerrang! on July 18, 2009

In the current climate of bands reforming to remind people why it was they liked them in the first place, one outfit that has remained constant for almost 20 years is Nine Inch Nails. There have been no nostalgic cash-cow comeback tours for Trent Reznor because Reznor's eyes only ever face forward. Often the contrarian, the resident of Los Angeles, California, has once more shocked his attentive and loyal audience, this time with the revelation that the band he started with a four track recording machine in 1987 is, after the band's current dates, to cease touring. Reznor checked in with K! to discuss this and what's on his not-to-distant horizon...

YOU'VE RECENTLY ANNOUNCED THAT NINE INCH NAILS WILL SOON STOP TOURING. WHAT WAS THE THINKING BEHIND THAT DECISION?

"One of the things is that I realized that a lot of the impetus for Nine Inch Nails has been one of negativity and frustration. In one sense, when I play onstage I become that person, that narrator. But revisiting that space every night or every day for five days a week could become unhealthy. And also there's a whole pile of things that I've always wanted to do that I never get around to doing because we're always on tour. I really want to start going through that list of things."

CAN FANS STILL EXPECT NIN MUSIC, THOUGH?

"I'm still going to make Nine Inch Nails music. I'm going to make music outside of Nine Inch Nails where I collaborate with other people. And I have a list of things that aren't music related that I really want to turn my hand to. It might turn out that some of these things fail, but that doesn't mean that they're not worth trying. Plus, I'm also getting married (to singer Mariqueen Maandig) and it'd be nice to be able to pay some attention to that part of my life as well."

A NUMBER OF FANS HAVE A SET IDEA REGARDING WHAT THEY THINK YOU AS A PERSON MIGHT BE LIKE BUT SOME OF YOUR TWITTER TWEETS HAVE SHOWN YOU TO BE, IN FACT, A NORMAL KIND OF A GUY. HAVE YOU ENJOYED SHOWING THAT SIDE OF YOU?

"I realized that when I went onto Twitter and started being a smartass-because I am a smartass-that people would be surprised, because prior to this there had been no obvious sense of humor in the world of Nine Inch Nails. And as I'm about to drop the curtain on this era, I've become somewhat less precious about who I am, and about my wall of secrecy. And what I found was that there was a proportion of the audience who became much more out of the closet because it was exciting to see me in a different light. But another portion ant their idol to be this thing who exists in a little box. And I understand that.

"But it is disheartening in some ways when people decide that they liked me better when I was about to die. I like myself a lot better now. I was around that guy, and beneath his neatly packaged empire there was a guy who was actually about to die. But the (Twitter) experiment wasn't a complete success. If I had my time again, I'd just let people who think I hang upside down in a coffin have that illusion. But in terms of technology and people's relationship to artists, this is a new world right now and it has no rules."

YOUR FIANCEE HAS COME IN FOR SOME UNPLEASANT ONLINE ATTENTION, AS HAS YOUR CAMPAIGN TO HELP ERIC DE LA CRUZ. ONE RESPONDENT EVEN WENT SO FAR AS TO CLAIM IT WAS A PUBLICITY STUNT. HAS THAT BEEN TOUGH TO DEAL WITH?

"That kind of thing is particularly cowardly because it's done online and that offers complete anonymity. If someone on the street were to insult my fiancee I would punch them right in their fucking face or their fat tits or whatever the fuck it may be. But hiding in your mom's basement with her ISP account and saying the kind of things that some of these people have been saying online is not something that happens in the real world. It only happens because these people don't have to show their face or give their name, and that does get under my skin. And I let it get under my skin more than I should because I forget who these people are. It's not you saying that, or anyone with a job or any credibility. It's cowards who say these things-unwanted, unremarkable people who have nothing better to do. Fuck those people."

IN THE CURRENT INDUSTRY CLIMATE, IF NIN EMERGED TODAY, WHAT CHANCE WOULD YOU HAVE AT FINDING SUCCESS?

"I spend a lot of time thinking about that. Look at what the major record companies are doing: it's one mistake after another, because their entire mindset is based on greed. It's a dying industry and they're not willing to make the cuts they need to make to their bloated salaries and their expense accounts. Ask any musician that's ever been on a label and they'll tell you that the business practices have been corrupt since the beginning. I'm happy to see that shit collapse.

"I'd like to be able to help all bands that are starting out with good intentions and good music, but at the moment I have to think about saving my own ass. I'm underwater and I'm trying to get to the life raft because I would like to breathe again. New bands have got to come through because they're the lifeblood, but at the same time that's not my outlook. But any new band has to decide what it is that they want to achieve. Do they want to be stars, or do they want to be an important band? I know it's not fair of me to say this because I'm not 18 and it's not 1987. But you have to look at what you have now. You can record an album on your laptop that's way better quality than I had (when I was starting out), and you have a free calling card in the form of social networking sites. But you have to decide what it is you want. If you want to be Coldplay and play stadiums then you're going to have to go to a major label. Good luck with that, but you'll be selling your soul."

WHAT DO YOU THINK WHEN YOU LOOK BACK OVER THE THINGS THAT YOU'VE ACHIEVED?

"I'm proud of everything I've done. I haven't released anything that wasn't, at the time, the best that I could do. I can look back now and say, "Well, that was better than that was," but only hindsight offers that kind of perspective. But I can look back over the work I've done and say, "I like that guy. And he did the best work that he could do." And that's all I can ask for."