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September 1999

Trent Reznor: Climbing Back Up The Spiral

He is popís prodigal son, and one of the greatest musical talents to emerge in the past decade. Now, with the release of Nine Inch Nailsí long-awaited double CD, The Fragile, Trent Reznor looks primed and ready to face his public head-on.

Michael Trent Reznor was born 34 years ago in the small town of Mercer, Pennsylvania. At the age of five, his parents split up, and he was raised by his maternal grandparents. As a kid, Reznor played classical piano, the saxophone, and the tubaóbut after he discovered rock and so-called industrial groups, it became evident early on that he would always be an outsider who needed to channel his self-described angry and confused creative energy into music.

Reznor has used his music as a way to explore the darker side of himself, and of humanity as a whole. Sex, drug use, violence, depression, and suicidal thoughts all play a part in much of his music, giving it an authenticity and validity that cannot be mistaken. His penchant for remaining intensely private is just one of the aspects about him that makes him so incredibly interesting.

The Fragile is the result of four long years spent mostly in isolation, as Reznor was holed up in his New Orleans studio (a revamped mortuary) and the home of his record label, Nothing Records. The studio has a unique connection to one of Reznorís earlier recording locations: The Downward Spiral was recorded in a house in Los Angeles on Cielo DriveóReznor later discovered that it was the house in which the Manson Family murders took place. The current recording studio features doors that were taken from the Tate house. Reznor got the doors when he learned that the new owner of the property would be tearing the house down.

Part of the reason the album took so long to create is because Reznor found himself facing writerís block and feeling as though he was scraping the bottom of the emotional barrel. As he told Rolling Stone, "After Downward Spiral ran its course, I wound up at a pretty desolate place. Itís one thing to flirt with suicide when youíre writing, itís another when you arrive there. Itís not as funny or romantic a notion."

Between working on his own material, Reznor discovered Marilyn Manson, releasing Mansonís album Antichrist Superstar on Nothing Records. It was a partnership that seemed made in heaven; the two intense and dark individuals found in each other a soulmate and a friend they could relate to. In the end, however, the friendship seemed doomed to fail.

"I think fame and power distort peopleís personalities," Reznor told Rolling Stone recently. "[Manson] and I are two strong personalities that could co-exist for a while, but things changed. Iím not pointing fingers at him 100 percent, but some lines were crossed that really hurt me when I was downóreal down."

Not that he wasnít keeping busy during his time away from Nine Inch Nails. Reznor also worked on the music for the David Lynch film, Lost Highway and Oliver Stoneís Natural Born Killers. In addition, he worked with David Bowie two years ago on a remake of the Bowie classic, "Iím Afraid of Americans."

This year the notoriously press-shy Reznor has decided to emerge from his shell. After appearing on MTVís Video Music Awards in early September (only the second time Nine Inch Nails has performed on televisionóthe first was Dance Party U.S.A. more than ten years ago), Reznor also agreed to an in-depth interview with MTVís Kurt Loder, and appears on the cover of the October 14 issue of Rolling Stone. The time has come, it seems, to start selling some albums. Not that he has anything to worry about.

--jennifer siglin

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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.