Trent Reznor : The Entertainers
WOODSTOCK '94 plucked its emblem from an unlikely quarter: Not
from the live-or-Memorex? motions undertaken by '69 veteran acts,
nor the calculated homages sprung by neo-hippies, nor even the MTV
angst riffed out by neo-punks.
Rather, the Return-to-the-Garden found itself on a descent into Hell.
As a neon-blue glow blotted out Hudson Valley's stars, mud-glazed
Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor carved a mega-decibel anthem
for the '90s when he howled, "I want to f--- you like an animal!!"
At that moment Reznor, 29, reacquainted rock & roll with terror, and
marked himself as the incarnation of cutting-edge music--a shaman
as intimate with technology as with alienation. "I am the voice inside
your head...I am the hate you try to hide," his electronically bruised
voice growls on "Mr. Self Destruct," the first song on his masterful,
platinum-selling exercise in self-flagellation, The Downward Spiral. And
indeed, the abrasive furnace blasts of feedback, screams, and
RAM-beats hurled forth on Nine Inch Nails albums (which so far have
been essentially one-man studio projects, with musicians hired for
touring) snuggle against the psyche like a nightmare.
Which explains why his first album, 1989's industrial disco epic, Pretty
Hate Machine, has sold over a million copies and topped Billboard's
pop catalog chart, why 1992's nail-bomb EP Broken won a Grammy,
and why Spiral--Reznor's first full-length release under his agreement
with Interscope Records--stands as possibly the most chilling album
ever to debut at the No. 2 spot on the album chart. Not surprisingly,
Reznor recorded that album at the L.A. mansion where actress Sharon
Tate and her friends were killed 25 years ago.
The magnitude of Reznor's talent reveals itself in his side projects--a
collage soundscape for Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers; assaultive
videos that milk art from perversion (including one, for "Down In It,"
that sparked an FBI investigation because it so closely resembled a
snuff film); and his and his manager's own label, Nothing, whose
roster includes eviscerating industrial-influenced acts Marilyn Manson
and Pop Will Eat Itself.
But it's Reznor's live show that has graduated the black-clad
Pennsylvania country boy from cult figure to idol. Pounding keyboards
to dust with his mike stand, ricocheting off his oft-bloodied
bandmates, and roaring with the fervor of a prophet or a psychopath,
Reznor unstrings rock to its horrifying, melodramatic core--an
experience as draining as it is exhilarating.
"Your world changes," murmurs Reznor, who is producing an abstract
Spiral film as well as a live video while wrapping up Nine Inch Nails'
"You're surrounded by people that treat you like a freak, that cater to
your every whim and treat you like a god and look at you like you're
not the same anymore. And if you never did fit in, now even though
you're the president of the club, you're that much more alienated in a
strange way." That's why he's been elected.
By Nisid Hajari
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is provided courtesy Keith Duemling and Tracy Thompson from the collection previously
located at SUS.