Vox Magazine

January 1995

Trent Reznor

Nine Inch Nails' singer found the perfect setting to create the _Natural Born Killers_ soundtrack.

Ever since Trent Reznor took up residence in a certain house on Cielo Drive in LA, he's found himself plagued by the cult of the serial killer. "The fucking Sharon Tate house," as he describes it, was the scene of Charles Manson's most notorious crime, which Reznor decided to move in to while working on Nine Inch Nails' last album _The Downward Spiral_.

"I'm not personally infatuated with serial killers. I find them mildly interesting at best, I have a curiosity about that, but by no means do I wish to glamorise them. From living in that house I've met every person in the world you can imagine who's obsessed with that whole thing and it's given me more of a perspective on it."

Opting to "conceive, arrange, and produce" the soundtrack for Oliver Stone's _Natural Born Killers_, the _Gone With The Wind_ of serial-killer movies, Reznor is hardly retreating from the association.

"Oliver approached me about doing the soundtrack. I got a call from his people to say he had used some Nine Inch Nails music in the film and would I like to see a screening of it to approve its use? I thought it was used tastefully for a change, which is unusual in Hollywood movie-making. I went to another screening the following week and Oliver asked if I wanted to put out a soundtrack on my label in the States. I agreed without realising what the soundtrack was going to be.

"I thought about it and had another meeting with him and agreed that it would be cool to make a record that followed the flow of the movie, to layer the music just like the movie did and use a lot of dialogue. I wanted to try to make something that's listenable to as a piece of music but also to call to mind the feel of the movie. He told me to go ahead and do it. So from that point on I had pretty much free rein to use whatever I wanted."

Reznor assembled the album in Europe, largely as a relief from the incessant grind of the Nails' year-long tour. "We set the computers up in hotel rooms. It was a question of self discipline. Instead of having fun, I sat in front of a computer." The claustrophobic environment must have played an important role in the mood of the soundtrack, a cacophony of insane dialogue and diverse sounds--from Leonard Cohen's apocalyptic monologues to Dr Dre's def row rhythms--punctuated with hysterical screaming and unnerving gunshots. Even Juliette Lewis get an opportunity to sing, testing her sandpapered tonsils with Cissie Cobb's 'Born Bad'.

The _Natural Born Killers_ soundtrack turned into an organisational nightmare, a buck Reznor was more than happy to pass.

"I created hell for them by saying: 'Here's what I want to do.' Oliver told me to make it happen, and some unfortunate team of lawyers had the job of tracking everybody down. There was a lot of co-operation required from all the different bands, artists and record labels, not just: Can we use your song, but: Can we remix it maybe, or edit it down to a minute-and-a-half and have someone talking over it. Mostly everybody was pretty cool, a couple of snags here and there but that's to be expected."

One of those snags was Reznor's contractual obligation song--something that proved problematic, but which eventually resulted in one of the album's finest moments, the blistering 'Burn'.

"Now we're getting into all that contracts bullshit that I try to avoid as much as possible. What happened was, part of Oliver's deal with Warner Bros was that there had to be some new music on the soundtrack. So at one point he asked me to write a song for the movie. I agreed to try, but didn't think I could do it because I'd never written a song for anything. I was trying to get something thematically without calling it 'Natural Born Killers'.

"With the 'Dogg Pound' track they busted their asses to get it done but I didn't think it fitted very well anywhere. So I tried to place it where it wouldn't disrupt the flow--in other words at the end."

Working on _Natural Born Killers_ (something that entailed Reznor having to watch it 70 times) has left the frontman with a definite feel for moving behind the scenes.

"I'd like to do a real soundtrack. I'm interested in composing, whereas basically this was just editing. I made a little souvenir of the movie but I don't really feel I've created anything. That, I would like to do... if we ever manage to stop touring."

By Bob McCabe

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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.