Columbus Dispatch

April 2000

POUNDING THE BEAT WITH NINE INCH NAILS

Before Trent Reznor gave former Howlin' Maggie drummer Jerome Dillon a full-time job last year, Dillon had moved from Columbus and was living in Los Angeles, trying to play music anywhere he could.

Last we spoke with Dillon, he was on the eve of drumming with Nine Inch Nails at the MTV video music awards. In the seven months since, he, Reznor, Robin Finck, Danny Lohner and Charlie Clouser -- Nine Inch Nails, the touring band -- have played in sold-out arenas throughout Japan, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

For the past several weeks, the group has been in New Orleans and Los Angeles rehearsing for its first U.S. tour in five years.

"Every night on the tour was an enlightening experience -- especially when there's always the possibility in this band of someone getting hurt," Dillon said from Los Angeles.

"There's a lot of eye contact and a lot of vocal cues to make things run a little more smoothly if the crowd is really loud. If things are being destroyed and Robin can't hear the count, I've got to make sure I'm screaming as loud as I can, or hitting the high hat as loud as I can. On that level, everybody's gotten to know each other really well."

Nine Inch Nails is touring to promote The Fragile, a double album that Reznor -- who is, for the most part, Nine Inch Nails in the studio -- took five years to make. Perhaps tastes have changed, or Nine Inch Nails has spent too much time away from its loyal fans, or everyone and his brother is busy starting a dot-com business; whichever it is, not many music buyers have been willing to invest the time and money in The Fragile.

In late September, The Fragile entered Billboard charts at No. 1. Now it's nowhere in the top 200. The band continues to sell well in Europe, but here roughly 705,000 copies of the disc have been sold, according to SoundScan. Nine Inch Nails' two previous albums each sold 3 million copies.

The Fragile takes more time to get to know than, say, Limp Bizkit's Significant Other or Bloodhound Gang's Hooray for Boobies or, for that matter, Nine Inch Nails' previous albums of synthesizer-metal -- Pretty Hate Machine, The Downward Spiral and the Broken EP.

The Fragile includes bona-fide singles; We're in This Together and Star (expletives), Inc. writhe and seethe like the most hip-shaking and fist-pounding of Nine Inch Nails tunes.

The bulk of the record is a soundtrack for Reznor's darkest-hour, hate-mail-to-self diaries. Chances to move the hips and clench the fists in sync with the beat are few. Musically, it's an industrial symphony that is best-listened to the way it was written: in isolation away from friends and family.

When asked why people haven't bought two and three copies of The Fragile, Dillon sighed and said many hypotheses have been tossed around. He quickly added that the band isn't concerned, that the upcoming tour will make everyone believers again.

"With this band, it's always been about touring. It still seems to be about the live show. That's what catapulted sales of Broken and The Downward Spiral. We expect this not to be any different.

"This record was a question of Trent pushing himself in as many directions as possible. The inherent qualities of the record, metaphorically and otherwise, are about falling apart. At points you can be listening to it and you get this seasick feeling of not being sure the song is going to break apart at any moment. That was kind of the idea. All of the material prior to this didn't have that sense of vulnerability. That could be part of it. Maybe the fans or whomever can't latch onto that quality as easily as some of the harder-edged stuff that had more of a pop sensibility."

On its recent overseas tour, the group played a greatest-hits package with a few new songs. When Nine Inch Nails plays in Columbus Saturday, it will be focusing more on new material.

Wednesday in Cleveland, during the group's first concert of its U.S. tour, an extravagant light and stage show complemented the songs. The sound was phenomenally clear and not as overwhelming as one might expect from a band known for flattening audiences with walls of guitars and synthesizers.

Stage manager Rocko Reedy said "Fragility v2.0" is the most ambitious tour he has been involved with. As stage manager, Reedy, a Clintonville resident, is responsible for moving "the skin of the concert" -- truckloads of lights, speakers, video screens and all other equipment -- to install in each city.

"There are so many things going on visually and audibly. It's the most ambitious thing I've done on an arena tour -- more than Kiss.

"Trent has surrounded himself with the most talented people I've ever worked with. With him, it's not just a matter of 'Turn it up, man. Let's kick out the jams!' There's so many nuances to his music that would be hard to achieve in the studio, let alone live, but we've got a really hot sound man, John Lemon."

When Reedy signed on in September, he wasn't too familiar with Nine Inch Nails' music.

"The one thing I do respect about him (Reznor) as an artist, it's not like he says, 'All right, let's throw a cowbell in here.' The songs cut through. You find yourself going back through to listen and saying, 'Yeah, what the hell is that?' "

Dillon also has had a few epiphanies.

"There were a few songs we were playing that I thought wouldn't have as much an effect on the audience as they did, like The Day the World Went Away and The Great Below. For whatever reason, you can feel the attachment people still have."

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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.