Kerrang Magazine

June 1994

I Don't Trust My Brain

So runs the bizarre confession of TRENT REZNOR, the warped mind behind Industrial terrorists NINE INCH NAILS! But JASON ARNOPP discovers a method to the madness as Reznor opens his heart on AIDS, censorship, self-loathing, heroin and Heavy Metal!

"THERE'S ALWAYS somethin', isn't there?!" smirks Trent Reznor on being told of the flesh-eating virus that British newspapers are currently panicking over. "And the killer bees are just around the corner..."

For a man whose music and lyrics contain enough angst for a coach load of teens, the Nine Inch Nails mainman is not quite as paranoid as you might expect. When asked if he believes the AIDS virus to be man-made, his answer is instant and decisive. "No. My reasoning is that we don't have the technology to create a virus like that. If someone was brilliant enough to do it, who in their right mind would inflict it on society? It makes for great science fiction, but I personally don't believe it. I still have a shred of faith in humanity! I don't believe we'll blow up the Earth with out nuclear weapons either."

TRENT REZNOR hasn't had a day off since recording the most complete Nine Inch Nails album, 'The Downward Spiral'. Reclining on a hotel room sofa in London on the day of his second sold-out Forum show, he admits that he "could use a week without something to worry about." He sighs: "Finishing the album got replaced with finishing the 12 inch, the video, rehearsing the band, shows, doing interviews all day, sitting on a tour bus..

"These are also the longest shows we've ever done. Not so for regular bands I guess, but to us it's half-an-hour more. Keeping the intensity level high for as long as we do is mentally and physically exhausting. "We've also put a lot of thought and effort into the production side of things. A lot of bands don't give a shit about that anymore." Reznor is uncomfortable with the frontman banter, however. "A lot of that stuff is so cliched and expected. I don't have anything to say. If I do, then I'll say it through music. I don't allow myself time between songs to sit and make friends! It was weird when we did Lollapalooza, because we came on right after Ice-T. He was like, 'Clap your hands! Everybody do this!', and people got into it. "Then we came on. A full-on assault! I can remember seeing Ice-T on the first date and thinkin' 'Uh-ohhh!'. But it worked in a different kinda way."

Anyone wondering why so little '...Spiral' material got played this time can rest assured. There'll be a second wave of dates later this summer. "When we end here in Europe, we'll have a month of to re-do the set and show. I've been thinking about the challenge of making a set that'll come across visually and mood wise, even if you're in a 'consigned seat' type venue.

"Next time, we'll be playing almost all of the new album. A lot of those songs are more 'sit back and watch' type things, rather than 'Head Like A Hole' type things, so we'll be fucking around with projection screens. "It'll be a radically different show. In theory!" CLOSER is the second single from the album, following in the heavy footsteps of 'March Of The Pigs.' The promo video has already provoked a battle with MTV over a scend involving the frontman in handcuffs. "They say we can't show the human form in bondage," Reznor grumbles. "I mean, its not me with a fuckin' dildo shoved up my ass!" Although 'Closer' is one of '...Spiral's' vaguely straight moments, he admits that even this tune "kinda sabotages itself". "I really like 'The Downward Spiral'," he asserts. "It was hard to do, and it beat the shit out of me, but I'm proud of it. There aren't any obvious radio and MTV songs, and it doesn't lack depth. "If we lose some fans who were expecting a Metal opus, fair enough. Nine Inch Nails isn't a Metal band. It flirts with it, and I like some Metal, but if I made a 'guitar record', it wouldn't be totally true to what's in my head.

"The next one might be and all-Metal album. It depends on where I am at the time. But I try to get intensity through restraint. Sometimes it's more of a challenge to not put a guitar in there, and just leave a hole, or something you didn't expect." The line 'Nothing can stop me now' appears in three different '...Spiral' songs. What it is that interests Reznor about the concept of becoming bigger and more powerful? Is it the idea from the novel 'Red Dragon', about becoming as one with God? "Somewhat, but it's not 'becoming' in terms of a serial killer. It's becoming in a kind of negative light. Some of the 'becoming on this album is seeing yourself as a damaged or tainted version of what you aspire to be.

"'Big Man With A Gun' is a parody of the whole, super-macho misogyny thing. The actual song 'The Becoming' is about finding comfort though shutting feelings off, and becoming machine-like. Like drug use, it's not necessarily a solution." A lot of the press seem to view Reznor as the kid who was bullied at school.

"Not necessarily true," he quietly defends. "I never fitted into anything, but I didn't get pushed into lockers. To me, that would describe Steve Albini (alternative noise guru and producer of Nirvana's 'In Utero'). He's been pushed into a few too many lockers and now he's gonna fuckin' get back at everybody! I don't see myself in that context. "I think we get an unfair beating in the English press in particular. When I get accused of having discovered a cliched formula, I just wanna think, 'Fuck you!'. That makes me wanna fuckin fight em!" IS IT Trent Reznor's true voice on NIN albums, 100 per cent? "It's part of me, yeah. I can remember being really pissed off with Alice Cooper one time, where he was goin' on about Alice being his onstage character, not 'him'. I was like, "I believed your character!' It's strange when you hear the creator dissing his own creation... "I'm in a good mood sometimes," says Reznor who later admits to laughing at Denis Leary, Andrew Dice Clay and The Jerky Boys; he even used to check into hotels under the name of Frank Rizzo, the Jerky Boys' most aggressive character!

"But I've chosen to write about some negative things and they are coming from my head. I'm not proud of them, but you have to be honest to communicate."

What if you suddenly became deliriously content with life? "I might not make it Nine Inch Nails any more. I might just do something different. I don't wanna ruin Nine Inch Nails. That's what irritates me when people start talking about 'the formula'-that's what I'd never do. I sleep at night knowing that!

"You see it happen with other acts, entering that growing phase where they're not in the same mind-set as they were before they were famous. The Chili Peppers are all in their 30s, pretending they're 18-year-old skate Punks, know what I mean? It's an awkward transition, and I think Nine Inch Nails has a very finite time line. But I'm not worried..." WAS REZNOR shocked by Kurt Cobain's suicide in April? "Yeah. I was never the biggest Nirvana fan, but for what they did, they were the absolute best. They undeniably changed the music industry a little, but the thing I probably didn't like about him was how he was turning into everything he rallied against.

"He could make fun of Axl Rose, but who was acting more like a Rock star? Who had the heroin addiction? "The whole thing of falling into that trap is a cop-out, and I think the media needs to be blamed an equal amount for the glamourisation of heroin. Like, 'To really be a cool Rock star, get a fuckin' addiction'. But anyone can have an addiction, and there's nothing cool about that. If you don't believe me, hang out with some junkies... I have.

"I'm not anti-drugs at all," he adds. "Drugs can be misused, but they can also be tools. I know my capacity for handling certain drugs, and I feel a little guilty in a way, because when we had Jeff Ward in Nine Inch Nails, he told me that he liked to get fucked up and party. He asked if I had a problem with that, and I said no. He was older than me, and I wasn't about to tell him not to smoke pot, or in his case heroin. "Then he tried to hide, and I didn't realise how bad it was, and now he's dead. He killed himself-he didn't OD, but he couldn't get off it. I've been around that shit too much, with friends in LA going into rehab. There's nothing fuckin' cool about that, and heroin is inherently evil. "The only thing I occasionally do is mushrooms. It's kind reassuring and educational in a way and it's natural. Chemical things frighten me, and I don't trust my brain enough. I went through heavier drug phases than I'm in right now, but it was stupid."

Have you personally reached the kind of absolute low described on the album's final track, 'Hurt'? The one that opens with, 'I hurt myself today, to see if I still feel'?

"Huh... yeah. I've reached it. It's not..." There's a completely silent delay as Rezone stares into space, clearly disturbed by the memory.

"Don't awn be there," he finally utters with a nervous half-smile. As The Beatles said with 'Helter Skelter', the original downward spiral:' When I get to the bottom I go back to the top...'

There is also a side panel with this interview which is:

NIN-KILLING MACHINES! TRENT REZNOR has a bizarre movie soundtrack project in the can! JASON ARNOPP gets the full scam!

AS IF Trent Reznor isn't busy enough with Nine Inch Nails and his own label Nothing Records (one recent signing is Marilyn Manson), he has another project on the go- a film soundtrack collaboration with 'Platoon'/'The Doors' director Oliver Stone.

"There's a movie coming out this summer called 'Natural Born Killers'," explains Reznor. "Back to serial killing again... my new hobby! It's a fuckin' awesome movie about a couple of serial killers, but its an almost surreal kinda film that really starts to attack the American media for its glamourisation of crime, and the way news is becoming entertainment, in a way.

"It's really violent, disturbing and also funny. There's a few moments that are heavy duty, man! Anyway, he chose not to have a traditional soundtrack, but had edits of about 50 or 60 songs layered on top on each other. There's a couple of Nine Inch Nails songs, Bob Dylan, Rage Against The Machine... a full barrage of different stuff!

"I'm sceptical about putting songs in films, because it's become such a cliche. I feared 'The Crow' soundtrack (to which Reznor contributed a cover of Joy Division's 'Dead Souls') might be like that, and it was pretty cheesy in the end, but I thought the comic book was cool and I knew the guy who did it.

"Usually the soundtrack's got nothing to do with the film, but I was blown away by 'Natural Born Killers'. It kicked my ass, and I couldn't even talk when I left the movie!

"Also, a couple of the most intense, unexpected moments have Nine Inch Nails music in there. It freaked me out totally!" The 'Natural Born Killers' soundtrack will be coming out through Nothing Records. As Reznor speaks, someone's working on an editing system upstairs in the hotel.

"We'll try and make it like a real soundtrack," Reznor enthuses. "But layered with dialogue. Oceans of noise!"

Submitted by Gaby Boffa

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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.