Down On The Spiral
An unknown quantity behind his electronic wall of sound, Trent Reznor is
releasing his new LP and touring the nation. Read on as The Hammer goes to
work on Nine Inch Nails.
Nine Inch Nails is violent dischord. Nine Inch Nails is the unnerving
threat of psychosexual angst alternatively screamed and whispered against
coarse unforgiving rhythmic aggression. It's the flawless attraction of a
sequenced rhythm track, the random chaos of grating metal guitars and white
noise overload. It repulses you, yet you desire it.
Nine Inch Nails is Trent Reznor from Pennsylvania. And when writing his
music he works on the theory that next time you pass a road accident,
you're going to look long and hard for a glimpse of twisted limbs amongst
the wreckage. Since 1989 he's been producing a high profile brand of
propane-injected, electronically-based industrial metal that fits snugly
between the abrasion of Throbbing Gristle and the pop of Depeche Mode.
With his second LP, The Downward Spiral, he's continued the Godless
electronic perversity that turned so many heads on the first album, Pretty
Hate Machine ('89), two EPs, Broken ('91) and Fixed ('92); and on the '91
Lollapalooza tour. It paints a dark psychological portrait of the human
soul that sits so enigmatically behind the music and pulls very few punches
in the process.
"I am the voice inside your head/I am the lover in your bed...I am the
bullet in the gun/I am the truth from which you run", he screams on the
opening track, Mr. Self Destruct, an aural master and servant relationship
in which naughty old Trent waves the big stick of technological force while
talking dirty through the mask of urban decay.
"I don't know how to write in any other way," he says of The Downward
Spiral's lyrical bluntness. "I stumbled onto it with the first record and
it made the biggest impact. I thought it was the most powerful thing I
could say and it provided a good framework for NIN to revolve around.
"Thematically I wanted to explore the idea of somebody who systematically
throws or uncovers every layer of what he's surrounded with, comfort-wise,
from personal relationships to religion to questioning the whole situation.
Someone dissecting his own ability to relate to other people or to have
anything to believe in."
In comparison to the overbearing presence of his music, Trent's nature is
considered; almost humble. He is one man behind a battalion of sound, and
it's this that makes him so intriguing. Being the sole composer, arranger
and performer for all of NIN's recorded material, his is an air of pure
"With they lyrics, it's all me. I made up a bunch of stories about how it
was a friend of mine, but it's not, it just pops out of my head. I realise
it's not the most uplifting record, but the idea was to try and make
something that was a bleak chunk of work that, for the right mood, might be
the perfect thing. And then I have people asking me 'Wow, how terrible is
your life?' and 'Are you going to kill yourself?'. But if I was to write a
happy or uplifting song, it wouldn't have fit.
"If I were to analyse myself, I'd say my desire was to escape from
Smalltown USA and the isolation you can feel in a place where nothing
happens is a recurring theme for my music. I think one of the motivations
to get NIN going was as an escape from working at the gas station down the
street. It was a way to try and break into the real world, or the world I
thought was real that you see on the television and movies," he explains.
NIN have achieved a level of success above and beyond many of their
contempories. They've been historically appointed the measuring stick for
the whole murky genre of industrial/electric guitar bands, a notion Trent
is not entirely comfortable with.
"I want people to know that I'm not going around saying 'Look at us,
we're an industrial band!', as if that gives me some flag of credibility to
wave around," he says emphatically. "I look as it as a challenge rather
than something to be ashamed of. I like flirting with accessibility, 'cos
it allows me to be subversive and sneak things in that people don't realise
they're hearing. With The Downward Spiral I tried to make a record that had
full range, rather than a real guitar-based record or a real synth-based
record. I tried to make it something that opened the palate for NIN, so we
don't get pigeon-holed. It was a conscious effort to focus more on texture
and space, rather than bludgeoning you over the head for an hour with a
Having spent the year and a half leading up to the recording of the album
'in virtual isolation', Trent professes very little interest in current
music, citing cliche and a prevailing follow-the-leader attitude as being
the scourge of popular music. Inspiration, he admits, comes from material
he ignored the first time around-old David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed...
"I hate retro thinking and I hate trends towards bringing back stuff
that's dead and gone, but at the same time it really impressed me how much
depth was in those albums in comparison with today's music. It's a very
general and unfair statement, but it seems like the music industry is such
a big corporate business now that a lot of albums just seem like
products-one or two good tracks with a bunch of filler and general crap. My
challenge was to try and make a record that's more of an album and less a
collection of songs."
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is provided courtesy Keith Duemling and Tracy Thompson from the collection previously
located at SUS.