"THE REZNOR EDGE"
Mix industrial-strength darkness with melodic lines (and great T-shirts) for one hot ticket--Nine Inch Nails
You might expect Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails to materialize on
the phone in a rustle of black crepe with tendrils of fog curling from the
After all, Reznor and his band are probably the best outfit to take
over The Summit for Halloween. Apparently, Houston concertgoers agree
with this assessment since they've bought just about all of the
approximately 9,000 tickets available for Monday's show. Marilyn Manson
and the Jim Rose Circus open.
Nine Inch Nails is dark, subversive and theatrical. While gloom and
doom are frequently enough for that minority of depressed, thoughtful rock
fans, where Reznor slays the rest of [the] crowd is with his knack for
combining industial textures with pop hooks and melodic lines. Even if
you don't know who such industrial pioneers as Einsturzende Neubaten are,
you can probably find something in Reznor's outlook that will suit you.
Both NIN albums, *Pretty Hate Machine* and *The Downward Spiral*,
have sold in excess of a million copies apiece. Reznor also created the
soundtrack album for Oliver Stone's *Natural Born Killers*. He liked
doing it, loves films and would like to score one someday. "If I had all
the time in the world and five more lives to lead, I'd be a filmmaker,"
Reznor said from a hotel room in Denver a few days ago.
For mainstream rock fans, the band hurtled to prominence with its
stint on the first Lollapalooza tour in 1991. Recently, the band
snatched most of the Woodstock '94 glory by coming onstage covered with
mud. With that performance, NIN stole the spolight from such accomplished
outfits as Metallica and Aerosmith.
Of course, Houston audiences have had the opportunity to share
Reznor's live vision five times since *Pretty Hate Machine* was released
in late 1989. Reznor is keenly aware he built most of his following by
exhaustive touring. The band almost turned down the Lollapalooza spot,
but decided to do it when it started battling its former record label and
needed some income.
"It helped our cause because every big label wanted to sign us,"
Reznor said. "It infuriated the label we were on. Our record sales were
jumping and pretty soon we had a platinum record. That's when a lot of
people like MTV, Rolling Stone, and Spin realized, '(expletive), these
guys have made it without us. We're not used to that. We want to make
them.' It still led (to) a little bitterness on the part of Spin. I was
(recently) voted artist of the year but they decided, 'No, we're not
going to give you the cover. We'll give it to band of the year.' OK."
Reznor then uttered a stronger version of "Kiss off."
Reznor clearly doesn't suffer fools gladly. Nor is he likely to
relinquish control of the band anytime soon. Besides NIN, he's running
Nothing Records which is home to opener Marilyn Manson, now *person non
grata* in Salt Lake City (big surprise).
"With my own record label and with my band--not to sound
holier-than-thou--I've approached things with integrity first at the
expense of profit or time or whatever it might be," he said. "Putting
out something that is quality, probably a large portion of people won't
get that. I've tried to do that with every Nine Inch Nails release from
the work that went into the music to the thought of different themes
recurring in different songs."
If you want to look for something, you'd be pleasantly surprised at
the thought that went into that too. The T-shirts are the best quality
you can make. We don't make as much money, but they aren't [in] infant size
the first time you wash them. We try to do interesting ideas with the
artwork and packaging of the records. With a 12-inch, we try to put 50
minutes of music on there instead of just edits and remixes. I don't
know if people pick up on all that stuff or not."
It's hard to imagine having this discussion with any other contemporary
rock idol. The grunge movement is drowning in artless sincerity, regular-guy
wardrobes and reticent stars shunning the limelight at all costs. Reznor may
be shy (he did no other interviews with Houston daily newspapers but liked
the idea of being in Houston on Halloween enough talk), but he's a master
manipulator of image and sound.
Take this tour for example, Reznor prefers playing clubs like
Numbers, but he realizes that NIN has more fans to accommodate and needs
to play larger places.
"It was structured to work this way," Reznor said. "We started off
that we were going to split this tour into three chunks. The first was
tiny-club, warm-up, have-fun shows. That was fun. However, what that
does is it (cheeses) people off because 'I couldn't see you 'cause you
sold out in five seconds.'
"The next wave was the International Ballroom phase of moderate-sized
capacities. We still got, 'I had to work and by the time I got to buy
tickets it was sold out.' We wanted to play in venues that we weren't
going to sell out necessarily. That meant we were playing 7- to
15,000-seat arenas. If I had a choice, I'd rather be playing Numbers.
But I know we can do that. We've done tours of that.
"Now let's see what will happen if we gear our show to a place where
maybe there isn't a pit or there's somebody in the balcony in an assigned
seat that can't get up. Maybe there's someone 300 yards away. How do I
make that entertaining to them? When we first started doing this, I was
irritated because nobody was onstage anymore because they can't, there
were people sitting down back there and it really made me mad.
"I realized I had to rethink this thing into a larger capacity and
make it work in a different way. It will be more moody than any show
you've seen us do. It focuses more on diverse material, newer material.
I'm trying some things we haven't dared try before with projections and
some other things that are geared to a big venue. Again, given a choice,
I'd rather be in a 300-seat place with people bumping into me onstage
and smashing our gear for us than on display in a (expletive) sports arena."
by Claudia Perry
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is provided courtesy Keith Duemling and Tracy Thompson from the collection previously
located at SUS.