Interview with Trent Reznor
The Great Dictator Self-destructive workaholic, arch hedonist with an eye on marriage, control
freak who insists he's a "nice guy" the man at the heart of NINE INCH NAILS is a mass of
contradictions. Will the real Trent Reznor please stand up?...
Drummer. Spent four years
in alternative rockers
Howlin' Maggie before
moving to LA to work with
Looks like actor Crispin
Glover's less eccentric
How did you come to join
"I went down to New
Orleans in March to
audition and I've been with
the guys ever since. Doing
movie soundtrack stuff
helped when it came to
working with Trent,
because a lot of what he
does is actually very
What were your fist
impressions of Trent?
"I didn't have any
preconceived notions of
what he was going to be
like. But it was surprising
that he was as
approachable as he is - a
regular-guy type. Very,
very funny. He had me
laughing within the first 10
minutes of meeting him.
He's very gregarious. And I
felt very comfortable
working with him musically.
"I was most impressed
by how quickly he works in
the studio. He's extremely
prolific and he works at a
blisteringly fast pace. The
record is definately art, and
a certain amount of pain
goes into creating any form
of art. I think for Trent it
was an ecercise in seeing
how far he could push
himself. That's pretty
NIN drummers suffer at
least one painful injury
onstage per tour. Any
"The last drummer (Chris
Vrenna) got craned upside
the head with a mike-stand
in San Francisco. So I was
planning on showing up in
a football helmet. But my
drum tech is taking good
care of me so far - there's
been a couple of projectiles
that he's batted out of the
way. And I tend not to take
my eyes off Trent very
"People may get the
wrong impression that it's
totally for show and
calculated. The bottom line
is: Trent expects the
musicians he plays with to
convey emotion behind the
song more than he expects
them to play the notes
perfectly. Everybody in
this band makes a
commitment to do that, and
sometimes you literally
have to throw yourself into
Guitarist. Met Trent Reznor
in 1993 and joined Nine
Inch Nails for the lengthy
"Mr Self Destruct" tour.
Left to become musical
director of touring circus
Cirque Du Soleil and then
spent two years working
with Guns N' Roses on
their "The Chinese
Rejoined NIN in the
summer. Offstage attire
consists of a bandanna,
tracksuit trousers with
elasticated bottoms, and
How does it feel to be back
in the band?
"The first day, when we
started going back through
some of those older songs
- 'Terrible Lie', 'Wish' - we
broke quite a sweat and it
felt f**king great. Better
than any of us felt it would.
And then getting to know
the new material has been
inspiring and challenging.
So far, so good."
What did you think when
you heard 'The Fragile' for
the first time?
"I expected to be floored
and I was. Mostly with the
hint of optimism in some of
the tracks. I feared that
Trent was never going to
get to that place, so when I
heard songs like 'The
Fragile' that were a little bit
more hopeful, it felt really
good. And, of course,
sonically and intelligently,
nothing like it around.
"I'd made the decision
to come back before I'd
heard the record, which is
something I did
intentionally. I'd been in
contact loosely with mostly
Danny through the past
couple of years, so I knew
what stage they were at
and that they'd never
replaced me - they'd never
needed to for a live
"It was a difficult
decision to make because I
was so wrapped up in what
I was doing at the time and
I was proud of the work I'd
done. But when it came
down to it, I couldn't
imagine NIN going out
without me or with
somebody else. I'm in a
good place right now."
It's taken you four shows
to injure yourself...
"Unfortunately, Trent and I
were dancing, he dipped
me and we both fell down. I
got six stitches above my
left eye. Usually, it's
bruises and stuff that goes
"It was really quite
alarming - only the second
song into that set and I
was pretty much maimed
for the rest of the show. It
was a long hour-and-a-half.
But that kind of comes with
what we're doing.
How bad did things get at
the end of the last tour?
"It was difficult for me. The
Manson crew and the Jim
Rose Circus were with us
for most of a year and it got
pretty stupid. Then coming
off the road and landing in
New Orleans - that's a
tough place to try and
re-collect yourself, because
it's a city built on night-life
and alcohol. I had to do
something that was the
complete polar opposite to
Nine Inch Nails. So I joined
the circus! Then Axl Rose
called me up.
"But I had to rein back
from the way things were at
the end of the last tour,
because after a while you
get pretty warped. I
couldn't do 'Mr Self
Destruct' again, so this has
to be different."
Has been in NIN for six
years. Like Clouser, he
worked on 'The Fragile' for
two years and also played
with Rob Zombie. Looks like
Ryan Giggs going to a fancy
dress party as a New York
gangster. Talks very quickly.
Describe Trent Reznor.
"Really cool, mellow and
calm. Not at all like a rock
star. When he's working, he's
really hard on himself.
Before, he used to not ever
want to work - it was always
a pain in the ass. These days
he can just churn it out."
Tell us one thing about 'The
"We used to joke about what
the tour shirts would say. To
start with it was '1998/99'.
Everybody really laughed
when '1999/2000' was
suggested. I didn't know
when it was going to be over.
But there's a lot of material
for the next record already
recorded - there's at least 30
What's the best thing about
being in NIN?
"Trent's vision is a lot more
exiting than most of the other
stuff out there. Obviously,
we're part of something really
good. Even if it doesn't sell
the same as some other
heavy metal bands or
something, who cares? I'm a
big fan of Pink Floyd's "The
Wall" and that whole era,
and NIN continually touch
"It's trying on your
patience and spirit at times to
be involved with someone as
talented as Trent is because
it's hard to bring something
to the table that's good
enough too be used. But it's
a great opportunity."
"I've got tons of material that
I submitted for 'The Fragile'
that I could use elsewhere.
Me and Charlie both worked
with Rob Zombie, and I'm
sure we'd do that again if he
asked us. And if you know
anybody, give them my
weilder. Joined NIN for
1994's 'Mr Self Destruct'
tour and spent two years
working on 'The Fragile'.
Has also played on Rob
Zombie's 'Hellbilly Delux'
album and remixed tracks
for NIN, Zombie and
Deftones. Looks like Ginger
after several decent meals.
Where did you first meet
"I was in LA doing a lot of
drum and synth
programming on Marilyn
Manson's first record,
which brought me into his
world. Right from the
beginning I was extremely
impressed by the amount of
care that the guy puts into
stuff. He's never one to
and say it's good enough. I
know that contributes to
the slowness of our
operation, but it's good in
the long run because the
fans know that they're
getting something that's
been sweated over."
Did you ever think 'The
Fragile' would never get
"I thought we could see an
end in sight when we had
enough material to fill one
disc. But Trent's quality
control being what it is
resulted in additional
months fleshing it out to
two discs. It didn't start to
seem like a long time until
the very last few months."
How different is this tour to
the last one?
"We're all a bit older and a
little calmer, at least in terms
of before- and after-show
activities. This may change
as the months go on,
because I think the way we
were behaving at the end of
the last tour was a result of
it being so long. Hopefully,
we won't get bored out of
our skulls and go quite so
crazy and indulge in so
much hazardous behaviour.
000000 "But onstage we're
starting off with as much
carnage as we had at the
height of the last tour - in
terms of smashed
equipment, band members
flying into the audience and
that kind of hockey game
violence. I'm very glad to
see that it's every bit as
violent and choatic."
FOUR-FIFTHS of Nine Inch Nails are rolling on the floor in the dressing room, their faces
and hands covered in talcum powder. Sadly, this isn't a homo-erotic ritual but Robin Fink, Danny
Lohner, Charlie Clouser and Jerome Dillon's idea of entertaining the Kerrang! Photographer. Trent
Reznor isn't around to join in the fun.
Welcome to the fifth date of Nine Inch Nails' first tour in four-and-a-half years. We've been
waiting in Copenhagen's K B Halle (a modern, 2,500-capacity sports hall which Type O Negative
have sold out later this month and NIN haven't tonight) for two hours, but we've yet to catch a sight
or sound of Trent Reznor. In that time two Danish journalists have been led up to his first floor
dressing room for their appointed interviews (neither lasting more than 15 minutes); three others
have had their slots cancelled. It is now 7.30pm, and according to those in the know Trent Reznor
doesn't talk to anyone after 8pm on show days.
So far; so true to expectations. Reznor is, after all, the dark lord of doom and better that he
be locked in a pitch-black room brooding than be caught pedalling merrily away on an exercise
bike. I retire downstairs to wait in the catering area a room filled with tea urns, formica tables and
laptop computers which would be anonymous were it not for its deeply bizarre floor to ceiling
murals of naked men and women playing tennis. A matter of minutes later, I'm joined at my table by
a pale gentleman dressed head to toe in black who looks like the result of a genetic splicing
experiment between Robert De Niro and Tim Wheeler. He extends a hand, smiling.
"Hello. How are you?" he says in a soft voice which carries the trace of a lisp.
Hello, Trent Reznor. And how are you?
SINCE WE ask, Trent Reznor is feeling better than he has for a long time. After two years
of living by fluorescent light in his Nothing Studios in New Orleans making 'The Fragile', he took
NIN to the Bahamas for the month of September. Here, besides rehearsing for this tour, Reznor
and his cohorts indulged in such unlikely pursuits as scuba diving and swimming with sharks. He
doesn't appear to have tanned.
Kerrang!: How does it feel to be back on the road?
Trent Reznor: "Good. At first I wasn't sure if it would. I kind of fell back into being in the studio:
the seclusion and the lack of people intruding on you and working at your own pace. I got real
comfortable with that, so when it got time to be in this environment with every minute taken up
and no time to be by yourself it was a little awkward. But the shows I really look forward to. The
training wheels are coming off and we're remembering how to ride the bike."
Kerrang!: You have to surrender total control of NIN on tour. Is that difficult?
Reznor: "No. Because when we started off NIN in 1990, it was an experiment in taking music that
was done on a computer in the studio and seeing how you could present it live. It didn't need to
sound the same. And when we got done with 'Pretty Hate Machine' it was way better live than on
record. The instrumentation a guitarist, drummer, keyboard player and myself was meant to
add aggression and make a show that people could see and go, 'F**k! I didn't expect that!'. The
last thing I wanted to do was to have two guys with a drum pad and a tape.
"The musicianship of the band now is such that I don't have to ride people as I did way
back. The drummer's excellent, Charlie's being utilised a lot more than he ever has it makes for a
lot less work for me. There's respect there both ways, I think. Some things sound like the
records, some don't. What I'm looking forward to on the next phase of this tour is getting deeper
into the new record. A number of the tracks had a lot of arms to them and paths that we turned
down to make them sit on the record right. That really could open itself up to being interpreted live.
And we're a good enough band to do it."
Kerrang!: How do you go about integrating a work as complex as 'The Fragile' into a
Reznor: "There's a lot of experimentation. The main thing that's changed is that the new record has
a lot of mid-tempo and slower songs. Too many of them in a set, it gets a bit redundant. The life
band used to be based on aggression, and it's tough to fit in six Cure-like, droning song and keep
people interested. There was a lot of questioning about pacing.
"We learned 12 or 15 songs off the album. And the ones that you think are going to go over
really well live don't come off so good, and some of the ones you didn't think come off so good are
a lot better. We spent a lot of time on the set-list to see what made sense. There was a lot of
hair-pulling and re-working."
SOME THINGS you notice about Trent Reznor: he is smaller than you expect five feet 10
or so. He smiles more than he's supposed to, but rarely makes eye contact and is good-natured but
firm about dismissing questions he feels are too personal. Contrary to recent rumour, his hair is his
own he tugs at it or his sleeves throughout the interview. When the other band members are being
interviewed, the catering staff clatter cutlery, mobile phones constantly ring and techno blares out of
a stereo in the corner. All of this stops the second Reznor starts to speak.
Lately, he hasn't seen or heard much new music that's excited him. Apart from Atari Teenage
Riot, who are supporting NIN on this trek at his invitation and one of whose T-shirts he frequently
Kerrang!: Did you check out the competition before this tour? Filter; for instance?
Reznor: "Some things I do. There hasn't been much that's really blown me away. The Filter record
I've got and I like. Richard (Patrick, Filter mainman and ex-NIN guitarist) is still a really good
friend of mine, so I don't look at that as the competition so much as a contemporary doing his thing.
What he's doing is good. "The immersion of hip-hop and rap is cool right now, so everybody is
going, 'Let's get a DJ in the band'. That's real tired to me. It's suburban mall culture white trash, in
my humble opinion."
Kerrang!: The lowest common denominator?
Reznor: "Of course it is."
Kerrang!: How would you feel about playing to 14-year-old Korn and Limp Bizkit
Reznor: "The show is catered towards doing the best show we can and not towards fitting on
MTV's 'Total Request'. I think some of mine and Korn's messages occupy similar emotional
territories, but I've not had to cater nor will I to things I don't understand.
"I'm not sure how's out there now, but there does seem to be a wider age bracket than
there's ever been. I'm just trying to do what's true to me, and when I get into making music I don't
believe in because 'the kids' want to hear it, the I'm f**ked. I haven't done that yet and if I ever
do, call me on it."
Kerrang!: Have you thought about how much longer you could and/or should do this
Reznor: "Yeah. When it doesn't seem real to me any more and it doesn't seem truthful. I honestly
feel that I've made music that is where I am spiritually and mentally at the time I've done it. If I
didn't feel I had anything to say, or the next NIN record was more of a departure and it wouldn't
work in a live environment, then that's it for that.
"Then there's other things I want to do different bands, different concepts and production
of other bands that I can fill my time up with. Because I really don't want to outstay my welcome.
You see that so much; there's many people to point the finger at who're guilty of that. But I still feel
we're pertinent enough at this point in time. At least, that's my perspective of things."
Kerrang!: To what extent is making a record like 'The Fragile' an enjoyable
Reznor: "There's times when it's enjoyable. With every record I've made, but with 'The Fragile' in
particular, the team I had was a very enjoyable and supportive one. But we knew we were in it for
the long haul, and it goes from being the greatest time ever to the worst. It's frustrating, maddening
and defeating. Then you get it right and everyone's excited. It's a rollercoaster, and the weight of it
is on my head coming up with the idea and executing it.
"You wouldn't want to be in the same studio when I'm doing vocals. That's never the time for
anyone to be around me or make my acquaintance. Finishing the mix, yeah, then I'm a nice guy. But
when I'm doing vocals, every inadequacy I have is on display for anyone to critique including
myself. That's also when you can really tell if it's shitty or not, and if you've been lying to yourself all
along. It's a plethora of emotions that you give yourself over to in the studio. I don't by any means
think I know how to write completely effectively yet. I'm still working on how to express myself
differently and better."
NINE INCH Nails prepared for this tour, says Reznor, by "eating unnaturally healthy things
and spending time outside". Reznor himself has stopped drinking. The tail-end of the two-year 'Mr
Self Destruct' tour was a different story. By then, Reznor was telling people about the backstage
enema contests that he, Marilyn Manson and Jim Rose would supervise with a retinue of willing
groupies. Robin Fink visibly shudders at the mere mention of that tour. It was, he notes wearily,
It took Reznor two years to recover. Principally because, straight after coming off the road,
he spent 12 months producing Manson's 'Antichrist Superstar' album and then months going mad in
isolation writing the 'Quake' soundtrack. Around this time, an infamous photo of him on a David
Bowie video set appeared in various magazines: he looked fat and f**ked.
Kerrang!: What did you think when you saw that picture?
Reznor: "I didn't see that one. But I remember where I was then. Take two-and-a-half years of
touring and then do a record with Manson and you wind up at a certain place in life. And it's a
place to move away from.
Kerrang!: How did you move away from it?
Reznor: "I kind of went through an overhaul in my life when I started working on this record. It
was realising that I was on a path of self-destruction that was leading nowhere but to ruination.
Sitting down and working on this record turned everything into a place of repair. And maturity has
crept in. I don't think it's overwhelmed the tone of NIN, but it's definitely added a different texture
and outlook. I feel differently mentally.
"The chemicals in my brain have changed. Also I never would have considered stability or
having kids. Now I'm like, 'Some day I'd like to do that'. I've really stopped my life to do Nine Inch
Nails and I let that get to a really unhealthy level. I'd convinced myself that I only had X amount of
time before no one was going to care what I had to say, so I'd got the rest of my life to be normal.
But you let that go for long enough and pretty soon you need to be human, too. That's what I've
been thinking I have to do. I haven't done it yet, but I at least know I have to."
Kerrang!: Are marriage and having a family things that are likely to happen in the
Reznor: "Er, it's possible. It's not as far away as it has been. It's not tomorrow. How's that for a
Kerrang!: You're not the typical celebrity. No one sees you at film premieres or
music biz parties. Will that ever change?
Reznor: "I don't know. Sometimes I'd like to feel that I could get sucked into that world someday.
But I know I never will. I've tried to make NIN come from an honest place a place where I can
express how I feel intimately and nakedly. To then counteract that with a personal image of me that
undermines everything I'm trying to say: 'I'm full of shit. Here I am kissing everyone's ass and I've
started a movie career'. Being around all those people that I've just written about and hate. "I don't
really feel connected to people. I know that sometimes I get my ass kissed by people and it's not
because I'm me, it's because I'm 'somebody'. It irritates me. You know, 'Just treat me like a normal
person. Quit kissing my f**king ass'. And I hate it's 10 people all kissing each other's asses and
bullshitting each other."
Kerrang!: By popular perception, you are the dark lord of doom. Discuss.
Reznor: "It comes with the territory. What I've focussed NIN on is an aspect of my head and
personality, and it's been more about the negative than the positive. I think that I have a good sense
of humour and I'm not always depressed.
"I think it's because you don't see me at the movie premiere. When you see someone in that
light too much, they become more human. There's a glaring example that I can come up can come
up with here, but I don't want to bring it up now. There's a demystification involved. I've tried to
keep a degree of mystique about NIN and myself.
"I've met a lot of guys in band, and I've really liked their music, and when I meet the person
they're so full of shit. I realised in my head that I've constructed this magical quality to the music I
read so much into it and it means so much to me and then I see the place it really came from and I
can't revisit it knowing it was all a charade. I don't personally feel that I'm full of shit, but I think it's
a good thing to keep at arm's length."
THE NEW Nine Inch Nails live experience is as dynamic and draining as it ever was. For 90
minutes, Trent Reznor, his eyes locked in a dead stare, exorcises his personal demons to a
soundtrack that stretches from bleak to blistering to coldly beautiful. In the audience tonight is a
rotund man in fishnet stockings ad leather mini-skirt, a pair of grubby white Y-fronts poking out
between the two. Onstage, a harassed gentleman returns Reznor's mike-stand to an upright position
every time he sends it crashing to the floor, which is often. He's been doing the job seven years.
After the show, NIN will drive to Amsterdam. They'll watch 'Braveheart' and 'Heat' on their
tour bus' video until the early hours. This time, Trent Reznor will join in the fun.
Kerrang!: Would you describe the band members as friends?
Reznor: "Yeah. But none of us would choose to call each other to go and see a movie. I was
thinking about this the other day, because none of us hang out together. I don't really know Jerome
that much. But I think Danny an Charlie and myself, from being in close quarters around each other
for a while, we know how to co-exist but not get in each others' hair."
Kerrang!: Do you make friends easily?
Reznor: "I'm not very good at friends. And the friends I have are able to
Hey, if it's six months
before we're in the same room again, they know what I've been doing. I get on one track with
something that I have to do and try to minimise other things. I'm bad at multi-tasking things. I think
about things like phoning and writing and then it's, 'F**k, it's been a month'. And then it's six
months, I'm bad at shit like that."
Words: Paul Rees
© EMAP Metro 1999 Transcribed for The NIN Hotline by node_girl
<< Previous Page
is provided courtesy Keith Duemling and Tracy Thompson from the collection previously
located at SUS.