Salt Lake City Tribune

June 2000

Back in Black: Nine Inch Nails Hammers Out Album and Tour

On June 17, Salt Lake City will provide a defining microcosm of the current state of the music industry.

Three clear choices in touring acts. One playing a football stadium, one playing a hockey arena, one playing a baseball stadium. One the hottest-selling boy-band of the moment, one widely considered the most significant artist of the past decade, one a collection of oldies acts from the '50s and '60s.

Suffice to say, the people gathering for Nine Inch Nails at the E Center next week probably would not be going to 'N Sync or Oldies Fest if Trent Reznor and his crew weren't in town the same day. There is not a lot of crossover between fans of chirpy teen puppets or former Monkees and fans of Reznor's Prince of Darkness image.

It has been five years since NIN released an album or toured, a period where Reznor essentially disappeared into his New Orleans home studio. Last fall, he emerged with "The Fragile," a dense, jarring double album that Reznor filled with themes of "systems failing and things sort of falling apart." His pain and anger spread across more than 100 minutes of rock, punk, industrial and classical movements, Reznor next gathered his long-standing road band (with new drummer Jerome Dillon) and started the process of creating a live version of "The Fragile."

"When we first started rehearsing, we got together for the first time with a new drummer, for the first time in literally four years, and just kind of hammered out some of the original-set songs (from 1989's "Pretty Hate Machine" and 1994's "The Downward Spiral"), " said guitarist Robin Finck, part of NIN's touring band for close to a decade, now joined by Dillon and multi-instrumentalists Charlie Clouser and Danny Lohner. "We were sloppy and screwing up the arrangements and all that, but we broke quite a sweat and it didn't take long for us to get that groove back. As far as the new material, it was challenging, but we were all so determined and we really had nothing else to do but make it work, so it was really pretty satisfying once it started shaping up."

Like previous NIN albums, "The Fragile" veers from rousing, militaristic ranting to whispers accompanied by a lone piano or string section. The breadth of Reznor's musical interests as a one-man band in the studio obviously makes translating the material to the stage a project in itself. For this tour, the tempo shifts help pace the show and act as dramatic elements for the production. Reznor even worked with Pink Floyd lighting designer Mark Brickman to coordinate the show's visual and aural elements.

"By the time we started the North American tour, we had already been through Europe and Australia and Japan, so we ironed a lot of things out beforehand and were pretty well-rehearsed," Finck said. "So it was a thing of trial-and-error with the pacing of the set, the dynamics of, 'Maybe these two songs shouldn't live next to each other. Maybe it's too much of one thing.'

"Originally . . . we played maybe more new material than we eventually realized was best for the set. So [now] we have revolving doors of new songs, and old songs too, but by now, we've started to play numbers we want to do because we haven't done them in a while, for us and for the fans. The audience may not know that it's different than the night before, or maybe they do nowadays, with the Internet. But if it's fresher for us, it's better for everybody."

That "The Fragile" debuted at No. 1 on the album-sales' charts and garnered Reznor a pack of "Album of the Year" and "Artist of the Year" accolades in 1999 is no surprise. Twelve years after exploding out of Cleveland with a sound both poppy and menacingly noisy, playing clubs like Salt Lake's Speedway Cafe for a few hundred people, NIN continue to stay ahead of the curve, to always sound relevant no matter how long they disappear between albums. Most record labels would not let one of their most popular acts take years off at a time.

Then again, that's why Reznor owns his own label. Nine Inch Nails and Perfect Circle play the E Center on Saturday, June 17 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $32.50 and $45.50 and available at all Smith's Tix outlets. At the E Center

Nine Inch Nails and Perfect Circle play the E Center on Saturday, June 17 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $32.50 and $45.50 and available at all Smith's Tix outlets.

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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.