91x Interviews Trent Reznor

Originally published in 91X XTRA-FM on September 7, 2005

i: Hello Trent
trent: Yes.

i: How are you?
trent: I'm alright.

i: I want to thank you for coming on, man. This is certainly a treat having you on here.
trent: My pleasure.

i: We'll talk about the show in just a second, wanted to start by saying, well, Nothing Studio (NS) based in New Orleans (NO) I know you lived there for many many years, almost a decade... I am so sorry.
trent: (pause) Yeah, I mean, it's, uh, just heartbreaking, it really is. You know, the phase I'm at right now, I've been glued to my television, talking to my friends that are still there and everything else. It's (pause) It really is starting to y'know, just fuel me with uh, anger right now, the way this thing's been handled... that could get me off on a tangent that could last for an hour...

i: When the news hit, obviously we were all concerned about our fellow man, but now that we've had a chance to kinda sit back and kinda really analyze how everything went down, I don't think you're alone there.
trent: it's just frustrating, y'know it's frustrating that you get this double talk and y'know nobody's accountable for anything these days, and this administration can get away with anything, and uh, now their excuse is now is not the time to point fingers. I disagree, now is the time, to point fingers, while it's fresh in people's minds, don't let these guys slide out from under things and snake away like they do on everything else

i: have you had a chance to actually check out firsthand the devastation being that NS based there in NO, I know you moved out, what, last year, about a year ago?
trent: well, I moved out to CA pretty much full time the beginning of 2004, but I just sold my house there, uh, a few months ago, and uh, I still have a studio there which um, is filled with stuff, that hasn't really been disassembled for the most part. Yeah, my concern when, on Monday when the storm seemed like it missed the city was just, well, I hope the studio's OK. And then when you see what happened afterwards, I mean really it seems, really unimportant, y'know and it is, it's just stuff, when you see what everybody's lives, not to mention the lives that have been lost, but the lives that have been uprooted... [mumble] that's a massive... situation... I'm just trying to get in touch with all my friends that have been there, see how I can help them. We've made some efforts to move the Voodoo Fest (VF) which was a big festival that was happening there in October, to relocate that and turn it into a benefit, and that seems like that's going to go on.

i: Cause the site of the VF is where exactly?
trent: VF was in City Park which is, um...

i: submerged right?
trent: pretty much underwater, yeah.

i: And who's set to play that event? And with that event all the proceeds going to benefit those in need, is that correct?
trent: That's the idea, I mean we're in the, uh, we've talked to most of the bands that were originally slated to play, and everybody, honestly, was up for, y'know, whatever they can do to help.

i: Now as far as your neighbors are concerned, those in NO, as I understand a lot of people have been posting stuff on nin.com, correct?
trent: I've heard from people, that y'know, seem to think I'm worried about the studio... which I am, but certainly not, it doesn't seem to matter much... in the scope of things right now... very strange situation, y'know, and I find myself in mourning for a place that, y'know, I spent a good 14 years of my life in... that's... the closest thing to a real home that I can call right now. I live in CA now, but it doesn't seem quite like, I don't have any roots here yet.

i: What was it about the city that attracted you to NO to begin with?
trent: Well, I grew up in rural Pennsylvania (PA), in the middle of nowhere, basically, and 1990 was the first I'd ever really seen a lot of the country or the world for that matter... touring around, and every time we went through NO, it was just like a... different planet, y'know, it was as far away from... the, culture of PA as you could get... it was very tolerant, an exotic, weird world where care went into architecture, and it was tradition and history... just a seductive place. It also had a... it just seemed like a place where you could hang out at for while, and my job really was just to write, and uh, it was still a fairly small city... I didn't feel like I'd get sucked into the diversions of say, Manhattan or L.A... and I got there and it was just a comfortable place to hang out, and in my own madness I think it was a good place to kind of hide away from the world... I look back on the time I spent there... and it was time to leave, when I left, for me. It was time for a change, it was time to kind of, uh, I felt it was time to be around my peers and get involved in, not being quite so isolated, but um, a lot of good times there, and a lot of good memories, and it certainly helped define who I am.

i: And speaking of the isolation that you refer to during those periods, I mean when you look at the new record, With Teeth the entire piece, written at the NS, correct?
trent: the actual record was written as soon as I moved out here to L.A. I'd certainly formulated ideas and concepts, and had notebooks full of notes and stuff, but the formal writing process was pretty brief... pretty quick period from the beginning of 2004 til the spring, maybe early summer, but then we went back to NO and recorded the record there.

i: And there were a lot of years obviously off between records... premeditated as to wait that long, or what made you release it now?
trent: No, there certainly wasn't any master plan of, y'know, I thought my career would benefit from giant gaps inbetween. [interview laughter] That wasn't the thought process. It really came down to, um, I was sick, I was battling addiction and it was something I was trying to pretend wasn't affecting me and it finally got to the point where I had to deal with it, and that was around... by the time 2001 arrived, I was pretty much defeated, and it was time to either, y'know, deal with this, or suffer the consequences, which at that point really was knocking on death's door. So, uh... the idea of trying to stay alive meant more to me than trying to keep a career going, and I pretty much lost my ability, uh, drive... my soul had been stolen away, and my desire to do anything had been crushed, I hated myself, and I hated what my life had turned into, and... I'd forgotten that music can be fun, and can bring pleasure... it turned into a job, and it turned into a competitive... everything was bad, so I decided to take some time off, and really just try to get my life in order, and try to get healthy again, and try to, um, correct a lot of the problems I've been sweeping under the rug... and that led to me really not doing very much except recovering really for a few years.

i: Was there a defining moment though, coming from someone who has suffered from depression, has suffered from addictions, was there a defining moment in your life where you said, uh, now's the time where, uh, did you hit an all-time low, let's put it that way.
trent: Yeah, I did. And I kept... I thought maybe I'd hit that low, and then I would find, well, no, I'd made it lower than that, and y'know [interview laughter] and that kept up til really, probably the catalyst was when my best friend in NO got murdered, and... it was, uh, felt like I was, it should have been me, a whole number of things. And maybe it wasn't for me, but it was for, the memory of him, or what I might have owed him, or what I thought I owed him, or my respect and my friendship for him... but it kinda, I just realized that I... I hate this [laughter] I don't want to ever be in this place again, and I'd rather be dead, than continue forward down this path.

i: Well, for what it's worth, I caught one of the two shows at Soma, and I gotta tell ya, and I've been there since 1989, you look better now than you did 15, 20 years ago.
trent: Well thanks very much. I just don't want to feel bad, I've spent a lot of my life feeling bad. And, simple, and kinda stupid as that might sound, or obvious as that might sound, it's just um, I've really been trying to get rid of things that make me feel bad, y'know, and trying to get those things out of my life... trying not to dwell or invite things into my life that cause me to feel bad about myself. And that's part of recovery, and part of just, y'know, realizing how old I am, realizing my, trying to find my lot in life, what my role is in the scheme of things, and one thing was, I also wanted to start to take care of myself for the first time, and that's kind of led to, uh, changing my patterns, changing my routine through the day, and I do, I do feel better, I feel better than I probably ever have right now.

[part 2]

i: Got the new record, With Teeth, a veritable success, got the impending tour, I imagine things are going pretty well for you these days.
trent: yeah, it's really like a bonus, and I'm not saying this to try to sound humble or anything else, but when... as I've had a few years of sobriety under my belt, I was starting to feel like my old self, and I was starting to like myself again, and I was... comfortable waking up and not feeling like I was on fire, um, the big question that remained unanswered was, can I still write, can I still do music, does anyone care? I know time has been taken off, and I needed to do that... and when I sat down to start working this record, it was like songs started falling out of my head, and it was such, it was so effortless compared to how it had seemed to be in the past. I just felt re-energized, and then the next question was, well, does anyone care? By no means did I think we were going to start out right where we left off, or pretend like it's 1995, and we just walked offstage at Woodstock and we're still a big deal, and... the climate's changed, the culture's changed...

i: absolutely.
trent: ... I'm going to do the best music I can, and do it with the most sincere, sincere, earnest perspective, and see what happens. And it's been a pleasant surprise to see that there are still people out there that are interested. And, um, that's a great feeling. Very little to complain about right now.

i: Yeah, cause I look at it and I think I even said it on the air when we played Hand That Feeds for the first time, just how refreshing it was to have new music out of NIN, especially during your absence, there were so many bands out there, and have been so many bands, I mean countless acts, have tried to emulate and do what you do, and it's just so cool to just take it back and say, hey. It's kinda like when Radiohead releases records, there are a lot of bands out there that try to do what Radiohead does, and then Radiohead comes out with a new a record and says, oh, there's the gold standard, and that's kinda how I felt with your record.
trent: Well, I'm flattered that you would put us in that light. Thank you.

i: What were your influences? Were you listening to a lot of new stuff, or going back to the old stuff?
trent: Well as I've gotten older and a bit more jaded, I imagine, y'know [laughter] I've found myself, on this record, really getting back to some old records, rather than new stuff. Y'know, I'm not saying that there aren't any new bands that I find interesting, but I was much closer, I was studying, say, Flowers of Romance, Public Image Limited, old Killing Joke, um, I went through, probably not very obvious, but um, I finally got around to studying Bob Dylan, which everyone tells me is great, but I'd somehow never [interviewer laughter] and hadn't seemed very obvious to me... but found that yes, there is some great things in there, um... even shriek back, things that were a bit more primal, beat oriented, repetitive, um, things.

i: where'd you find the funk?
trent: What's that?

i: The funk [emphatic]. Only.
trent: It's gonna have to be... A lot of that's really Gang of Four. And I was pleasantly surprised, I got to see them on Coachella. I thought it was great. I was fearing the worst, that these guys were getting back together, and it would be...

i: A mess.
trent: Yeah. But it was...

i: It'd be Guns N Roses.
[general laughter]
trent: Who?

[interview laughter]
i: Exactly. Or Limp Bizkit, I know how much you love Fred Durst.
trent: Yeah.

i: Any truth to that, back with the Interscope, when Fred was doing something there, that you wouldn't let Fred Durst anywhere near your band, and if people brought up the name Fred Durst that you'd walk out of the room?
trent: No, I mean, none of what you said is true. Was I a big Fred Durst fan? Certainly not.
[interviewer laughter]
trent: No, I remember at the time when he was elevated to the role of vice president, or something, I found that a bit insulting... but um, y'know, justice has been served.

i: In a big way. Now as far as the new tour is concerned, caught the show as I mentioned, and many of our listeners did as well, at Soma... are you enhancing the same type of thing we got a couple of months ago?
trent: Well the last little jaunt around that we did was really just um, fairly aggressive, kind of greatest hits show, not very production based, and the point of that was that we were playing smaller venues, and also the first time I've toured in five years, really. And with this new band, I kinda wanted to see what, how the band would kinda mutate, or how it would kinda turn into something. And, uh, what we're trying this time, we've been rehearsing for the past few weeks, and it's a much more... elaborate show... let me put it... it's a bit more experimental, it's more stuff off the new record, it's less um... I think there's a lot more dynamics involved. It feels a bit more dangerous to me. And... y'know, have elements of what we did before, but it's not just turn the lights on and... throw guitars around. Feels like a step forward to me.

i: And What made you tap QOTSA, another tremendous live act. Why Queens? Are you a big Queens fan?
trent: I think, QOTSA are probably my favorite rock band that's out right now. and um, the option came up to tour with them, and they were my first choice. I really respect what Josh does, and I think they're a great band live, and it seemed like a cool match... to do it. So, I was just happy that they'd join us, excited about seeing 'em every night.

i: Oh absolutely. Any concerns about Josh's help? Cause I know he had a collapse over in, uh, Europe I believe, he collapsed on stage.
trent: Yeah, I just heard about that, um, I saw him a couple weeks ago at a Devo show and he seemed fine to me, but we'll take it, see what happens.

i: Kicking off the tour in San Diego (SD). Anything about the city that you remember, or an experience here in SD, that you... can relate to, or share with us, a little anecdote?
trent: well, I just remember when we first, y'know again, back, way back in 1990 when we just started touring around, SD was this exotic place... it was the portal to Tijuana, and I always remember playing really good shows... we played at this really weird place, I want to think that we did, maybe it was San Diego, I don't know... we've played so many clubs and things, it's sort of a blur. I've always had a good time down there, and I've always thought the audiences were... pretty exceptional, so. And that sounds like something I would say on the radio in the city that I'm about to play.

i: Just as long as you don't do any shouts during the show... SAN DIEGO, WE LOVE YOU! Now...
trent: Funny you mention that because I was trying to incorporate a bit more of that audience participation...

i: Singing along to Closer? [sarcastic]
trent: Exactly.

[Pleasantries, end]

Transcribed by Greg from echo

View the NIN Hotline article index