Reznor in the raw

Nine Inch Nails frontman talks about his tour, Hurricane Katrina and fans.

By Mike Osegueda for The Fresno Bee on September 16, 2005

When Nine Inch Nails began their first tour in five years at the Saroyan Theatre in March, tight-lipped frontman Trent Reznor wasn't talking.

Now, the band is returning to town Tuesday, playing Selland Arena, on its larger "With Teeth" arena tour.

The enigmatic Reznor, who rarely gives interviews, took some time Wednesday morning to talk about the tour, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and his relationship with his fans. (Answers have been edited for brevity).

Question: I know you don't do a whole lot of interviews, so you must be pretty excited to talk about this new tour. What's the scoop on it?

Answer: I approached this wave of tour, this whole cycle for this album, in different phases. We just finished the first phase, which is a bit more smaller venue, kind of off-the-cuff, not production heavy, the most at-ease we've ever been on stage.

So to complement that this second wave, this fall tour in the U.S., is kind of the opposite. Much more production-heavy. We're trying a few things visually to make it interesting, that I hope to God we get together. It's always a hassle right before you have a major undertaking because there are a lot of different components that all have to come together, video things and lighting ideas that I've been working on with these guys.

My whole goal is to make a show that allows the music to be experienced at its fullest. The record is the record, and that's the way it should sound. The live show, sometimes it sounds like the record; sometimes it doesn't.

It's more about the experience of being at a show and the electricity in the air. That's what we're really shooting for this time out.

Q: You mentioned the first wave. We were a part of that. Everybody here was kinda trippin' out when you had the first show in five years in Fresno. Now you're coming back again. Is there some fascination with Fresno?

A: We couldn't get enough of Fresno. [He laughs.] Honestly, I'm not even sure why that is the case. That's one aspect of what I do that I don't get that involved with, routing of tours.

Q: Did it just kind of work out like that?

A: You, by chance, are the lucky person living in Fresno who gets to experience us in a raw state usually.

Q: How's the set list looking? Anything that will make the die-hard fans go nuts?

A: There are definitely some surprises. There's a handful of songs we've never played. Not just new stuff. It feels like a quite different thing than what we did last time.

The tough thing about making a set list up is that I can sit in my head, with my iPod, practicing how segues are going to go and what I think it's gonna feel like, but the brutal reality comes when, "Whoops, I shouldn't have put that song next." But you don't know that until you play it a few times.

Q: You guys, with Queens of the Stone Age as an opener, make for a good show. How did that relationship come about?

A: I had a list of bands I would like to tour with, and first off was Queens of the Stone Age because — and this is not lip service because I'm doing an interview trying to support the show — I truly, really like that band. They were available and into it. I talked to Josh [Homme, singer for Queens of the Stone Age] about it and he was all for it. Again, there's no one else I'd rather pick.

Q: Let's talk about New Orleans real quick. You lived and recorded there for a long time, so how did you react when you first heard about the hurricane?

A: I just sold my house there. I would say luckily, but I don't think that's a fair thing to say. I sold it a few months ago. I still have a studio there. For the majority of the time that I was there, it became the home base for Nine Inch Nails.

I couldn't get much work done because I couldn't quit watching TV because I could not believe my eyes. I think we've all seen tsunamis and a variety of atrocities and terrible situations across the world, but for some reason when it's a place that you're intimately familiar with — I lived there for the better part of 14 years — to see it just destroyed and to see the people treated in a disrespectful, inhumane way by our government, it went from disbelief and shock and grieving to just outrage.

I don't mean to get on my soapbox. I honestly don't know how many more glaring, crystal clear examples of incompetence and criminal negligence and greed and inhumanity and racism we can see from this administration before we do something about it.

I just saw Bush, "I take responsibility." Well, resign then. Hundreds of people's lives, you killed them, and you killed a city because you put your friends in office. Your transparent agenda is crystal-clear.

You can hide behind your homophobia and round people up behind your Bible, which is just a ploy to get your corporate buddies richer and the poor poorer. Then you see people dying on the rooftops.

I can go on and on and on.

Q: Having said all this, what do you feel about what Kanye West did (saying "George Bush doesn't care about black people") and the reaction to that?

A: Anybody saying what he said is a good thing. I actually met Kanye just a couple days ago and talked to him about it. He was surprised that it had the effect it did. But you know what? More power to him. I don't know that I would express myself that way — I wouldn't have, as a matter of fact — but it had an emotional impact, and it speaks to people.

Q: It seems like your relationship with your fans is a unique one. You let them get straight to the source by answering their questions on your Web site and letting them download and remix songs, like you did with "Only." Why do you approach your fans this way? Why do you give them such access?

A: I would counter with, "Why not?" I try to put myself in the role of the fan and think about what would be cool or what would be exciting to me. The remix track, that's something that I would think is cool. It's easy to get jaded and lose touch with something, especially when you get a degree of success. I try to go out and attempt to, if I can, sneak out in the crowd and check out the opening band, or watch people showing up and remember, for most people, this is a big deal. I remember what it was like for me. I saved up money to go to a concert, then I knew a few months ahead of time I was going and I planned my ride and saved enough money for a T-shirt. It was an event. It helps me to remember that.

Plus, I think now, being away for a while, I appreciate it a lot more. I feel like I've been fortunate enough to get another shot at things. It's nice to appreciate it and have an audience of people who are interested in what you're doing musically. I try to make the most of that.

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