Nine Inch Nails: Interview

Originally published in ClickMusic.co.uk on April 3, 2005

It was our great pleasure to interview the lifeblood of Nine Inch Nails, Trent Reznor. With his long awaited fifth album, With Teeth, for which we have waited so patiently for 6 years, about to drop, we asked Trent a few questions about life, drugs and music... the important stuff.

What have you been up to in this long hiatus?
“I worked on the 12 Round record - not sure if that’s coming out. I worked on Zach [De La Roca, lead singer from Rage Against The Machine]’s solo album, but that may never come out. And some stuff with Tool [singer Maynard James Keena] – that got cancelled by the label.” “And I took a couple of years off to get my life in order – get over my addiction.”

How has life changed since the last album, and how is that reflected in the new material?
“There’s been a radical change: I’ve gone from addiction to sobriety. My odds of survival have gone up – that’s a profound change. I’ve changed my management, I get on better with the label, I know where my money is – which is a change. I’m healthier in body and mind. My writing is clearer as well... I feel like I’ve woken up from a coma… and I’m just thankful that I still have stuff to say.

A lot of musicians become either rich and famous, and/or get clean, and their creative juices dry up. Where does your rage come from?
“Addiction is a disease. The job, the job didn’t make me an addict, but it accelerated what I was doing. I was suffering from social anxiety, and that’s not the best situation for someone doing what I was doing [being a rock star]. I didn’t take drugs as inspiration – in fact they got in the way. I’m just glad I didn’t destroy my brain.”
“I feel energised again. My addiction robbed me of my love of music: music became a job so I hated it. So I decided to get clean. I didn’t care about my career, but I did want to be alive. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to interviews and touring... it’s no fun when you’re an addict. I’m in control of my destiny again, and I can’t wait to take advantage of my gift again. I only wish [addiction] hadn’t taken so much out of me… so many years off my life.”
“I started writing – officially – in the beginning of 2004. And I realised that I do have something to say.”
“I feel like this isn’t over. There’s anticipation out there. I know it’s been six years… which isn’t an ideal amount of time to leave it... but people have said nice things about the music and the shows are selling out real fast... so, yeah, I feel like this isn’t over.”

So is touring as wild as it used to be then?
“At the time going onstage for two hours was necessary to justify the ten hours of party afterwards. But it’s different now. And being the boss it’s easier to create a ‘safe’ environment.”

Has the balance of man and machine altered since the days of Pretty Hate Machine?
“I’m still adhering to the collision of icy precision and human error. I started writing the new album outside the studio, with just lyrics and a piano, so that the songs wouldn’t get too far down the production road before I had finished writing them. In terms of arrangement, With Teeth is far more performance orientated; if there was a bass-line or riff, we didn’t just loop two bars over and over, we’d play the whole piece. And we didn’t chop it all up beat by beat, we didn’t fuss with it too much. We wanted the music to sound imperfect.”
“It’s so easy to make perfect sounding music nowadays. Everyone with an iMac has a sound editor, and can make amazing sounding records. I turn on the radio and everything sounds the same, and that terrible music sounds like it’s good, when it’s not. We wanted imperfection.”

What are you listening to at the moment?
“I’m listening to LCD Soundsystem, M.I.A... or is it Mia? I’m never sure how to say her name. Autolux, they sound like My Bloody Valentine and Sonic Youth in a blender… and raise the production quality a bit. Saul Williams; the image, the message - he’s amazing. We might go on tour with him. I like hiphop, but there hasn’t been a good hiphop record in the last five years – apart from Dizzee Rascal and a few European things. American hiphop is just ghetto bullshit. People rapping about jewellery.”

How does the ‘performance orientated’ album effected the live show? And how are the new band finding it all?
“It’s very live. There’s not much backing. Maybe a couple of loops. It gives a lot more freedom. The hardest job was finding a guitarist. I realised that I had to stop trying to find a replacement guitarist – and find something, someone new. ‘Terrible Lie’ was the audition track, and Aaron [North] just came in ready to kick ass. For him it’s not about precision, or having some fancy special rare old guitar – it’s about attacking the instrument.”

The Single, 'The Hand That Feeds' is out now, and the new album, 'With Teeth', is forthcoming (as of 3 Apr 2005).

View the NIN Hotline article index