All hail the Nails

By Stephanie Bouchard for Portland Press Herald on February 23, 2006

Alessandro Cortini left his home in Italy seven years ago to study guitar at the Musicians Institute in Hollywood.

"Italy is not home (anymore)," he says on the phone from Des Moines. "It's good to (visit but) I can't resist more than two weeks. I get bloated and fat and grumpy from drinking red wine."

As the new keyboardist of Nine Inch Nails, the 29-year-old Cortini doesn't get much chance to return to Italy, or even to his home in Los Angeles. The group has been touring since last spring in support of its latest album, "With Teeth." The band will be at the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland Tuesday night.

While working as an instructor at the Musicians Institute, Cortini saw a flier posted in the school announcing auditions for Nine Inch Nails. What an opportunity. So he auditioned and made the band.

Nine Inch Nails, founded and fronted by Trent Reznor, is not a typical rock band in that it hasn't had a regular set of band members. Reznor began calling himself Nine Inch Nails in 1988 when he first started recording, playing all the instruments himself. By 1991, he had taken on a keyboardist (James Woolley).

Nine Inch Nails albums, like "Pretty Hate Machine" and "The Downward Spiral" were solid on the album charts. In 1999, Nine Inch Nails released a double album, "The Fragile." It wasn't until last year that Reznor and Nine Inch Nails released a follow-up album.

With the new album, "With Teeth," a new group of band members, including Cortini and drummer Josh Freese (who just completed touring with Sting), was welcomed on board.

Nine Inch Nails is currently on the fourth leg of its U.S. tour, which will end in April. The band will get a monthlong break from touring, during which Cortini expects Reznor will be working on the next album.

"Trent has been thinking about it (the next album) since he finished 'With Teeth,'Ý" says Cortini. "Hopefully, the album will be ready by (the end of the next leg of the tour)."

For the show in Portland, says Cortini, fans can expect the band to perform songs that Nine Inch Nails hasn't played live before and new arrangements of the songs everyone knows.

"The songs are half the work," says Cortini. "Trent spent a lot of time on the visual side. ... It's a beautiful show to see and to listen to."

Opening for Nine Inch Nails is Saul Williams, a hip-hop poetry/spoken word artist whose most recently published book is "The Dead Emcee Scrolls: The Lost Teachings of Hip-Hop."

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