New guitarist helps reshape Nails' sound

By George Lenker for The Republican (Masslive.com) on February 23, 2006

As the current guitarist for Nine Inch Nails, Aaron North sometimes still finds himself in awe of being onstage with the band, rather than in the audience.

"I was a big fan growing up, so now when I see a 15-year-old kid in the audience, I think, 'Wow, I was that 15-year-old kid,'" he said in a recent telephone interview. "For me, playing with Nine Inch Nails is like fantasy camp for guitar."

North will join Nine Inch Nails founder Trent Reznor and company at The Mullins Center in Amherst on Monday night. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. and tickets are .

Although NIN has gone through several guitarists since the band's inception in 1988, North feels like his position is permanent.

"I don't think Trent meant to keep changing guitarists, but there have been periods of years between some of the records and sometimes people can't wait around," he said.

North brings a somewhat different guitar sound to the band. As the former guitarist for The Icarus Line, North brings a punk sensibility to his playing. While earlier Nine Inch Nails' guitarists' sounds would hardly be called mellow, North pushes the intensity factor up a notch.

"My approach is different than Trent's or previous guitarists," North said. "They were a little more polished than I am. I come from a more punk and chaos style; I follow it to see where it goes. I believe that if you don't fall flat on your face once in a while, you're not really playing. Trent seems to appreciate that."

In The Icarus Line, North's sonic barrage carried the band's sound, but in Nine Inch Nails, he allows himself to hold back more.

"The Icarus Line was a guitar band but with Nine Inch Nails, songs may be based on a rhythm or a bass line, so I don't have to play something all the time," he said.

But North's different style helped when Reznor challenged the band to change some of the older songs around.

"Some of these songs have been played pretty much the same way for 10 years, so Trent wanted to move things around," North said. "So now he may play keyboards on a song he used to play guitar on or I may play a keyboard part on the guitar."

While North welcomed this challenge, it added to the workload when he joined the band. It meant that North not only had to learn 40 songs in a short period of time, but also come up with new parts for many of them.

"It was hard to put the creative hat on for that many songs and come up with my own parts, especially after hearing those songs a different way for years," he said. "It was challenging but also rewarding and fun when we did it."

North said that reinventing some of the songs helped the band members bond.

" It put everyone on the same page and it shows that the band has the right chemistry to pull these songs off," he said.

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