Spotlight : Trent Reznor

Originally published in Much Music on April 1, 1994

The first part of this is from a NIN spotlight on Much Music (Canada's MTV) that includes bits from an April '94 interview, and a 1990 interview. The second part is the original broadcast of the 1994 interview, which was a few months earlier. I included in [these brackets] some of the actions that either the Much Music VJ or Trent Reznor are doing during the interview, and {in these} the computer text put on the screen or whatever. You'll notice that MM cut out most of the VJ's questions and just showed TR's answers (because they only had 1/2 an hour), but all these paragraphs are his uncut answers. The VJ is the same guy for both years/interviews. Some parts of the April '94 interview were played on the original broadcast and then repeated on the spotlight, so I only wrote those questions/responses in the spotlight section. FYI: whenever Trent said "you know" or "I mean" in either interview, he wasn't asking the VJ or correcting himself, he was just adding them in for no apparent reason.

{ - Trent Reznor is originally from Pennsylvania }
{ - Latest release is '94's 'The Downward Spiral' }
{ - Movie about latest tour could be out as early as this summer }

{April '94}

Trent Reznor: I don't know the psychology of why someone enjoys horror movies or likes being scared, or enjoys films or music that might be considered depressing. I'm not sure what draws people to that - I am drawn to it; I'm intrigued by extremity in those departments, I don't know why. I mean, I've tried to figure it out - maybe it's because I grew up in a place where....there wasn't anything - there was no culture, there was no influence, and so what you got, you go through magazines, and what might be on TV or - there was no art cinemas, there was no college radios, there was no underground book stores or any sort of thing like that, so....maybe my desire to just....escape led me to searching for extreme. I don't know.

{play 'Down In It' video}


TR: I always wanted to do this, but I just lacked the drive to do it....the determination to get it done....discipline - and when I was working in this studio where I realized that I was wasting my time - in Cleveland, Ohio, vacation spot of the United States and.... I just decided for once in my life I was really going to work on something and see if I could do it. And I don't think I'd ever done that before that. Things had kinda come easy in certain respects and I'd always taken the easy way out. So, this was a challenge to myself to see if I could get a record deal, put out a quality album, things like that. And the success thing, it's just been really wierd. I mean, it's flattering, and I mean, I don't fear it.

{play 'Head like a Hole' video}

{April '94}

TR: It's cool to do a show and see the people who show up, you know, and the people who tend to relate to that, and not....necessarily the super-mainstream, well-adjusted people. I do think, I mean I hope that there are some people receiving whatever's being said.

TR: Well, the character on stage is an amplification of me, of the energy in me and my personality. I don't walk around throwing mic stand when I'm eating dinner at a restaurant. But it's not an *act*, it was never conceived to be some persona that I....you know it's not me - it _is_ me, it's a different side of me, you know.

{play clip of 'March of the Pigs'}

TR: The idea for this record, 'Downward Spiral', came about the end of '91 when we had done touring and finished the first Lollapalooza, and we went to Europe, and I was sitting in the hotel room and I was kind of seeing the energy that Nine Inch Nails was drawing upon, it was a definite negative vibe, and although....it was powerful, it's ultimately not the end of the road: a means towards something else - I'm not sure what that is and.... I kinda came up with the idea of 'Downward Spiral' which I knew would be a pretty harrowing exploration of that. So, this record was focussing on those certain things that were bothering me that I felt needed exploring - which is not to say that everything in my life is totally terrible and negative, but it was a record about a certain set of things and that's what I wanted to explore.

VJ: The theme of pigs on the album - any particular reason?

TR: Chance more than anything, I mean people say that it was because I was in the Tate house, but you know, it was a reference to that, which it wasn't conciously a reference to the murders that took place there. That wasn't the reason I was in that house, but again, it's hard for me to try to say that and people believe that it wasn't a plublicity stunt of some sort.

{play 'March of the Pigs' video}

{April '94}

TR: I like making music, I like touring, but I could do without the publicity side of things, and interviews and personality profiles, and people probing into my own life about whatever they think they need to know, or they think they know about me. To the whole music as fashion thing, I try to stay awy from it. But I kind of realize that it is a necessary part of an image and the way I'm portrayed is part of the whole ball of wax.

{play clip of 'Wish'}

TR: I don't know or care, really, what people think about me, I'll read interviews of me where I'm portrayed as something that I know I don't think I am, if I know who I am anymore, but I don't care, you know, these people who read this don't know me, the interviewer didn't know me, and I could argue all day, you know, hey, I have fun once in a while right, you know, I have a good sense of humour. You know it doesn't mean enough to me to try and come back.

{play 'Wish' video}


VJ: Let's take a look at some of your videos, these things keep you and your team entertained?

TR: Well, after a hard show, we like to come in and put the Video Aquarium on whereyou can -

VJ: [interrupts] And what *is* this? [pointing to Video Aquarium box]

TR: It's, ah, about 2 hours of just a fish tank and the sound of bubbles and stuff.

VJ: So the fish go about the screen?

TR: It's just if you put a video camera on your....fish tank and miced it, that's what it would pretty much be.

VJ: Better than valium?

TR: [nodding] Soothing....kind of a valium replacement thing. We're looking to get the Video Fireplace [points to ad for Video Fireplace on back of Video Aquarium box].

VJ: Oh, now that would be cool.

TR: Kind of for a different feel.

VJ: That would be like the champagne kind of....

TR: [nodding & half-smile] The cuddling moments on the bus.

VJ: Yes. [giggles] Schartzenegger, Predator [picks up box].

TR: [half-smile on face for the rest of this interview] Just mindless violence, you know, to take aggression out - we have a special copy though that features New Kids on the Block - a special cameo by them [takes box, turns it over and points to a group shot of NKOTB glued overtop of the original picture].

VJ: And, ah, Arnold blows them away?

TR: Yes, he massacres them all.

VJ: And the world is saved.

TR: Right, pop music is safe once again.

VJ: And here's a classic - Al Pacino's Scarface [picks up box].

TR: Um, we basically watch this to count how many times he says....a certain word....it's....quite a few; we've not quite got them all, but.... Again, serious mind-numbing violence to take the pressures of the road off a road-worn band.

{show clip of Video Aquarium, and someone puts their hand in front of the camera, holding a small ball or something, then someone screams quietly}

{show 'Hurt' video}

{April '94}

TR: I'm just sick of seeing bands wearing flanel shirts, and looking like gas-station attendants [VJ starts giggling, TR looks at him then keeps going]. You know, we're doing everything we can just to not fit into that mold.

-Original Broadcast of Trent Reznor's April '94 Interview-

[info sliding across bottom of screen with 'March of the Pigs' video playing full-screen]:

{Reznor rented the Tate house to set-up a home studio to record "The Downward Spiral". He named the facility "Le Pig".}

TR: I had the song 'Piggy' written long before it was ever knows that I would be in that house. 'March of the Pigs' has _nothing_ to do with the Tate murders or anything like that, I'm not going to say what it is about, but it's not about that. Ya, the name of the studio being "Pig", that was a definite bad taste kind of joke about being there. You know, it was written on the front door at one time, you know, I'll admit to that.

[info sliding across bottom of screen with 'Happiness in Slavery' video playing full-screen]:

{It is not unusual for Nine Inch Nails videos to be deemed 'unsuitable for air', but "Happiness in Slavery" takes the cake}

VJ: What kind of response did you get from people that saw that ['Happiness in Slavery' video]?

TR: We knew when we were doing it that we were going to go too far - that we would be beyond the limites of what was playable in.... American television, but it was interesting to us, I use that as a barometer of what we wanted to do, so....we just made it was far as we wanted to take it or as we had the resources to take it, and when it was done, we considered, for maybe 10 minutes, editing it to be seen, and we thought no, what the.... At that point we knew we wouldn't get get any airplay but it just seemed like the right thing to do, and it was the thing I wanted to do, it expressed the song the best way it could - It wasn't a calculated idea to put a, you know, to get somebody's penis in a video.

{clip of 'Wish' video}

VJ: So how much is the recording career an extension of physically and mentally who you are?

TR: It's all that I am right now. Maybe for the last....I don't know how long, I mean for....well, since things started happening. I have become what I do.

{clip of 'Wish' video}

VJ: Are you really, in one sense, just coining on....negative energy?, do you think?, at times?

TR: No, I think I'm exorcising bad feelings, and that means dredging up some negative energy, but I think the act of it turns it into a positive thing.

Transcribed by Keith Duemling

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