Originally published in Gannett News on December 1, 1994

Trent Reznor's studio magic turned computer-generated music into an eloquent document of self destruction in the powerful concept album "The Downward Spiral." Turning those songs into the full-throttle blitz you'll catch onstage when his band Nine Inch Nails performs relied on the human emotions of a talented group of musicians. Reznor has been both acclaimed and criticized for the extreme emotions born out of songs that question religion, relationships and sexuality. "The songs are very emotional in what is being said in Trent's lyrics," says NIN drummer Chris Vrenna, Reznor's longtime friend." I know what they mean to me and when I'm playing those songs, I know how they affect me." Vrenna has been Reznor's right-hand man in the studio since the NIN debut "Pretty Hate Machine," doing everything from keeping the studio running to sampling sounds. When it was time to find the NIN road band, Vrenna and Reznor wanted musicians who could relate on the emotional level. "Coming from the same emotional background, I feel, is more important than how well you can play your instrument. That's one reason that makes our shows more intense when we're up there," Vrenna says. "We found people that understood that. It makes us stronger." The NIN live show also includes guitarist Robin Finck, keyboardist James Woolley and multi-instrumentalist Danny Lohner. Close to three months of intense, around-the-clock rehearsals have led to the frenetic "Self Destruct '94" tour. On stage, NIN members continually switch instruments, giving the music new life: A three-guitar barrage will assault you on the Grammy Award-winning "Wish"; Reznor, Lohner and Woolley triple team on the keyboards and turn "Closer" into a sensual prayer. The result is a richly textured concert. The emotions some have found healing at home erupt live. "It's catharic in a way for all of us, the crowd as well as the band," Vrenna says. "You get those built up tensions and you just want to lash out a lot. I think everybody feels that way. I get up there and I just hit things as hard as I can for as long as I can. When I get done, I just feel good. I feel so calm."

Transcribed by Keith Duemling

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