Nothing from Nothing leaves Nothing

Originally published in Huh Magazine on January 1, 1995

It used to be that musicians just wanted to be actors. Now they all want to be record company geeks as well, despite the fact (or because of it) that most of them constantly bitch about said geeks. But while some of those artists (i.e. Madonna) have been playing the record exec. role too well -- signing uninteresting bands with lots o' commercial potential (i.e. Candlebox) -- others, such as nine inch nails' Trent Reznor, are taking the opposite route. They're signing bands that they actually believe in the same way someone once believed in them. And trying not to screw 'em like they've gotten screwed.

It's basically just to provide a shell to other bands to have a concrete environment, says Reznor of his Nothing label. And also to be aware of how the business part of it works -- which most labels don't want artists to know. There's so much shit in the music business aimed at protecting the label and fucking the artist over. I've learned 'cause I've gotten fucked and there's no reason it should be that way. Everybody asumes you're gonna fuck them over so they fuck you over first. It's stupid.

The first band on nothing, co-run by Reznor and his manager, John A. Malm Jr., was Marilyn Manson, a cartoonishly violent hard rock band that conjures images of a modern Twisted Sister if singer Dee Snider listened to more Alice Cooper and watched *Friday the 13th* sequels day in and day out. Adapting their names from assorted infamous serial killers, guitarist Daisy Berkowitz (David 'Son of Sam' Berkowitz), drummer Sara Lee Lucas (Henry Lee Lucas), keyboardist and horn player Madonna Wayne Gacy (John Wayne Gacy), bassist Twiggy Ramirez (Richard 'Night Stalker' Ramirez), and singer Mr. Manson (Chuckie 'Fun Boy' Manson) spew crunchy guitar riffs over solid rhythms, with the added coloring of odd vocal samples. The lyrics are equally tongue-through-cheek: 'Cake and Sodomy' opens with Mr. Manson declaring, 'I am the god of fuck', while 'Organ Grinder' changes that to 'I am the face of piss and shit and sugar'. Their album, 'Portrait of an American Family' (there's also an EP, 'Get Your Gunn', with two album tracks and two unreleased songs) is good, dirty, shock-rock fun; the kind you either get swept up in, or laugh at hysterically.

Stylistically similar to Marilyn Manson, though decidedly less cartoonish, Prick combines dramatically-revved hard rock with nine inch nails-style effects and sampling; imagine if Mr. Manson dropped the horror-core facade and listened to more David Bowie. On its self-titled debut, the group uses a variety of sound effects, from metallic noises to movie score orchestrations, but the core remains Smashing Pumpkins (*Gish*-era)-style heavy rock, with riffs tossed around equally frantic rhythms like a beast on fire.

Acting as a musical blender set on puree, the pioneering (and criminally underappreciated) Pop Will Eat Itself mixes elements of trance, dub, rock, rap, metal, and industrial to form future-sounding pop music; music perfectly suited for S&M techno-trance nights at the community center. Besides its new album 'Dos Dedos Mis Amigo', the group has also combined two of their UK EPs into the 'Amalgamation' EP, which includes two new songs, plus remixes and regular versions of three 'Dos Dedos' tracks.

"We're just keeping it small," explains Reznor of the label, which also recently released the soundtrack he produced for Oliver Stone's 'Natural Born Killers'. "The thing I quickly realized is that it takes a lot of time and I don't want it to get to where I don't know what's going on. It's nice being able to do this and it's fun to put some energy into something other that nine inch nails all the time."

Transcribed by Keith Duemling

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