Trent Reznor Talks Music, Inspiration, And ‘The Social Network’ With Kevin & Bean

By Nadia Noir for KROQ FM on September 30, 2010

Trent Reznor came into the studios of World Famous KROQ for an interview with Kevin & Bean looking handsome and understated with a crew cut and a black long-sleeve shirt.

All those rumors you’ve heard are true; Reznor is masculine, athletic, devastatingly attractive and profoundly modest. It’s evident that his music with Nine Inch Nails and How To Destroy Angels is an artistic embodiment of who he is: subtly brooding, awkwardly intense, and with a shy, mysterious smile. Reznor is a rock star minus the pomposity attributed to most huge musicians. Despite the 7am call time, we could easily imagine Reznor being that single dude in the corner of a dark bar, alone but not lonely, satiated by his profound thoughts and a whiskey.

So how does such a serious man, devoid of any apparent egoism, handle the bombastic comedy that is our beloved Kevin and Bean? By laughing at a sound-bite from a 2005 Jed the Fish interview where Jed asks him, “What if your name was Ass Whore?” Trent laughed and quipped back, “ If it was “Ass Whore. Well, you just have to roll with it, you know what I mean?” Which is exactly what Trent has learned to do with gracious ease–roll with the campy punches.

Kevin & Bean started the interview off by asking Reznor about his role providing the musical score for David Fincher‘s film, The Social Network. Initially, Reznor had too much on his plate and couldn’t see himself devoting his entire being to a project that he believed deserved much more than mediocrity:

"I’ve been interested in actually properly scoring a film for years and hadn’t really acted upon it. This fall, I got a call from David Fincher... and we had talked a few years ago about another project that had never got off the ground which was a musical version of Fight Club... so, he called and said he was working on this film and would I be interested in scoring it... I said, ‘I’m interested.’ I read the script. The script was excellent. And then we talked. I did some soul-searching and I was not in a place where I think I can do the best work... but it worked on me for the next few months, and it just kept nagging at me... I got back in touch with him, and I said look, "I’m sorry I said no to that and please keep me in mind for the future."

Reznor continued: “It worked out great from me. He went back. He had now shot the film... we spent a lot of time talking about it. Kind of what he wanted to see from this thing. And then Atticus and I spent about two or three weeks generating ideas, kind of felt the mold of what he wanted. And he responded great to them and the lion’s share of our work was done like that."

Luckily for Reznor, Fincher hadn’t handed off the project to anyone else and there was already film for Reznor and his “co-conspirator,” Atticus Ross, to refer to for creative inspiration: "The way we did this film is that I was very familiar with the script. I had seen some of what David had shot and then Atticus and I went into a room and made swatches to put up on the wall that were kind of ideas ‘felt’ and in what category and what moods came out during our reactions…[David] responded to quite a bit and then they were fine-tuned."

It seems that despite being a man of mystery, Trent Reznor likes “collaborating” with like minds…or working under somebody. As Reznor made the serious observation, “I really enjoy working under somebody,” the Kevin and Bean Bell of Perversion gave a sly chime and Reznor responded with dry wit: “For a minute there I forgot where I was. I thought this was a rational discussion.”

Not ones necessarily for rationality (but also not ones to let their guests feel uncomfortable…usually), Kevin & Bean lead Trent Reznor back to the matter at hand with the question, ” Why did David Fincher think of you when he was doing this movie? It seems like an odd bit a little fit.”

The air became stiff with anticipation and the person who lightened up the general atmosphere was a surprise–the stoic Trent Reznor. “Because I’m a genius,” Reznor quipped sarcastically. “No, I really don’t know. I mean. He first contacted me. Yes, was the answer. It’s a movie about Facebook, hmmm. No, but I mean, I had a natural sense of hesitation, wondering what that could be... shortly therafter, I got the script that Sorkin wrote and it’s genius... It’s not about people sitting around using Facebook. It’s a story that’s very intriguing about entitlement and greed. And very human, kind of dark story. Betrayal... And then I thought, "Why is David approaching me?" I think we could do something pretty cool with it... so that’s the end of the answer."

Just how cool is the score music to The Social Network? Well, if you are a NIN fan, you will basically love everything musically written for the movie. Kevin played clips from “Ennui March,” “Intriguing Possibilities,” and “Familiar Taste.” It was appropriately stated, “You can definitely tell it’s you. Which is good.” Reznor just looked up cryptically, radiating a kind of attractive modesty, and said, “I guess.”

You could see that Reznor wanted to focus on talking about the music, rather than himself as the man behind the music. Reznor began to describe the artistic process in-depth: ”We wanted some elements of an electronic base and some sense of humanity and frailty. Most of the songs are rooted around acoustic piano, in a kind of bed of cold and icy, decaying and fraying electronics... it’s a good place to be, you know?There was one scene in the film, it’s a race... and it had not been shot yet. And David said, ‘Why don’t we try an arrangement of this piece as though Wendy Carlos was involved in it?’ And that set me off on a several week challenge trying to execute that... what we ended up with wasn’t necessarily Wendy Carlos but it had this sort of evil tinge to it.”

At some point in the interview, Trent Reznor’s relationship with Sony (who is distributing The Social Network soundtrack) was discussed: “Sony actually came to us and said, "Would you be interested in putting this out?"... so that was very flattering and allowed us to kind of think, "Ok, for a soundtrack record, how can we get it out to people, make it interesting. The main thing is, when we finished working on the film–that is Atticus Ross is my co-conspirator on this–well, we finished the film and realized we had a pretty cool record that stood on it’s own... it really comes down to thinking people want as a consumer."

Reznor and Ross decided they would try a new tactic with record sales–releasing some songs for free and initially selling the album on Amazon for .99. Although the album is now selling for , at such a low price-point, there is the question of monetary gain. Reznor answered that with one of the most refreshing perspectives in the music industry we’ve heard to date:

"It gets into a very sticky subject–the value of music–and it can lead you down a path of feeling pretty bad about yourself as a musician... it’s cheaper than a cup of coffee, you spent a year working on something... it’s tough, but at the end of the day it’s free..what we are trying to do is to create a rapport with fans that is mutual respect…I am very aware that NIN is a product of coming from the old-school and we certainly benefitted from lots of aspects of that... but if I were coming up today, I think back to when I was trying to get signed... I really got in touch with what my goals were. At that time you wanted to get on a label... that was the only way that I knew that you might get a chance to get your music out there. So at that time, it made sense to really work on good songs, put them on a tape, get them into the hands of the label you’d like to be on, more so than playing at a bar and hoping someone would show up and sign you. Today, those things are irrelevant. Those goals don’t seem relevant to me if I was a new act. But you have a lot more tools now then you had back then. You have the ability to reach everyone in the world with viral video or you can self-broadcast yourself. I still think it comes down to having good music, something unique, something to say, and presenting yourself logically, get it out to where you want to get it to... I would advise anyone in that situation to think about what it is you are trying to do, and just work really hard, and put it out there. And good luck."

Such a cool attitude from someone who could have easily become entrenched in the dinosaur marketing tactics of the old-school music industry. So, what’s up next for moody mastermind, Trent Reznor?

Because of his unbridled excitement, Reznor recently let slip in an interview that he is working on an upcoming television project called Year Zero: "This one kind of slipped past the self-censor... it’s in a very early stage of pre-production, so anything could happen between now and then... we kind of envisioned this thing that was an album,it was an ARG-ish kind of component that came out... and it was also a narrative, a story. That story was going to live in the form of either a film or a series. Perhaps a graphic novel."

For those that are not aware of what Year Zero means for Nine Inch Nails, Year Zero is Nine Inch Nails‘ dark, musical opus soon-to-be turned sci-fi series for HBO and BBC Worldwide. Despite the raw status of Year Zero as a television program, Last.fm Trends has reported an unmitigated amount of success for the album since its 2008 release. Seeing 6,983,494 plays from a devoted 244,324 listeners, the music has consistently been played these last two years.

You can get a head start on all your friends by listening to Year Zero at NIN’s Last.fm profile. We are certain that Trent Reznor would be excited by that prospect!

While the inscrutable face of Mr. Reznor might not readily convey excitement, you can tell he is a dedicated craftsman or one might even say–a hardcore music nerd who would like nothing more than to hole up making music.

Which is exactly what he plans on doing. When Kevin & Bean wished him farewell, asking when they would see him next, Reznor replied dryly, “Crawling back into my cave. See you next year sometime.”

Until then, you can check out The Social Network in theatres now or head to Nullco.com for more information on the soundtrack.

For those that would like to hear the interview in it’s entirety, please enjoy.

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