One of the first NIN interviews ever!

By Michael Fiscus for AM Publishing on November 15, 1989

A lot of you may as yet not be familiar with with NINE INCH NAILS, but that is a problem which I'm sure will be remedied in the upcoming months. NINE INCH NAILS is one man, and that man is TRENT REZNOR, and he means business. With his first album PRETTY HATE MACHINE on the streets now, he is already grabbing the attention of music enthusiast in the know. Already being critically acclaimed as a musical genius, we thought we should grab an interview with him before all the fame and fortune could go to his head.Not that we are assuming he would give in easily to conceit, it's just that fame does that to people. Well anyway, his first lp is out now on TVT and it's pretty damn interesting and we thought we might inquire as to how one might make a hit record such as this. So after a few phone calls and a couple disgusting gesture, we toss in your lap the following conversation and opinions are yours for the making.

A.M.-How did you get started in music , did you study music in school? Were in any high school bands?

N.I.N.- I was forced at gunpoint into piano lessons when I was five years old. That progressed into high school and to getting into bands, things like that and playing keyboards.

A.M.- Did you play at a lot of weddings?

N.I.N.- No, I never did any of that kind of shit. It was bad high school, let's play whatever we hear on the radio type of bands. I grew up in a rural area of PENNSYLVANIA and it's not really considered a hot bed of independent music.And in those surroundings you weren't exposed to any kind of college radio.

A.M.- When did you move to CLEVELAND?

N.I.N.- I moved hear a few years ago because I was offered a job at a recording studio as a programmer. I hate CLEVELAND and I don't plan on being here much longer, but I've had some opportunities here that I would not of had if I we're in NEW YORK. or LA. I don't have to work a hundred hours a week to support myself, it's cheap to live here. But, it also sucks to live here too, so, there's a down side but I think i've used it to my advantage but it's time to hit the road.

AM.- How did you get involved with TVT Records?

N.I.N.- It took about a year of searching for a label. We looked for a small European label 1st but had no luck. TVT first heard us when we performed with SKINNY PUPPY on some East Coast dates. I felt very intimidated touring with SKINNY PUPPY, and the band was not where I wanted it to be, we were very un-focused. Nettwerk asked us to be ready in two days and we did the best we could. It was a good time to find out what was wrong. I have put together an all new band now that I am much happier with, the live band consists of 2 guitarists a drummer and a keyboard player.

A.M.- How did touring with SKINNY PUPPY come about?

N.I.N.- We had been being courted by NETTWERK and got to know those guys pretty well and they offered us to do the whole tour which we didn't want to do because we didn't have a record coming out for at least six month, so financially it didn't make sense. And I didn't really think we were the best band to go on with Skinny Puppy. It was a bit intimidating because at the time we were a lot lighter than we are now, even now I don't think we would be appropriate. We turned it down and when they were in town the road manager looked me up and said "look, the band we have with us we hate, do the rest of the tour. PLEASE".O.k., so you have to be ready in two days. So I kind of just threw something together which started of pretty shitty, but by the end sounded o.k..

A.M.- "Pretty Hate Machine" is your debut release. How did you come up with the name and what does it mean?

N.I.N.- Well, I had a huge list of names for the album and I ended up trashing almost all of them. Finally, I came up with "Pretty Hate Machine." I thought it was a good way to describe the music as a whole, meaning "Machine--generated music". It is electronic, which is derived from keyboards, which are machines. There is a lot of hate, anger and emotion in both the lyrics and music, the album is a "pretty hate machine".

A.M.- Other than performing live, you are the sole member of NIN, how long did it take you to complete this album?

NIN-I went in the studio in early '88 just making weird demos and putting together some ideas I had, which eventually formed the album. So it took almost two years to come up with a final product.

A.M.- How did producers Flood and Adrian Sherwood come into the picture?

NIN- TVT asked me who I wanted to produce the album, I told them and we sent them a tape, which is the only way to get their attention. They won't talk to anyone until they hear a tape and maybe even then you might not get a response. Well I obviously got a response, a good response from both Flood and Adrian Sherwood. I was extremely flattered. Our original plans were to produce it with Flood in London but he was busy with another project so I started producing it with John Fryer in Boston and finished it with Flood in London. The 12" single "Down In It", which is produced by Adrian Sherwood and the most industrial sounding song on the album, was finished before the album. I think this track is the closest to predictable industrial music, the rest of the album is not so predictable which is what my goal was, and I feel I have reached it.

A.M.- Yes, I feel there is a lot of emotion in the album too, negative emotion, negative energy and hate. Are any of these lyrics directed at anyone in particular in your life or situations you've observed, or felt other people have experienced?

NIN- The lyrics are pretty much situations I can relate to very much, something that can strike a nerve. Basically each song is a personal viewpoint of mine. The lyrics are real and honest, right in your face which is what I want.

A.M.- Did you learn alot of interesting techniques working with such big name producers?

NIN- Sherwood, I didn't work with him. He mixed it, but he mixed it in london and I talked to him on the phone. So I didn't get a chance to rip off all his great tricks. And Flood, we only worked briefly together, and John fryer had nothing to offer me. Production wise, I did, I can't say that, there's things you learn just from being around people, just ways of doing things.But as far as technical tricks, how to do this , how to do that, not so much.Because I went into it, in my opinion, production wise, one thing might be unique about this record is that, going into it wasn't like "Ok, let's just start from scratch and arrange these songs". It was pretty much finished going into it and I knew what kind of guitar sound I wanted because I had fucked around in the studio to get a particular sound and I just applied that.

A.M.- What is your favorite track on the album?

NIN- It would have to be "Terrible Lie" because of it's intensity and aggression. It's also my favorite song to perform live. Our shows tend to be violent and this song really fits that image.

A.M.- Do you plan on touring this album?

NIN- Yes. We have tentative plans to start touring in Feb. through the States, Canada and Europe, and our tour will include Detroit.

A.M.- You've lived in Cleveland for about two and a half years. It's quite unusual to see a group like yours to come from Cleveland. Have you worked with any other bands locally or outside of Cleveland, or do you plan to in the future?

NIN- Yes, this is not the typical Cleveland band and I plan on leaving soon! I have worked and played with a couple bands here, none worth mentioning. I have tentative plans to produce a 12" single for NEMESIS in Detroit. And yes, I am looking forward to producing much more.

A.M- How did the NEMESIS thing come about ?

NIN- I guess they had heard the 12 in and liked it, and, through some sort of mutual friend or something, they asked if I would be interested in producing a record of theirs, and I wanted to start producing, so we will see what happens.

A.M.- Do you have your own equipment and studio at home or do you just use whatever is available through studios?

NIN- I have my own little set-up of samplers and computers. Not as much as I would like to have, but enough so that I can do a lot of pre-production at home with-out the clock running or the pressure of "I'm in the studio and I can't fuck around" type attitude. I programmed a lot of the album at home with an EMULATOR 2 and an E-MAX with a MACINTOSH, then took it to the studio and down loaded it. Then I could just add everything that needed to be live in the studio.

A.M. Do you think your next single will sport the ever popular house remix?

NIN- I assure you there will be absolutely no fucking house , EVER. I hate House. We are working on doing a fucked-up dance version for one song that i've been working on, doing an extended mix. Which may be worked on with PAUL KENDAL or ADRIAN SHERWOOD.

A.M.- Do you find it difficult working with a fulltime, listening to their input on how the music should sound and all that fun stuff?

NIN- I don't think I would listen to their input. The music is mine , but for live shows I found some guys that were from this area and into what I was doing and they fit the mold for what I need for this project.

A.M.- Will the live show be live or will you take the easy way out via taping the album and dancing along to it on stage?

NIN- For the tour I decided to make the music a bit harder more along the lines of JANES ADDICTION than NITZER EBB. It's just harder and it's ridiculous. And we will be playing live, you will actually get to hear a real guitarist playing real guitar and a drummer who actually plays... And me, I will actually be there, and I will be doing some singing, live. You may even hear some mistakes, cause we will actually be playing, live. Anything is possible.

Transcribed by Keith Duemling

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