Interview with Trent Reznor - MTV Music Video Awards 1999

Originally published in MTV on September 1, 1999

Trent Reznor: We went from being a fairly medium, small band to something bigger. And when you have that many people around you kissing your ass that much for that long a time, and then it's time to return to normal life.... That's always a problem I've had: when a tour's over, getting back to a place where you can create music.

Trent Reznor It was time to start a new record, and I really didn't want to do it, so I found myself procrastinating, and I found myself taking on small projects.

One of those small projects turned out to be an unexpectedly big deal: producing the multi-platinum "Antichrist Superstar," the breakthrough hit for Reznor's proteges in the Florida industrial band Marilyn Manson.

Reznor: When that finished, um... there was kind of an... some weird things started happening, and... I really found myself in a kind of bad place.

Kurt Loder: What happened?

Reznor: Some friendships dissolved at the completion of that record, and...

Loder: You had a falling-out with the Manson people?

Reznor: Yeah, basically. I was really, really unhappy, and I was really disillusioned with a lot of things, and I didn't trust anybody. I wasn't sure what I wanted to say musically, and so I didn't. I just, I thought, rather than put a record out that was an unfocused mess, I wasn't really ready as a person, I was dealing with the death of someone very close to me...

Loder: Your grandmother, right. Reznor: Yeah, who raised me, and I didn't deal with it. I just put it off, 'cause I didn't know how to deal with it. No one ever died around me.

Attempting to kickstart himself out of the depression that followed his grandmother's death in 1997, Reznor took on another side project: remixing a track for his pal David Bowie ["I'm Afraid Of Americans:" see "David Bowie & Trent Reznor" News Feature]. As it turned out, his paranoid state of mind at the time also inspired the song's eventual video.

Trent Reznor Reznor: Oddly, at the time, I was on a kick of watching "Taxi Driver." For some reason, I'd always, at the end of the night, I'd put that on and, you know...

Loder: Really? [Laughing] That's cheery.

Reznor: I think... I was losing it then. [Smiles] This was right in the time where I was like, "What am I gonna do? I'll just watch 'Taxi Driver' again, maybe that'll make me feel better," and then it didn't. I don't recommend that anybody do that.

Loder: Probably not.... So did you, like, go into psychotherapy or anything?

Reznor: I did for a while, actually.

Loder: Was it helpful?

Reznor: It was helpful in some ways, and in some ways it wasn't. Generally, yes, but I reached a point where I said, "I just want to deal with things on my own terms." And I'd rather not get too in detail on that, but basically [I] came out with an explanation of kind of why [I] felt,"Hey, you're depressed."

On top of his personal torments, Reznor started feeling pressure from fans and critics to create a new album that would shake up the dull and cheesy music scene of the late '90s.

Trent Reznor Reznor: And all during this time I'm getting... "Please come save rock." [Loder laughs] Hey, I didn't ask to save rock. I don't even like rock that much. So really, about one time, and this is about two years ago, I really said it was time to get going.

It came down to really sitting down and facing myself again and remembering that playing music was what always saved me in the past. It made me feel like I had something to offer.

For two years Reznor holed up in his high tech New Orleans studio, conjuring brutal new riffs and exotic new sounds, and occasionally creating whole choirs out of some locals he'd corraled in from nearby watering holes.

Loder: Who are all the singers on here? Did you just pick them out of the neighborhood?

Reznor: Yeah, it would typically go, like, eleven o'clock at night, we'd figure we need some people to yell something. So we'd just empty the bar across the street and have a bunch of drunk guys come in and mumble something. I think we assembled the most atonal group of females I've ever heard. [Laughs] I hope they're not watching this right now. But they were just comically horrendous.

Loder: So at the Video Music Awards, you'll get a chance to meet these people. Maybe you can meet Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys.

Reznor: Yeah, maybe.

Loder: Are you friends with the Korn, Limp Bizkit people at all?

Reznor: I know some of the guys in Korn, and I think they're cool guys. I don't know any of the other guys.

Loder: And you don't know Britney or the Backstreet Boys, I'm sure.

Reznor: No.

Loder: It'll be an interesting evening for you, I would imagine.

[Reznor smiles]

Transcribed by Keith Duemling

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