Trent Reznor

By Marcin Prokop for Machina? on January 1, 2000

Trent Reznor doesn?t look like a psycho at all. He acts normal. He didn?t snap off our correspondent?s hand for greeting. Instead of throwing flower vase at him, he offered coffee. Before the interview with Nine Inch Nails? lead singer, ?Machina? had been actually wondering whether to get accident insurance for Marcin Prokop. Luckily, he got back safe and in good health. Furthermore, he found out almost everything about Reznor.

I expected to meet stinking with sulphur dressed in black individual. And I didn?t even notice when in the hall of Hamburg?s hotel, a man of a bellboy appearance suddenly arose in front of me. Not so tall, dressed in jeans and brown shirt. - Hi, I?m Trent, he said smiling and reached out his hand. At least shocking sounded offer for a coffee, as heard from the mouth of someone who is said to have tried the most incredible substances. - First time I smoked pot it was with my father when I was fourteen. I didn?t like it. - Reznor comments on his bad reputation deliberately and quietly. - Later, I flirted with cocaine but that?s all in the past. I tried heroin when I listened to Lou Reed. But the very next day I realized it?d been the most stupid thing I?d ever done in my life. The reason I didn?t do drugs a lot is pretty much simple - I don?t deal with it too well. Do you believe in that?

Latest Nine Inch Nails? double album The Fragile seems to be for Reznor what The Wall was for Roger Waters - squaring up with himself, record of coping with his own mental life.

I?m not surprised with your comparison - says Reznor. - I listened to The Wall dozens of times so I?ll take it as a compliment. At times I imagined Roger Waters looking in the mirror and actually seeing in his eyes madness that scared him. That?s why he wrote The Wall - the study of taking his soul to pieces and chasing away all the demons. Similarly, recording process of The Fragile was some kind of exorcisms for me. Fixing everything that wasn?t working properly inside my head. Everyday killing work process with only four hours rest. A two-year-hole in my life history.

I wanted to be Antichrist

Mentioned above Reznor?s life history is a typical ?American dream?. Story of bootblack who became a prince. The thirty-four-year-old man in conversation with me was conceived then left by a couple of hippie teens. He grew up running around on his grands? cornfield of American Podunk - Mercer (Pennsylvania). When he was five, pushed by grandma he started taking piano lessons. And when everyone thought he would be ?respected? musician, Kiss? poster hung above his bed.

- There was a time when I practiced several hours a day getting ready for the concert career. And one day I saw Gene Simon?s huge tongue on TV. And I knew thing wouldn?t stay the same afterwards - he recalls. - My childhood was defined by television. I watched everything by turns - soap operas, sitcoms and first of all horror movies. The Exorcist and Omen were the films that made me wanna become Antichrist. Sign the pact with devil and forever leave that fucking place.

With or without Beelzebub?s help Reznor made it. After short computer engineering studies he ended up in Cleveland where step by step he climbed the career?s lather. First he cleaned the toilets. Then worked in a music store to finally take a job in a recording studio: - Having access to all that equipment that fascinated me so much I stayed after hours. During the day I recorded for some assholes, at night I worked on first Nine Inch Nails album (Pretty Hate Machine, 1989 - MP)

The band, or in fact Trent Reznor?s solo project (accompanying him musicians he used to call ?assistants?) was quickly noticed. Music was an important matter - the apocalyptic mixture of electronic sounds and maniacal yells. But it was Trent?s lyrics that drew audience?s attention and hater of Puritan America towards NIN. Painful and desperate, disturbingly intimate in rather brutal way spoke about sex, drugs and suicide: - Motivation to drag out everything that weighted on my heart was the will to free myself from all those negative emotions that for years I kept inside me - says NIN?s leader. - At some point I came to conclusion that in spite of all it?s better to throw up your own guts than to put the gun in your mouth. I started with writing songs that were like pages torn out from my diary. I felt horrible thinking that from now on everyone would be able to look inside me. Like I had my soul turned inside out.

And is he as opened in private?

No - he replies. - I?m a fucked up misfit who most of his life has spent with a dog. It?s totally different to lock up yourself alone at home writing songs and be here talking with you about all that stuff. Can you imagine how I feel now? Like I was siting right in font of you with my pants down. It?s not something I enjoy doing. But still I decide to do it because I have no other choice.

I feel like I was Pope

Has good mood gone with hell? To verify this I asked Reznor question he doesn?t like the most. For the past few years he had to answer that in every single interview. I asked how it was to live in LA in Roman Polanski?s house where in 1969 Charles Manson?s gang had murdered director?s pregnant wife and four of her friends. The butchers with their victims? blood wrote word ?pigs? on the walls. In the rooms that walls had witnessed the bloodshed Reznor arranged recording studio. NIN?s second LP - The Downward Spiral - was recorded there and it was in 1994. They called the studio... ?Le Pig? and two songs from the album were titled March Of The Pigs and Piggy. Just a coincidence or purposed provocation? Yet example of NIN leader?s bad taste?

I know it sounds rather unbelievable but when moving into that house I had no idea about its history - says Reznor. - It was just a mansion that had the most beautiful view in the whole LA. It was much later, after we recorded those songs, someone told me all about it. First, I thought it was some kind of perverse irony. That it was exciting to be a part of that incredible story. But I changed my mind after meeting Sharon?s sister. She made me realized how deeply she went through sister?s death. I started thinking: what if it was my sister? Calling the studio ?Pig? was supposed to a joke then but now I think it was pathetic and stupid.

Nowadays Trent Reznor lives in New Orleans in nineteenth-century house with a huge garden. Not too far away there is his studio crammed with most up-to-date equipment and a garage for few luxurious limousines (Reznor himself drives silver Porsche). Previously, in the very same building there was a funeral house and garage is a former mortuary. Just another coincidence?

Reznor?s current house was mentioned in most of New Orleans? guidebooks as a local tourism attraction. - Everyday I have people camping at my wicket-gate who want to see me in the window. Sometimes, I feel like I was Pope.

Everything fucked up in my head

For millions of teenagers all over the world, who buy his records, he?s the spiritual guru, the guide who leads them through labyrinths of anguish. - He is my Messiah - one of his fanatics declared on her website. Depressed kids from all over the world send him poems that he doesn?t read. He doesn?t like his own image that has been created equally by the media and himself. Lots of fans end up disappointed with the fact he?s not the gloomiest man on Earth balancing on the brink of suicide. He?s no second Ian Curtis and Nine Inch Nails is no Joy Division.

- I have always hated that vision of tormented artist. This wretched sufferer that I was and still am perceived as. But the fact is I do create only influenced with negative impulses. When I?m happy I have nothing to say to the world. It?s not that I pity myself. It?s just when I make music I try to name everything that fucked up in my head. I envy all those fellows like Oasis who are stupid enough just to enjoy their life, jauntily spend money that had already earned. And the only thing that matters to them is if they?re naughty enough.

There is a rumor that the most often question that Reznor is asked is ?whether he has ever thought about suicide?? - It?s true that I was tempted with that thought just like I am with other weird stories - he says. - On The Downward Spiral I measured my strength with the hypothetical suicidal situation and thanks to that I dismysitfied that act. It?s like you would say out loud your most intimate wish and it would just lose its magic and power then. Now, I have crossed the line behind-where this infatuation with your own depression ends and the true life starts in true reality. The Fragile is my record of reaching that point where all illusions end. Thanks to that I respect myself much more now.

I am not a rock star

Before the American guards of the righteousness were given Marilyn Manson for devour, for long time they had been chewing Nine Inch Nails. There was the time when ?only? for playing band?s forbidden songs on the radio few DJ?s lost their jobs. Video clips - besides the lyrics - had always caused the biggest controversy. Way before Manson they staggered with sadomasochistic-diabolic contexts, violence and drug innuendo. Film impression shot for Broken EP (1992) included shots from the movie Henry: portrait of a serial killer, which pictured slow and cruel torturing of a man forced to watch... Nine Inch Nails' videos. Parental associations were not very much delighted. With all that dead set at the band few funny stories are connected. Last scene from Down In It video showing Reznor lying still on the ground clearly suggests suicide. To shot this scene, camera attached to the flying balloon and filled with helium was used. But the balloon broke loose caring the tape with it. After a while some farmer found it on a field. Terrified with its contents, he informed the police which instituted a murder inquiry...

Reznor has always liked to shock. As he states, rock from its definition should be dangerous. So when on the horizon of pop culture Brian Warner, aka Marilyn Manson had appeared, Trent took him under his Nothing Records? wing and took care of MM?s albums production. He became Warner?s mentor and friend. Recently however, both gentlemen scowl at each other - one accuses another of betrayal and disloyalty, just like in an old marriage. It?s a perfect chance then to ask Reznor if Marilyn Manson impersonates his theory of ?rock shocking?? Or is he just a puppet hanging on strings in the hollow of big labels? hands? - Looking at Brian and his band at the moment of grunge popularity pick, when fellows looking like gas station workers were on top, I realized that he is the right model of a rock star. Not some lumberjacks from Seattle - he says. - Of course, what he does is just a creation from the very beginning to the very end. At least that was the assumption. Marilyn Manson was supposed to be an artist dripping with blood, sperm and rage. Someone, who would be hated by the parents of all the kids in America. People love to be shocked. They want something that would draw away their attention from colorless everyday life. Marilyn had perfectly filled that gap between boring boys in blue jeans and rock performance. But he made one mistake - he missed the point where the line between shocking and being ridiculous is drawn.

And does Trent Reznor know where is this line? - I don?t have to. I?m not a rock star.

I was ready to pull my pants down

Some have a different opinion. For instance, Courtney Love, who simply do not mingle with anyone else than rock stars. At the time the mysterious relationship between First Widow of Grunge and Nine Inch Nails founder even engendered rumors that Kurt Cobain?s daughter was actually Trent Reznor?s child. The last one denied all Love affair rumors so vividly that Hole?s lead singer felt offended enough to attack in self-defense.

- Nine Inch Nails...?! Ha, ha, more like three inch! - she scoffed in public. With real amusement Reznor recalls today that period: - Courtney is sweet. She?s so obsessed with the vision of her own stardom that will do and say anything just to be noticed. But accusing me of small penis complex hurt. I was even ready to pull my pants down in public and prove she was wrong.

Lately there was a lot of fuss about Trent?s flirt with Tori Amos. The interested party himself puts it off with a short: - We?re just friends.

He seems to be a type of man who doesn?t like talking about women with accidental listener. On the other hand, free and easy he sings out lyrics like: ?I want to fuck everyone in the world? or ?I want to fuck you like an animal?. Hence often come allegations for misogyny - fear for women, transformed into aggression towards them. Additional pungency adds fact that in one of the interviews Reznor doubted his sexual preferences: - Many times I?ve been thinking about the situation with another man. I would like to consider this as an experiment that I haven?t experienced yet. I think I would be good in giving a blow job... cause no one but other man knows best how to satisfy a man. ***

When I ask Nine Inch Nails? leader about his sexual preferences, he sinks his head for a long moment and I?m holding my breath. After due consideration he starts speaking very slow: - The person, who said that, was me from before few years and since that time a lot has changed inside me. When I said that I was drunk and the day after I regretted it. I knew people would make a story of it and I would not free myself from the questions about it for the rest of my life. You can treat those words as an artistic creation that has nothing to do with my private life.

I?m weak, I?m fragile

?God is dead and no one cares? Trent Reznor sings in ?Heresy?. So I ask him, whether he still steers clear of holy water: - For the past few years I?ve been through some huge changes when it comes to that matter - he says. - Once I had this gloomy image of religion as an institution that is in opposition to pure spirituality. My personal rage towards religion veiled for me the possibility to answer the question for God?s existence that I was asking myself constantly. I realized that I?m just a small, fragile human being who has common human desires, needs and fears?

Reznor takes a sip of a red wine, stares outside the window and loses himself in thoughts. The manager enters the room. That means - the interview is over. But when I reach my hand out to turn off the dictaphone, suddenly Trent starts speaking: - The mere fact that I?m here talking with you I consider an interference of the power above into my life. Not so long time ago, at the very bottom, I reached the spot, from which some people just don?t come back?I started plunging into self-destruction, waking up everyday with greater fear. Thinking to myself: I don?t wanna live anymore. I realized I achieved everything I had wanted in my life. I had recognition, money and respect? But everything stopped to matter for me when the dream came true. Only huge gaping emptiness has left. For a long time I procrastinated the work starting on this record. I was obsessed with the thought of having nothing to say. Recording of The Fragile turned into an opportunity to drag out all those vices and weaknesses that I?d been hiding behind the screen of wrath and rage. Every song is like a cut-bleeding piece of my soul. I said to myself - OK, I?m weak and I?m fragile. But I?m not ashamed to admit that when I look in the mirror. And that?s my greatest success?


1.One of the most favorite songs played in caraoce bars is ?Closer? with its famous chorus: ?I wanna fuck you like an animal?. Another Nine Inch Nail?s song, ?Hurt? - based on some very personal matters - is to be often played in strip clubs.
2. The biggest break through in Nine Inch Nails? career was their performance on Woodstock ?94 where they played all covered with mud giving a fantastic concert for thousands of people. Trent Reznor says he played on that festival only for the money.
3.Reznor produced soundtracks for: Oliver Stone?s ?Natural Born Killers? and David Lynch?s ?Lost Highway?. On both albums NIN?s brand new songs appeared in order: Burn and The Perfect Drug.
4.Nine Inch Nails? leader is an allergic and has to take cortisone injections. Among others, he?s allergic to: dust, cats, feathers, and grass pollen.
5.Reznor?s greatest love was his dog - Maise that broke his neck after in an unfortunate accident. For hours she was dying before her master?s very eyes. After that, The Fragile?s creator went through nervous break down and cancelled of few concerts.
6.Trent is a perfectionist in everything he does. Before one of his concerts there was a light breakdown. For two days Reznor himself was reprogramming computers responsible for the light control.
7.Primarily, all instrumental parts from The Fragile Reznor recorded by himself. Guests invited - such as Adrian Belew - recorded their parts later on.
8. Nine Inch Nails? biggest commercial success so far is The Downward Spiral LP that has been sold in over 6 million copies all over the world.
9. Trent doesn?t like techno music with the exception for Aphex Twin?s Selected Ambient Works vol. 2, which he considers one of the best albums of all times.

*** Translated precisely is only Polish journalist?s interpretation of Trent?s words. The actual quote comes from DETAILS magazine interview from April 1995 titled: ?ART OF DARKNESS? by Chris Heath and it was as follows:

?CH: Have you ever kissed a man?

T: Yes, I've kissed a man.

CH: In the fullest sense?

T: Almost. A veil of drunkenness. It was kind of a mutual thing. It was weird. It was half-joking around. It was bristly. And later - in the old Nine Inch Nails - if we wanted to get rid of people, the guitarist and I would start making out. It was a trick. I mean, I really love women. I don't dislike men, and there's many times I've thought about it. You get into certain scenes, and I realize I should experiment down the path, and I just haven't done it yet. I've been in situations where there's man involved, but not directly interacting. CH: So are there a lot of orgies around the Reznor household?

T: No, no, it's not a common situation. When I'm in a relationship that overpowers the desire to... these usually arise from casual situations, usually intoxicated situations. You wake up and think, "Okay, we just stepped through another portal..." (pause) I think about giving head, though. I don't know why I'm saying this, but I think about that. I'd be good at giving head, because I know what... (laughs)... I mean, no one knows how to jack yourself off better than yourself, you know? ? - MDA)

translator's note: special thanks to Marta :) for the substantial advice and beta

Transcribed by Keith Duemling

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