Although I may be...hurt or may not be in a perfect condition, that's alright.

By Naoya Sonoda for Rockin' On Magazine on March 1, 2000

Interview:Naoya Sonoda - Interpretation:Hiroshi Takami - (C)Rockin'On 2000

We succeeded in miraculous meeting! 30 minutes prior to the concert, on January 11, at a dressing room of the Tokyo Bay NK Hall, Trent, "fragile assailant" who lives an insane spectacle, talks about the real image of "The Fragile", the truth of his soul that he seized over the urge for death and a little result.

"Staying in Japan now, I'd never enjoyed myself this much before, like. Actually, I'm so busy playing Dreamcast games that I have no time even for meals (laughs)."

I saw the first date of the world tour in Barcelona. Compared with that, yesterday's concert was overwhelming in terms of perfection of the show, including lighting, and devastating power of the performance. Especially, I found it miraculous that it wasn't a performance just for entertainment but your fight against your soul becoming entertainment as it was. What impression did you have about staging in Japan and what did you feel about Japanese audience's reaction?

"Well, I think yesterday's concert went very well and I'm happy with that. You know, I had no idea of Japanese audiences till yesterday. People told me, 'Japanese audiences are reserved and relatively quiet.' So, yesterday when I went on stage and saw that reaction, I sort of couldn't believe what I was seeing. I knew that they didn't necessarily understand lyrics or words well, though. Having stayed in Japan yesterday and the day before, I was tasting my first Japan. I'd never seen such an interesting country, like. I mean it! I'd never enjoyed myself this much, like. You go to Europe and see theaters where they get movies half a year or even one year behind the US releases. Personally I do love TV games and new technology. And you come to Japan and find America one year behind Japan in that area. So much so that I get angry and say, 'What is this?' (laughs). I'm so busy playing Dreamcast games that I'm running out of time for meals (laughs)."

(laughs) You have such a childlike point.

"As there is no RPG I got information of in the US, they are too difficult to play. Anyway, because of that, witnessing yesterday's audience's response, I was really amazed and pleased. I didn't even know how to consider that. Although the concert in Barcelona was three years after the last one and when we went on stage, people jumped up and sang along with me, I didn't feel I should swallow that reaction whole. Because we make it a rule to start from scratch whenever it is. In fact, you never know if people like you. 'The Fragile' went straight up to #1 in the album top 200 chart of the 'Billboard' magazine as soon as it was out, which I didn't expect at all. I thought like #198 at best (laughs). This doesn't mean that I thought that way to try to be modest. I know what kind of music is now popular and what present music scene and industry are like. Besides, when I watch and listen to songs that average people usually buy, they have something I don't understand....I don't understand them well, however I try to do. I sometimes even think if 'I've got old'. So, when we released the album and it won top 1, I couldn't believe that people still listened to music like this as entertainment. Now, one thing I want to tell you is our American record company was definitely against our overseas tour.

It surely is a big risk, as you can't do any promotion in the US while touring overseas.

"They were especially against touring Japan, as we have never done concerts in Japan. But we are fairly big in the US and the reason why we have become big in the US is because we have done a lot of concerts and have established the recognition that 'we are a great band' among people. We didn't have that kind of advantage in Japan or didn't have any idea of what kind of people would air our songs on the radio in Japan or Europe. So, we concluded that there was no way other than touring there. And we decided we would do concerts in the US after that. Because of which, this new album is getting lower and lower in the American chart. Thanks to that, our label didn't back us up at all in touring Japan. This is a great expense and it costs me a lot personally as well. But this is simply what I want to do.... Besides, the reason why I started music was that I just wanted to show myself, like 'Isn't what I was doing fairly cool?', which is the only important thing to me."

"Downward Spiral" taught me what kind of presence I was. I found part of I surely wanted to kill me.

I think your eagerness was got through to Japanese fans well. By the way, what I think of your past albums is that their titles sumed up their themes directly and they are conceptual in terms of that. Your expression especially till "Downward Spiral" was focused on the theme of self-abhorrence and self- distruction to a great extent and you ended up by singing about suicide in "Downward Spiral". After that, weren't you wondering if there was anything more shocking than your actual death? I mean, going for wool and coming home shorn.

"....This latest album started from, say, when I began to work on 'The Fragile', or rather my state of mind at the time when I began to work on that song. I meant 'Downward Spiral' by that song, by the way. That song started as just one idea in the first place. Like a movie whose idea and plot I elaborated in my brain, I embodied the idea at the next stage, did a tour for two years and a half and lived it myself. I never imagined that I was temped to commit suicide as a result. Yet, I was really in a fatal mood and at the same time it taught me what kind of presence I was as human. I mean, I found part of I surely wanted to kill me, like. Being fatal that way and being an outworn cliche in the end, I was driven to a situation where I ended up by becoming the presence that I didn't want to become, like."

I see. It's just you were swallowed by your expressions...

"That's right. Also, in the US we started as a small band and now have become a very big one. Once we finished a tour, we got a lot of money with no holds barred and were surrounded by those who were eager even to lick my ass. Trapped by those unreal images, it took a long time for me even to remember 'Why did I start music? Because I loved music more than anything.' I had forgot it."

To be specific, what circumstances were you driven to?

"Well, my head was full of those who stuck to Courtney-Lovish stuff, who besieged me backstage, who wanted something from me and so on. Because your head can get crazy so easily. The lifestyle where you are surrounded by people who always want something of you can instantly warp your mind and I wasn't clever enough to notice that. So, it took very long before I thought it over, told myself, 'I am currently incredibly miserable in reality and have become unhappy', and made myself aware of that. If you lead such a lifestyle, you tend to forget an ordinary life, like you have a dog, you do love it and when you are at home, the dog sits by you and stares at your face. It's just because everyone serves you so weirdly."

I think "Hurt" is shocking yet a song of self-reseizure in a sense in which you sing that you get back your feelings by hurting yourself in the middle of such delirium. When you started a new album, what kind of you were you going to get back?

"To think back, in school days I was a kid who secluded oneself into an art room, not an athletic boy whom all the students and teachers made a great fuss over. I must have been a kid who were working on a piece industriously and gave a scornful laugh to those who were puffed up with others' fuss.... But I was suddenly thrown into a world full of people who were willing even to kiss my ass and has become a superstar unawares. But this does change you. Because I got all, including things which I didn't really want, yet, if I had them, I think it would be nice. For instance, about going to a club, which I used to regard as 'pompous', if I were greeted with a respectful manner, saying, 'you are most welcome', then I came to feel that clubs were not bad. Like that, you gradually change and your way of thinking is warped. The state of my mind got disordered. So, when I began to work on 'The Fragile', I was in a state where I realized that I wanted to be with friends or people who were once around me -- say, from Manson to others, who had vanished from before me. At that, I tried to remember that I liked playing music so much, and remembered that my life was changed by some of music I listened to, as I grew up. Just because I found contact with expressions by people who made those records, my growth and change happened. And what I always wanted to make should have been music like that, so the contents of 'The Fragile' became like that. I mean, I made sounds that changes and healed me."

I think healing is one of the themes or results of your new album. What is healing for you?

"Well, it's to love music and to make songs with which I feel good. It's to challenge myself in the most difficult way I can come up with and in the hardest way of my life."

Ah! I think it's a very strong expression that to challenge yourself is healing. What did you do for that matter?

"I just played music. Because I didn't want even to do that. Playing music was as if being forced to do the best while identifying wounded myself in the mirror. So, this record was a great turning point for me and in the process of making this, I came to get along with myself."

Although you came to get along with yourself and were healed,you named it "The Fragile". What intention was there? Also, at concerts you play the guitar for new songs and acoustic instruments like ukulele are featured a lot for them. How are they related?

"When I began to work on the latest album, I had no idea what it would be like. But I did know 'Downward Spiral' and 'Broken'were especially whacking tough and muscular records, and making no disguise of hostility. So I wanted to show my being hurt and distorted in fact with this record. At any moment anything can die or be broken, which I wanted to express. In the middle of a song the flow of music turns to an outrageous direction, like when wheels come off or when you get a flat tire. The original idea of this record came from there. That's why I didn't make songs based on synthesizers. I used acoustic instruments and as to the strings, I used old instruments so that songs got a solitary atmosphere. This record is about accepting that the way people exist naturally involves being hurt. This album dares to approve that. That's because I realized that I wasn't in a proper condition. Various things around me were distorted. In spite of which, I was no longer able to jump into the KORNish mentality or teenagers' I'm-tough-fuck-you mentality. I wanted to do in a ....not lighter way but at least a little maturer way. I mean, I'm already 34 and, although I may be hurt or may not be in a perfect condition, that's alright. If that's the case, I should make the record that sounds that way, which was the point. That's why I named it 'The Fragile'"

My grandmother who raised me passed away and I felt sad, but I feel I got proofs of those experiences with "The Fragile". Something that you won as a human being, like you want to be with someone.

I see. To take an example, I think you used images of dying animals for stages before, but this time you are using images of sea, coral and cell division. Making a sweeping generalization, you vector them from death to life. Is that linked with your feelings at the time when you made the songs?

"Well, the difference between now and those days primarily came from the fact that I used to leave it to others. The reason why we did things like that those days in the first place was because when we released 'Pretty Hate Machine' and did that tour, our performance was very aggressive, lighting was overflowing and audiences were jumping up and down. But as time went by, we began to play songs with atmosphere that were kind of hard to play live. So we took that technique of projecting images on screen for the Downward Spiral tour. That was a great mechanism to take in dynamics to a show anyway. Because I always watch audiences while doing a show and notice they get bored at a certain time, but I definitely don't want audiences to get bored. So this means gaining water to the flow of a show as well as it is the technique to play relatively slow songs with atmosphere. If we feel we have done it through and through, we may as well return to the former way of a show. So the contents of images, well, as to the contents, images for the Downward Spiral tour were made by someone not me, who collected kind of grotesque things, such as Nazis camps, right?"

Yes. A snake that glares at us, things like that mostly.

"That's right. But this time I do that myself with the help of Dave Carson who designed the album jacket. Then, the reason why I asked Dave Carson to design the latest album jacket is because Dave's approach has a lot of tendency to decompose the structure of expressions. When he showed me the design of the album jacket, where there was this NIN logo, yet it was cut in the middle, I just thought, 'this is it!' People should see things like that, because they betray people's speculations and they are provocative. Everyone knows what the NIN is, and then you cut it in half. When I first showed Dave how it sounded, he said he had never heard as weird music as this, like while you thought this song would go this way, it turned out to go in a totally different direction. So, he said he thought we should make the same attempt visually. Anyway, the idea I liked best as an album jacket was the one which made you be wondering 'what this is', when you see it. You may want to say, 'Show me the whole thing properly'. In that sense, the design fitted the album very well. Besides, it didn't follow the hit record lines, either. You know, if you'd like to make a hit record jacket, you have to compete against the Back Street Boys. And in that field you can never defeat them. What I want to do is art. I want my record to be precious to listeners and want to make a record that they come to like after listening to it as many as 20 times, not a record which they say is great instantly after they listen to it only once. I say taht, because I like records of great deapth and what people cherish are such records after all. I sometimes think that in this world people no longer care about such things and Britney Spears has become everything, but at least it's not true for me yet. And I want to show the world that music should have deapth and meanings."

For one thing lyrics from the new album include a word 'you' many times, and that I think it is used for a precious person. For another there are lonesome words for close friends in "Hurt". In that sense I think the album has confessional contents. But it took five years for "Hurt" to link to the new album and I heard or read that you had experienced several major partings in those years. Yet, don't you think that you realized how important 'you' are and came to want to belong to something, just because you experienced those partings?

"Yes, I do. But we spent two years and a half out of those five years on a tour. I also produced Manson and it took eight more months. And then, I was going to do my record, but I wasn't in the mood to start somehow. I'm not saying this self-importantly, but my approach to art is that telling words isn't enough. I don't want to release a record only to say something or to release a record. And I didn't become a person who I wanted to become but became, rather, a person who I didn't want to become. So, I had to raise my courage a great deal before I faced a mirror and cross-examined myself, 'Am I content with myself like this?' I was starving, as I couldn't get anything. I did get money and fame, but I couldn't be satisfied at all. Never. At the thought that I started the band for something like fame, I came unable to believe anything. That's why I needed a lot of courage to question myself in the mirror and to answer that. But once I started to work on music with that self-questioning mind, everything began to heal. It was just on time as well and good timing. Because of that, it became pretty different from the previous one. I didn't want to make a record which made me feel like committing suicide. I wanted to uplift myself well. While I was working on the album, my grandmother who raised me passed away. I felt sad, of course, but I feel I got proofs of those experiences with this album. Something that you won as a human being, like you want to be with someone or you want to belong to somewhere. So, I am content with that. Well, but....when you talk to me several months later, everything about me may be absolutely different from what I told you today.(laughs)

Transcribed by Keith Duemling

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