Trent Reznor Interview

Originally published in Stuff Magazine on January 1, 2002

You might want to skip the funny questions and sort of play it straight," says Trent Reznor's publicist, who's so stiff you could iron your pants on her back. Trent, she takes great caution in explaining, is a pretty "intense artist" who'll certainly want to limit the scope of our conversation to his new project, Nine Inch Nails Live: And All that Could Have Been, a live CD/DVD/VHS that documents their two-year Fragility tour. We can understand that, so we follow her instructions to the letter.

Stuff: Can you recommend any good makeup removers? A cold cream, perhaps?

Trent: I'm a Pond's man.

Stuff: Your shows are pretty dark, emotional, cathartic and all the rest of that hooha. Do you ever wake up in a good mood, whistling a happy tune?

Stuff: That's actually a good question.

Trent: Some days it is daunting to think of being onstage for two hours in this intense situation when you're not really in the mood. One of the reasons I named this thing "And All that Could Have Been" is that we're at the end of this phase of Nine Inch Nails. It's run its course. It¹s time for me to reinvent. I've been in a lighthearted spirit onstage some days, where it's like; "I am not about to go through this self-hatred." But it usually passes as soon as the first song starts out. It's like you've injected the drug into your system.

Stuff: Ever inject any real drugs into your system?

Trent: Well, years ago, back in the 90's, we'd drink our share of tequila. The idea was to become as fucked up as possible and see if we could get through the show. It has a nice hallucinogenic quality to it and a bullet proofing effect before the show.

Stuff: Did upchucking onstage ever become as issue for you?

Trent: I have vomited onstage. The good think about our live show is that there's enough weird lighting and strobes that you start to realize when you're visible and when you're not. There's enough shadow and light where I know that at this part in the song, I'm not doing anything. So there are plenty of good vomiting areas.

Stuff: For all the ladies in the house, do you have a nine-inch fleshy nail?

Trent: I... [Laughs]

Stuff: You're not much for the concert banter with the crowd. Have you ever been tempted to ask a crowd to say "ho"?

Trent: [laughs] It's much more difficult to try to come up with something to say onstage when you'd ever imagine. It's always horrifying when somebody's monitor breaks and they're like, "Talk for a moment -- I gotta fix this thing." But shit starts flowing of your mouth, and suddenly you're David Lee Roth and you're like, 'Wait a sec- how did I turn into such an ass?'

Stuff: Oh you're not an ass. So tell me, why is it that you tend to kick the crap out of your bandmates onstage so much?

Trent: There have been mishaps. Usually they're not intentional, but there have been some misfiring. A mic slips out of your hand some nights, and after the show, you find out it hit the drummer in the head.

Stuff: Our editorial assistant said he was in a mosh pit at Woodstock and you moshed into him while another band was on. Is he lying about this, too?

Trent: It could be true. You know, when you're on tour, you're sequestered backstage in some room this people you're tired of being around, and it sucks. You forget that the people out there are there for a concert. So when I'm starting to have a pity party for myself about how they don't have this color cheese in the fucking party tray, I like to go out into the crowd before the show. My disguise is a big cup of beer that I just stick in front of my face. I usually sit down in the back while the opening acts are playing to kind of remember what going to a show is like.

Stuff: On the new album you've got two songs with the word pig in the title. Do you have something against pork?

Trent: No, just fresh out of ideas. Actually, once when we opened for Guns 'n' Roses in Germany, we were pelted with meat. About 10 seconds into the first song, I realize we weren't going to win the audience, and then about 60,0000 dudes in rock T-shirts from the '70s- but in a hip, retro way-actually threw sausage at us. I thought that was kind of cool.

Stuff: Does it make you sad that kids don't give shoutouts to their friends on TRL while on your videos is playing?

Trent: "This one goes out to all my homies!" The stage of pop music can drive me crazy if I start to think about it. But I think there's a place in the world for carefree, escapist pop. I've never turn off the "Bootylicious" video. If it's on, I'll stop in my tracks and sit there, just to make sure I see the whole thing. And when the Spice Girls' first song came out, I have to admit: it was catchy. There's something about them-- they're not that hot, but there's something collectively sexy about them and their jiggling boobs. I'm a consumer; I bought into it.

Stuff: What do you think of the Limp Bizkit-ization of America?

Trent: I think it's run its course at this point. I mean, I understand that you don't need 100 Radioheads, but you also don't need armies of dumb-dumbs.

Stuff: Do us a favor and watch the language. In a lot of your videos, you're in these wind tunnels or surrounded by entrails. Do you ever find yourself sitting there with a cow skull on your head thinking, What the hell am I doing?

Trent: I've often though that. We were doing the "Starfuckers" video with Marilyn Manson in the desert outside of L.A., and it was freezing could at night with this miserable wind kicking up. We were all shivering in our silly outfits, and I was standing watching playback on this monitor. I saw Manson dressed like a drug addict chick. Then the playback stopped and the tape cut into a D'Angelo video that the crew had shot prior to our shoot. D'Angelo was sitting back in his silk bed with a superhot chick next to him, they were making out, you saw her laughing and he was bullshitting with her. And I was thinking, 'Where did this all go wrong?' I could be doing any number of things, and I chose to be making out with Manson in the fucking desert in the middle of the night. Time to reassess.

Stuff: You're just being hard on yourself. Tell us, have you, at any point in your life, had a Pac Man fever?

Trent: I had a mild temperature rise over Pac Man. I was into Space Invaders, so I¹ve got a soft spot in my heart for video games. I've gotten involved with music for Doom and Quake. I'm really into technology and complexity of these games. Plus, I've found girls are really into talking about computer lighting and shading techniques. Talk about video games when you really want to go in for the kill with a girl.

Stuff: What album would you define as the absolute opposite of what you do?

Trent: Oh, unquestionably the worst-or maybe the greatest ever is Billy Bob Thorton's. Somebody picked it up, and we were driving around in a convertible, listening to it with the top down and roaring with laughter after each line. I just thought how terrible it would be if you were him and you were sitting at a cafe, heard your CD playing and saw a carload of guys pull up dying laughing.

Stuff: So apart from how to make a self indulgent movie stars cry, do you have any advice for Stuff readers?

Trent: Partying words of advice? Hmmm, while we were touring in Europe, one of the guys thought the funniest thing in the world was to throw weird lines into conversations with people he knew didn't speak English well. He's say something; "It was great to meet you. Punch your balls off." So that's my advice: Punch your balls off.

Stuff: Punch your balls off. I see.

Trent: Punch your balls off.

(Transcript courtesy of Evan Moore, SLS News.)

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