Triple J Radio Interview with Trent Reznor

By Chris Taylor for Triple J on May 27, 2005

Triple J: You're with Chris Taylor on Triple J this afternoon, and the release of a new Nine Inch Nails album is always an event. The latest one is called 'With Teeth', and I'm joined now on the line by the band's frontman, Trent Reznor. How are you doing?

Trent: I'm doing pretty good.

Triple J: Good, thanks for joining us this afternoon. I know you're on the record as saying the last record 'The Fragile' was a little bit too ambitious, a bit long, not quite pulled off. Do you think you've got it right this time?

Trent: Right now I do. Ask me that in another year or two and I might have a different opinion, but...

Triple J: But when you put it on the cd player now, does it sound good to you?

Trent: It does. It feels.. It's tough for me to listen to right now because I was pretty close to it, but I'm real pleased with the results.

Triple J: Can you tell us a bit about the writing of it? Did the songs come easily?

Trent: They came really easily, I mean, a lot of people think it took me five years to make this record, or however long but the reality of it is, I didn't really start on it until January of last year, 2004, and I'd written the whole thing and a good portion of another album by May or June, and then just recorded it over the summer, mixed it last fall, put a band together, and now I'm on the phone...

Triple J: Are you the kind of guy, the kind of songwriter that can write anywhere, or do you need to find the kind of environment that's conducive to you?

Trent: No, I mean that's a thing I've always struggled with, the discipline of getting my head in the right space to write. I kind of need to be in a place where I have some time to myself to think, and I find that's where the best ideas come from. I can achieve that if I do things like allow myself time when I get up to have an extra hour to just sit and daydream. But a lot of times, especially when the tour starts up, distractions... and your routine gets messed up, so...

Triple J: What sort of routine works good for you?

Trent: Well, what happened when I wrote this record is I moved from New Orleans, where I'd been living for about 10 years, out to Los Angeles, and I have a place up in the hills and really my whole routine became about writing, so anything that used to waste time, or was distractions, was gone because I was in a new place... I'd just have time in the mornings, and I'd take a long walk out in the woods in the afternoon with a recorder, and ideas just flew out of my head.

Triple J: In the woods, that sounds a little bit poetic.

Trent: Kind of sounds poetic, doesn't it?

Triple J: You ever got lost in the woods?

Trent: I stayed on the fire road, I'll find my way out.

Triple J: Right, very smart. I know it's often said of Nine Inch Nails, but do you ever get the feeling you're writing songs for miserable, angry, broken hearted guys?

Trent: I don't think that much about it when I'm doing it, because its always been really how I've felt about things, you know, then I take a look out and see who's relating to that and, quite frankly, having been a gap of time between this record and the last one, and also the last one, and the one before... for a variety of reasons, I've wondered how much... how pertinent I've become, or haven't become. When I try to write all I'm concerned about is expressing how I feel as accurately and... scrutinizing those feelings and trying to express them as eloquently as I can. I mean, is there a happy album in the future? There might be, if there is maybe it's not Nine Inch Nails, but...

Triple J: Who do you think your audience is, when you play a gig and you look out at your fans? Who do you think they are?

Trent: Well, playing now it's weird because, again, we didn't start this cycle up thinking that we were the biggest band in the world, a lot of time's went by, the world has changed. The last record I put out, rap-rock was... you know, if you didn't have a turntable guy in your band, there was something wrong. And that couldn't be more dead. When I look out now, I see a strange collection of... the front row looks the same. They're still fifteen and they all look like The Crow, dressed in black. I see weird assortments of metal people, and there's some older people, and hot chicks all of a sudden, I don't know where that came from, but I'm not complaining.

Triple J: Is that something new for you?

Trent: I don't remember there being this many hot chicks when I looked out.

Triple J: We're joined with Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nails this afternoon.

[The Hand That Feeds plays]

Triple J: You can find that on the brand new Nine Inch Nails record 'With Teeth', and I'm still chatting with Trent Reznor the frontman for the band. Now, did I read that you... were you originally a classically trained pianist?

Trent: Yeah.

Triple J: Is that something you still kind of, in a quiet moment, do you ever sit down and tinkle the ivories with a bit of Chopin or Rachmaninov?

Trent: I wish my technique was as good as it had been. Really what happened with me was, I started young and I was naturally good at it, and I was being kind of coerced into considering dropping out of school, even, to become a concert pianist and studying with a nun and just stuff that when I was 13 certainly didn't sound that good to me. Puberty was hitting, and I discovered rock music, and the idea of being sequestered away somewhere practicing all day didn't sound like a good way to meet girls, so... my attention kind of shifted to being less about being great technique at one instrument, and more about knowing a little about a lot of different things. One of the things on my list of stuff to do is practice again.

Triple J: Right, if only to seduce or woo one of those hot looking girls in the audience.

Trent: You do raise a good point.

Triple J: It's interesting that you say the desire was to get good at a lot of instruments because I think it's kind of fair to say that one of the hallmarks of Nine Inch Nails albums is you have played most of the music yourself. Is that the case with 'With Teeth'?

Trent: Yeah, I did everything on this record except drums. I knew I wanted live drums, and I knew that I wasn't able to play them as well as I hear it in my head. It started out not so much from a megalomania point of view, it was more... I couldn't find anybody. I was in Cleveland when we started out, and I couldn't find anybody that had the same taste or had the same interests that I did musicially. So it was either not do it, or figure out how to do it myself. I liked Prince a lot at the time and I thought, "he did it, I'm taller than he is"...

Triple J: I just want to ask, you mentioned the live drums on the track, which I believe were provided by Dave Grohl. What did he bring to the sessions?

Trent: Well, the kind of team that worked on this record, primarily, was Atticus Ross, programmer, friend of mine and right hand man, and myself and then Alan Moulder came in. When I was writing the songs I kind of had in mind that I thought it would be good to have live drums for the whole record, kind of a different engine behind things, and that really was just because it felt more inspiring than programming this time around. That may not be the case next time, in fact, it's kind of not becoming the case with the stuff I'm working on right now... But when it came to thinking of who's going to play the drums I had my drummer Jerome Dillon play on a handful of things, some of which are kind of earmarked for the next record. There's a good chunk of songs we did that were more than this record needed. And then we started thinking there was a sound I was going for, and we kept mentioning "something kind of like a Dave Grohl kind of sound". I heard myself say that fifteen times in the studio and I thought I could just probably call Dave Grohl and see what he says... and he happened to be around, and was free, and a couple days later we were in the studio.

Triple J: He's played for just about every band so the chances are he might make time for Nine Inch Nails...

Trent: Well, you know, he can only say no... It wasn't wrangling him into what I want to do, it was basically here's the track and "let me start playing", and very little comment from me, it really came out great.

Triple J: The new album is called 'With Teeth', it's available now in Australia, and you're coming to the country, playing Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane in August. Tickets go on sale Monday. Trent Reznor, thanks very much for joining us.

Trent: Thank you.

View the NIN Hotline article index