Branding Nine Inch Nails

By Jason Pettigrew for Rockflash on July 28, 1990

Branding Nine Inch Nails as merely a techno-pop band is akin to reffering to an Uzi as a thing that could cause discomfort. Trent Reznor isn't the kind of guy who moos about having his own personal Jesus or being a victim of love. Granted, he does heap on the electronics but he also uses sweat and drums and bold guitars and not one damn tape recorder. Forget all about things gloomy with a touch of mascara; Reznor would rather slap you silly than give you a handkerchief.

"These catch phrases like "mope rock," "psychotic techno-pop" or "angst ridden" are all bullshit," he explains over the phone from his Cleveland apartment. "The thing that really pisses me off is when somebody has some elaborate interpretation of what I'm trying to say in one song or just reading too much about it and getting it completely wrong, kind of like Rolling Stone magazine."

Reznor is a native of Mercer ("Mercer is a nice little picturesque one-horse, one-McDonald's kind of town. I go back there now and it's like "What a nice pleasant place", but not a place to grow up in"). He moved to Cleveland and ended up in a Flock of Seagulls-type band that he absolutely despised and quickly left. Later he worked in a recording studio and put together the demos for all the tracks off his debut, Pretty Hate Machine, by himself. Upon getting the TVT Records deal, he worked with a bevy of modern rock producers and created an album that caps a grand amount of attitude without the inherent stupidity of the others in the electronic genre.

"The way this record was made was to put something together, think about it, refine it, go back in and do it again. There was a lot of thought put into it. I was trying to get Nine Inch Nails to congeal into a cohesive thing."

When Reznor and his associates take it to the stage, expect nothing short of a confrontation. When the band began touring last year, Reznor's motive was to get on as an opening slot for headliners whose audiences wouldn't normally have anything to do with NIN's electro-throttle.

"You really have to get into combat mode to do this. After the first eighty shows there was the immediate feedback from the audience and just the grueling rigors of touring-not to sound like Bon Jovi or anything. It's fairly intense to get out there every night with this mindset to go out and attack. I just thought about this the other day-I've been drunk every night since January [laughter]! I can't fake being mean. After a while it got more fun to be abusive to the crowd and then people began to like us more."

The band opened for the Jesus and Mary Chain and has recently finished the Peter Murphy tour. Reznor thinks that NIN and the JAMC outfits complemented each other and had a good working relationship. The murphy trek, however, was the beginning of burn-out. Care to hear a good war story?

"We were playing theatre's and college auditoriums and places where you can't drink and there are these steriod freaks that will beat you for just speaking. That was the worst possible environment for us to be in. Then we had to deal with your fanatical Bauhaus eyeliner deathrocker. And we thought "What are we doing?"

"So the stage for us is really small because they have all these drum risers and lights. Now they had this light two feet behind where I stand. If you don't move it, there's a good chance I'm going to run into it. His crew was like "Must you run into that with your antics?" We were doing two nights in Atlanta-which I hate anyway- and we get on stage and there's all this junk sitting there including a half-eaten pizza that we had at soundcheck. I got really drunk and I took this pizza and started firing it out into the audience. I had this great feeling hitting all these deathrocker guys in the head with all this cold pizza! We also had these boxes of corn starch that we were covering ourselves in and we threw those into the audience as well. Then I smashed a guitar, knocked the drums over and walked offstage. And that's what it took to get that audience to like us. Forget the music, as soon as they got abused, that was it. We outsold peter Murphy on T-Shirts. "As soon as I walked downstairs, I was attacked by keyboard roadies, guitar roadies, the tour managers screaming "What are you doing?We are going to throw you off this tour!" And I said, "What's the problem? Kick us off, I could use a few weeks off." So that ended with us not being friends anymore and nobody spoke to us for the last two weeks of the tour."

This time out NIN will be headlining a special all ages show at Metropol July 25. Prior to that, Reznor is finishing up a new single of "Sin" that was produced by Adrain Sherwood. The flip side will be a cover of one of Queen's greater moments, the obnoxious "Get Down Make Love" that Reznor worked on with Ministry's Al Jourgensen in Chicago. On an ending note I ask Him to tell me what he expects to achieve on this tour in five word or less.

"'Drink a lot of beer.' That doesn't sound real profound though. Perhaps 'Kick some motherfucker's ass.' Hey wait, is that hyphenated?"

Transcribed by Keith Duemling

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