Inside The Strange World Of Trent Reznor

By P.J. Merkle for Hit Parader on July 1, 1998

As 1998 hits high gear, it appears as if Trent Reznor is once again doing his best to confuse and confound almost everyone within his sphere of influence. Always unpredictable, ever-controversial and unequivocally a Pree Spirit of the Highest Order, over the last year Reznor has seemingly done just about everything in his considerable powers to increase the public's perception that he is the most adroit and clever musician of his era. At the same exact time, however, he has taken a number of questionable actions seemingly intended to derail, or at least slow down, the fast-track rocket to superstardom he's been riding so successfully with his band, Nine Inch Nails.

During the last few months he's severed ties (or had those ties severed) with a number of his closest musical confidants- delaying his own recording schedule and confusing some of his closets confidants in the porcess. He's taken a hard-nosed stance regarding the contents of his band's delayed new album, rumored to be called Dissonance, supposedly holding in-depth meetings with various music business insiders over the disc's quasi-controversial contents. Long-time Reznor observers may state that such actions are far-from-new, citing that the Nine Inch Nails visionary has on occasion had previous problems with co-workers and past differences with record labels. But this time around, with these delays and difficulties coming at a time when the world thirsts as never before for new NIN material, it seems that Reznor's single-minded focus has even begun to frustrate his most ardent supporters.

Of course, we're talking about the same man who once threatened to quit the music industry entirely if his then-record label didn't give him his way (they eventually freed him from his contract). And this is a man who has had past co-workers, such as Filter's Brian Leisigang label him as everything from a "control freak" to a "pure genius". But rather than serving as a distraction to his on-going creative process, at times such activity seems to be little more than another part of a good day's work for Reznor.

"I draw on everything that I can for inspiration," he once said. "You never know what might be the thing that will motivate you to create something interesting."

It often seems that Reznor takes to turmoil like the proverbial duck takes to a clear mountain stream. Yet there can be little doubt that at times his affinity for living life by his own rules causes those around him to wonder exactly what motivates this rock and roll renaissance man. Recently it has become clear that even Reznor's "brainchild" Marilyn Manson, has stepped out of The Man's lingering shadow, choosing to remove Reznor as his producer-of-record - though the MM gang remains staunch.y a part of Reznor's Nothing Records label. In fact, in Manson's recently published autobiography, "The Long Hard Road Out of Hell," he occasionally chose to portray Reznor in far less than an appealing light, though Manson insists that he retains the highest regard for Reznor's talents.

"I think there was always going to be a battle of wills between Trent and Marilyn," a will-placed source revealed. "It was never anything obvious, but they're both very creative, intelligent and motivated men, and it just seemed impossible for Trent to maintain any sort of control over where Manson's career was going. He still runs Nothing Records, and Manson continues to record for the label, but they're no longer tied at the hip in terms of Manson's recordings. I believe that Marilyn began to take offense that a lot of fans viewed his music as merely an extension of Trent's genius. Now he wants to prove he can fly on his own- it's only natural."

Perhaps the fact that he's been relieved of his duties as Manson's executive producer will prove to be a stroke of good fortune for Reznor. After all, the last thing he apparently needs at the moment is to be tied up in the studio slaving away on someone else's project for the next three months. While it is still not clear exactly how much work has been completed on NIN's latest disc, it appears as if more recording and mixing remains to be done. Originally conceived as a complex two-disc set (and initially set to be released late last year) the Dissonance collection supposedly features some of the most cutting-edge and controversial music of Reznor's career. Mixing erratic dance beats with techno melodies and metallic instrumentation, much of the disc was apparently designed expressively to grate on listener's nerves and make those little hairs on the back of your neck stand on-end.

It was news of this combination of superficially unsavory musical reactants that first alerted executives at Nothing's parent label to be aware of exactly how "different" the new Nails disc was supposedly going to be. The label folks were obviously seeking NIN to produce their "breakthrough" disc, a collection that would take the platinum success attained by the band's last album, The Downward Spiral, to the next logical commercial plateau. But when the label forces were confronted by information indicating NIN's new music showcased Reznor's unquestioned brilliance by creatively dancing around virtually every rule of commercial airplay, their surprise quickly became apparent. They wanted hits, not artistic experimentation. Of course, Reznor wanted just the opposite, and a series of conversations between both interested parties soon began.

"Trent has stated his belief that some people just won't understand some of the new music," our inside source said. "In his mind that's good. What's the point of just producing what is expected and wanted? There's no great challenge in that."

So what might we expect from Reznor and Nine Inch Nails throughout the second half of '98? Will he be able to put aside his on-going creative difference and finally complete work on NIN's new disc? Will this on-going business distraction force Reznor even further underground? Will he re-direct his energies (at least for the time being) towards discovering and then producing new acts- such as Rob Halford's new band Two- for Nothing Records? Unfortunately, we can't currently supply you with the answers to all these intriguing questions. But as the days continue to pass, the often muddled picture that comprises the Life Of Reznor, may finally begin to come into better focus for his millions of fans around the world.

"I still believe that 1998 will be NIN's year," our source stated. "The atmosphere around the band's music is just incredible. Everyone is anticipation what's going to happen next. Trent's got everybody just where he wants them."

Transcribed by Keith Duemling

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