Nine Inch Nails - Time will only tell.

Originally published in PERFECTlittleDREAM on August 1, 1998

Will the next album ever reach the stores and can we expect a tour from Nine Inch Nails in the wake of the release? This question is one that has been addressed and thought about by hundreds of editorial writers and even more internet surfers. What can we expect / hope from Trent Reznor in the future, and for that matter, Nine Inch Nails. When you begin to consider what to expect from Trent Reznor and NIN (as a group) in the future you have to look at what has happened in both the past, and what is happening now. Record label difficulties, stylistic changes, and the desire to pursue other projects have all played a role, coupled with the occasional collapse of the norm...all this put together, and you have the rocky, yet energetic aura which makes Nine Inch Nails such an attractive sound and style for industrial music fans everywhere.

In the past, Trent Reznor has experienced some rahter unique difficulties with his record labels. When he was first signed on the TVT label, the idea of creative and innovative music was something that Trent Reznor expected from his label. As Pretty Hate Machine (PHM)was in production, executives and managers from TVT attempted to alter the sound and feel of PHM. All this was done not to evolve the music to better sum up the emotions and thoughts, but rather to increase sales and make Nine Inch Nails more of a merchandising force. Would the average person sell out and not risk losing their chance to make a name for themself and achieve some type of financial security? YES. Did Trent Reznor? NO.

Trent Reznor produced the album he wanted in the style he wanted an it was released. The main alteration was that TVT used a different version of "Down In It" than was originally planned for it. The album which they had said would be a failure became an overnight smash. Mixing Synth-pop with harsh industrial at time while still managing to pull out feelings and deep festering pain crushed the idea of a computer made feeling and made Nine Inch Nails a force of both anger and pain. The pain of an isolated childhood, breakup of his parents, struggle to make it in music, and all the devastating rejections that happen to all of us as we grow up....all this combined with the power of the machines to make PHM what it is. The failure of TVT it wasn't, the beginning of the rise of Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails it was. Even after all the attempts to make it something new, TVT was unable to change PHM. Unable to make it a mainstream equivalant to Pearl Jam or Stone Temple Pilots, and basically an artistic sell out. Remembering the bad taste left by TVT, Trent Reznor went once again into the recording studio to create the next masterpiece, Broken.

Broken, the name just tends to inspire a hidden darkness and meaning which is somehow a necessary follow-up to Pretty Hate Machine. After the emotional catharsis of PHM, the gloves had to come off and and hate machine had to be unleashed. During the days of the PHM tour, Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails (the band as a whole) had worked on their new creation. Broken was to be a "fuck you record" to quote Trent Reznor. After TVT's attempt to alter Nine Inch Nails' character. 29 seconds into Track 98 of Broken "Physical" you can hear Trent Reznor whisper "eat your heart out stevie." Steve Gottlieb was the general manager of TVT Records who had dirrectly tried to make Trent Reznor change his music and make it something that it wasn't. The personal anger that Trent Reznor had for both TVT and Steve Gottlieb were the inspiration behind most of what was to become Broken. Touring experiences and some pesonal relationships and friendships that changed during the PHM tour were also some of the motivating factor s behind the harshness of Broken. Tracks riddled with intense metal on metal sounds and relentless sequences which pound you right into the ground with the energy of Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails.

These releases by Nine Inch Nails demonstrate how trouble with their (i.e. Nine Inch Nails') record label has effected what makes Nine Inch Nails what it is today. It also offers evidence that the style of Nine Inch Nails has evolved as well. Between Broken and The Downward Spiral is another stylistic rift which could only be filled with something as unpredictable and chaotic as Fixed. Yet Fixed is far from a "closure" of the the angst that is made ever so clear in Broken. Moving away from Fixed, The Downward Spiral is a awesome collection of songs which unquestionably made Nine Inch Nails what it is today. No other release drew so much attention to NIN as TDS did. Songs like "Closer," "Heresy," and "Hurt" became the theme songs of all the young high schoolers which wore the shirts and stood out in the crowd (yes you know them, you either were one or you are one now). Winning the loyalty of the younger fans, Nine Inch Nails successfully managed to insure that it's role in the music world could only inc rease from this time on. The size of fan clubs, merchandise trading, and the internet itself showed the massive support which Nine Inch Nails was winning. Overnight, 20 or 30 Nine Inch Nails internet pages turned into 200 or 300, maybe even 3000...only Yahoo really knows. But what made these people join the ranks of thousands of other Nine Inch Nails fans? Was it the anger, the frustration with the world, or could Nine Inch Nails see something that no other band managed to see, at least for them. A band based on machines managed to capture human emotions so well, that you forget the machines and only feel the music and words.

If this evolution of music can be seen in the past, style changes can be expexted on the next album. But the question is, what will it be like? The drum and bass of The Perfect Drug, another The Downward Spiral, or something new and risky. Unconfirmed reports claim that the new Nine Inch Nails will be a totally new direction for Nine Inch Nails music. Nothing official has come out, except of course for the continued delays for the release date of the much awaited follow up to The Downward Spiral. Legal problems involving copyrighting, side projects such as remixing, and difficulties with Interscope Records have all helped to make the once Fall of 98 album now the beginning of 99 release, and who knows what will come next. Needless to say, this album will not be a continuation of what once was, i.e. The Downward Spiral. That was an album created out of atmosphere, anger, and was a striking blow to the world from a man who was tired of the social corruption. The Trent Reznor we all know and love has changed his style over the past few years. Not the machine based one man band some much as during the days of Pretty Hate Machine. There is even talk that some of the delays are because Trent Reznor is actually trying to work on a collaborative album involving several other key members of the Nine Inch Nails "family." It becomes difficult to judge the style of Nine Inch Nails at this time since the only thing we have to examine are remixes of songs done by totally different groups and individuals.

The Trent Reznor remix of David Bowie's "I'm Afraid of Americans" is something along the line of a traditional Nine Inch Nails remix. But it offers us no insight into what to expect lyrically from the new album. Halo 11, The Perfect Drug Single is mainly a collection of remixes of TPD done by other Nothing Records bands. It has also been confirmed through interviews that the new album will not be like "The Perfect Drug". The only other major work that we can look at is the remixes done of Puff Daddy's "Victory." The fact that "Victory" is a rap song virtually closes the door on that discussion right there. We know that Trent Reznor is not going to change to a rap artist. Though the sequencing may at times be similar to a rap album, the content and method of conveying his message are not the same as a rap album. Nothing else of substance has really come out of the Nine Inch Nails camp since the above mentioned remixes were done. Once again, Trent Reznor has managed to evade being catagorized as periodic table. This album will shake the tree of Nine Inch Nails fans, those who fall, fall; those who stay are the fans through and through. It only remains a question as to when this album will hit the stores and be in the hands of fans around the world.

Difficulties which Interscope Records, the parent company of Nothing Records have also cause some delays in the production and release of the new NIN album. It is not clear as to what the issues are or how strong the disagreement is, but there is talk that there are problems that exist between Trent Reznor and Interscope Records. It is doubtful that this conflict will in any way be as dramatic as the earlier conflict with TVT Records which almost caused Trent Reznor to quit music all together. Either way, Trent Reznor will manage to find a way to release his music, whether it is through a second label or after a long battle with the executives at Interscope Records, it is in the not so distant future that we can expect to see new Nine Inch Nails on the shelves at your local music store. Perhaps not at Wal-Mart or KMart due to content problems, but you will find them. Whatever the problems are, you can guarantee that Interscope Records isn't going to try to out muscle Trent Reznor on creative issues, they want to release the album just as much as we want to buy it. It would be downright foolish of them to force Trent Reznor's proverbial "hand" and make him take action, is he bluffing, or will he really let Nine Inch Nails die if he isn't allowed to have complete creative freedom. Time will only tell.

As you can see, there is a complicated background that we have to look at first when we say to ourselves; "Where is that damn album already?" It is only understandable to expect delays when you are working under such conditions and you are not a band, but a single person trying to juggle all these things at once while still trying to create an album to folllow up a record which went platinum and has never looked back. To try to create something that is worthy of being a follow-up to The Downward Sprial is an accomplishment in itself... Though the future of both Nine Inch Nails and Trent Rezor are unsure, at least we know there is something in the works. This album may be the last release form Nine Inch Nails, after which, Trent Reznor may focus completely on producing for other bands on the Nothing Records label. What else can be expected but the unexpected from a man who says, "I'd rather die than give you control" ("Head Like A Hole - Pretty Hate Machine").

Transcribed by Keith Duemling

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