Trent Reznor Surfaces From Self-Imposed Exile To Reveal Mental Torment

By Gil Kaufman for Sonicnet on September 1, 1999

Nine Inch Nails leader speaks about dark period that first delayed, then informed upcoming The Fragile.

Dressed all in black and seated in a red velvet chair, Nine Inch Nails leader Trent Reznor surfaced from a self-imposed exile Thursday (Sept. 9) to discuss what he said was the mental torment that largely has kept him off the music scene since 1995.

Reznor, sporting short black hair and smiling weakly at times, discussed NIN's upcoming third full-length album, The Fragile, with MTV reporter Kurt Loder. He hadn't spoken in depth to the media in nearly five years.

"I was really unhappy, and I was really disillusioned with a lot of things, and I didn't trust anybody," Reznor said about the time following what he described as a falling-out with former prot�g� Marilyn Manson in 1996. He didn't elaborate on what happened between the two.

"I wasn't sure what I wanted to say musically, and so I didn't," Reznor said. "I thought, rather than put a record out that was an unfocused mess ... I really wasn't ready as a person."

Reznor said part of what held up the recording of The Fragile ? a two-CD set due Sept. 21 ? was his grief over the 1997 death of his grandmother, who raised him. Consequently, the album is rife with the kind of enigmatic, morose titles on which the industrial-rock band has built its career.

Reznor, in a recent statement, described the music on the album as a chronicle of "systems failing and things sort of falling apart."

Among the 23 songs slated for the album, which is more than 100 minutes long, are "Somewhat Damaged," "The Wretched," "The Great Below," "Into the Void," "Ripe (With Decay)" and the new single "We're in This Together" (RealAudio excerpt).

To get to a point where he felt he could communicate through music again, Reznor said he spent a lot of time watching the disturbing 1976 Martin Scorsese movie "Taxi Driver." In the film, Robert De Niro played a man descending into madness.

In a voice-over during the airing of the interview, Loder said Reznor claimed his obsession with "Taxi Driver" inspired his 1997 collaboration with veteran rocker David Bowie on the video for Bowie's song "I'm Afraid of Americans."

"Oddly at the time," Reznor said, "I was on a kick of watching 'Taxi Driver' for some reason. ... I think I was losing it there. This was right at the time where I was ... 'What am I going to do? I'll just watch "Taxi Driver" again. Maybe that will make me feel better.' And it didn't. I don't recommend that anybody do that."

Reznor said he sought help getting out of his funk by visiting a therapist, but ultimately he decided he had to find his own way. "I reached a point where I said I just want to deal with things on my own terms," Reznor said.

In the statement describing The Fragile, Reznor said it features a number of unusual stringed instruments.

On previous records, NIN's sound was marked by heavy blasts of distorted guitar, programmed drums and keyboards. Reznor experimented with stringed instruments on the 1997 single "The Perfect Drug," from the "Lost Highway" soundtrack. That song featured what sounds like frantically plucked violin strings over a skittering jungle beat.

The Fragile was produced by Reznor and engineer/mixer Alan Moulder at Reznor's New Orleans studio over the past two years.

The album features the work of NIN keyboardist/drummer Charlie Clouser and guitarist Danny Lohner. Also expected to appear on the album are former King Crimson guitarist Adrian Belew (who also lent a hand on NIN's most recent album of new material, 1994's The Downward Spiral). Other players are ex-Ministry drummer Bill Rieflin, former Chic/Powerstation drummer Tony Thompson and keyboardist Mike Garson, who has played with the Smashing Pumpkins and David Bowie.

Among the songs that already have been released are the moody ballad "The Day the World Went Away" (RealAudio excerpt) and the hard-rocking "Starfuckers, Inc." (RealAudio excerpt), which were issued in single form.

The Fragile will be NIN's third studio album. In addition to their 1989 debut, Pretty Hate Machine, featuring the alternative hit "Head Like a Hole" (RealAudio excerpt), and The Downward Spiral, NIN have released a number of remix projects, including 1992's Broken and Fixed EPs and 1995's Further Down the Spiral.

Reznor told Loder another difficulty he faced in following up The Downward Spiral was what he described as intense pressure to "save" rock 'n' roll. "All during this time, I'm getting, 'Please come save rock,' " Reznor said.

"I don't have to save rock," he said with a slight grin. "I don't even like rock that much."

About two years ago, Reznor decided it was finally time to get his recording career back on track, he said.

"It came down to really just sitting down and facing myself again and [remembering] that playing music has always saved me in the past," Reznor said, "and made me feel like I had something to offer."

Among the revelations Reznor offered about the new album was the origin of some ominous choruses of caterwauling vocals that Loder suggested mark several songs.

"Typically, 11 at night, we'd figure we need some people to yell something, so we'd empty out the bar across the street," Reznor deadpanned. "And a bunch of drunk guys come in and mumble something. I think we assembled the most atonal group of females I've ever heard. They're just comically horrendous."

Transcribed by Keith Duemling

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