NIN's Trent Reznor Opens Up Just As His Tour Does

By Gianni Sibilla for Sonicnet on November 1, 1999

As European outing gets under way, reclusive singer says years of painful soul searching led to artistic growth.

MILAN, Italy ? Nine Inch Nails mastermind Trent Reznor is talking ? and not to himself.

He's chatting with the press, telling them about his life and his music, where it's been and where it's going, and what it all comes from. And when you're talking about Reznor, that's worth noting.

"I had to do some soul searching to see what was inside of me to record this album," Reznor said during a press conference Tuesday at the Sheraton Hotel. "[1994's] The Downward Spiral was darker, because it contained what I felt at that time. Right now I feel more mature, and I think The Fragile is a more complex and mature work."

The enigmatic and reclusive songwriter, known for his dark, industrial-rock sound and pained lyrics, said that while The Fragile may be as moody and disturbed as his others, it shows signs of a man emerging from his pain and finding himself.

Like most of his work, this record chronicles what the 34-year-old singer says he has suffered through in the past five years.

Reznor said it took the long-awaited release of The Fragile, the third NIN album, to coax him from the isolation in which he had immersed himself over the past five years.

Not only is Reznor making appearances, albeit only a few, to talk about the record, but he has embarked with his four-piece backing band on an 11-date European tour. The outing, which began Sunday in Barcelona, Spain, is the band's first in almost four years.

And he has decided to talk extensively to the press, who he avoided for nearly five years.

"I spent the last two and a half years in the studio working on this album in New Orleans. I was a shell of isolation," Reznor explained to a room of about 40 journalists. The press conference took place the day before his Wednesday concert at Alcatraz.

He arrived accompanied by the members of Nine Inch Nails' live band ? Jerome Dillon, Danny Lohner, Charlie Clouser and Robin Finck ? who sat on each side of Reznor at a long table. But even if the reporters in the room were directed to ask questions to all bandmembers, and even if the other bandmembers were prepared to answer back, Reznor alone acted as the spokesperson.

Dressed in his trademark black, and speaking slowly in a low voice, the NIN frontman explained that he willingly made himself a recluse in the years that followed The Downward Spiral.

But in exiling himself, he found that he became more and more detached from the outside world, he said.

"I knew there was an inherent danger in doing that; that the best result could have been to find out what I had in my mind and that that was more unique than communicating what was going on around me. But the worst result could have been to be left with the stillness that comes when there's not much going on around you."

The result, the double-CD The Fragile, has received widespread critical acclaim, even though it has fallen steadily on the Billboard 200 albums chart since it debuted at #1 with sales of 228,000 copies. For the week ending Nov. 14, the two-CD set sat at #106 with sales of 15,389.

Nevertheless, the album has been certified platinum (1 million units shipped) by the Recording Industry Association of America. On the album's 23 tracks, Reznor moves from hard rockers, such as "Starfuckers, Inc.," to such multilayered songs as the current single, "We're in this Together" (RealAudio excerpt), which includes guitars, keyboards and electronics.

Reznor's lengthy period of isolation left him free of any outside musical influences, other than the music he choose to be exposed to, he said. And while the tortured songwriter said he paid some attention to the growing musical trends of the past few years, such as electronica, he said that particular trend didn't move him.

"I'm not really impressed by what's going around. I'm not saying I'm better than that, but I'm not impressed." Reznor said. "From an American perspective, it seemed that electronica was going to take over the world, and that just didn't happen.

"I spent a bit of time exploring club music and drum & bass, and I found that interesting," he added. "But I spent more time trying to like that music more than really liking it."

Nine Inch Nails released their first album, Pretty Hate Machine, in 1989, developing a sound that by the early '90s had blossomed into a critically acclaimed crossover of industrial music and pop melodies. It is a sound that has since influenced countless artists.

Songs such as "Head Like a Hole" (RealAudio excerpt) showcased the dark and self-obsessed mood of Reznor's lyrics: "Bow down before the one you serve/ You're going to get what you deserve."

The Downward Spiral established Reznor as one of rock's most popular and notable performers. The album spawned two hit singles, "Closer" and "March of the Pigs," and is certified four-times platinum by the RIAA. It peaked at #2 on the Billboard 200 albums chart.

Reznor, who works mostly as a one-man band in the studio and writes all of NIN's songs, explained that the painful feelings of his music come out of his personal struggles. He has based all of his work on those feelings, he said.

In wrapping up his commentary on the album and the past five years of his life, Reznor made a brief reference to his much-talked-about falling out with former prot�g� Marilyn Manson.

Though he didn't elaborate on what happened between the two, when a journalist asked what had sparked the bad feelings and what was his relationship with the shock rocker now, Reznor replied, "It was personal, and we're friends now."

Transcribed by Keith Duemling

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