NINE INCH NAILS Quest of the graal

Originally published in Elegy on November 1, 1999

Since time that The Fragile was announced, then unceasingly pushed back, we have ended up being resigned to see this arl�sienne(it's a french expression that mean something that always seems to come but which never come really) of rock'n'roll taking the path of the phantom albums, bythinking that the Trent Reznor, eaten by his legend and his glory, would never come out victorious of the obstinate combat which it carried out against his intimate daemons. And it is in rescaped indeed, and not as a conqueror, that he emerges today from the ruins of his last life. Survivor of the one of the longest unproductive periods than offered us the rock'n'roll, Trent Reznor was finally confined of the one of the most beautiful consents of weakness which are. The Fragile, history of a resurrection.

That made more than five years that The Downward Spiral came out and that your public awaited a new album. What did it occur during all this period?

Trent Reznor: I am conscious that this waiting worried most of our public, and that the multiple rumours which it generated made only this situation become worst, but I was not as inactive as this during this period. We started by touring during two years, because what it is necessary to know, it is that until 1994, neither significant radio or television were interested in us, and that touring unceasingly was the only way we had to promote our albums. Once the tour finished, I started to produce Antichrist Superstar, of Marilyn Manson, which has been sold three times more than any of my own albums. After that, I found myself completely emptied, without the least desire for continuing. I was in a lamentable state, as well emotionnaly as spiritually, and the last thing I wanted at this time was to only find me opposite myself to begin the long process of composition which precedes an Nine Inch Nails album. It was approximatively at this time that the press and the medias started to be interested in me and launching delirious stakes, by affirming that The Fragile was going to be the album which would save the rock'n'roll, or that which would kill it. How could I have worked correctly in such a context? You start to think of all these things, and it is completely unproductive. facing all of that, I acknowledge it, I was afraid and I preferred to take distance a certain time, until these holidays change into true depression. It was stupid, I had all of which I had always dreamed. I was respected, I had my own studio, a banking account filled well, and I even thought having friends. I had given up myself entirely with this thing which was Nine Inch Nails and that had worked well, but I did not exist any more as a human being. I was deeply unhappy and I wanted myself for don't know how to acclimatize myself to happiness that I was supposed to feel. And when my grandmother, with whom I passed a good part of my life, died, I am truly ploughed up.

the waitings placed in your new album have to seem to you unbearable then?

Yes, because the process of composition of an album always constituted, for me, in a self-analysis. I lean in myself and I extirpate of it the feelings which will enable me to write texts and to inspire my music. And at this period, the only feeling that I had desire for communicating to the others was " why don't you leave me alone ? ". I then started out some other projects, like soundtracks or video games music, just to hold me busy, but also to delay in a plausible way the moment when I should compose again for Nine Inch Nails. But, ultimately, that really made me want to play music again, to sit on my piano and to take out melodies of it. It was all my life, even if I had forgotten it for a few years, even if I were afraid of what I could find there. then I started to write some passages, and from there, the album literally ran out out of me. The following step was then a collective work starting from the bases which I had brought, which took us nearly two years, with ups and downs. A work meticulous, maniac and often ridiculous. Since I live in News-Orleans, I have my own home-studio, and possibilities that I had never had before. And sometimes, you bury yourself in it, you focus yourself on a sound until you become crazy. All your life is summarized then with that, to make stupid sound loops as you would like it (laughts).

Which was the dominant idea which governed the composition of The Fragile?

What interested me in the concept of The Fragile was this title. I was conscious before even starting to write it that I did not want this album to be a perfect mechanics, brilliant and well oiled. For The Downward Spiral, I had deliberately drawn up an armour of rage and coldness to prevent whoever from penetrating me inside. My ambition this time was contrary managing to compose an album which would seem fragile, which would exploit my frailest part and would reflect it musicaly. Fragility is inherent in any human being, but we live in a society which wants that a "man" behaves in a virile way, effective and powerful, which, we are all conscious, is a terrible lie. Parallel to this idea, I also wished to use more real instruments and organic textures, to bring back to human his place and a certain primitivism. We started on these bases, with the desire of making this album a contemporary work of art, very conceptual and without any compromise.

Had you envisaged since the beginning making a double album of it?

Not, but we started to compose, during several months, very dark instrumental tracks, almost some soundtracks, at the same time ambient and worrying, and the vocal songs appeared only towards the last third of the recording. At this time, as we did not want to make disappear integrality from our instrumental, because they was as much part of The Fragile as the more traditional songs, we had more than forty finished titles. Oddest and esoteric were undoubtedly those which interested us more. Then, with the risk to pass for pretentious ones, we chose to make a double album of it, by eliminating the strangest tracks simply. In my opinion, which we finally kept is the best of all Nine Inch Nails could record up to now. Rich textures, lot of experimentations, a great attention on very different environments, it is really all that I had wanted for all these years. To obtain the wanted effect exactly, we unceasingly tried all the options which come us on mind. A song like " We're In This Together ", for example, took us three weeks only for the mixing, because we wanted to prevent at all costs that the chorus sounds triumphing. we finally chose a catch in the recording where my voice was more broken, where guitars were more wrong, and that where the battery was disacorded so that the emotion which emerges would be correct. If we had acted in the usual way, this album would be completely different, and would be completely missed in our eyes (laughts).

in contradiction with all your preceding albums, The Fragile does not offer immediately hookers songs. was it a deliberated intention?

I do not know at which point it was deliberated on our mind, but it is undoubtedly the direct consequence of the success that we had before. In the current system, as soon as you get yourself a certain reputation, you are brought to think of the continuation in terms of sales, of public success. Will you satisfy your public? To exceed the sales of your preceding album and to satisfy your label which spent much of money for your promo? I really made all my possible not to worry about all these aspects when I composed The Fragile, to make of it a piece of art, something which would be able to make me pass a peak, at the same time as a human and as an artist. I always wanted to ignore the rules of the business and until now, that always functioned since a public recognized himself in this music not gauged for MTV or the radios. I think that this album is my more authentic, and I hope that people will like it as much as I, but to be honest, I don't care. It is not an album which hangs you immediately, not a collection of hits for the dancefloors, it is just a reflection of what I am, at this time. I know that certain people await for me that I unceasingly remake "March of the Pigs" or "Happiness in Slavery", but it is out of question. I want to evolve and especially not to repeat myself. I think that to appreciate fully The Fragile, it is necessary to forget what I could record before, to listen to it of a draft, very attentively, and finally, I hope, maybe feel something special.

Your texts has always been very personal, were you never tempted to write differently, in order to expose yourself less?

It is right, that it is very difficult to expose myself at this point, and that becomes particularly hard when I give interviews and that I find myself speaking about very personal things, but I've always writen in a very intimate way, I am unable to take distance in my texts. When I started to write Pretty Hate Machine I realized at which point I exposed myself, I was persuaded that I could never sing these songs in front of anyone, that everyone would take to me for a fool, while being sure that they were excellent texts, very powerful. I thus decided to sacrifice myself and make pass above these feelings, my possible shame behind what counted more for me: my music. But ultimately, Nine Inch Nails always proved to be very cathartic, because that enables me to write about very intimate subjects, and by doing this, to remove me from these obsessions before they do not change into neuroses. Most astonishing, it is that I thought that more people would be recognized themselves and would be offended by my texts, by what I reveal of our relations, whereas the majority of my close relations acknowledged me feeling relieved by what I wrote. That works as much on them that on me. The price to paid for that is the loss of any intimacy. I am not Marilyn Manson, I did not invent myself a character dissociated from me which would try out all these things. I am this character, and sometimes that returns to me a little ashamed, but I think that this authenticity gives much more weight to the songs.

Contrary to Marilyn Manson, you have nearly abandoned any reference to the religion in your texts...

There remain some of them, but it is true that they have not the importance that thez had in the past. I think that I matured, and that this album is less angerous than the lasts, less angry. It rather functioned for me like an attempt of cure. And then I became little by little less hostile with the religious concepts. I remain very opposite with the Christian religion such as it is essential in our lives on the United States, but I am opened more today with a certain spiritual search even if it passes for me by the music, and not by the pray.

You always made an intensive use of the remixes. Will The Fragile be followed of a remix-album like your preceding discs?

There are strong chances, even if I undoubtedly do not call upon external remixeurs as I could do it before. They will be probably more reinterpretations of songs and versions which we gave up in "cours de route" (expression that mean here "when we advance in recording the album"). There remain to us a great quantity of unexploited material, really very strange titles, and I think that this type of album-remix would be a good occasion to publish them. I really like the practice of the remixes, when they are not simple pretexts to make dance. In what relates to me, it is a means of giving an account of my most abstract tastes and of returning to my way homage to significant artists like JG Thirwell (Foetus), Coil or Aphex Twin. In sofar as their work influenced me considerably, to benefit from my current fame to return the elevator to them seems right to me.

You worked much in various medias these last years, with soundtracks of films and video games. What do you retain of these experiments?

It is interesting, even if that undoubtedly remains for me an additional activity. To work for the multimedia like I did with the soundtrack of quake is a very arid work, very constraining, and even if I appreciate much the developments of the multimedia, which is inspired more and more by universes developed by a whole population of musicians, this is for me definitely less exalting than trying to compose good songs. With regard to my work for the cinema, it is more amusing, and that really did me pleasure of confronting my musical ideas with the visual ideas of a realisator like David Lynch, whom I adore but what disturb me in all this work is that I am only an intervener, without real control on the final product. Whereas with Nine Nails Inch, I am a true maniac of the perfection.

Like many other artists, you finished by installing yourself in New-Orleans. What is so particular in this city that make it transformed little by little into Mecque of creation?

There is a very interesting atmosphere here. The city is superb and the light is splendid there. You have all you you want with the range of the hand, but that does not invade your life when you do not want of it. It is a very pleasant place to work, at the same time alone and alive. I never feel myself great at ease in another city. I even fell by chance on Robert Smith, one evening in a club. It was very strange, because I am a fan of Cure since the night of times, and I did not think I would meet him in these circumstances, right in the middle of a goth club (laughs).

there was also a resume of NIN's career in the interview, which is also translated below:

1989, it is of a lost village of Pennsylvania that arrive an unforgettable album, which will change, undoubtedly for always the face of what one did not call yet metal-industrial. made of anger and of bitterness, Pretty Hate Machine remain, to date, one of best work of Trent Reznor, a once last the clavier a little cheap, which disappear besides as of broken, minicomputer-album classe and angerous, which himself settle merrily at the head of thecharts thanks to the hit " Happiness in Slavery ". But what makes the principal interest of Broken, too clean, is its counterpart remix�d Fixed, which install some climate dark and noisy that reznor love already, even if it leave still with some other (Coil, Foetus), the care to operate with sharp the wound purulent. In many connections, The Downward Spiral will remain for much the album reference of Nine Inch Nails. Sink, violent, conceptual, it offers even a massive success with punky "March of the Pigs ", which opens to him into large the gates of the Pantheon of the rock'n'roll, like the ones of the largest scenes. Once again, the remixes-disconstructions will be present with two double maxis March of the Pigs and Closer, andespecially the album Further down the Spiral, where the band surf on the line of fracture in company of its usual remixeurs, joined this time by Aphex Twin, David Ogilvie (Skinny Puppy) and Jack Dangers (Meat Beat Manifesto). Broken, morbid, these titles are displayed in first steps of an fragility asserted now. Mow to strike with the belly, the Trent Reznor henceforth prefers to go in the shade zones, free so far as to pain since it is a question of coming out from it. Today finally, The Fragile, third true album (only) of a galaxy full with black holes. One mounment, a disc arid but necessary " all that does not kill to me returns me more strong", said the other.

Transcribed by Keith Duemling

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