Trent Reznor. Really vulnerable man.

By Maciek Kierzkowski for Metal Hammer Magazine Polish Edition on January 1, 2000

I have to admit that another of my musical dreams came true. When going to Berlin, it wasn?t so sure this meeting would take place. I really was afraid of this interview what, by the way, I pointed right at the beginning of my conversation with Trent Reznor and Danny Lohner. Presence of the second one was a big - turned nice - surprise for me for I had prepared all my questions from the point of view of NIN?s leader and creator. When I followed the manager to Berlin Columbiahalle?s backstage, where on 22 November 1999 the concert took place, suddenly he informed me that I would talk to two members of NIN. He also suggested asking Danny questions. Well, OK., thought to myself, but what sort of?

In 1997, ?Time? called Reznor ?one of 25 most influential people in the USA?. Month earlier Spin then called him ?the most influential persona in music business?. American music magazine ?Musician? voted him ?The Artist of 1997? and ?Alternative Press? acclaimed ?The Fragile? ?one of the most anticipated records of 1998, 1999 and 2000...? Each one of those articles/interviews started with description of Reznor?s appearance. You could read that Trent wears black T-shirt and sneakers and looks rather like average dude, whom you could meet in some tool shop in Louisiana. Not like a god of industrial music at all. When after a few minutes of waiting I was invited to the room I saw Reznor sitting on brown leather couch, looking exactly as described by Western journalists, and looking as ordinarily - Lohner, crouching on a small chair next to couch. As I sat on the opposite side I started our conversation.

MH: I know, you had answered this question hundreds of times but your Polish fans are surely interested in why had to anticipate your new record as many as five years? Therefore, please give an answer to this question for us too.

Reznor: After recording of ?Downward Spiral? we toured for over two and a half-year. We were extremely exhausted with all the concerts and just took a bit longer break. Then I got involved in Marilyn Manson?s ?Antichrist Superstar? production that took me a while. When I finally had that stage behind me I started to look for an impulse, some sort of motivation to start working on a new record. When ultimately creative vein came it turned out this time to be a long-term process. From the moment we started working on this album to the moment we finished two years passed. It was profoundly toilsome time for me. It was time of searching for new ideas, new conceptions. Time of experiments, time of recording, inventing and writing. So that is probably why I don?t feel this time gap as big as my fans do.

It is necessary to mention here that in that so-called mean time Reznor, as producer committed soundtracks for two excellent pictures: David Lynch?s ?Lost Highway? and Oliver Stone?s ?Natural Born Killers?. He also composed music for computer game ?Quake?. Furthermore he elaborated NIN video compilation ?Closure?. As it comes to Brian Warner, aka Marilyn Manson, both gentlemen are no longer friends. And I have to say this to you, as Manson was one of the two, maybe three, closest friends of Reznor. It was Trent, who spotted and took him under Nothing Records? wing where he is the boss and which issued/edited first Manson?s records.

R: I think that something had cracked between us. Perhaps it was because we both are strong personalities. Manson, from the very beginning to the very end was and still is one big provocation but at some point he stopped sensing that very thin line separating being provocative from being ridiculous. In my opinion, he just started exaggerating, carrying things too far and he crossed some limits. I am particularly sorry it turned out that way cause there was a time when Manson was a very close person for me. Perhaps you know what it?s like when you lose a friend.

MH: In 1994 you performed on Woodstock. How do you recall that event?

R: Not particularly. When you are to play for such a huge ?round-up? under huge Pepsi logo covering that fucking bird, which was a symbol of that festival, you can get mixed feelings. Most of the bands played there first of all for the money. We did it for the same reason then and it?s something I probably wouldn?t decide to do today.

And indeed, Reznor rejected proposition of playing on this year?s edition of Woodstock as he permanently refuses all propositions of performing on David Lettermman?s, Connan O?Brien?s or Jay Leno?s shows.

MH: Do you happen to create when you are happy?

R: No, I cannot create when I?m happy. I have nothing to say to people then. I would say more. I don?t understand how you cab create anything at the time of happiness. I usually write when something bothers me when I?m obsessed with a thought. Though, when I worked on this record, quite the reverse, I had perfectly comfortable conditions for work. So I?m not able to give a 100% answer to this question.

In 1995, in the middle of the tour promoting previous NIN?s album, Trent bought an estate in New Orleans from where he moved next to villa located at 10050 Cielo Drive on Hollywood hills in LA. It was there that Charles Manson?s sect murdered Roman Polanski?s pregnant wife - Sharon Tate, and four of her friends. It was there that Trent arranged recording studio and in 1993 recorded work of genius - ?The Downward Spiral?. When he moved in, whole Los Angeles buzzed with gossips. No mean scandal has been caused. Some of the media started cold-shouldering him as a person and NIN?s music too. Our hero himself, says that at the moment of buying the infamous villa really wasn?t aware of the tragedy that had happened years before. I can hardly believe that. Whatever... Now in New Orleans in his new property Nothing Records? studios are located there too. All of the rooms are monitored with security cameras and apparently there is no room without snoop. From former Polanski?s villa Reznor kept only front door, which are said to deaden all sounds perfectly.

MH: When I look at you now I cannot not ask, how does feel the person who now is public person and yet ten years ago was hardly know to anyone?

R: I am diametrically changed person from the one I used be a decade ago. I?m different than I was a year ago. I have changed a lot. Ten years ago I was cleaning toilets. Then I was cleaning recording studios. Then I was recording demos for various groups. Deep in my heart I think I haven?t changed that much but the outside situation has changed so much that it was no way to stay the same person. Nowadays it?s like I have to deal with whole bunch of people who simply drive you nuts but on the other hand those are consequences of being public person. Exposing yourself, revealing your opinions and giving away some of your secrets is part of a risk that you have to take when doing interviews for promoting new record. It?s kind of a role inseparably connected with doing this job. And I do not feel comfortable baring myself with my thoughts in front of people. This sort of exhibitionism is the necessary evil of deciding to play that character which I do not feel particularly happy with.

MH: When do you feel happy to play this role, then?

R: I like doing what I do. I mean, playing and creating music, working in the studio, giving concerts and watching people?s reaction to what I had done. I just do not enjoy this wrapping that comes along with it.

Talking about happiness. It?s more often now that Reznor speaks of some stabilization that he could get through setting up a family for instance. It maybe related with the fact that his parents had divorced when he was five. He was raised by his grandmother, who?s death caused him a great depression.

MH: What kind of man is Trent Reznor from his own point of view?

R: (after long reflection)... I really don?t know. I think that sometimes I?m very much normal and sometimes I can act like a real asshole. There are days when I feel completely exhausted. And there are days when I get depressed. It all depends on the mood of a day or a moment. In general, I?m rather lonely type of person, reserved and very sensitive. Almost every time I come out on stage to play I have tears in my eyes.

MH: When one listens to ?The Fragile? gets this irresistible recall of Pink Floyd?s ?The Wall?. I?d like to ask if, even though generation gap between you both, you feel any musical, spiritual or mental bond with Roger Waters?

R: I won?t deny that ?The Wall? had a great impact on my music and my life. Unfortunately, I do not know Waters personally but I believe I understand what bugged him when he wrote it. I grew up with this music and it?s still within me. For me, this album is certainly one of the greatest works of all times. It is perfectly composed, played and recorded album that brings extensive emotions. There is depression, anger, sadness, grief and rage, feelings that are very close to me at times.

In Reznor?s big house you can find plenty of appeals to animated movie based on the music. Walls in kitchen, bathrooms and one of the halls are decorated with replications of stills from the movie. At that moment I decided to ask for the opinion sitting quietly and focused Danny. Does he feel the same?

Danny: Exactly. ?The Wall? is one of my favorite albums. And the movie is my absolute first choice. When I was a kid, thanks to my older brother, I got to know that record in details. Later, ?The Wall? was my first CD to buy. I was eight then. Still, I consider David Gilmour definitely unique and intelligent guitar player.

MH: And did see the concert from 1990 that took place here, in Berlin in first anniversary of the destroying of the wall?

D: I saw only part of it and it just wasn?t the same.

R: I watched it on TV and I think Waters shouldn?t have done it. Pink Floyd?s versions are unique and they shouldn?t be profaned in this way. When I watched Cindy Lauper it gave me creeps. It just sucked.

Trent is known for his harsh comments addressed to the artists that just don?t hit his taste. And for instance, he considers Fred Durst - Limp Bizkit?s lead singer - a real asshole who simply deserves a heavy kick in the ass. His opinion on rock music?s condition in USA is quiet interesting too.

R: Look, as a matter of fact it?s tragedy. Who?s there for kids to choose from the Billboard chart? Korn? And then? Some shitty Oasis pretending rebels without a cause. Forgive me please. It?s just bad. There isn?t very much going on in rock music. In my opinion, hip hop is the most creative school at present.

MH: When I listen to your latest release I have divers feelings in receiving both records that it?s consisted of. Sometimes it?s the right that is hither and then after a while left prevails over. So, what?s the deal with those two CDs?

R: Look, these two CDs, as you said, are different from each other. If I was to point that one more important that would be the Left LP, which contains seemingly more meaningful compositions, much more dynamic, maybe dance like. On the Right LP there is for example dazzling piece ?Satrfucker, Inc.? but it?s not very significant song for the album as a whole. The Right is much more experimental than the Left and it has more funk and rhythm elements. But as I said, I don?t consider it less substantial than the Left. I wish this record would be approached like an analogue record, with A and B-side.

MH: On the sleeve we can read that ?Bob Ezrin provided final continuity and flow? and, well, he?s non other than the creator of Floyd?s ?The Wall? himself.

R: Yes that?s true. When we finally finished work on that album and with Alan Moulder (co-producer of the album - from the author) and were moving to the last phase of putting the material together, we found a lot of recordings to be in the same tone, same tempo. We wanted to do something about that but didn?t have idea what. So we thought that?d had been good if someone took a look at that from a different perspective. We needed someone who works with different music on daily basis. Two names came across my mind: Brian Eno and Ezrin. None of them I knew personally so I didn?t exactly know how to get in contact with them. It was Alan who got in touch with Bob and outlined our conception by the phone. Bob agreed to give a try. He came to me for a week and did exactly what we were thinking about. He comes from the good old school of producers who first of all are fans of a particular kind of music and they record things putting whole heart in it. Listen to the Kiss? records that he produced. Listen how perfect and lively sounds Alice Cooper?s vocal on the records done by Ezrin. I love those albums. I?m pretty sure ?The Wall? wouldn?t be such a great record without his contribution. That man commands in me huge respect and admiration.

MH: Would you like him to produce your record in the future?

R: Well, I actually haven?t thought about it but who knows. Maybe?

MH: To end with, I would like to ask for your opinion on democracy in the process of music creating.

R: You know, it all depends on what you assumed at the beginning of your creative journey. Everything has its bad and good sides. When you create as a group you can expect variety of ideas. That?s a good side. Bad thing however, is lack of one, clearly defined vision of work. Each person has a different approach and you have to be prepared for compromise that is just necessary in situation like that. And with Nine Inch Nails it?s my vision from the very beginning to the very end. And I can?t quiet imagine things could be differently. Whereas in Tapeworm project that we have with various musicians (Charlie Closer & Danny Lohner from NIN, Phil Anselmo from Pantera, Maynard from Tool) as a foundation we took that everyone gives something from himself and then we just try to find some point of reference to our ideas.

Here I asked Danny what?s his point of view on that subject:

D: I?ll tell you this: it?s great for me to work with Trent in both configurations. With him as a dictator and with him as an equal democratic member of the band. When it comes to Tapeworm, who know if it?s not me who has actually more to say, so the roles revolve. (laugh)

MH: Where you feel more comfortable on the stage in the States or in Europe?

R: Ten times better in the States than here. First of all, it?s because I am American. And I write, I think, mostly for the Americans who should feel it and receive it better. I think that people here experience my music differently. Second of all, my records are released in US and in Europe in different time and it?s not making things easier for me. Somehow labels cannot coordinate it and set one date for release and that?s something I would wish for. Third thing is that in Europe we play a lot less concerts than we do in the States. Basically we come here once for a couple of years. Last time we?ve been here was four years ago. It?s impossible to come back to people and visit same place twice during the same tour. Fourth, European radio stations play definitely less of this kind of music. Therefore our music is not recognized well enough. And we do not produce hit singles. You have to familiarize with this music. There are lots of more different reasons that make me feel more comfortable in the States than here with you. Perhaps it will change now as we plan to come back for some concerts in summer next year. With pushing this record we want to give more attention to the places we haven?t been to yet.

MH: You must then come to Poland because you have a quiet a group of fans there that for years has been waiting for you.

R: If it?s really like you?re saying, then maybe with next European tour we?ll come to you, if someone will invite us.

Transcribed by Keith Duemling

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