EDITORIAL NOTE: There's a line in this interview that stands out among the thousands of other articles and Trent Reznor interviews I've transcribed, read, and listened to. "Fuck underage chicks, do it, music needs it."
I remember at the time that this sentence came off as an off-hand, over-the-top, RoCk N rOlL UsEd To Be DaNgErOuS comment. Contextually, it was so out of place compared to everything else I'd seen and heard that I've thought on and off about that line in that interview in particular in the years since. In 2021, it's resurfaced as people have gone looking for evidence of bad behavior from Marilyn Manson and people who associated with him. Revisiting it with two decades of distance, while the wording that was shared is stupid, the intended sentiment fits in with the larger context of both that paragraph, and Trent's comments on music trends in 1999.
Back in 1999, I watched this chat in real time, my buddy Keith copied and pasted the whole thing into one document. In the two decades since, there were been times where I considered quietly removing the transcription, and I'll share my thought process about why I haven't:
First, this was an unusual online event where people were posting the absolute dumbest shit in a chatroom that Trent was participating in as a public event. The way this 'interview' was conducted went something like this:
Obviously I've never taken this down. I leave it up there because I think Trent's record speaks for itself pretty honestly. It's a dumb thing he purportedly said. Was he being edgy? Was he saying "music by teenage girls sucks"? I have no idea, and I'm not here to make excuses for that sentence - but I do hope that additional context helps paint a larger picture here. P.S. Fuck Marilyn Manson, that guy always sucked.
SonicNetHost: Send your questions in for Trent Reznor...the genius behind SPIN magazine's Album of the Year "The Fragile." Trent has arrived, but keep sending in your questions. This is his first Internet chat, so he's very excited to be here....
snguest_trent_reznor: I want to show you all what we've been up to for the past few months. I felt very proud of what came out of it, from our first show in Barcelona. I hadn't played in almost five years and, I wasn't sure what to expect and I was very blown away by the response, esp. from a place where we haven't played before. This album is very experimental and I just want to get it out to the people.
Scott_Lucas: Hi Trent! Here's my question: You said that anger was your main source of energy for the Self-Destruct Tour was anger, since The Fragile is kinda different, what is you source of energy for the Fragility Tour
bismuth21: Trent, what is your favorite track right now?
voidness_99: How come we never got to see the video for The Day The World Went Away?
snguest_trent_reznor: The reality is this: I've always had a very difficult time making videos. We were with Tomato, who did Underworld's videos. They are part of Underworld's collective. When NIN started out in 1990, I looked for directors, I realized that I was a musician, not a director, so I looked for people who might convey my music through video, but things change. Things change a lot. When I put "Broken" out, my friend put a video out; it was so intense, like Henry the Serial Killer. Now, it's like a commercial. I think music, in general, as a product to be sold to the masses, has become a commodity, it's not about art, and it's about commerce. It's sickening to me. What I do I consider art. If you hate me for it, fine, if you don't like it, then fuck you, that's what I think. If my music doesn't fit in with the backstreet boys suck-my-dick white boys tryin' to be black, then I hope it never will.
stndng0nthedg: How did Dr. Dre affect the final product of "even deeper"?
snguest_trent_reznor: I'm a big fan of Dre. I've always respected everything he's done. We wanted to get a certain sound, a feel. With Dre, he'd been a friend of mine for a while, and I wanted to pick his brain. He impressed me so much that I wanted to make a record with him. one that might transcend the way the world of music is right now. Music is a crucially human element that communicates with people. It transcends all racial and economic boundaries. I truly believe that.
lourai: What hardware/software does he use to mix his music
snguest_trent_reznor: Everything we do is on apple Macintosh computers; Without a question or compromise, they've been the ones who've supported the musicians and the independent mindset, and that will never change. Computers have been an integral part of how I make music, and if it weren't for apple, I wouldn't make music the way I do. They've allowed me to . . . grow. I respect them and will support them, with no product endorsement, I just believe in their mindset. They're smarter.
repti1ian: What do you start a song with usually? I mean do you use a piano? Guitar? Drum loops?
snguest_trent_reznor: On the new record I start with a visual idea. It might be a postcard of a swamp at sunset. That's all that matters to me. I try to write a song around that mood or feeling. That's what "The Fragile" really represented to me, I wanted to make a place that you've never been to before. To be quite frank, the record came out. I didn't know if the label would understand what I was trying to do, I was trying to not make a commercial record. I wanted to make a record that mattered to me as a person. That's the only thing that has ever mattered to me, ever, fuck Universal. All I ever want to do is make a difference, change some lives. And now, I'm up against Britney Spears, and I say, "fuck you." I appreciate for what she does, but that's not what it should be about. I've dedicated my life and watch me. The only thing that I care about in my whole fucking life is to make a difference. I won't concede, I won't give in. I love music, and that's all I care about.
ian17rtf: Mr. Reznor, What album do you feel has been your greatest work?
snguest_trent_reznor: "Fragile," thanks.
duriaten: Hey Trent? Would you consider yourself a post modernist among your peers (in music, that is)? Are you, yourself, an adherent of the revivalist frame of mind?
snguest_trent_reznor: I challenge myself to make the best art I can make. Regardless of pretension. I wanna lay at night, thinking that I've done the best I can do, that's all that matters to me. That's the only criteria that I have for myself. I don't care about money; making new friends or fans, I could care less about that.
CharredBone: Trent, who has your favorite artist to work with over the years been, and who would you like to work with in the future?
snguest_trent_reznor: Prince, very much. Coil. I'd love to work with them again. Lou Reed, David Bowie, I've worked with him. I'd love to be challenged by, there are a lot of people smarter than me, I realize. David Gilmour, Roger Waters . . . I'm ready to be challenged.
jcninfan4ever: Trent, how do you feel about the lack of album sales in the States right now?
snguest_trent_reznor: The reality is, when it came out, I was very humbly surprised that we debuted at number one, because none of the other records did. I couldn't believe that anyone still cared. After the joy of debuting at number one, I realized that I don't belong there. I don't want to compete with Britney Spears and Backstreet Boyd. You go from being the Golden Boy to why haven't you done as well this week. I'd like my music to appeal to a lot of people, but I'm not catering to them.
wshbrn69_2000: Mr. Reznor, what makes your record label any different than the other labels?
snguest_trent_reznor: 'Cause we don't give a fuck, we're not Universal. We're like 4AD or Mute or Wax Trax who cares about artists. Try anything and we'll support you. The success of Marilyn Manson was that I believed in them and I still do. They have a vision and they need to be supported in what they do. All the bands that I've ever loved have been on labels that I've loved. Those labels promoted artists to be as unique and experimental as they wanted to be and that's how music and art has to be. If not, music will fail and be backstreet boys or Fred Durst wiggin' out on your ass. When I started out in Nine Inch Nails, I wasn't sure about anything. TVT told me that everything I was doin' sucked. I said fuck Fine Young Cannibals, fuck 'em, I didn't want to be like them. I didn't have anyone telling me to believe in myself. I want to provide artists on Nothing Records support. Fuck underage chicks, do it, music needs it. Music needs extremity. I told Manson to just do it. We don't need another Mandy Miller, what the fuck is that?
tespatternsoul: I was wondering if you ever planned on releasing the track that you did with Sister Soleil
snguest_trent_reznor: That came up in an odd way. I became aware of her music through different people. When the movie "Stigmata" came out, I was offered to work with her. At first I was like no, but then I listened to her music. Her track never came out, but I really liked it. Will I work with her in the future, I don't know, I like her, she's a friend, that's about it.
diredw: How do you feel about the Internets effect on music? And how is the Internet effecting your future projects?
snguest_trent_reznor: The distribution of music is getting interesting now. I like the idea that it can be immediately dispersed to people who wanna hear it. But there is a difference; labels can introduce music to people. It's the whole indie rock problem. The problem is, as a consumer, you need to know the difference between what is and isn't good. I'm on a major label now that I don't think believes in me very much. I hope they do, but I don't think they do. I made a record that I think is, I cried when I heard it. As an artist and a human being, it's the most I can make in my life, but I don't want to kiss Carson Daly's ass to get it played. Cuz I think it's art, you should frame it on your wall. Maybe I'm pretentious. I'm trying to get Tapeworm started because Nine Inch Nails is all about my neurosis and trying to change the world. Tapeworm is a collaborative project. I promise by mid-2000 it will be out. I believe in my band and respect those guys. And you'll see.
Question: What were you laughing about on the MTV VMA performance?
snguest_trent_reznor: I wasn't. I'm so pissed off about that, I've never been more scared in my life, I couldn't hear anything because I had to wear those stupid-ass in-ear monitors, I got talked into it. When I wrote the lyrics, it was supposed to be that you couldn't understand. . . I didn't fuckin' smile!!! To be completely honest, I would rather sit in the studio and do a new record. But I love this record so much that I have to support it. I'll give up my life to prove to you that this is a great fuckin' album. If you don't believe that, fair enough, but I'll try to prove it. I remember putting this album together, I love it. I need to prove to everybody that it's a great fuckin' album. I care. I'm tired of watching TRL, I'm tried of the tediousness of that, am I the only person who feels this way? I don't know. . .
fullblood_freak: trent: if you were a sandwich, what kind would you be?
snguest_trent_reznor: Next question.
zent36: Mr. Reznor, what instrument do you start playing first?
snguest_trent_reznor: Piano. I'm intrigued and fascinated by the GUITAR because I don't know how to play it. All of Fragile is based around guitar because I don't know how to play it.
loki_42_13: How has your stage show changed?
snguest_trent_reznor: In a weird way. In the past, the stage show was all about aggression, jumping around, being ridiculous. With this album, there is a lot more emphasis placed on restraint. Trying to express it over a period of time. I was very concerned about conveying restraint without looking like old men. When we played this new music, a weird thing happened, we discovered we are capable of more expression. Not yet. Sade said no; I didn't know how to deal with it. I realized that I had about 15 more songs sitting around that I didn't feel motivated to write lyrics for. But I didn't want to find a Trent replacement to do that. So if I could find someone with a different perspective, that's what we're looking for right now.
SonicNetHost: A fan asks: Do you have any upcoming remixes?
snguest_trent_reznor: We have a bunch we've done ourselves, but I don't feel this record will be that remix-oriented as the other records before it.
cvd11235: Are there any classical composers who have inspired you?
snguest_trent_reznor: Debusey. I was sitting in Big Sur, losing my mind. His contribution was that you need to be regimented, with whatever you decide to do. When I was sitting there, Debussey and I had a mind meld for a second. I felt the need to plagiarize the title, "La Mer." He revolutionized the Mozart bullshit world of everything was rigid and stabilized.
Duff0821: When do you expect to tour the U.S. in support of the Fragile?
snguest_trent_reznor: Middle of February, in a very different capacity. We're in arenas and there will be more new material. We started the web site and tried to put out disinformation, Fight Club style. Our web site is fake. The web is a great way to be whoever you want to be. We play upon that. We spend so much time fucking with people. We make up people. My webmaster is the main guy that fucks with everybody. But don't tell anybody. We spend hours making up characters and fucking with people.
shockinSharon: How have your fans influenced your music?
snguest_trent_reznor: In a way that I sit in a room by myself writing music that matters to me. When I play live and see people respond to it, that's the only thing that matters. I hope that I still matter to people, but at the same time, as an artist, I'm not responding to whether they like it or not. I'm not hearing that.
crimsonplague: Do you feel you've achieved happiness through what you've done and accomplished?
snguest_trent_reznor: I'm a fucking imbecile and I thought that if I could ever communicate with people that make I would . . . communicate with them. It doesn't matter. I've toured for a fuckin long time. I've realized that it doesn't mean anything. Being human is a lot more difficult thing than being on tour. With that said, I will tour forever to show you that this is a different record. I'm looking forward to presenting "The Fragile" in different formats. All those formats require infinite amounts of work that I'll never not do. When you go to see our show, I'm proud that you'll see the best that you'll see. And thank you.
Yahoomc: Hey folks - Thanks for joining us tonight! Thanks to Trent for making his on-line chat debut on Yahoo! Thanks to all of you for your kick ass questions ... Thanks to MTV for bringing us this killer event ... Now, go buy Fragile -- It rocks!