Ti o aes, Calfratat' e U.sAngele
T rent Reznor sits in the corner of a
hotel bar and slowly sips an iced
tea. He seems at ease for someone
who is homeless at the moment.
"I think I've moved every six months
for the last 10 years," he says. His last
residence in Beverly Hills, the infamous
site of the Sharon Tate slayings, was
recently demolished by its owner.
"I have a certain degree of newfound
maturity," he continues, "and it makes
me desire some kind of permanence like
having a home. But now I'm faced with
getting on a tour bus for at least a year.
And as great as that can be, it's ulti-
mately a rather shallow existence."
Shallow is not a term many people
would associate with Reznor or his
music, a project he calls Nine Inch
Nails (NIN). More of a solo venture
than a group effort, NIN enables
Reznor to vocalize the sense of displace-
ment he feels in his own life. The result
is as disturbing as it is provocative.
"I've never written an outright happy
song," the 28-year-old admits. "If I did,
then I doubt it would fit into the con-
text of a NIN record. And I don't really
feel inspired to write about happy s**t
anyway. When I'm happy, the last thing
I feel like doing is torturing myself with
my notebook in hand."
Reznor's anger and tortured-artist
image attracted a cult following after he
signed with TVT Records in 1988.
When his debut album, Pretty Hate
Machine, was released the following
year, the popularity of NIN began to
rise so rapidly that Reznor says he
found it disconcerting.
"It was cool to see that record do well
on its own merit because MTV and
commercial radio didn't embrace it
until later," he says. "But at the same
time, it was really weird going from
being a fanzine level band to outselling
Jane's Addiction in merchandise sales at
"The bigger the stakes, the more
uncomfortable and out of control it
starts to feel. It's cool to be the under-
dog, but when you start rising to the
top, there's more people ready to drag
you down any way they can."
Reznor is speaking of his relationship
with TVT Records and its owner, Steve
Gottlieb, who paid little attention to
NIN until sales from Pretty Hate
Machine began to skyrocket. A battle
ensued over rights to NIN's next album,
with Interscope Records finally stepping
in to release the 1992 EP Broken.
"It came down to a simple thing,"
Reznor says of the struggle that almost
ended his career. "What I'm most con-
cerned about is that the record you get
in the store and the way you perceive
NIN is the way I want it to be per-
ceived. I don't want it to be diluted by
some marketing plan that's completely
inappropriate and would make the "I was trying to explore some of the
music impure." paranoia I have as a sexually active per-
His frustration with the music indus- son in the age of AIDS," he says of
try provides the prevailing theme on "Heresy."
Broken. The six-song collection, which "I guess I feel cheated for not growing
was recorded without TVT's knowl- up in a more liberated era. At the same
edge, also showcases Reznor's new- time, what gets me mad is the way the
found interest in making his music as right wing has used the 'convenience' of
abrasive as possible. Less dance-based this epidemic in helping to promote
than Pretty Hate Machine, the EP sounds their own agenda."
more like a guitar-oriented wall of Reznor admits the issues brought up
sound. on the album may not exactly be Top
Ironically, Reznor received a Grammy 40 radio material. "The first people who
award last year for the track "Wish," an heard it outside my immediate camp
honor he's quick to dismiss as meaning- thought the album was commercial sui-
less. cide," he says. "I'm not doing music to
"The best thing about it," he quips, make millions of dollars, though. Every
"was that it's the only song to ever win a record I've put out I thought was risky
Grammy that says 'fist f**k' in the at the time.
lyrics." "My main goal was to broaden the
Sarcasm aside, Reznor says he's come scope of NIN a little bit. I'm tired of
to terms with his hatred of the music trying to second-guess what other peo-
industry. Most of his energy for the past ple are going to like. It may not be the
two years has gone into making the most obvious career move for me, but if
recently released 14-track opus The you give the album a chance, it may
Downward Spiral (Nothing/TVT/ produce something for you that you
Interscope). It's a project that he says didn't expect."
turned him into a workaholic. The most unexpected element of The
"This album literally sucked the life Downward Spiral is on the final track,
out of me," he says. "I found it a diffi- "Hurt." Although Reznor usually revels
cult process... because when I went into in his nihilism, the song's ending con-
the studio, I knew that I didn't want to veys a surprising amount of optimism.
make Broken again. I saw that as a trap I "I questioned whether or not to put
could easily fall into. When I write that on there," he says.
music, not everything comes out really When reminded that the music over-
hard and mean like those songs. powers the vocals so that his lyrics are
"On the same token, I didn't want to almost indecipherable, Reznor smiles.
go about making Pretty Hate Machine "I do that sometimes," he says.
over again. So I tried to experiment "When I'm scared, I just turn the vocals
with different forms of intensity rather down." I
than just use loud guitars and
drums. Ten hard, fast songs
don't have nearly the
intensity of spacing the
out along the
While The **** through 14 tracks that ass
Downward Spir- Wk _say$ qry loves the listener witht
clde oti apity? Nine lnch sonic extr
al does containSfle
some obvious Ate idea
swings, it also
gives ReznorrwelBible moments.
a chance to especlly on The "Closer" is sure to
express some Downward Spiral - be a dance hit with its
of his political the ful-length follow-'Uirky electronic beats
concerns. "Big up to 1989's Pretty Hate 0Adblasphemous cho-
Man With a Machine. "Mr. Self De- rus. "Hrt0,o1fers layers of
Gun" addresses struct," a song that progress- circuitry that brliiantly com-
misogynist ati- es much like the title sug- pete with Rezn avering
tudsoignstatrap, gests, sets the tone for vocals. Spirli:ote y
tudlesin gangsta rap, most of the album. to digest. Reznor's hook
whereas "Heresy" Reznor plays the is that his intensity
blends themes of sex and fiendish tour lives up to his
religion. g u i d e ambition.
APRIL 1994 U. Magazkse * 23
U. magazine " 25