Nine Inch Nails
by Jon Bains
Lollapalooza 1 Summer 1991
Trent Reznor, IS Nine Inch Nails. Every article begins with much the same line, you know why? Because it says so on his press release, in big friendly writing. You know why they say this, and why every article about NIN begins the same way, because it is totally, and utterly true.
Three years ago, Trent was wandering from record company to record company with a demo which he put together himself trying to prove that he was something special. He managed to convince TVT who signed him. His debut album "Pretty Hate Machine" has been around for about two years, yeah, that's right two years, and it has only just begun to be noticed in the UK. And we are supposed to be the forward thinkers! Well, it took about a year for it to catch on in the states so I guess we aren't that stupid. Anyway, his next album due out in January will no doubt go platinum in five minutes flat, glad to see that the freshest talent in so called "industrial music" is getting some deserved attention.
Firstly I would like to shatter some of the popular misconceptions about the man who is Trent Reznor. From his press, and stage shows he would appear to be straight-jacket material, but on meeting the man this couldn't be farther from the truth. I found him to be a very calm, sane and charming individual. Basically he's a dude. When we went for our interview the tour manager told us we were allowed a five minute session, I figured, oh, well, better than nothing I suppose. We ended up talking for over an hour and a half. I guess we passed the audition.
Arguably, it could be said that MTV made NIN what it is today, they received a great deal of attention with their `Head Like a Hole' video a year or so ago, at least on the alternative music shows. I asked Trent how he felt about MTV and the media in general.
They have ignored us primarily, radio has ignored us, I don't listen to the radio and MTV sucks so if they don't want to play us, fair enough.
When asked about how PHM was selling trent said:
We are at about 400,000 which is a lot better than I thought I'd do, (however) compared to Black Crowes, it's piss in a bucket, for us its good. It is selling better now than when it came out.
With this success, why did it take so long to be recognised in the UK?
Island (UK) was waiting until we said that we'd come over, they had lined something up for us to do which would cost a lot of money for us to do it and it was like `if you are into us, then lets split the cost and make it affordable to do.' So we said we're not going to do this, and they said fine, we won't promote the record and we said fine `Fuck you'.
So I came back and G'N'R asked us to open for them at a couple of dates in Europe and now the record company is like `Oh..'.
Nine inch Nails supporting Guns `n' Roses, what's going on?
It was shocking to me, so I figured it would shock a lot of people, especially those who think we are a total synth band. Axl started showing up at a lot of gigs and said that he liked us and we sort of became friends and said `If you guys ever want to open for us, let me know `. We said `Maybe in Europe or something'.
Trent toured with the Revolting Cocks on their 1990 US tour so I asked if he had any plans to work with that crowd and how the various projects that he has already done, came about.
I have been working on the new Revco album on which I might sing a track or so. Al is a cool guy, he is a lot of show, but under-neath it all there is a good guy there. I consider him a friend. He was one of my biggest idols and it was cool to meet him and him think that I was a cool guy. I was in Chicago doing that Pigface thing and ran into him at the studio, they were filming the Lead into Gold video (Paul Barker's video) I ended up in that. I was toying with the idea of putting it (Get Down Make Love) on the B'Side of Sin. So when we went into the studio and fucked around, that came out. Funny version.
During the same session Jourgenson and I did the 1000 Homo DJ's thing together. The version of Supernaut that eventually came out is not me singing. The one that we originally did had me singing the lead, but because my record label in America TVT, which is the shittiest label in the entire planet, totally shit their pants about it and made a big hassle about it. Basically, it was me and Al hanging out in a studio together, totally drunk, so after 2 months of my label fighting with Waxtrax I called him up and said, redo it save yourself the hassle.
I grew up in Pennsylvania and now I live in New Orleans. Al came down for Mardi gras and completely trashed my apartment, puke everywhere. I made the mistake of inviting that entourage down there and I'll never do that again. He can set a world record for tolerance. He's amazing. I have seen him do so many drugs and still be able to talk rationally. . .
Pigface was a project which Martin Atkins from Killing Joke and Bill Reiflin from Ministry put together. They were two drummers who played on the Ministry tour here in the US together and decided to do an album of basically fucking around jamming in the studio with Steve Albini producing, he's a cunt, I like some of what he's done, but as a human being he is a steaming turd. Anyway I sang 1 song on that (Suck On), Ogre sang a song and some other musicians helped out. . .
I asked Trent whether Pigface could be considered `The Travelling Wilbury's of Industrial music?'
On one hand it could be that, on the other it could be a real contrived way to rip the public off and make some money. I am not associated with it anymore. They toured in America, asked me if I'd do it, I didn't want to do it. I was touring with RevCo over here but didn't go over to New York. They are going to try to milk another tour out of it and do a live album and something else. I am not going to be part of it.
Are you interested in doing any other collaborations?
(Working on your own) It gets boring man, I might be into doing it. There are a lot of people I would be interested in working with but it would have to be the right situation.
It has been two years since Pretty Hate Machine came out, when can we expect a followup?
We are having record label trouble right now, we are switching record labels, it'll probably be a major, but in the way that they'll leave me alone to do what I want to do. The label I am on now is independent but they won't leave me alone, they are fucking with my art and they won't let me do this and that sort of shit, and with shitty budgets for albums. I don't need that. They are making a lot of money, and I am not making any, which is not the reason I am doing this, but when someone is a total cunt, is making all the money, and you're not making shit and doing all the work.
But I think the album will be done by the end of the year, I have been working on it and I'll finish it right after the tour is done. There will be some live drumming, If the song needs some other people on it then I'll have them. Now I have some connections to get them.
I don't want to play too much new stuff because I don't want the record label to know what we do have and what we don't have. (In our stage set) there is one song from the new album and there is a cover of an Adam and the Ants song (You're so physical) in which I tried to simulate the sound of a gang rape.
NIN has had the reputation of being a one-man band, I asked if NIN was still very much Trent Reznor.
Pretty much, the band I have at the moment is a great band to play live, but I have not worked with them in the context of coming up with new songs. I am not good at that yet.
Martin Atkins was supposed to be drumming during the Lollapalooza tour, however he pulled out after discovering that he couldn't drum to a click. Jeff Ward from Lard took his place.
When we did the Cocks tour we became friends and the drummer we had just couldn't handle it. Jeff expressed interest and I presented it to him and he was into it. He is in the back at the moment doing dope so. . .
One of the few pieces of Nine Inch News to reach our shores was the story of his `Down in It' video. I asked whether the reports were true.
Let me explain, that story has been distorted . . . The first video we recorded was Down in it which was quite a while ago and one of the elements of the video was we had a bunch of super 8 cameras and we were throwing them off the edge of a building and seeing what it looked like. There was a scene were I was lying on the ground, appearing to be dead, in a lodgeresque pose and we had a camera with a big weather balloon filled with helium hooked up to it. So we started the camera, let it float upwards, and then if you pulled it back down and played it backwards it looked like the camera was coming out of my head from way up high. . The first one we did, we started the film, I was laying on the ground and the ropes that were holding the balloon snapped, the camera just took off into the atmosphere. We went to the top of the building and looked at it and it was just a speck way out in the horizon. We shot this in chicago and the only thing we thought was like `man I hope that doesn't fall and kill somebody, a camera dropping 10,000 feet.' Well nothing really happened until over a year later, we got a call from my manager saying, this is the most unbelievable story, you will not believe what happened. . . The camera landed 200 miles away in a farmers field somewhere. He finds it and takes it to the police thinking that it's a surveillance camera for marijuana, they develop the film and think that it's some sort of snuff film of a murder, give it to the FBI and have pathologists looking at the body saying, yeah he's rotting (I had corn starch on me, right) he's been decomposing for 3 weeks. You could see the other members of the band walking away and they had these weird outfits on and they thought it was some kind of gang slaying. When the camera went up they could see it was Chicago so they went to the Chicago police department and they went to all the art schools and asked if this was anybodies work that you might know and traced it down to one of our video directors who went to one of the Art schools, then there was talk that I would have to appear and talk to prove that I was alive, stupid, but funny.
Live, NIN has the reputation of being total wild men, trashing their equipment in true heavy metal tradition, I asked how this came about and what about the expense?
It's like, we didn't start smashing keyboards until this tour. In fact the first one was yesterday or the day before yesterday. The tech came up and said `we've got a bunch of keyboards and we're tired of carrying them around so you can get rid of a few'. I had hit one in the middle of the keyboard and the keys literally went `booom'. I just started laughing, looked at the tech and said `wwwow'. Guitars have become common place.
We got these $200 guitar trash specials, but if you have a five octave keyboard, $3-500 range. We have been paid more on this tour (Lollapalooza) than we have ever been paid on our own tours, so I just told the management before you start seeing $ signs just set a higher budget for repairs.
Having never seen NIN in a small club, I asked how his usual show differs from the stadium shows and how they have evolved since their first tours.
Normally we have a cool lightshow, you can't really see us because everything is back lit but it looks cool and it's intimidating to the audience. It's like lights behind us shooting out. Lots of audience interaction, stage diving etc. It is hard with shows like this, most of these venues have seats, it's like if people give us something back we'll throw it ten times harder at you, you give something you'll get something back. A lot of the shows, our fans are in row 5000 at the back and everyone up front just sits there confused.
The first tour we did we opened for Jesus & Mary Chain which was really good because I really like them and they were easy to blow off stage, especially if you don't understand them and just went to see the show. Then we opened for Peter Murphy and that sucked, he was totally shitty. Our shows got more violent and his shows were more theatrical and like `let's watch Peter's cheekbones' and that's fine for what it is. His crew started hating us. The crew wanted to beat us up because we always made the stage messy. So then what we'd do was the first 10 rows of people would be Peter Murphy fanatics who have been there all day and they are now up against it and are going to see Peter in an hour, all they have to do is make it through our set, we just started lobbing beers at them and their giant hairdo's started melting, `oh no I'm ruined, make-up white face, the crypt people melting.' Pete was cool, but we never saw him, it was always everyone around him, his band was cool, I could say funny things but they'd probably read it and get mad. However, I did get a flower from the guitar player, I don't know what was going on, everyone has been harassing me about it. He thought it was a nice touch for the end of the tour.
Trents parting wish is that "Someday I want to be able to say that we sold a million albums, and when asked `What is the reason for your success'. 'cause Axl Rose wore our T-Shirts."
Nine Inch Nails, no matter what he says, he is still up above it.