NIN Sound Reinvented For New Album
By Gil Kaufman
Trent Reznor says he's spent two years 'trying to reinvent myself.'
Nine Inch Nails mastermind Trent Reznor says he's come up with a new sound: "Tom Waits on a bayou filtered through a funk blender and slowed down."
Reznor told USA Today that his new sound is the result of spending two years trying to "reinvent myself."
"I didn't have a plan, unlike the rigid set of rules I followed in The Downward Spiral ," Reznor said. "I let my subconscious go in an unpredictable direction. It's been a good learning experience."
Reznor said Nine Inch Nails have finished 20 songs and recorded demos for 25 more for their long-awaited album The Fragile, which may wind up a double album.
The industrial-rock icon was quoted in Friday's edition of the newspaper as saying that by the time all the songs are sorted out and sequenced, it could make "a pretty monumental statement in terms of where I'm at."
And that statement could be made on a double album with one instrumental and one vocal disc, according to the USA Today report.
"I'm in the home stretch and there's this question nagging me: Is this fantastic or so self-absorbed that I missed the mark?" Reznor said about the album, tentatively scheduled for a June release.
The recording of NIN's third full-length studio album has been shrouded in secrecy for much of the past year. Since early 1998, when work began, Reznor has been virtually unseen outside his New Orleans studio.
Last fall, keyboardist/drummer Charlie Clouser said the group was halfway done with the album. Guitarist Danny Lohner also has been in the studio in sessions guided by Reznor, but with room for collaboration, according to Clouser.
"As always, Trent is charting the course and has a clear vision of how he wants things to sound," Clouser said. "But I've been able to contribute a fair amount, and some of the songs we're working on have grown out of sessions with all of us fiddling around in the studio, so it does seem like a more collaborative process than before."
Also scheduled to appear on the CD are former King Crimson guitarist Adrian Belew, who lent a hand on The Downward Spiral; Helmet guitarist Page Hamilton; Ministry drummer Bill Rieflin; former Chic/Power Station drummer Tony Thompson; keyboardist Mike Garson, who has played with David Bowie and the Smashing Pumpkins; and engineer Steve Albini (Page and Plant, Nirvana), who has assisted in an undisclosed capacity.
Producer Alan Moulder (Smashing Pumpkins, Elastica) has worked "very closely" with Reznor on the album, according to NIN spokesperson Sioux Zimmerman.
In addition to their 1989 debut, Pretty Hate Machine, which featured the alternative hit Head Like a Hole (RealAudio excerpt), Nine Inch Nails have released The Downward Spiral and a number of remix collections, including the Broken and Fixed EPs (both 1992) and Further Down the Spiral (1995).
Reznor said The Fragile is "not as knee-jerk muscle-flexingly angry" as his past work, according to USA Today. "It's got a newfound maturity. In hindsight, some of my music seems a bit juvenile. But if you look back and say, 'I couldn't beat that,' there's no point doing another record."
The change also could lead to material that is less abrasive than such recent tracks as "The Perfect Drug" from the Lost Highway soundtrack (1997).
"I'm less concerned with going out of my way to make it unlistenable," Reznor was quoted as saying. "I'm approaching music as art, but part of my head is tuned into the hooks of AM radio."
Reznor said he played guitar on much of the album. And, in a departure from the band's fairly strict reliance on programmed beats in the past, Reznor said the new album features quite a bit of live percussion and drumming.
"But never fear; it doesn't sound like a band playing," Reznor told the paper. "We went to incredible lengths pushing technology to do things it shouldn't do."
The new album has been advertised with a teaser campaign that began with a cryptic 30-second commercial during the MTV Video Music Awards in September. The ad featured bits of two untitled songs expected to appear on the album.
Subsequent ads in music magazines, like the TV ad, have featured the word "ninetynine" in orange with backward N's in what is known in fanspeak as the Broken font, named for the EP of that title. The ads feature only that word -- the year the album is due out -- and the logo of Reznor's label, Nothing Records.