The Reznor Edge
Houston Post 10.94
By Claudia Perry

Mix industrial-strength darkness with melodic lines (and great T-shirts) for one hot ticket--Nine Inch Nails

You might expect Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails to materialize on the phone in a rustle of black crepe with tendrils of fog curling from the receiver.

After all, Reznor and his band are probably the best outfit to take over The Summit for Halloween. Apparently, Houston concertgoers agree with this assessment since they've bought just about all of the approximately 9,000 tickets available for Monday's show. Marilyn Manson and the Jim Rose Circus open.

Nine Inch Nails is dark, subversive and theatrical. While gloom and doom are frequently enough for that minority of depressed, thoughtful rock fans, where Reznor slays the rest of [the] crowd is with his knack for combining industial textures with pop hooks and melodic lines. Even if you don't know who such industrial pioneers as Einsturzende Neubaten are, you can probably find something in Reznor's outlook that will suit you.

Both NIN albums, *Pretty Hate Machine* and *The Downward Spiral*, have sold in excess of a million copies apiece. Reznor also created the soundtrack album for Oliver Stone's *Natural Born Killers*. He liked doing it, loves films and would like to score one someday. "If I had all the time in the world and five more lives to lead, I'd be a filmmaker," Reznor said from a hotel room in Denver a few days ago.

For mainstream rock fans, the band hurtled to prominence with its stint on the first Lollapalooza tour in 1991. Recently, the band snatched most of the Woodstock '94 glory by coming onstage covered with mud. With that performance, NIN stole the spolight from such accomplished outfits as Metallica and Aerosmith.

Of course, Houston audiences have had the opportunity to share Reznor's live vision five times since *Pretty Hate Machine* was released in late 1989. Reznor is keenly aware he built most of his following by exhaustive touring. The band almost turned down the Lollapalooza spot, but decided to do it when it started battling its former record label and needed some income.

"It helped our cause because every big label wanted to sign us," Reznor said. "It infuriated the label we were on. Our record sales were jumping and pretty soon we had a platinum record. That's when a lot of people like MTV, Rolling Stone, and Spin realized, '(expletive), these guys have made it without us. We're not used to that. We want to make them.' It still led (to) a little bitterness on the part of Spin. I was (recently) voted artist of the year but they decided, 'No, we're not going to give you the cover. We'll give it to band of the year.' OK."

Reznor then uttered a stronger version of "Kiss off."

Reznor clearly doesn't suffer fools gladly. Nor is he likely to relinquish control of the band anytime soon. Besides NIN, he's running Nothing Records which is home to opener Marilyn Manson, now *person non grata* in Salt Lake City (big surprise).

"With my own record label and with my band--not to sound holier-than-thou--I've approached things with integrity first at the expense of profit or time or whatever it might be," he said. "Putting out something that is quality, probably a large portion of people won't get that. I've tried to do that with every Nine Inch Nails release from the work that went into the music to the thought of different themes recurring in different songs."

If you want to look for something, you'd be pleasantly surprised at the thought that went into that too. The T-shirts are the best quality you can make. We don't make as much money, but they aren't [in] infant size the first time you wash them. We try to do interesting ideas with the artwork and packaging of the records. With a 12-inch, we try to put 50 minutes of music on there instead of just edits and remixes. I don't know if people pick up on all that stuff or not."

It's hard to imagine having this discussion with any other contemporary rock idol. The grunge movement is drowning in artless sincerity, regular-guy wardrobes and reticent stars shunning the limelight at all costs. Reznor may be shy (he did no other interviews with Houston daily newspapers but liked the idea of being in Houston on Halloween enough talk), but he's a master manipulator of image and sound.

Take this tour for example, Reznor prefers playing clubs like Numbers, but he realizes that NIN has more fans to accommodate and needs to play larger places.

"It was structured to work this way," Reznor said. "We started off that we were going to split this tour into three chunks. The first was tiny-club, warm-up, have-fun shows. That was fun. However, what that does is it (cheeses) people off because 'I couldn't see you 'cause you sold out in five seconds.'

"The next wave was the International Ballroom phase of moderate-sized capacities. We still got, 'I had to work and by the time I got to buy tickets it was sold out.' We wanted to play in venues that we weren't going to sell out necessarily. That meant we were playing 7- to 15,000-seat arenas. If I had a choice, I'd rather be playing Numbers. But I know we can do that. We've done tours of that.

"Now let's see what will happen if we gear our show to a place where maybe there isn't a pit or there's somebody in the balcony in an assigned seat that can't get up. Maybe there's someone 300 yards away. How do I make that entertaining to them? When we first started doing this, I was irritated because nobody was onstage anymore because they can't, there were people sitting down back there and it really made me mad.

"I realized I had to rethink this thing into a larger capacity and make it work in a different way. It will be more moody than any show you've seen us do. It focuses more on diverse material, newer material. I'm trying some things we haven't dared try before with projections and some other things that are geared to a big venue. Again, given a choice, I'd rather be in a 300-seat place with people bumping into me onstage and smashing our gear for us than on display in a (expletive) sports arena."

[Caption box]

NINE INCH NAILS

WHAT: The industial band headlines a tour that includes shock rockers Marilyn Manson and the Jim Rose Circus.
WHERE: The Summit.
WHEN: 8 p.m. Monday.
TICKETS: The show is sold out.