"Trent Reznor Interview: Fragility DVD, European Tour & More"

Visions Magazine-January 2001

Transcribed by Knoll for Seems Like Salvation news

"I apologies for the quality, because not only is it a re-translation from what was a translation in the first place, but my first language is German, not English, too," he said. "So there'll probably won't be much of Trent's style left in sentences and range of vocabulary probably are a bit simplified too. I'm not sure at all about technical terms, but the basic information shouldn't have become too distorted..." Below is the entire interview:

Visions: What are you doing right now?

Trent: I'm at home in New Orleans, Louisiana. I'm sitting in a room beside my home-studio. We're working on different things right now.

Visions: You've got your own studio at home?

Trent: We've totally overhauled it only recently, in order to work on a live-CD and DVD from the last tour, which probably is going to be released in spring. We mixed everything in surround - sound. A rather hard piece of work, compared with what we'd imagined. On the other hand it was a good way to get used to working in the studio again. The longer you are on tour, the more you loose the technical finesse. Right now I'm working on new material, but I don't know how or where I'll use it. I've no idea if it's going to be a new NIN album. Really I'm just trying out what interests me musically.

Visions: Who are you referring to, when you say "we"?

Trent: "We" are the core of NIN. Here I include Charlie Clouser, programmer and live-keyboarder, Keith Hillebrandt, who works here in the studio and was my right hand during "The Fragile". Danny Lohner is still with us, as is our Drummer Jerome Dillon. But they're not here at the moment. I'm sitting alone at my computer making noises. Let's see what's going to excite me.

Visions: Do you enjoy this?

Trent: I enjoy it. Especially because I'm not under any pressure at the moment. But ultimately it will result in different projects, one of which is going to be Nine Inch Nails. But it's all too vague to make any definite statement. But yes, generally I rather enjoy aimlessly playing around with things. Especially because this hasn't always been like this. When I started on "The Fragile," I thought the album was going to be very minimalistic - it turned out to be the exact opposite. This time I'd like to find out before, which path lies before me on the next album. Nevertheless I can only repeat: there will be a NIN album, but I don't know if it's going to be the next one.

Visions: So you're making a record and decide afterwards when and under what name it's going to be released?

Trent: Well, it depends whether the concept fits in with NIN. That's got nothing to do with qualitative criteria, but for example rather depends on what other musicians are working on it, or even another person's doing the vocals.

Visions: Looking back, how was the European tour for you?

Trent: It was fun. Still I'd like to come back and make it better. Festivals aren't really the ideal way of seeing us. We can't put up the whole production and the atmosphere isn't so intimate, people's attention is too distracted. If I had my way, I'd like to let the rest of the world catch up on NIN in comparison to the USA. In the last ten years we've been touring here at least thirty times. The main reason for this priority is only that our label only makes money this way. They're very stingy, where tours on other continents are concerned. It's often simply impossible to come to you. In spring I'll try again to come to you with NIN and a couple of other cool bands. The show is going to be different from the last one.

Visions: Will you be playing "We're In This Together"?

Trent: Somehow this track always sounded like shit live. I can't tell you why it did. Also, when you're working on an album, there are always songs that come naturally, where you're just wondering afterwards how easy it was. On the other hand there are those, where you're fighting for every single sound. "We're In This Together" was just that. It took us nearly three weeks to mix it. After that we were almost ready to kill each other. 40 times a day we'd been listening to the same track! When we went into the tour rehearsals, we kept saying, "Let's wait a bit with that one." And it's been kept waiting till today.

Visions: Rare interviews, TV- and festival-appearances, as well as the band's visual side with the website, merchandising - it seems as if a very homogeneous image of Nine Inch Nails is more than important to you.

Trent: Nine Inch Nails was always meant to be something special and singular. Until now I've at least tried not to let anyone interfere. Musically for example many people expected something different from "The Fragile" and were even disappointed in the end. I can't let myself care for that. Instead of making everything faster, harder, darker and so on, I rather wanted to create the record open for everything, just like it sounds now. But besides this uncompromising position where music is concerned, there's a heavy commercial pressure on me: Expectations that were created when we had success. Too many people are involved with NIN, everything is too important. Sometimes, if you're not taking care, the fun and what's special about it can get lost that way. To be honest: At the moment I find the idea of getting into a bus with some friends and playing some club-shows much more exiting than planning an arena tour.

Visions: Doesn't an obligation to so many people contradict your total creative freedom? After all, the commercial aspects of what NIN is today never were your intention.

Trent: I still can do what I want to do; it's just the demands from outside that got stronger. If a band is selling 50,000 records in the USA, the pressure just isn't as strong as it is on us. I've always thought we were underdogs. NIN isn't chart - music. I never intended for us to be compared to U2 or all the other shit. I don't listen to this music. It doesn't interest me. Since the moment we've become big, our intention was to continue to same, but to approach it differently, to keep our musical ideals. Playing before 20,000 instead of 2,000 people is different, but neither is better or worse. There's a specific reason, why I'm sitting here alone, wanting once more to start from nothing.

Visions: Whose fault is it that "The fragile" wasn't that successful commercially?

Trent: Basically of course no one's. But I¹m very dissatisfied with our worldwide distributors’ "Universal". It's a company that doesn't care for art, but sells it. It's a very unlucky circumstance, that we're stranded with this company. They're selling our art in [the literal translation would be something like bookstalls in railway-stations... I can't even guess if that was what Trent said originally, or only chosen by the translator to get the sense across] That's a problem of course, because those interested in art don't exactly often come there.

Visions: Why are you doing this interview?

Trent: I'm doing this Interview, because I believe in Nine Inch Nails. I believe in what we did and in our potential. I want people to have the possibility to hear about us as directly as possible and maybe buy one of our records. I believe the climate in this business is sick. If you try doing something different, you're punished for it. But when you make consumer orientated, categorizeable so-called-music, that really is only a commercial product, you'll be rewarded beyond measure. Since I have something like pride in me, I can either give up and sulk in my bedroom making music I don't care about if anybody ever hears it - or I can try to promote within the limits of good taste something I worked hard for. Something I love, which I think is good and with some justification lays claim on people's minds. Because there is a level other than the lowest. Music can have depth; music can be a sincere art, not just elevator-background music, or a soundtrack for teenager parties.

Visions: On my Teenager-parties they were always playing Nine Inch Nails. Is that bad?

Trent: (laughs) No, of course you were much smarter than all the others.

Visions: How do you react when a kid tells you that you've very much helped him through your music?

Trent: That's what it comes down to. The most beautiful reward is to realize that you've enriched another person's life, supplied the soundtrack to a beautiful or horrible moment. Where I'm concerned: When I'm listening to certain songs, I exactly remember the day or the moment that created that special memory I'll connect with it to the end of my life. How the air smelled on a sunny day, what clothes a person wore. When I was 15 there were certain songs that gave me the feeling of being not alone, that could express what I wasn't able to express. That's why music always had a special place in my life. It never was only sound; only words - it was so much more. And that's not even touching the visual side. Then if you're hearing something like this about yourself - even if people didn't understand at all what I originally meant with the song - it's the most precious thing. It makes all the other horror worthwhile: interviews, online-webchats, those fucking foto-sessions. Even those days when I'm sitting in the studio, pulling out my hair because I can't find a certain lyric I need.

Visions: If you constantly have to answer basic things like these in interviews, doesn't that really create a problem? Doesn't even the heart of things become a cliché then?

Trent: I don't know. I think one just has to keep those things apart. An example: I didn't want to tour the last three months in the USA, but it only made the whole tour possible in the first place. We don't get played on the radio, and almost never on MTV. So if we want to present, "The Fragile" live as we did, it means touring until the money's back. You could apply the same to your question about interviews: I just have to endure extremely stupid conversations from time to time, to explain NIN. At the same time I don't always want to be present everywhere and waste my time. I have no problem at all talking to you and I don't feel attacked by anything we've talked about, but in the next room there are waiting a couple of half-finished songs I could work upon - and if I could chose between those two things, I'd always chose that.

Visions: A band sells itself the moment they sign their record contract, don't they?

Trent: The reason we're talking at all, that you've ever heard of us, is, that NIN at some point agreed to join this game. But the dimensions it has developed today really makes me sick: What would have happened 10 years ago, if one of our favorite bands had appeared in a commercial? I never in my life could have taken them seriously again. But only yesterday I¹ve heard David Bowie's and Blur's music in a Microsoft commercial, and the Dandy Warhols for GAP. That's normal today! Every big record label belongs to an even bigger company. And they don't give a fuck about aesthetics. If they want a musician's face on a chewing-gum package, someone's certain to say: "Sure, then we'll sell more."

Visions: How would you react if this happened to you?

Trent: There are limits I'd never cross, that no musician with pride should cross. Nine Inch Nails is valuable, and I'll do anything to keep it that way.

Visions: I don't really want to ask you for your opinion on Fred Durst and his dislike of NIN.

Trent: That's nice. This topic is a waste of time, anyway.

Visions: Is it true that you’ve made up that quarrel with Marilyn Manson?

Trent: We're friends again.

Visions: Didn't the whole affair get rather pushed by the media?

Trent: I swear to you, this was no media hype. We were very close friends until the point when he started to have success and a kind of rivalry started. From that point on we both behaved extremely stupid towards each other. The whole thing escalated when people around us started stirring it up with rumors, making it worse than it already was. Also some totally unnecessary, excessive and exaggerated things happened on his side. But in the meantime we're getting on rather well again. Not everything is resolved, but I miss him. He's a good friend and very intelligent. When I started to have success I acted the same way he did. Meanwhile I'm lucky to have sufficient insight. Maybe that even was the problem. Nevertheless I'm seeing the future positive where we're both concerned.

Visions: You seem to be quieter and more balanced than during the time of "Downward Spiral". Did you become more conscious of yourself?

Trent: Self-consciousness in the literal sense certainly has something to do with it. But still I have to remind myself more often that I'm all right [feeling good?]. I'm a lucky guy. I do my job even if I didn't get paid for it.
Visions: Which question would you like to get asked?

Trent: (thinks) Difficult question.

Visions: Maybe if we should finish the interview?

Trent: (laughs) Yes that would be a good one! Honestly, I'm sorry, but half of my head is already in the studio.