Been There, Rocked That
Alternative Press - Jan. 2002
Transcribed by Daria

With the release of the live album and DVD nine inch nails live: and all that could have been, Trent Reznor has ended another chapter in Nine Inch Nailsí career. Here, he tells Jason Pettigrew where heís been and where heís going, and wonders what triumphs await the music scene next year. Photo-electronica by

Since you came off the Fragility tour, youíve turned into a techno-geek, learning how to edit video and mix this DVD.
Instead of spending all the money to make it look like a Bon Jovi pay-per-view on HBO, we decided to do it ourselves. The new technology had progressed enough that we didnít need a $100,000 video-editing suite-you could do it on an iMac-and we didnít need a bunch of corporate assholes that are cookie-cutter filmmakers. Rob Sheridan and I worked on it. Heís 21; life hasnít beaten him down yet. Heís got great ideas, and heís a great friend to bounce ideas off of. It was an interesting process, knowing that the tools were available to do this, as well as learning how to mix in surround-audio, which is a whole other can of worms. And chicks really dig guys know about DVD production. [laughs]

The edits are really interesting. Itís like the viewer is actually there, but without having to be subjected to sweaty people, security goons or exorbitant parking fees.
Iíve had people say to me, "Christ, did you have 500 cameras out there?" No, we had eight, but we filmed it 20 times on tour, so we had 160 cameras. We werenít aware we were being filmed after the first night, so it seemed less inhibited. This way all the variables-the venue sucked, the crowd sucked, you sucked-were controlled.

By the way, thanks for omitting "Down in It."
Wait: You didnít get the version with that on there? [laughs] Thatís a good example of a song that doesnít mean anything anymore. I canít get back in that mindset, so it seems insincere to play that song.

You donít seem like the kind of person who would be at an arena concert unless you were the attraction.
Incorrect! Why, not long ago, you could have seen me enjoying the sights and sounds of ĎN Sync at the Superdome in New Orleans.

Why? You got a hummer from Britney Spears while her boyfriend was onstage?
Everybody was going on about the production. I thought, okay, in a world where money is no object, what could they do with limitless production? Because I do the set design for NIN, I was intrigued about the possibilities. And [their show] was boring. There was a lot of shit there, but it was very Rob Zombie-style. "You know what? Iíll bring it all! Fire, dragons, robots!"

With Closure, the longform video documenting the Downward Spiral tour, you said in the notes that this was the end of a chapter in NIN history. Do you have the same attitude toward this recent body of work?
I was thinking about this a lot as I was working on the DVD. This disc is a pretty well-rounded retrospective of what Iíve down. My confidence in my abilities is up right now. Iím excited about tearing some things down in my world This record caps off that time period, and itís time to change. There will be personnel changes, without being too specific. A lot of the reason why Iíve had a band around is because I havenít had a lot of confidence in myself. I always wished we had a real band where we all shared in the responsibilities, but I donít think I need that, right now. Iím kinda excited about facing the challenges of success and failure.

A quick career overview: You helped redefine electronic rock in a big way. Much of your output has surpassed that of those artists who have influenced you. You released new electronic artists on your nothing label, as opposed to a bunch of NIN clones. What havenít you done yet?
Right now, Iím learning to live my life differently. That might be maturity creeping in, or me getting things out of my system. Flirting with darkness, depression and self-destruction isnít that romantic when you are face-to-face with the edge. Right now, I think I have a lot more to say, and I finally have the courage to be able to say them. Musically, Iím intrigued by stripping away some of that ego and that barrier. I want to broaden the palette and hopefully, explore more emotions in music.

This year, rock critics put Radiohead on a pedestal for taking a lot of artistic chances while still being able to sell records. you took chances with The Fragile, yet because it didnít sell, it was perceived as failure. Is something wrong here?
If you were to look at the way Kid A and Amnesiac were marketed and the wait it was perceived, units-wise, thereís not much difference between them and us. Perception-wise, our record didnít do well, and Radiohead saved rock Ďní roll. Iíd say Radioheadís record label did a wonderful job framing [their records] as chance-taking art. Much like the movie industry, my label ran away after two weeks. Iím not trying to point the finger at anybody, and I havenít changed my attitude towards The Fragile. Thereís the stigma: Was it good and it didnít sell as much as you thought it might? Or is it shitty? You donít get the differentiation, and thatís when I get defensive about it.

Your mind will probably change 50 times by the time this comes out, but I still feel compelled to ask you what your next project will be.
Iíve got some stuff I'm working on but Iím not sure if itís the direction I want to go. So Iím taking a few months off from it, to see whether I should proceed or shitcan it.

And what is the status of the mysterious Tapeworm project?
I put Tapeworm on hold until the DVD was finished. The DVD is finished now, so Iím working on it.

And how are you feeling about yourself these days?
Being able to make art is dependent upon me having some well-roundedness. Iíve got some work ahead of me on an emotional and spiritual level. But knowing the need for it, Iím more willing to work on those things. Iíve realized that there is a resolution from self-destruction: death [laughs] Iíd like to put that off for a while.