Split Personality: Nine Inch Nails promises a somber, more dynamic show
Danny Lohner is looking for pretzels. The multi-instrumentalist and Nine Inch Nails
veteran has just awakened from a quick nap after a sound check in Grand Rapids, Mich.,
and is rummaging around for something to eat after consenting to do a last-minute
He's funny and personable and repeatedly apologetic about rambling and talking with a
mouthful of those pretzels. Yet within hours, that amiable demeanor will switch into
frenetic overdrive when Lohner steps on stage to back one of the most influential
performers of modern music, Trent Reznor.
Reznor, the auteur behind the industrial powerhouse Nine Inch Nails, first gained
attention with the groundbreaking 1989 CD "Pretty Hate Machine" and has since been
named one of the "most influential people in America" by Time magazine and "the most
vital artist in music today" by Spin. So what makes a musician like Lohner willing to take
a perennial back seat in a band (also featuring Robin Finck, Charlie Clouser and Jerome
Dillon) that may always be considered a one-man wrecking machine?
"I've had my chance to be with other bands. I've turned down easier opportunities in terms
of success in the public eye to play with this band. That kind of success isn't appealing to
me," Lohner says. "This band is one of the best to come out of our generation of music.
Trent requires people around him to help him achieve his goals. I'm proud to be part of
the team because I learn so much. He is everything people write he is - he is truly
Reznor uses hard and soft extremes to perfection on his 1999 23-track double CD "The
Fragile" (dubbed the "Decade's Most Anticipated Album" by Alternative Press
magazine). It's a thought-provoking and masterful epic of lush cinematic passages and
brutal gouges of industrial melancholy. Lohner was eager to meet the challenge of
translating the delicate details and dynamic swings of "The Fragile" to a live setting.
"This is a headphone record. You can drift away and listen to it. It's detailed and textured
in ways that are hard to recreate, but we've worked with the music long enough to know
what to do to make it happen," Lohner says. An early Chicago Tribune review of the NIN
show at UIC Pavilion (which sold out in 12 minutes) said "Reznor wisely underplayed the
theatrics - and let the music speak with dramatic ebb and flow dynamics over a riveting
While Reznor continues to push himself, his band and audience from their comfort zones,
it's obvious this isn't the same Nine Inch Nails that battered itself during the exhausting
two-year tour in support of the multi-platinum CD, "Downward Spiral." While that tour
made Reznor an international star, it also lived up to the "Self Destruct" phrase
emblazoned on everything from key chains to T-shirts and posters, as instruments and
musicians were battered and bruised on stage night after night. It's different now, Lohner
says, of the "Fragility V2.0" tour that heads into HSBC Arena Saturday night for an 8
p.m. show. "We're all older and wiser. We still have that element in the show, but it's old
hat. Now there are highs and lows - our show is much more dynamic. And it's much more
developed musically instead of us being ridiculous and breaking things," he says.
"The music is somber and melancholy and that comes across in the show," Lohner says of
a sound he calls "Pink Floyd meets the aggressiveness of the year 2000." "We're not going
for the obvious. It's sad and beautiful and aggressive. We touch on more shades instead of
"The Fragile" was recorded over two years in Reznor's Nothing Studios in New Orleans -
an old funeral parlor refurbished through a lot of manual labor from Reznor, Lohner and
others. Lohner has his own small studio in the building.
"I've learned so much from Trent with technical knowledge and conceptual knowledge as
to what makes a good song," says Lohner. "You forget how smart he is when he's just
hanging out as a regular guy. But his knowledge is amazing. He's so well-versed in music
and so well articulated that it's all second nature to him. Yet when he creates, it's more
from the heart, like an untrained musician."