Gladiator - Kerrang

Twenty six dates into "Fragility V2.0", Nine Inch Nails' first US tour for five years, the band are "pretty much up to speed" according to keyboardist Charlie Clouser. We arrive at the Compaq Center as the band are finishing their soundcheck. The relaxed air surrounding the hulking crew members wandering backstage suggests that everything is proceeding smoothly.

At 5:45 pm, with the band and their soundman satisfied, Trent Reznor strolls into the "wardrobe room" and greets the us with a quiet "Hello", before sitting down at the make-up table to have a bit of "slap" applied for our photo session. Charlie Clouser, Robin Finck (guitar), and Jerome Dillon (drums) wander back into their black curtain-draped dressing room. The only missing-in-action Nails man is Danny Lohner (bass / guitar / keyboards), who has just popped across the road to meet his mum and dad who're in town tonight for the show.

It's a pretty safe bet that the band members' parents weren't in the habit of dropping in on NIN's last American tour. Joined on the road by Marilyn Manson and the Jim Rose Circus Sideshow, that tour has passed into rock history as one of the most excessive, out of control tours since the "glory" days of Guns N' Roses and Motley Crue. I can't imagine that Ma and Pa Lohner would be overly impressed at seeing musicians spitting on naked girls and hosting backstage enema contests, episodes chronicled in Marilyn Manson's autobiography "Long Hard Road Out Of Hell".

When I join Clouser, Finck and Dillon, in the dressing room, I casually put it to them that they've had a bit of reputation for indulging in on-the-road debauchery.

"Did we"?" Charlie Clouser says with a smile, feigning surprise as he raises his head from a copy of gadget-mag "Stuff". "Er, you can answer that, Robin." "We're doing different things now", Finck says slowly and deliberately. "Last time out I personally visited a lot pf places I don't want to go back to." Mr Manson has been very vocal in re-telling the story of one particular incident from the NIN / Manson tour - when Manson allegedly gave Robin Finck a blow job onstage in Florida. "Oh, Manson's quite a sensationalist", Robin sighs, the mildest hint of colour reddening his pallid complexion. "I wouldn't believe everything he says."

"But Manson does suck men's dicks", smiles Danny Lohner, as he enters the room and slumps down on the sofa beside me. "He's gay." You think so? "Oh, yeah", he grins. "He would say something terrible about us, so we should make up something first as a preemptive strike." "This tour is more like a big slumber party", Robin smiles. "We just watch movies on the bus all night we're like, 'Is this okay with you, honey?'."

"There's no drunken brawls anymore", sighs Charlie. "It's pretty sad." So if your debauched days are behind you, why do you need that box of Trojan Ultra Pleasure condoms on the table in front of us? "That box hasn't even been opened to put a condom on a banana for a joke", Danny laughs. "No one here's getting any." I know a story about one British band in the mid '90s who resolved that issue by sucking each other's dicks. Apparently, when the road crew caught them in act, they said they were "bored". "Our boredom", says Danny solemnly, "has never come to that."

Trent Reznor's bandmates seem like a laid back, easygoing bunch. Everyone has lap-top computers and portable studios on the road with them so that they can work on new music whenever or wherever inspiration strikes.

Charlie Clouser spent the morning beavering away on his semi-legendary Tapeworm side project - slated to feature appearances from Phil Anselmo, Tool's Maynard James Keenan and Trent Reznor; "an ongoing thorn in my side" according to Clouser - he's currently trying to "chisel more of Maynard's Brazilian vocal overdubs into a song he's singing with Trent."

When I mention that there's little visible indication of pre-show nerves in the dressing room, Danny Lohnr laughs and says: "If I was Trent I might get nervous but nobody's looking at me." Despite Lohner and Clouser's integral roles in Nine Inch Nails the pair have a very low public profile. They insist they're happy with this situation.
"I prefer it this way", Lohner smiles. "It's difficult for Trent to roll down the street in any town we're playing because he gets recognized. God bless the fans, but I'm sure it gets hard for him." A lot of people in bands today crave celebrity status. "Like him?" Danny smiles, opening a magazine featuring a picture of Limp Bizkit's Fred Durst.

"Fat Freddy?" Charlie chips in. "No, I am happiest when I'm sitting behind a computer listening to a half-finished mix rather than holding court behind a velvet rope at a nightclub". It's time for the band's pre-show dinner. And I've an imminent appointment with Mr Reznor. We shake hands and go our seperate ways. "I haven't broken a keyboard in six shows", Clouser mutters as he exits the room. "My tech is looking bored."