Further into the void of Nine Inch Nails
The Daily Texan 06/07/00

Nine Inch Nails is Trent Reznor. Declaring that sentiment means one understands what Nine Inch Nails is all about, while still missing the point entirely. It's more than one man, or one programmer/producer. Delve deeper and there is an entire body of musicians that contribute to the musical machine that revolutionized modern rock in the 1990s. From the days of the outfit's first LP, 1989's Pretty Hate Machine, to last year's release of The Fragile, the band has redefined what it means to be rock 'n' roll. What's more, NIN has redefined what it means to be a rock band.

The following is an embedded photo caption --> Danny Lohner, far left, has been with Nine Inch Nails since the making of 1994's album, The Downward Spiral. Trent Reznor stands second from left. The previous text was an embedded photo caption -->

At its core, Reznor sits as the undisputed leader of NIN. One musician that has gone further than many others into the Nine Inch Nails world is Danny Lohner. A Corpus Christi native and former UT business student, Lohner found his way into Reznor's universe.

"It's obviously Trent's deal," Lohner said, recounting his days joining the band during the production of 1994's classic release The Downward Spiral. "I played a couple little tiny things [on Downward Spiral] that he just asked me. It was like, 'Hey good to meet you, you wanna try this?' And then we did this huge tour and got along really well and he was really proud of his live band. He had finally found a group of people he really related to and he didn't have to spell things out to us."

This instant chemistry also found its way to bandmates Charlie Clouser and Robin Finck, who still work with Reznor and Lohner. The Downward Spiral and its world tour put Nine Inch Nails into the mainstream of American music. With a blistering, mud-soaked set at Woodstock '94 as well as a series of radio hits such as "Closer" and "Hurt," the band was selling more records than ever before. What happened after that, Lohner admits, was in its own way, a hurriedly upward spiral to work on a new NIN record.

The new album would soon be on hold as other recording opportunities entered the picture. These other projects would include soundtrack work for the films Natural Born Killers, Lost Highway and the video game Quake. In addition, an up-and-coming rock group called Marilyn Manson would ask Reznor to produce their breakthrough album, Antichrist Superstar.

Once the Lost Highway soundtrack came around and Reznor needed to record a single which would become the radio hit "The Perfect Drug" something unthinkable happened. Reznor asked for some help. From that collaboration, the mood of the band's next record was soon realized.

Lohner was able to toss his songwriting hat into the ring and The Fragile featured a much larger number of co-writers than any NIN album before it. Yet, there still lacked some of the heavy collaboration Lohner had hoped for.

"Trent had so many ideas and so much stuff going on that the role switched from initially being able to write songs together. The role, unfortunately for me, switched to supplementing his songs with whatever I could add to them," he confessed.

The band took a stylish New Orleans mansion and converted it into their own, massive studio. Keeping with the group's attempts to remain on the cutting edge of music technology, Lohner found himself working with advanced production equipment.

"Me and Charlie each had an individual studio upstairs, like small studios, and we were all hooked together over a local network on the computer. So [Reznor] could shoot us stuff up to our computer or we could shoot stuff back down to him. He could sift through it or pick things," Lohner said.

When the album was ready for release, it had become 1999, a solid five years since the last record arrived in stores. The music world had changed. The grunge movement was dead, while pop bands had become all the rage. As soon as the question, "When's the new record coming?" was answered, a new question emerged: "Do people still care?"

"I knew when this record came out, it was gonna have a tough time. It would have had a tough time in any era, probably. The only era that would have been okay would be when the Zeppelin's and Pink Floyd's [were around]," Lohner admitted, referring to the epic sound and structure on the double-album, The Fragile.

The album has sold well over platinum and the U.S. tour has been a major success with two recently sold-out shows in Houston and Dallas. But it would be safe to say that Nine Inch Nails doesn't appear to have the same mainstream presence these days like that of the Backstreet Boys.

"Now, tons of bands are more like a silly version of what has happened in the past," Lohner said, citing the new rap-metal movement of 1999 and 2000 that has spawned popularity in acts like Limp Bizkit, Kid Rock and others. "It's so not the first white rapper. And the metal guitar, that happened a long time ago. I think that Nine Inch Nails had a better shot at that time because the music climate was much more valid. Now it's more about borrowing everything from hip-hop, even this silly materialism crap like the '80s metal guys [did]. It's basically the same thing as an '80s cheesepuff guy with the fancy fur and big diamond rings and all the hot stripper girls in your videos. That's so fucking lame to me. The people who are winning are definitely not the good guys."
This new, Total Request Live, image-oriented aspect of the music business is not something that NIN feel comfortable with, according to Lohner.

"Personally, things that appeal to me about bands are things like the mystery and the non-celebrity end of it. The whole cheeseball, hanging out with famous people just to hang out with famous people scene that all these people get into, that's always been a drag for me," he said. Lohner mentioned bands like Tool and Depeche Mode, praising them for their ability to remain out of the spotlight. "You never heard them saying stupid shit. Like holding a dumb-looking fluorescent green guitar and [saying] 'Please buy me, because they gave me a free one.'"

Lohner won't have to buy any new guitars in the near future. The success of Nine Inch Nails has made this Texan part of one of rock's most influential groups, ever. A former M.I.S. major at UT who claims to need 12 more hours to graduate, he's familiar with Austin and its famous club scene. Lohner played Austin clubs with his Corpus Christi band and years later, when he was enrolled at UT.

"The music scene was pretty cool. We were doing things like electro-metal, samplers and heavy guitars, ala Ministry. I really loved living in Austin, whether it was about the music scene or what, I don't know, but I had such a good time there," Lohner recalled with fond memories. "I remembered it was great. Emo's always had bands playing, The Backroom had like a different thing going on but still always had bands playing."

And what was it like for a black-clad goth rocker living in an environment better known for musicians like Willie Nelson and Stevie Ray Vaughan?

"There was a [industrial rock] scene there, there was definitely people who were interested in that kinda stuff," Lohner said. "Coming from where I came from and moving to Austin, I didn't move to the blues capital of the world, I moved to the industrial capital of the world."

Lohner still remembers his days as a University of Texas business student with nostalgic happiness.

"There's a lot of job potential and very few people were doing it when I was there," he said of his M.I.S experience. The occupational potential might be good, but chances are, Lohner won't need to find a new day job anytime soon.