Corpus Christi Caller May 2000

Guitarist for Nine Inch Nails recalls King High School days

Danny Lohner was up late Monday working with his portable studio in his Miami hotel room. He played Raleigh and Charlotte, N.C., last weekend and after a rare two-day break, he played the Miami Arena Wednesday. It's just he and a couple of friends, Trent Reznor and Robin Finck, roaming across the country. They're Nine Inch Nails. Perhaps you've heard of them?

Lohner just woke up and is fumbling with the phone, taking a call from his hometown, Corpus Christi.

"Oh, man," says Lohner in a groggy but cheery baritone. Freshly awake yet not quite fresh, he continues: "I stayed up too late last night. In the room, we were working on the computer. I stayed up till ... daylight. But we're doing this remix for A Perfect Circle. They're pretty cool, it's the singer from Tool. He's very cool."

A Perfect Circle, with lead singer Maynard James Keenan, are opening for Nine Inch Nails on its current Fragility V 2.0 Tour, which hits Houston Monday and Dallas Tuesday. Lohner also played guitars for A Perfect Circle during the band's inception, but then he had to venture back to New Orleans to work on Nine Inch Nails' latest, "The Fragile," a two-CD journey that goes far beyond the band's industrial and synth-driven past.

Finally, in mid-sentence, he really wakes up.

"I don't get down to Corpus as much as I should, but I talk to (my family) a lot," says Lohner. The 1989 King High School graduate lived here from age 4 to 18, and his mom and dad still call Corpus Christi home. "Mostly in high school, though, I hung out with older friends and I played in a band."

Fitting. Lohner then attended the University of Texas where he studied business, played in another band, toured and released a CD. Throughout his college career, he enjoyed songs from albums such as college radio favorites "Pretty Hate Machine" and "Broken."

He watched Nine Inch Nails grow in popularity and maturity, and one day he met Chris Vrenna, the drummer for NIN and friend of mastermind Trent Reznor.

"When they were working on 'The Downward Spiral,' we were talking and the guitar player at the time went on to start his own band, Filter - yeah, Richard (Patrick)," Lohner said. "And they asked me if I wanted to play with them. I had made it to my final semester and had 12 hours left, but I went."

Making an impact

"The Downward Spiral" was done mostly by Reznor, but Lohner says he contributed whenever he could. The band worked in Los Angeles in the house where Sharon Tate was murdered by the Manson family. After the release of the album, NIN toured for two years and didn't release another record until last year's "The Fragile."

Lohner co-wrote "Somewhat Damaged" and "Even Deeper" with Reznor on "The Fragile." There are three more songs that didn't make the cut that he hopes will be on the next album.

Either way, he's making a big impact not only on one of rock's most important and influential names, Nine Inch Nails, but also in the music world in general. In addition to the remix he is working on for A Perfect Circle, he also recently recorded "Scum of the Earth" with Rob Zombie for the "Mission: Impossible 2" soundtrack.

"People misinterpret (Zombie) for being satanic, but it's really tongue in cheek and comic book stuff," he says.

Many people also misinterpret the angst-ridden music and lyrics of Nine Inch Nails. Lohner says he feels the music and relates his own life experience to Reznor's lyrics, "but nobody relates exactly."

"I relate to images of melancholy and darkness, because that stuff has always interested me. It's the same way I like horror movies, but I'm not going to go out and kill anyone.

Learning from Trent

Critics and fans wondered where NIN was and what they were doing for the two years after the "Downward Spiral" tour.

Lohner says the band members were all very busy doing their own thing. For Lohner, that included working with Everlast and playing guitar for Zombie on "Hellbilly Deluxe." Lohner and the rest of NIN also helped out on a Marilyn Manson record and worked on a project with Philip Anselmo from Pantera and Maynard Keenan from Tool.

And when they weren't doing their own thing, he and Trent rode their bikes through the park, watched movies and went jet-skiing, Lohner said. Lohner and Reznor have developed a close personal and professional relationship in the past seven years. They do most of their work now in an old funeral home in New Orleans.

"It was a treat to be welcomed into their world, and I've learned so much from Trent because he's such a perfectionist," Lohner said. "When he gets the album art together, the record mixed or putting a live show together ... it's incredible."