"People come up to me like I'm this grim, have-a-noose-around-my-neck-at-all-times kind
of person. That's not the case at all," says Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor."I'm not the
happiest guy in the world. I'm not sure why. But I can't say, "It's because someone stole
Trent, a 24-year-old keyboardist from rural PA, dropped out of college in '84, moved to
the steel wasteland of Cleveland and took a job as a studio technician to learn music
engineering. Though he's a trained classical pianist, he hasn't looked at a piece of sheet
music in five years. He didn't want traditional music theory and technique to interfere
with Nine Inch Nails' raw, uncalculated debut LP, Pretty Hate Machine. Reshaping '80's
mope rock, Trent and producers John Fryer and Flood fuse misery with technology. They
take advantage of the massive appeal of the Cure, Depeche Mode and the Smiths (the
dead on expression of post-adolescent discontent) and make it danceable. The album ia a
collection of dense electronic noise, synthesized beats and powerful laments that wallow
in introspection, attack with violent screams and haunt with seductive, droning whispers.
The songs - the first Trent's ever written - are fraught with religious references, Trent
sometimes putting himself in Christ's place.
"I believe in god,"he says. "I was brought up going to Sunday school and church, but it
didn't really mean anything. Things upset me a lot. It was just a theme I kept coming back
to-religion, guilt and doubting. I believe there's a god but I'm not too sure of his
On stage, Trent and the touring band he formed in Cleveland are lost in a sea of smoke,
leather and skin. Covered in cakey white powder, black lipstick and eyeliner, he moves
slowly, provocatively, then erupts into a wild, uninhibited dance, yanking his guitar
player around the stage by his ponytail and spitting beer onto the crowd. Unlike his harsh,
aggressive music and dramatic stage performance, Trent Reznor-a little over five feet tall
with long jet black hair, shaved on both sides, wearing a hoop earing and black combat
boots-is, in person, a bit shy, a bit melancholy. "I'm not the cool rock guy who has a
motorcycle,"he says. Although, for fun he does ride a mountain bike.
"I was raised by my grandparents, the greatest people in the world," says Trent. "I try to
tell them,"You're not going to hear my music on the radio. I'm not going to be on soap
operas singing this." I can imagine what my grandfather tells people:"It's called Nine Inch
Nails-here's the video. And here he is lying dead at the end of it." I warned my
grandfather that the church might be after him."