NINE INCH NAILS Mainman: 'A Lot Of Bad Music Has Come Up That I Think I'm Responsible For'

October 22, 2005

Jonathan Zwickel of the New Times recently conducted an interview with NINE INCH NAILS mainman Trent Reznor. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow:

New Times: How have you reacted to Hurricane Katrina? I know you have a studio and a home in New Orleans.

Trent Reznor: "I haven't been back there yet because of the schedule. [The studio] got water damaged and filled with mold, and all the carpet got ripped out. It got out fairly unscathed, compared to a lot of my friends. But to be honest with you, I haven't really... The first day, when the storm missed it, I was concerned about it and wondering how the studio fared, and I had just sold my house a few months ago. But after seeing what happened to that city, it just doesn't mean that much to me. It's just stuff and just a building and gear, and it's replaceable, and it really doesn't matter. But seeing the scale of tragedy and the repercussions that that had, not only what God or nature's hand had to do with but more the administration's murder of the city... [pause] It's just unbelievable, my feelings of grief the city that I love and really call home still. I lived there for about 14 years. I live in L.A. now, but I have some stuff in L.A.; I don't feel like I belong there yet. To see that place get wiped out and, 'You're poor, you're black — well, so what?' That kind of mindset, whatever feelings of mourning or loss quickly get replaced with outrage."

New Times: It seems to make sense to respond to that directly.

Trent Reznor: "I've been thinking about that. The tricky thing for me as an artist is to make sure that the message gets across in the best way. 'With Teeth' really is about different degrees of finding out who you are in a new world, which is a big analogy about getting sober. Nobody wants to hear someone talk about getting sober, nobody wants to hear the 'sober guy' record. But in my life, there's been nothing that's been more important or life-changing to me. I don't think 'With Teeth' sounds like the 12-step album, but that was a giant inspiration behind the upheaval in my own life. When something is as outrageous as the behavior of Bush, I can't pretend it doesn't offend me, and I'm sad to see the direction our country has taken, and I'm greatly opposed to his agenda. Finding the right way to articulate that that doesn't become chest-pounding or getting on a soapbox — that's the key to having it be effective. I don't claim to have the finesse THE CLASH had or even Zack from RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE. That's not really how my brain works. If I find the right way to get the message across — the most eloquent, powerful way — I'll do that. That's something I'm thinking about working on."

New Times: You were responsible for shepherding industrial music into the mainstream. How do you feel about that influence? There's been a lot of good stuff and a lot of shit.

Trent Reznor: "Yeah, I mean, I never sat down and said, here's the game plan: My mission is to take industrial music and make it something that works its way into Hot Topic. It came down to what I was inspired by and how I felt like I was part of the scene, certainly as a fan of the Wax Trax stuff and MINISTRY and SKINNY PUPPY and all the classics. And that was the music that I related to on a number of levels — I liked the sound of it, I like the way it was made, I liked the message, which seemed fresh at the time. I hadn't heard anything like that. It was as powerful as metal without all the silly metal stuff I understood or got into. But equally silly in its own way, for sure, especially looking back now. And when I started making music, I thought I was making music kind of in that genre because I loved it, but it started to come out like pop songs, with choruses and hooks and a lyrical element that I don't think had been in that type of music before. It wasn't any kind of master plan, but it just worked out in a way that... When you start to create, you draw from your influences and synthesize them into something else. It just worked out that the media kind of labeled us as industrial, and that pissed off a lot of the purists, quote-unquote industrial people, and I've always said, hey, man, point the finger at them; I'm not wearing a T-shirt that says 'Call Me Industrial.' But at the same time, there's been a lot of effect from that cause that went down. You see, SKINNY PUPPY died because they got a big record contract and then imploded, and they got offered that contract because, when we got big, record labels, in their infinite wisdom, [said], OK, who sounds like these guys? Get SKINNY PUPPY, get MINISTRY, get FRONT 242. And a lot of those guys are used to having a budget of $50,000 to do a record; now they have several million and buy a lot of drugs and that's the end.

"It's weird to see how things change. I remember when I first saw KORN. I met them with MANSON, opening with them, and I didn't get it. I went, 'What the fuck is this?' Now one can say they were a pretty important band, and now there's two generations of bands that have ripped off KORN, that ripped off bands that sounded like KORN. It's weird how your perception of things changes and how there are the bands that end up becoming iconic and the ones that don't live up to the hype. And yeah, I think a lot of bad music has come up that I think I'm responsible for...

"It reminds me of a conversation I had — I was hanging out with Zack from RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE, and I think LIMP BIZKIT came on TV, and he goes, 'God, this sucks!' And I said, 'Well, it's your fault, man, totally your fault. You created this, dude.' [laughs]."

Read the entire interview at this location.

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