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NINE Inch Nails 2009 (from L): Ilan Rubin, Robin Finck, Reznor, Justin Meldal-Johnsen



Trent Reznor, 20 years later

By Pocholo Concepcion
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:40:00 07/13/2009

Filed Under: Music, Entertainment (general)

MANILA, Philippines?When the first Nine Inch Nails (NIN) album, ?Pretty Hate Machine,? was released in 1989, one critic called it ?industrial-strength noise over a pop framework? and ?harrowing but catchy music.? Since then, Trent Reznor ? the creator of NIN who writes all its songs and fronts the touring band ? has never stopped making music that disturbs or shocks the psyche.

?The Downward Spiral,? NIN?s 1994 follow-up CD, explored violence, nihilism and death by suicide ? and debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard chart.

Reznor himself went through a dark phase in life with drugs and alcohol, but has moved on, his creative nature helping him translate noise and ideas into more music.

His outspokenness led him to leave his record label and demonstrate how indies could make money in the digital age: two NIN albums, ?Ghosts I-IV? and ?The Slip,? were initially offered as free downloads; several formats followed, including a limited edition CD package, which sold out in three days and earned Reznor $750,000.

Recently Reznor announced he?ll be touring NIN for the last time because he wants to do other things. A local independent music channel, Splintr.com, boldly took the initiative to get the band to play here on Aug. 5 at the Araneta Coliseum, with Pupil as front act.

The Inquirer e-mailed Reznor a few questions and this was how he answered:

You?re putting NIN on hiatus after this ?Wave Goodbye? tour but you?ll continue to make music. Is this because NIN as a concept has become a straightjacket for you, since essentially you are NIN?

No, I see what you mean. What I specifically said or meant to convey is that NIN as a touring live band or live band that?s on the road all the time is stopping. I?ve just reached the point ... where it has invaded every other aspect of my life. Also I think creatively, my time would be better spent on other stuff that could be NIN or outside NIN. Some of it may be collaborative things. I have a number of projects that are not music-related which I have put on the back burner for a long time...

Much has been said about ?The Downward Spiral? album and how your life was troubled at that time. But how do you maintain the passion to sing the songs in that record when things are different now?

That?s a good point ... I may not be the same guy I was then but for five minutes of that song, and probably an hour afterwards, it takes over. It?s not going through the motions nor acting, you kinda become ? I?m still driven by the same things that drove me to write it in the first place ... I wrote it as a cathartic way to get it out of my system, almost like therapy, and then when we went on tour I turned to drugs and alcohol and the songs spilled over and became me ... Now when I?m offstage, I?m not same guy onstage but it?s driven by the same place. I?d never want to be Gene Simmons, an old man who puts on makeup to entertain kids, like a clown going to work ... In my paranoia, I fear that if I don?t stop this, it could become that. Because it?s nice to get a paycheck, and now the only way to get a paycheck is to play live, so it?s all those things swirling around in my head.

Let?s go back 20 years. You were in the studio making ?Pretty Hate Machine.? Did you ever think that you?d be around for this long a time?

F--- no! The idea of that record was not to be a big hit but more to accurately portray where my head was and try to make the most interesting art I could make. I hoped people would like it and sell some records, but the kind of peers that I saw myself in the same camp ? the Ministries, the Skinny Puppys, and the Front 242s, those bands didn?t sell lots of records and weren?t aiming to be on the cover of Rolling Stone ... I never thought I?d do an interview talking about it 20 years later.

You?ve been very vocal about the state of the record industry and how labels have been greedy about the whole business. How do you think it can be improved, if at all?

It?s a kind of Mafia-type run business .. They have systematically taken advantage of artists over the years from The Beatles onwards. You [the artists] do all the work, they loan you money to make records, then you pay them back and they own everything. To see that system collapse is an exciting thing. There isn?t a clear answer on what the right thing to do is right now, and as a musician you?re up against a pretty difficult scenario: most kids feel it?s OK to steal music, and do freely ... The good news is that people are excited and interested in music ...

As an artist it?s your job to capitalize on that. It means generally swallowing a bitter pill and saying, ?Hey, people don?t want to buy music, so let me give it to you. I?ll find another way to make money but I want you on my side and hearing my music. So let?s get rid of this walled garden of having to pay to hear it, here it is, give it to your friends. Hey, try to come to our show if you can, or you can buy this T-shirt of ours if you like, and that will help us out. Or, here?s a nice version of our album that we put in a cool package for a premium price and we?re only selling a couple thousands of them.?

There are ways that you can monetize your business, but the traditional way of going to a record store and having to pay for it, those days are over. In the States, there aren?t any record stores left. The only place ... is like a Best Buy where you go to buy a washing machine and there?s a tiny rack of DVDs and CDs. I think we?re in between business models right now ...

I?m trying everything I can to contribute to when that next model does come up, whatever it might be, whether it?s subscriptions or whatever, where the artist is more fairly represented and has a say and is compensated, and you?re not paying for jets for record label CEOs ... They?re in their last moments of death and I?m happy to see them go ?cause they?re all thieves and liars.

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