Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor

Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor On Fatherhood: “I’m Not Looking Forward To The ‘Closer’ Talk”


Nine Inch Nails mastermind Trent Reznor participated in a very extensive and revealing interview with that gives an in-depth look at where his head is at these days. There’s an immense amount of conversation and thoughts from Reznor to unpack, but some highlights can be found below:

On the internet and social media demystifying music artists:

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“Growing up, I didn’t know what Pink Floyd looked like and I didn’t need to know. In my mind, they looked like fucking wizards, man. I remember seeing a picture of Supertramp—and I loved ‘Breakfast In America‘—and I was like, What the fuck?”

He continued:

“Forget just photos: I didn’t know anything about them. Something in me needed the people making the music I loved to seem larger in life. I needed heroes.

David Bowie was a fucking alien, you know? As it happens, he was a fucking alien. I was lucky enough to be friends with him and he was even cooler than I’d thought.

But demystification is a real problem. There’ve been people whose music I can’t like anymore because I’ve seen them bitching on Twitter about a waiter like a fucking asshole.”

On artists successfully using social media to engage with their fans:

“…I don’t pay much attention, but I see what Drake’s been able to pull off in terms of being omnipresent and constantly engaging an audience that seems to enjoy the way he’s engaging them.

I’m just not part of that audience. I’m not as well-rounded as I used to be about pop culture. I’m not saying pop music isn’t well-crafted or the people who make it aren’t wonderful, but it’s not for me. I’ve asked people, “What is it that’s good about Drake?” I’ve said to my friends at Apple: ‘Explain to me why.’ As the old guy, I don’t see it.”

He added:

“I wasn’t even asking cynically. I was curious what it is that he’s touching on. The answers I got made me go, “That’s it?”

But knowing the right way to interact with your crowd in a way that feels cool is a good thing. I’m just doing it for a different sized audience. The stakes aren’t the same for me, and that’s fine.”

On his kids discovering his earlier music and asking about the lyrics:

“I’m not looking forward to the ‘Closer‘ talk, which is probably going to happen quicker than I’d like. Just this morning, me and my two older boys were sitting in the hotel restaurant.

Their mom has played the new EP for them a couple times. They’re like, “My favorite song is ‘Less Than‘.” That’s sweet, but then I’m thinking, Don’t I say ‘fuck’ in that one? Same thing when they were at sound check: What song don’t I say ‘fuck’ in?

I’ll tell you another thing I think about: I’m now thrust into adult events — school things with other parents, and just … You’re not really thinking about how lyrics that seemed cool at the time are going to register with parents at your kid’s school 20 years later.”

On corporate entities pervading musical culture through sponsorships, etc.:

“I’ve thought about this a lot and I don’t have a good answer. I’ll try and piece together a theory with you right now: Something that’s struck me as a significant shift, and I don’t know when it started, is when the corporate entity became a benefactor as opposed to a thing musicians shunned.

When I hear Grizzly Bear in a Volkswagen commercial, it kind of bums me out. I like Grizzly Bear a lot; I don’t want to think of a fucking car when I hear their song.

But somewhere along the line it became okay to get in bed with a sponsor. More specifically it became okay for rock bands to talk about. When I started to hear musicians talking about their sponsorship deals as something to be almost proud of, it bothered me.

I remember having a conversation with a well-known EDM artist. Half of the brief conversation was him humblebragging about how many corporate sponsors he’s got: ‘I can’t do this thing because I don’t want to piss that sponsor off and I can’t do that thing because I need to make sure this other sponsorship deal stays in place.’

That’s not what the spirit of being a musician or a rock star is. Why are these people even making music? I’m doing it because I have to get something out and I feel vital when it resonates with someone else. When I can get paid, too, that’s a nice consequence.”

On how music is consumed and treated in the modern age:

“Over the last ten years, there’ve been times where I’ve looked in the mirror and thought, Is there an audience out there for what I do? I labor over music that I meticulously create and then release it into a world where music has become disposable. People listen to music while they’re doing something else, you know? The act of even having to go to the store and make the commitment to purchase something is gone and it’s not coming back. It can make me feel a bit like, Is anybody noticing?”

He later stated:

“It’s tough not to veer into a get-off-my-lawn attitude. My complaint—I was thinking about this earlier today for some reason — and it’s not so much a complaint as it is an observation, is that I grew up in a little shitty town outside the range of college radio. I had FM radio, I had Rolling Stone, and later, I had a subscription to Village Voice, which seemed like it came from different world.

That kind of cultural isolation made discovering music exciting. When I went to college in the early ’80s and discovered independent record shops, it was like, I’ve got so much catching up to do. I’d never heard of XTC then I’d learn they had six albums for me to listen to.

I’d never want to discredit the feelings of the 16-year-old who completely relates to Lorde, but there’s something to be said for not having the ability to just skip to the next song, not having endless playlists, not having unlimited choice, not having to choose music over video games and endless television and looking at mindless humblebragging someone is doing on social media about their awesome life. You used to actually have to decide to spend time with music rather than just idly picking it from a plethora of options.”

On the alienation he felt during the height of his success in the 90’s and the humility that failing to maintain that upward trajectory taught him:

“I remember the feeling of walking off stage at the end of the night, and everyone else is gone, and I’m alone in a back room, and I still don’t feel like I can fit in anywhere — even though I was in an arena full of people that came to see some version of me. It was just weird. And it got even weirder after ‘The Downward Spiral‘ hit and we were playing arenas.

You’d meet people and realize you’re not even you anymore. You’re the version of you that they’ve read about. Then you’re thinking, I don’t know who I am anymore either. Am I the vampire I read about in a magazine? Am I acting like I should act? Because no one’s treating me like a normal person anymore. Set those feelings against a few too many drinks a day and a warped scenario starts to emerge.”

“‘The Fragile‘ didn’t do as well commercially as ‘The Downward Spiral‘. That’s when you learn humility. When you can suddenly see that the arena has different color seats, and you can only see that because people aren’t sitting in them, it doesn’t feel so good. You think, Is this what it’s going to be like now? Because no one points out the moment that your career changes. Like, “Hey, you know that upward success? It ended yesterday. Time to recalibrate.” That doesn’t happen.

Getting sober, which happened after ‘The Fragile‘, that also brought with it true humility: Hey, my career could be over, but I’m alive and I don’t feel like I want to kill myself and I’m not addicted to a substance and I’m not lying to people and I’m starting to feel good about myself.

What I found out from being sober was that I actually enjoyed making music more than I did when I was high all the time and playing self-destructive games with myself.”

There’s a whole lot more to be found, including his thoughts on filesharing, EDM, the band’s new EP’s and more to be found over at Vulture.