Reznor's Edge

Nine Inch Nails returns, angry as ever, and With Teeth

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].

Who are your peers today?

That's kind of an elitist question, but I'm impressed by Zack. I'm impressed by Maynard from Tool. There's a lot of new stuff out that's interesting and exciting from the DFA production team, LCD Soundsystem, their work with Rapture, etc. I like Arcade Fire a lot. When I look at people that I would like to feel have been a mentor or an inspiring kind of archetype of what I'd love to see my career eventually be mentioned as a footnote for in the same paragraph, it would be, like, Bowie. The courage that he's shown artistically, just to keep trying new things. I remember when I toured with him in 1995, he called up and said, "I want to do a tour, and I think the only band I want to go out with is Nine Inch Nails — would you be up for it?" And I just got done saying I'm not touring for a long time. Yup, yeah, OK, yes, what time do you want to start? Playing the message back for people from my machine, [in British accent] "Hi, Trent, it's David Bowie." It's really him, man! But when we met for that tour, he said, "I'm gonna only play stuff off this new album I did. It's very obscure and obtuse, and it's probably going to fail, but it's something I feel like I need to do, and the audience probably isn't going to like it, but it's right for right now." And I thought, you know, either that's really stupid or, fuck yeah, do what you feel is right. Anyway, that stuck with me, and after getting to know him and becoming friends with him, it's been an inspiration not only in his music and his career but also his life. I met him when I was about to bottom out, and it was somebody that had bottomed out, and I saw that there was hope on the other end. Life wasn't about sitting around AA meetings, smoking cigarettes, reliving the glory days. His life was a shitload better than it was. Between him, Brian Eno, people like that, who really seem to have always put art first and maintained over a long period of time, doing stuff that's interesting, you know, failing on occasion but never sitting back and recycling the same crap... I admire that.

Reznor bites the hand that feeds, October 9 at Cleveland's Gund Arena.
Reznor bites the hand that feeds, October 9 at Cleveland's Gund Arena.

Ever thought, back in 1988, you'd be where you are now?

No. It always seemed like I was just fortunate to get whatever level of break it was, all along the line. I always lived life like it was going to be over the next day. I think that led to the whole partying vibe and all that: Let's enjoy it while it lasts. I did enjoy it while it lasted. I really feel now, like coming out of the experience I just went through, getting clean and how bad that was leading up to that, all I wanted to do is stay alive and not hate myself. And then finding out that, even after another long gap, people are still interested in what I'm doing and shows still have a good turnout and the record somehow debuted at number one, and it feels like what I'm doing is relevant and vital... I couldn't imagine that I would have all those things. And I really feel appreciative that I still have a platform to speak from, and I still have a renewed energy and excitement about music. I can certainly find something to bitch about, but I don't have legitimate things to complain about.

Well, I'm really glad you're still doing it.

I appreciate that.

I look forward to seeing you guys down here.

We have a really cool show together too. Not to be the plug or anything.

So I've heard. The whole thing is one of the best package tours of the whole year, I think.

It feels like the shows, we've finally got the bugs worked out. Sitting backstage, the intro tape starts, it's a good feeling to think, I can't wait to fuckin' blow your mind with this. Instead of, hmm, I wonder if the tape is going to come on or the video is gonna start or if I'm gonna remember the words to whatever. It's all good now.

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