Q&a With


Trent Reznor


On the surface, it might seem strange to be talking about Nine Inch Nails in 2005.

This was the dark and aggressive band that had banked its career largely on the raw, emotion-fueled angst and aggression of front man Trent Reznor.

Albums Pretty Hate Machine and The Downward Spiral (with hits like the R-rated "Closer" and the poignant ballad "Hurt") catapulted Reznor to tortured-idol status in the mid-'90s.

But the five-year wait for a follow-up resulted in the overly ambitious double album The Fragile in 1999, a decent but certainly not legendary work. It seemed as though Nine Inch Nails had peaked.

Six years later, Reznor seems hungrier and more focused than ever, armed with a powerful new disc, With Teeth, that feels more like the proper follow-up to Spiral. He also has a new band and a new attitude - he has given up drugs and alcohol.

There's a positive vibe coming from the 40-year-old Pennsylvania native that seems out of sorts for the notorious brooder. Who else is playing with you? I have Jeordie White playing bass; Alessandro Cortini plays keyboards and Aaron North, who used to be in the Icarus Line, is playing guitar. How has the audience changed over the past decade or so? It's been five years since I've been on stage, and during that time I've gone away to get my life in order and get clean and get my head screwed on straight. So, approaching this, it was like, "Well, let me see if I can write a record," and it's like, "Wow, I wrote a really good record, and I feel good about it. All right, let's tour. Let me see if it feels right." And it does feel right.

Time has passed and who is the audience? The weirdest thing now is that, when I look out at the crowd, it looks the same as it did 10 years ago. It's still kids, you know? Ten rows back, you'll see older people. ... It's an interesting blend of people, and I really couldn't ask for a better cross-section because I was really afraid that ... when it feels like Nine Inch Nails has become the nostalgia band, it's time for it not to be Nine Inch Nails. When and if that day comes, it's time for a long, hard look in the mirror. I know you lived in New Orleans for a long time. Were you at all affected by Hurricane Katrina personally and, if so, what happened? Certainly. I had been living in New Orleans for about 14 years; I moved down there in 1990 from Cleveland. I just sold my house there a few months ago ... and I still had the studio in New Orleans. It survived the flooding but it's water-damaged and filled with mold now. I saw some pictures of a lot of my favorite old keyboards with green mold all over 'em, so ...

How do I feel about it? I can't say I didn't feel some pain while looking at some photos of that stuff, but it's just stuff. It's just gear, and it's just a building. ... I'm grieving a city that I think has been murdered. I'm grieving the place that I love.

Tim Pratt writes for the Detroit Free Press.

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