Nine Inch Nails - Coming Down FastIt's gone now but late last year we drove up to 10066 Cielo Drive to the residency that Trent Reznor was renting to record the follow-up to Broken. Standing at the electronically controlled gate, the faint blur of NIN could be heard straining from the house set back somewhat from the road. 24 years before in early August these same hills echoed with the chilling sounds of gunshots and anguished cries as the then residents were so gruesomely slaughtered by members of the so called Manson family. Given that connection and the fact that Trent's name had cropped up several times last issue we sent a letter inquiring about an interview. Some phone calls later we returned where Trent's friend and able assistant Chris Vrenna, fresh from dismantling the in-house studio gave us a guided tour. By Beverly Hills standards it is a modest house, perched precariously on a steep hillside, well above the smog, providing a panoramic view of the city below. Several hour's later we met up with Trent in a downtown Hollywood studio where he was busy putting the finishing touches to The Downward Spiral.
As NIN, Trent Reznor is in an unenviable position. Even though his recorded output sells by the millions, it appears mass sales does not equate with credibility. The music press have daubed Trent as being "terminally aggrieved", the "master of alienation" to just plain "fucked up". If he is pissed-off - he's got good reason. In a tumultuous 5 year career he's been fucked over by journalists, fellow musicians and a record company that came close to curtailing his career, prematurely. Don't think he's looking for sympathy. He's not. If Trent Reznor is guilty of one thing - it has been his constant refusal to play the music game by their rules. Releasing decidedly uncommercial records with accompanying visuals (that owe more to art house videos) are all eyed suspiciously by the sceptics as being contrived. Furthermore, his renting of the Sharon Tate murder house is regarded by detractors as one more factor in Trent's desire to shock.
Whatever impression you've got of NIN - in terms of mainstream success, at least Trent Reznor is endowed with enough integrity, to take chances, to do whatever the hell he likes irrespective of commercial appeal. Unlike 'alternative' retro acts such as Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins... Nine Inch Nails are not a safe option - and for that alone - you must be thankful. Anyway, while Maise played on the floor Trent responded to our questions with brutally frank replies bordering on the confessional.
How did you come to live in the Sharon Tate house?
We were trying to find a house to rent to put a studio in. The idea was to have an environment where - any time I've been in the studio, it was like trying to get one hundred things done in one-tenth of the amount of time you have. So, with the new record label we're on it's given us enough money to do a record with out rushing. Or at least, it's given us time to do it right. We had thought it might be cool to just rent or buy some equipment to set up and have the time to experiment with stuff we've never done before, like recording real instruments. I was living in New Orleans at the time and we looked for a house there but couldn't find anything suitable - that wasn't right next to a house where we couldn't make noise. In New Orleans, if you're in a band and want to rent a house - nobody will want that. Out here in L.A. it's no big deal. The population is real transient so there are a lot of houses to rent. We went out and saw 15 houses in one day - most of which would work. The Tate house was one of the houses that we had seen, but we had no idea that - that was the house. At the end of the day, the coolest house we'd seen was on Cielo (Drive). It's relatively close to everything but it's still isolated and it was one of the cheaper houses we had seen. That night, after we'd made the decision, I was staying at a friend's house and he said, "that Sharon Tate house is up somewhere in Benedict Canyon, Cielo Drive or something". So we went through a bunch of books and he had Helter Skelter. So I opened it up, glanced through it and saw the blueprint of the house. Thinking, you walk in, there's the front door, there's a room to the left. Maybe. Next page, there's a photo of the ladder going up to the loft. I was like, "Holy fuck, I've climbed up that to look at the loft" and "Oh, Jesus, that was the fuckin' house". The address had been changed, obviously.
How did you feel when you found out?
At first, it was kinda creepy. I'm like you're not going to believe this - that was the fuckin' Sharon Tate house. Everyone was looking at it freaking. It was weird. There was one house in New Orleans that we were going to try and make work, - but when I got home it was sold. So I said fuck it, we'll move to L.A. and the coolest house was the Tate house. I'll get over it, the fear of being there. I hadn't gone back to it after we discovered it was the house, until a month later when Chris and I drove out at night. It was terrifying, opening the door... After about a week, I really didn't sense any bad vibes. It's a peaceful, serene place and the view is amazing, which you wouldn't realise from Helter Skelter. I wasn't thinking of the potential backlash, "Oh Trent is trying to be spooky". Most people who say that kinda shit, I think, well would you live there? "Hell, yeah. It's a cool place". I've no regrets about it, but I'm kinda sad there tearing it down.
Tearing it down. Why?
The people who own it are greedy fuckin' L.A. real estate people.
They could easily turn it into a tourist site...
Except for the bad taste factor. Jean Claude Van Damme was going to buy it and turn it into a ridiculous Greek mansion.
We'd heard that you'd christened the studio "Pig" (the message scrawled on the door by murderess Susan Atkins using the blood of Sharon Tate)
(laughs) Yeah, we didn't name it though.
Since moving there have you read up on the story?
Yeah, for my own curiosity, plus the fact every conversation leads to that.
We've heard rumours about mannequins...
(laughs) We talked about having the worlds worst taste party after the studios been taken out. Hiring actors to lie in the positions but I don't think that would be the best thing to do.
Where did the rumours of the mannequins lying in the position of the bodies originate from?
Oh, I may have been blabbing one time. (laughs) People like a good story. (laughs) Actually, I've become friends with a woman who used to live there, who is best friends with Sharon Tate's sister. And as intriguing as all that was (and is), there is the reality that people are dead. I am aware of that and I try to get the message through to her that I'm not here to exploit the fact that she was killed. Not to sound like a pussy, but I do start to have a problem with people who are too over zealous.
Ignoring the sad fact that people died there, were slaughtered there...
Exactly and if I can pick up on anything. If there is a vibe, it is one of sadness.
And you still get people coming up to the house...
It comes in waves. Probably equal proportions of fan types and curious tourists. The gate stops them and if they sound okay, we let them in. I know anyone else whoever lived there would never have let them in. Now since its getting torn down we've had a lot of people come up to take pictures.
Prettiest Hate Machine
The first time that I heard of Nine Inch Nails coincided with the release of Pretty Hate Machine. What was the history of the band up until then?
There really wasn't one as it kind of started with me. I was living in Cleveland, Ohio working in a studio to get free time to fuck around and that lead to working on some demos. I did that for 10 months to where I had six songs done - that I would send out to little independent labels and say, "What do you think?" At the time I didn't have NIN figured out. So I wanted the situation where someone could give me a few thousand dollars to do a 12 inch, to nurture it. We were going to do a deal with Nettwerk. Everything was set up and they said, "We've just spent all our money on a Front 242 record. Can you wait another 6 months?" After that they asked us to open for Skinny Puppy on their 'Vivisect' tour. I said, "We'd like to but we don't have a band together". It was basically just me and Chris at the time. Anyway, when Skinny Puppy came to town, their tour manager called and said, "The bands we're on tour with suck. Just go out with us". Nettwerk were basically throwing us bones to keep us in line. We ended up playing 8 shows and we fuckin' sucked. We were terrible. Because of where I grew up, which was literally a farm, there was little input. There was no college radio or MTV - not that it would have helped. My options were classic rock radio and all that shit. It was awful. We were at the stage where the music I had listened to was fairly conservative. I'm not embarrassed to say.
It was a weird situation where none of the stuff I'd done had ever been played out. I realised that a lot of the arrangements were off and it was a bit poppier. So we got off the tour - humbled - and another label TVT (who suck) had offered us a deal. We signed with them and ran into our first big problem - which was the record I delivered them, was not the record that they were expecting.
But you had been using the likes of Adrian Sherwood and other name producers (Flood, Keith Le Blanc).
Yeah, my manager had called up On-U-Sound and said, "We don't have much money and we're on a label you've never heard of. Would you be interested in working on some stuff?" So we sent him a tape and he said "Yeah, I'm into that". That's basically how we contacted all of those people.
So you had total control over choosing what producers you'd like to work with?
Yeah, but when I came back and said here's my finished record, they took a shit on me. This thing sucks, it'll never get any radio airplay. It wasn't at the time as radio friendly as they hoped it to be. It was a bad scene and it started all the trouble. When it came out, radio wouldn't play it. So we toured and kept touring. Suddenly, someone pointed the finger at us, and said "Here's a band who are cool to like". Then we got that weird thing where the people who initially liked us, the fanzine and Wax Trax crowd, started to feel a bit alienated - as the same record they liked when it came out, a year later their kid sister likes it, and now it's not cool to like.
It's the old story...
So, what could have been a five year career became condensed into one record.
It also meant you didn't have to slog round the clubs, avoiding the situation of having to release four albums in order to become "established".
Yeah. The weird thing in America, right now, is that MTV is so powerful. They can pretty much determine what bands will be big or not. And as an artist we make music that is to a certain degree accessible, but you have to be aware of the pitfalls of falling into that too much.
Around this time the pop and Depeche Mode comparisons arose. How did this make you feel?
Well, I went through a period of feeling really shitty. I felt the first couple of tours we were playing clubs, to people, who as a fan I could relate to. As the popularity got bigger, the people that mean more to you are the first to jump off the bandwagon. To be honest, that is a really shitty feeling. Then you go through what I call a "Nirvana syndrome" - which is my Broken record. You make a record that is not trying to be commercial or pop and I fuckin' win a Grammy for that. (laughs) Best hard rock band. (laughs) I'm just trying to make the music I enjoy making and I can't say, "You're cool enough. You can like it. You're not cool enough. You can't". I just make the best of it. Nirvana made a record that is as inaccessible as they could make it, to show that they're punk rock. No they're not. They write pop songs and there's nothing wrong with that.
You've also got the additional problem of growing up in public. No matter what you released it was always going to gain wide exposure.
That's part of the game that I'm trying to come to terms with. I'm trying to make the best shit that can and not something that caters exactly to what radio's playing. If they like it fine. If not, I don't give a shit. I don't feel that I've put out anything I've whored myself to do - just to be a commercial pop singer.
What about the Depeche Mode comparisons?
In terms of Depeche Mode, I think some of the stuff they've done is good. I just saw their show, cause oddly enough I've become friends with their singer and he's a misfit like I am here in L.A. I like the guy but their shows like a Bon Jovi show - crotch grabbing and screaming girls. (laughs) Personally it's not what I'm into at all, but I think its partly because they use synthesisers and write pop songs. How many bands do that?
Your next LP Broken was much harder. Why?
At the time we were leaving TVT - as the situation had become so unproductive. If I were to say I want to do a video, this would involve weeks of discussion. If I said I wanted to use Peter Christopherson, they'd say, "Well, I don't think you should use him". Why not? "Because we think you should use the guy who done the Ice-T video". (laughs) Then every other thing is okay, except the one I want. So then, I have to play, I wanna use the guy who did the Ice-T video (laughs) and they say "What about Peter Christopherson?" This gets dragged on and then you find out things, like they're releasing my first 12-inch with a new cover. Why? To fool everybody who is expecting a new record, only to discover it's the same one. Who gets the blame for this? - Me. So when Pretty Hate Machine began to sell, I thought, maybe, they would realise that they were wrong. But no. Pretty Hate Machine sold a million, well your next one will sell 5 million. Seriously, it's unbelievable. It's a horrifying feeling when you've no control over it.
So Interscope came in and bought us out of that deal. We ended up recording Broken under a different name, as technically TVT owned anything we recorded. So I told TVT, "fuck you. My career is over as I'm not recording another record for you". It's not about money, it's about letting me do what I want. In terms of payment, I never received anything for a million records. Where did the money go?
You know, some bands start hard and then get softer as they get sucked into the mainstream. As NIN, you've done the opposite.
I think that's due to touring so much. It's been a natural evolution. I've never sat down and said I want to make everything, harder and harder. At the same time, I'm also aware that the new record, that's getting finished now, is bleak. It's got elements of the hardest stuff I've ever done but it's not like a Ministry record.
I think Broken is a hard record. Do you think the press and public acknowledge it as that or just think it's NIN?
Well, I try to divorce myself from that. I think it is what it is. If politically a writer has to say it sucks for some reason - I don't give a shit. I did what I wanted to do and the people I care about will get it.
And also the NIN - 'Industrial' tag...
A note on that to say officially: I have never sat down and said that I'm an industrial band. That came from the US writers, who for lack of better knowledge, around the time Pretty Hate Machine came out and when Wax Trax was a much more prominent force. So you had a rash of bands from KMFDM to Front Line Assembly to Skinny Puppy and I got tagged on. I see that as being no more appropriate for them as it is for us, really. So imagine, you work for Spin you've never heard a synthesiser other than a Kraftwerk record. Suddenly NIN are on Lollapalooza and you've never covered them before. So they think Ice T's the rap band, Siouxsie's the Gothic (punk) band, Living Colour's the black band - so NIN - they're the, they're the, the "Industrial" band!! (laughs) What does that mean? Most of America has no idea of what industrial was or is. They're idea of it is me - as it said it on the cover of Spin: NIN-Industrial. So that tagged me for all those people and for all the music fans it irritated them as, "NIN!,They're not fuckin' industrial" and I'm back in the position of okay here's what I think industrial music was - Throbbing Gristle, Can perhaps and so on. Do I think that we've got much in common with those bands? No. Do we make use of noise? Yeah, but that's where it ends. I try to write songs, I know, T.G. didn't and I don't think that's bad. At the same time, l think, all journalists need to have a term to place you. I got a British guy yelling at me once, "Are you electronic? You use guitars". What does it matter, it's just fuckin' music. So that's been another thing that's irritated a lot of folks, as we emerged from being kinda underground to more mainstream.
It's not your fault then...
Yeah, I've never sat down and said, "Hey, we're the newest thing. We're an industrial band. You can dance to it. It's like Depeche Mode but it's heavier". People who know are tired of it - "I hate NIN. They're not fuckin' industrial". I know we're not. Did I ever say we were. I appreciate those bands, I've listened to them but I wouldn't say they were the biggest influences I've ever had. It's an irritant but I can't get away from it. I've learned just to ignore it.
It is a lazy term covering so many disparate styles...
Yeah, I heard recently that Prong were industrial and they're a guitar band. From that to Machines of Loving Grace - and if you've heard Duran Duran you've heard them.
I guess, this is a touchy subject, but why did you re-record 'Suck'?
The actual truth of what happened with 'Suck' is this: Martin (Atkins) and I had been friends before Pigface originated and somehow our paths had crossed and I had met (Al) Jourgensen and that crowd. I did the 1000 Homo DJ's single which was stopped by TVT.
Yeah, 'Supernaut'. You originally sung that before Al (`Buck Satan') Jourgensen...
Yeah, we had been fuckin' around and that came out and like an idiot I called up TVT and said just so you know, I'm not getting paid for this and my names not going to be on it. It was fun and they just went ahead and stopped it. I can't explain it.
Anyway, around this time Martin was getting his Pigface project together with (Steve) Albini producing and they said "Can you stop by and do this thing?" It was the last day and I had prepared a set of lyrics that would fit anything. I'd never collaborated with anyone before and the idea of being in a room, "Okay. Sing something!" (laughs) I couldn't do that, so I'd done my homework ahead of time. I was fuckin' petrified being around guys I respected and had never met. The only people still around were me, Paul Barker and Martin - and he said, "We don't have time for another song. Maybe we could use the leftover stuff on tape". So he played a few things and I picked the drumbeat and Paul noodled on the bass and I had an idea that I could maybe sing. I went in twice and Albini went "It's done" and I went, "What?" "It's done". "What do you mean it's done. Lets put some guitar down". "It's done. What's next?", he'd say.
I hated Albini, he was a fucking cunt. The worst person I've been around in my entire life. Martin had explained to me that the idea of Pigface was that we'd get together as a community and come up with things. Martin would say "I'm thinking of getting a drum machine to go through this song and I'll play drums on top" and Albini would say "No". "Lets try it, maybe, it will suck" and Albini's reaction would be "Look just take my name off the record". In the studio there are a lot of fragile moments when you're trying to come up with ideas and Albini's in there shooting everybody down. It was an unpleasant situation and when the song did come out - it did suck. I didn't think it was ever finished.
The problem that I had with that first Pigface record (Gub) is that there is a fine line between doing something arty and taking a shit on a tape with no thought going into it and saying it is art. It's hoodwinking the public. So at that moment my interest in Pigface was waning and it was further irritated when they got a tour together. "Do you want to be on the tour, Trent?" I said "I can't. I've been touring for a year and a half and I've just gotta go home. I'll do a date or two, it'll be fun but that's all I can do". Then when I'm on tour with NIN a couple of months later, all these club managers are going "Hey, you feeling better. I hear you've been really sick". I'm like "What?" It turns out the whole Pigface tour was booked under the premise that I'd be the singer because NIN were hot at the time.
The next chapter in this equation is: Before Lollapalooza, I asked Martin if he'd play drums with us. He claimed he did. He'd been doing Killing Joke at the time and he showed up one week before Lollapalooza and we were nowhere close to being ready. So two days before the first gig, I had to tell Martin we were calling another drummer, because we suck. You're not ready, we're not ready, we need more time to rehearse. I said to him, I want you to know that I'm not going to bad mouth you because I think you're a great drummer. We just didn't have time to get it together. Within a week I'm hearing all this bullshit about me firing him. I confronted him but it's all drunken excuses.
So to answer the original question - a year later I stopped at another Pigface rehearsal, in Chicago, and NIN had been playing 'Suck' out live, to which I'd written a song around. Martin had seen us play it out and at the rehearsal. He's like, "How does the rest of that song go? Show the rest of the guys". So I did. Next thing, I'm in a store 6 months later and I see a live Pigface record with 'Suck' - written by Barker, Rieflin, Oglive, Shithead, Fuckface...Reznor. So I put it on and it's the song I gave them. It irritated me, not for the money. When I finished Broken, I wanted to do a version of 'Suck', as I wrote the fucking thing in the first place - and I like it. So we did it, and I called Martin about publishing rights - No response. So I said we'll split it 50/50 which, I thought, was generous as I wrote it. They're still bitching about it. I don't wish ill will to those guys or Martin, although we have butted head in the past.
The flip side was a version of Adam & the Antz's 'Physical (You're so)'...
We started doing it as a joke, just to try and make the heaviest version we could make. It was going to be a 12-inch with 'Suck'. I didn't want it to be taken incredibly seriously and we had them lying around and they would have been no good in the future, as we were moving away from anything like this. So we stuck them on at the end of Broken.
Why did you choose that track?
I probably had a soft spot in my heart for Adam Ant. He liked it but then he did get money for it. On his recent tour he said thanks to NIN.
In the UK press, he said he'd be interested in working with NIN. Would you?
If it was the right sort of thing. I always thought some of his stuff was pretty cool. Though I'm not sure of what he's into now. I'm not closed to the idea though.
What was the idea behind Fixed (the remix counterpart to Broken)?
The original idea was to farm it out to a bunch of different people, I respected. "Do what you want to do. I don't care if there's not one note of the original song in there". It was kinda off the cuff, more random and indulgent. Selling it as a 12-inch encompassing all the songs. It is hit and miss. Some of them didn't come to life, some of my ideas were shifty and didn't work as well.
erm, Butch Vigs...
What's on there is a tiny bit of a remix he did. Here's how the chain of thought went: Towards the end I thought lets get Pantera or someone heavy to do it - but I realised that couldn't happen in the time allotted. Then the same day I received a fax from Butch Vig saying, "Would you be interested in doing anything with me. I don't just do Nirvana bands, I've done an EMF remix or something", as if I'd be impressed with that!! (laughs) So I called him and he's a really nice guy. I sent him a track and said make it the hardest thing you've ever listened to. He called back and said "I've had a lot of fun with this, but I've listened to the track and there's no way I could make it harder than it was, so I pulled it into a different direction". I got the DAT back and he had turned it into everything I fuckin' hate - jangly guitars, totally replayed all the instruments. (laughs) I really appreciated the amount of work and craft that went into it ('Throw this Away'), but I just fuckin' hated it. I can't even listen to my version of the song ('Last') now. But keeping in line with the original idea that truly was, do what you want. I realised if I did put it on there, college radio would play it and I can just imagine the horrified listeners, "Jeez, is that NIN". (laughs)
...and you're supposed to be "industrial"
Yeah, (laughs) right we've got to be "industrial", can't have jangly guitars in there. It put me in an odd position, which I wasn't ready for. With the Foetus one, I just said go to town. I think it is cool. I realised after I sent Jim (Thirlwell) the tape, that when we did this in the studio, Martin Atkins had played drums on it, but then we added programmed drums and cut between the two. Jim didn't have that, so he only had Martin's drums to work with, so this instantly gave it a different sound. Jim is someone I'd really like to work with again in some capacity. Coil's was awesome also.
You've been working with Coil recently as well...
I met Peter (Christopherson) through being a fan of Coil and through liking his videos. 'Tainted Love' (by Coil) is a particularly cool and chilling video. Once free from TVT I contacted him for Broken.
The original idea was to find people who hadn't done videos before to give new guys a chance and also for our benefit in that our videos didn't look like standard videos. This involved a search of art schools and stuff. This one guy I ended up using, Jonathan Reiss, had made videos for Survival Research Laboratories (Virtues of Negative Fascination, The Will to Provoke) and had made A Bitter Message of Hopeless Grief outside of SRL, which is cool.
I had an idea, talked to him about it and spent a month refining the idea and by filming it we accomplished about 70% of it. The basic idea turned out to be a thing unplayable in most circuits. I said lets make a video that interests us and then we'll see what we'll do with it next. The first time we did it, it wasn't extreme enough. It was already beyond the line of getting played on TV, so why stop there. The guy in it is so extreme anyway. What he does normally is really intense.
Who is it?
It's Bob Flanagan, an L.A. based performance artist. When we were trying to find someone to cast in the 'Happiness In Slavery' video, Jon showed up with this tape saying "We've got the guy". We put the tape in and we don't need any special effects. (laughs)
Yeah, we just saw the book! (laughs) (Bob Flanagan: Super Masochist, RE/Search People Series, Volume 1)
You have to wonder. I was intrigued not in a sensationalist way. One of the other reasons we chose Bob, is that his face has a tendency to express the line between agony and ecstasy. While he was doing it, his wife (Sheree Rose,a dominatrix) would be pulling his toes apart and he'd be screaming. Actually, the last track on 'Fixed' ('Screaming Slave') on which you can hear screaming and moaning, well, that's Bob, from the video. It was his little cameo.
So we finished that, did one for 'Pinion' with a guy from New York. It's the intro music of Broken with no vocals. It was the only one we gave to MTV. A minute long video, so it was on - fades out. What the fuck was that? (laughs)
Then I talked to Peter. We wanted a more performance orientated video for 'Wish'. It was totally cool working with Peter as we get on well. There came a point afterwards, where I thought no-one has seen most of the videos, how can I put it out where it's not our three videos and some backstage footage. So I called Peter and asked him to think of an idea where we can put this out on tape where they are thematically connected. A week later he came back with an idea that is awesome but extreme and involved making another video, for 'Gave Up'.
The theme involved, elements of Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer where your point of view is that of a hand held camera of the abductors. You're riding about L.A. and you see this kid on the street. Next thing, you know, that kid is tied up in a garage somewhere. Inside the garage is a TV, and on that TV you'll see the beginning of one of our videos, it zooms into the video and at the end it zooms out and whatever was happening in the video starts getting done to the kid. This eventually leads to the last thing - 'Gave Up' - which is the most extreme thing I've ever seen in my whole life. We edited it at my house. It was unbelievably real, it made Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer look like a fuckin' Bambi movie. It was frighteningly real and sick because it was a couple of generation old videos, so it looked like a snuff film. We edited it and Peter said "Don't worry. We can edit it", and I said "Fuck it, lets make it exciting to where we're into it". So for about a week we got it done and we were finishing it at the online place and the people there were sickened, to the extent they couldn't watch it. There was dismemberment to corpse fucking to gore. It was sick.
Do you think you will release it? Maybe an edited version?
I don't know where we'd begin to edit it down, because it's not a scene, the tone is just so oppressive. So, if we were to release it we'd have to put it out the way it is. But the reality is: Peter was afraid because of the laws in England, I guess, and I was reserved about the idea of having to explain it. I just wanted to make a cool film but the record label would get all kinds of shit. Then there is the negative aspect - he's just trying to out do himself - and he's living in the Tate house. I don't know what we'll do with it.
Haven't you had problems with video before?
Yeah, I don't know how out of proportion that story's got. Essentially, all that happened when we were doing our first ever video, 'Down In It', in Chicago was: We had a bunch of Super 8 cameras, that we were running about with, dropping them off buildings letting the film run. Most of it looked like shit, but we did some things where we'd attach cameras to helium filled weather balloons and let them go up. Then we'd run the film back so it looked like you were dropping it on my head. We did that with one and the tethers snapped and the balloon went up. We were in an alley between buildings so we ran up onto the roof and when we got there, it was the furthest thing you could see - heading off to some unknown. I remember thinking I hope that doesn't drop on someone's head and kill them!! (laughs)
That was it, until a year later when my manager, called me up "You'll not believe this, I just talked to the Chicago police. Do you remember that camera?" I was like "Oh fuck, someone's dead. I'm going to jail". But no, it had dropped in some farmer's field and he thought it was an FBI camera looking for marijuana. He had taken it to the cops, who developed it and they thought it was a gang killing. They had seen me lying on the ground with corn starch on me. It looked like I was dead and had been rotting for a couple of weeks. Plus there were crazy people looking up at the camera. It was silly but funny.
Does the medium of video appeal to you?
In some ways but I think the medium of video is shitty. To make one you have to spend so much money and if it's not within a certain range the only avenue that could use it won't. MTV won't tell your their guidelines, that way they can bend them. Cop Shoot Cop have a couple of good videos you won't have seen. MTV don't show them as they don't like the name. They don't realise it's about heroin. While at the same time you switch it on and Snoop Dog is talking about killing cops with people shooting guns in the video.
To bring this up to date. Could you tell us about the new album?
I'm calling it The Downward Spiral.
Does that allude to Manson at all? It's like a description of a Helter Skelter?
Umm (laughs) No. Let them talk. (laughs) We've got a lot of songs with 'Pig' in it, but no. I think, it is a step ahead. There's no real singles on it. It's more instrumental, and slower, less dancey but not as metal as Broken, it's just not the same formula of songwriting.
More experimental then?
I think so. Possibly to a point of self indulgence.
Did your surroundings affect the recording in any way?
Well, it was all written there. Just being there had a lot to do with it. Though I can't say the bass sounded better (laughs). I had to get out of there. I was going insane being in a room for a year. I'm glad it's done and I never want to spend that long ever again.
What sort of reaction do you expect it to get?
I don't know, I mean, in Europe we're not that big and the last time we played in the US was two years ago and when Broken came out it went Top 10 - and quickly plummeted. We're kinda out of fashion, in a way. In terms of popular music, it has to be grungy guitars, which I think is boring and has been done before. I don't see it (The Downward Spiral) as being a big commercial success, Not that it is not good. Today's world is so single and MTV oriented, it's not going to challenge Pearl Jam for the top of the charts. (laughs)
So maybe you'll be left with those who like it, as opposed to those who just tag on to a trend...
I hope so but I could be wrong. It's hard to think of it in those terms. I want to make a record true to myself but then I put on my other hat and think as a fan, would I be pissed to hear every song is a dirge instrumental. I'd be lying if I don't think these things or at least question them, but I wouldn't then think I'd better write 5 pop hit singles. It's been a weird album. It'll be interesting to see what happens.
The Downward Spiral is available now. A difficult and demanding recording, riddled with Mansonesque "pig" terminology where the listener is lambasted with Trent's hellish vision of life, sex and religion. Assuredly Nine Inch Nail's most accomplished released and very much recommended. Unsurprisingly, the video remains locked in the vaults, for the time being. The so-called Sharon Tate house was demolished in late December 1993. Nothing the label operated by Trent Reznor and John A. Malm Jr have signed Coil, Marilyn Manson and Prick amongst others. Expect releases as of when.