Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails is the focus of an article published in this week’s issue of The New Yorker which reviews one of the NIN shows that recently took place at Terminal 5 in NYC and expounds more broadly on TR‘s career in music. The piece is a very good one for introducing those unfortunately unfamiliar with Nine Inch Nails (all 5 of you out there) and is, IMHO, a nice send off now that NIN won’t be performing live at the close of the Wave Goodbye Tour. Here are some exerpts from the New Yorker article on Nine Inch Nails:
In 1988, a twenty-three-year-old Cleveland resident named Trent Reznor decided to record several demos of his songs. He’d been playing in local bands since 1984, and had learned a fair amount about recording at a local studio named Right Track, where he’d started as a janitor and eventually become an engineer. Reznor was hoping to be signed to the independent Chicago label Wax Trax and to put out records alongside the aggressive electronic-music bands he admired, like Front 242 and Ministry. Instead, Reznor’s demos became the bulk of an album called “Pretty Hate Machine,” which was released on the TVT label under the band name Nine Inch Nails and went on to sell more than three million copies. Over the past twenty years, Reznor has produced seven Nine Inch Nails albums, and has written, played, and engineered almost all of the music himself. (Additional drummers have appeared on some of the albums, along with a smattering of guest instrumentalists and singers) … Nine Inch Nails and bands in their loose cohort have not traditionally been given much room on the radio; aside from a few hits on MTV, this is music that for the past two decades has lived in the headphones of angry teens. The typical Reznor topics are loathing and self-loathing. “Meet Your Master,” from “Year Zero” (2007), sounds like the cry of a downtrodden nation, or, at least, a downtrodden high-school basketball team: “You’ll do as you’re told, used to be the leader, now comes the time to serve. Maybe we’ll show some mercy, maybe you’ll get what you deserve.” It’s a direct echo of lines from a song on “Pretty Hate Machine”: “Head like a hole, black as your soul, I’d rather die than give you control. Bow down before the one you serve, you’re going to get what you deserve.” Reznor doesn’t have a particularly grim backstory—he grew up with his grandparents, liked to pole fish with his grandfather, took piano lessons, and played Judas Iscariot in his high school’s production of “Jesus Christ Superstar”—but he has written some very durable “Fuck you, Man!” songs … Reznor is completing a brief tour, which he has dubbed the “Wave Goodbye” tour; he claims that these will be the last Nine Inch Nails live shows for a long time. Sick of “repeating the same day over and over again,” he will concentrate on writing music and on developing a futuristic TV series based on “Year Zero.” Because his songs rely so heavily on looped samples and relentless, machine-made rhythms, Reznor has had to find musicians skillful enough to play along with lockstep noise. For this tour, he has assembled his strongest lineup yet. His current drummer, twenty-one-year-old Ilan Rubin, auditioned for Reznor last year by sending video clips of himself performing Nine Inch Nails songs. At Terminal 5, all I could see of Rubin was a mane of curly brown hair and long arms whipping through the air. (Reznor told the crowd, “I haven’t been able to find a set list yet that can kill him.”) The bassist, Justin Meldal-Johnson, switches easily between various electric and acoustic basses, and also plays keyboards and guitar with the more reserved stage presence of someone raised on indie rock. Robin Finck, who played guitar in one incarnation of Guns N’ Roses, reproduces some of the dozens of harsh guitar tones Reznor has written over the years, and is not averse to swinging his guitar on its strap like a pendulum and skipping across the stage when Reznor isn’t using it. Reznor spends most of each show planted at the front of the stage with his legs in a runner’s stance, gripping the microphone stand with both hands, now and then pogoing with the crowd. He takes phenomenal care in creating his myriad sonic hues, and presents them onstage without pauses or missteps. He’s not big on improvisation—a Nine Inch Nails performance has the smooth continuity of a Broadway show or a well-executed airlift. When the band played “March of the Pigs,” the guitars and screams and strobe lights all fired at the same moment: “Step right up! March! Push! Crawl right up on your knees!” Songs like “March of the Pigs” typify Reznor’s particular talents: lyrics and beats that are simple enough to encourage a visceral response, set against a structured noise that is strange enough to keep things from becoming too predictable.
This superbly written piece can be read in full HERE and I urge all NIN fans, whether they are familiar with The New Yorker or not, to check out this piece. While many feel that Trent Reznor and NIN speak to the disenfranchised and angry, I think it’s important to clarify that that aggressive clarity comes from a place of intelligence … which The New Yorker highlights adeptly. It’s a great read and I am so happy that The New Yorker decided to review the Terminal 5 show and enlighten on NIN as a whole. Having my favorite magazine publish a favorable article on my favorite band is quite a treat!!