Nine Inch Nails return to Europe to promote 2013's Hesitation Marks album next month...and Trent Reznor is rather excited. “Fuck you, wait 'til you see this!” he roars.
What was it that made you resurrect Nine Inch Nails?
“It really wasn’t part of a plan. I’d taken some time off from Nine Inch Nails because it felt like I’m not sure what to do with it any more: I’ve done it, and I think I’ve done it well, and rather than grind it into milking it for everything it’s worth and it becoming a nostalgic career thing, let’s try some new shit.”
So why return under the NIN banner?
“Well, I think, after doing the film stuff, I started thinking about putting myself back in the spotlight and writing some music, like, let’s see if it fits under the heading of Nine Inch Nails. What I started experimenting with _did__ _feel like an advancement of what Nine Inch Nails could be. Not thinking about world tours, I started writing a collection of songs, which became an album, then inevitably the talk comes up, ‘Would you like to tour?‘”
The production on your recent tours looks huge! What can we expect to see? Will it all be coming over [to Europe]?
“That’s a good question. What we’re doing right now is trying to keep every aspect of the tour feeling a little bit different. Let me explain it better: a year or so ago we committed to tour for a year, which would be the end of last summer through the fall of this year. And what’s different this time is trying to break it up so that each leg of the tour is a mini-tour. There’s a couple of reasons: it feels to me like, with file sharing and YouTube and every festival being web-cast around the world, that people have a lot more access than they used to have. If I played in Columbus, Ohio, it would happen in Columbus and the few thousand people there saw it and the rest of the world didn’t know or care. Now, through message boards and Twitter and everything else, it feels like someone’s spoiling the ending every night. No matter what I do, someone already knows that happened last night. So we made each leg its own thing, and the other side effect of that is that it makes it interesting for us because, believe it or not, it can start to fall into a routine, as much as you fight that and as great as it is to be on stage. When we build an incredibly elaborate production like the one we just did in the States, the consequence of that can be that, because it has a rigid reveal and moves from one place to another, almost like the plot line to a film, it also tends to be kind of rigid like a film, it can’t start at the end, and then the set list becomes fairly static. That’s a recipe for how to become stale as a performer.”
How accurately do your visions for a show come to life? Are they always as you imagined them?
“Usually not! It’s one thing to think about how you want to present things production-wise, looking at renderings of things, but it really is just a couple of weeks of production rehearsal. Everything’s in a room and the band’s there, and you get to feel the music live and you get to see it. Things don’t look the way you thought they would, but you generally end up in a place that’s more interesting _because__ _it doesn’t look how you thought it would. It’s always tense, right up to the first second of the first song.”
Are you working on any new music right now?
“I’m scoring a new David Fincher film right now. He’s got a film coming out, Gone Girl, that Alex and I started working on a few months ago. We’re kind of doing that behind the scenes on this tour. But at the moment I’m feeling inspired and that’s the only key ingredient to why I would do anything.”
How long can we realistically expect this Nine Inch Nails run to last? And what affects those decisions?
“Just if it feels right. Trying to put any aspect of what is good for a career or monetary value as something not to think about. If I feel like I have something to say and it needs to come out, and then if that fits in the column of Nine Inch Nails then something would happen.”
Downward Spiral turned twenty in March which seems weird. What are your thoughts on that?
“It’s weird for me, too! But then, I thought about this the other day, if you look out at the audience, they still look the same! Clearly it’s not the same people, but the first rows that I can see still feels like… I’m not at an Eagles concert with a bunch of orthodontists on a night out smoking pot!”
Let’s go back to the tour, if we could. It seems like you’ve always been accepted in the UK and Europe. If memory serves, your first London show was at a sold-out Forum.
“It’s nice to hear it that way, but I think through a serious of bad decision making in my career, whether it be what record label we’re on… like, first album purposely held from domestic release from you guys because they could sell more on imports, that kind of shit. It’s always felt like we were disproportionately big in North America and other places that we are in the UK. But I’ll take your version!”
What are the differences now with your mindset when you go on stage? Obviously it takes half an hour just to get to the stage in some of the big arenas. How does that affect you?
“Well, let me say, on a global scale it’s always fun playing clubs. You’re right there with people, they’re three feet away from you, there’s no security, you’re jumping on their heads and it’s interactive, no room for bullshitting, nowhere to hide on stage. It’s real. When that transforms into theatres it’s kind of the same energy, but it’s bigger and you’re playing a place that was designed to hear music: somebody may have considered acoustics. As that morphs into the necessity to play arenas, you can’t win! If you play four nights in theatres it’s, “Fuck you, it sold out in one second!” Okay, we’ll play and arena, “Fuck you, arenas suck!” So if we’re going to play arenas how do we transform that space into something that’s a cool place to see music? How do we make that an asset, rather than we’re in a big hockey arena with some asshole security guard making you sit in your seat? How do you make that space something that feels sexy? There’s the challenge! In terms of going over to the UK I still feel, and I’ve just thought about this talking to you, we’re have a lot to prove. I feel like we’re not the conquering heroes that are phoning it in with the audience. I feel like, fuck you, wait ‘til you see this!”
Nine Inch Nails play the following European shows in May/June:
May 6 Riga, Latvia Arena Riga
May 8 Helsinki, Finland Hartwell Arena
May 10 Stockholm, Sweden Hovet
May 12 Oslo, Norway Spektrum
May 13 Copenhagen, Denmark Forum
May 15 Berlin, Germany Zitadelle
May 16 Esch-sur-Alzette Luxembourg Rockhal
May 18 Birmingham, UK LG Arena
May 20 Glasgow, UK Hydro
May 21 Cardiff, UK Motorpoint Arena
May 23 London, UK O2 Arena
May 24 Nottingham, UK Capital FM Arena
May 25 Manchester, UK Phones 4U Arena
May 27 Amsterdam, Holland Heineken Music Hall
May 28 Antwerp, Belgium Lotto Arena
May 29 Paris, France Le Zenith
May 31 Barcelona, Spain Primavera Sound Festival
June 1 Toulouse, France Le Zenith
June 3 Bologna, Italy Unipol Arena
June 4 Zurich, Switzerland Hallenstadion