Speaking to the Consequence of Sound website ahead of his participation in the A Bowie Celebration: Just For One Day livestream tribute concert, Reznor is effusive in his praise for the visionary English musician, who was born on this day (January 8) in 1947.
“In terms of chronology, it was the Scary Monsters album that I [first] became aware of Bowie’s music,” Reznor says. ‘None of my friends were super-big Bowie fans. But there was something about Scary Monsters… it really resonated. Then I started moving forwards and backwards in his catalog at that time. And then over the next few years, I had the pleasure of going through Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust and Station to Station. He just really started to become the best archetype for someone who has a fantastic voice and was kind of an actor pretending to be a rock star, in a way, which seemed to give him the ability to reinvent himself in ways that just felt like it would take a lot of courage to have had success at something and then throw it away and try something new.”
As Nine Inch Nails began to get global attention with the Pretty Hate Machine album, Reznor says he regarded Bowie as a touchstone for the idea of staying true as an artist: “There was that kind of influence from a distance, a fan level, aside from the music emotionally connecting with me,” he explains.
Down the line, Nine Inch Nails supported Bowie on his ’95/’96 Outside tour, with the two men often sharing the stage to perform together, and becoming friends. At a time when Reznor was staring into the abyss, suffering from depression, and nursing a heroin habit, Bowie’s concern and guidance was a source of strength.
“What really left the biggest impression on me was there I was in a bad state of addiction and kind of going down the toilet,” says Reznor. “And he was on the other end to have come out of it. And there were the few kind of big brother / fatherly times where he’d call me aside and kind of get on my shit: You need to get your shit together. It doesn’t have to end up down there. He didn’t say this, but look at where he was. He was happy. He was still taking chances.”
Nine Inch Nails’ mainman says that he still thinks about Bowie “all the time”, and still regularly listens to the singer’s music.
“I’m grateful that our lives intersected, and I’m grateful for – whether he knew it or not – how much he helped me in those dark times before I chose to get my shit together,” he acknowledges. “And I can hear his voice. He penetrated through the layers of bullshit that I’d built around myself. I’m grateful for that.”
Reznor will take part in tonight’s tribute concert to his friend and mentor.
Hosted by Mike Garson, David Bowie’s longest standing band member, the A Bowie Celebration… event will feature a host of stars from the rock world, including Joe Elliott (Def Leppard), Billy Corgan (The Smashing Pumpkins), Gavin Rossdale (Bush), Perry Farrell (Jane’s Addiction), Ian Astbury (The Cult), Mott The Hoople’s Ian Hunter and Ground Control, a new band featuring Corey Taylor alongside Dave Navarro and Taylor Hawkins.
They’ll join alumni of Bowie’s bands spanning his 1969 self-titled album through to his final album, Blackstar, including the singer’s childhood friend Peter Frampton and Rick Wakeman. Bowie’s longtime record producer Tony Visconti will also participate.
Kicking off at 6 pm PT / 2am GMT, the three hour show will be available for ticket holders for 24 hours after its initial stream. Organisers of the event are to donate $2 per ticket purchase to Save the Children.