“It felt weird – that’s my song!” Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor reveals his first reaction to Johnny Cash’s Hurt cover

Trent Reznor in 2023 and Johny Cash in 1999
(Image credit: Jerod Harris/Getty Images for Knott's Berry Farm | Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

Nine Inch Nails mastermind Trent Reznor has revealed his reaction to the Johnny Cash cover of one of his band’s signature songs, Hurt.

Hurt was released as a single from the US industrial rock titans’ magnum opus, The Downward Spiral, in 1994, and was covered by Cash for his 2002 album American IV: The Man Comes Around.

In a new video interview with GQ (embedded below), Reznor has said that it “felt weird” hearing the cover, and that he couldn’t properly process it at first due to being midway through making 1999 NIN album The Fragile.

“[American IV producer] Rick Rubin is a friend and called and said, ‘Would you mind if we tried this song?’,” Reznor reflected (as transcribed by Louder).

“[I replied,] ‘Of course not!’ It seemed weird, [but] I assumed they’re probably doing a hundred songs.”

The musician continued: “Then I get the recording a little bit later and that felt weird, because that’s my song! That big voice in there, it felt weird.

“I remember, I was in the middle of The Fragile when I heard it, [and I thought,] ‘I’m not ready to process what this is right now. Cool, you know?’”

However – upon seeing the music video for Cash’s cover, directed by Mark Romanek – Reznor developed an appreciation for the country star’s version.

“The thought of, ‘Here’s a thing I wrote from a very intimate place and it’s connected to someone else with a larger-than-life personality, then oddly it becomes an epitaph for his life, filmed by one of the greatest directors ever and presented in such a beautiful way,’ it reminds you of the power of music and how important it is.”

Cash died on September 12, 2003, aged 71, six months after his rendition of Hurt was released as a single.

Later in the same interview, Reznor also reflected on touring as the support act for David Bowie in 1995, during which time the enigmatic English musician joined the band onstage for performances of Hurt.

“Life was getting weird for me at the time,” he remembered, “but it still seemed impossible that this was happening.

“I distinctly remember standing onstage, looking over and [seeing] David Bowie singing my song with me and thinking, ‘How the fuck is this happening?!’”

As well as leading Nine Inch Nails, Reznor, alongside his bandmate Atticus Ross, has soundtracked multiple films, including Gone Girl, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, The Social Network and Soul.

The pair recently scored Luca Guadagnino film Challengers, which will be released theatrically in the US on April 26, 2024.

Matt Mills
Contributing Editor, Metal Hammer

Louder’s resident Gojira obsessive was still at uni when he joined the team in 2017. Since then, Matt’s become a regular in Prog and Metal Hammer, at his happiest when interviewing the most forward-thinking artists heavy music can muster. He’s got bylines in The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Guitar and many others, too. When he’s not writing, you’ll probably find him skydiving, scuba diving or coasteering.