What Reznor learned from Bowie
Trent Reznor remembers being given “shamanish advice” by David Bowie when Nine Inch Nails were touring with the pop-rock icon – and Reznor was at the height of his addiction issues.
Now he’s cleaned up his act, and getting set to tour new NIN album Hesitation Marks, he appreciated Bowie’s lesson all the more.
Reznor tells the Guardian: “When we toured with Bowie, this was the Bowie that had come out the other side and was happily married. I was nearing the peak of my addiction, and his role to me was kind of mentor, big brother, friend – and also he’d give me kind of shamanish advice.
“He was playing everything from his Outside album and he said: ‘You guys are going to destroy us on stage because we’re not playing anything anybody wants to hear. Nobody really wants to hear this new album. What they want to hear is The Jean Genie and all the hits – but I don’t have it in me to do that now.’
“I thought, ‘That’s kind of dumb on one hand.’ Then I thought: ‘To build a persona or a sound, and it’s not broken and worn out, then throw it out and try something new? Man, it takes balls to do that. Would I ever have the courage to do that, or would I do careers and expectations and fitting in?’”
The answer may be hidden in the tracks of Hesitation Marks, released on September 2, which sees Reznor on the far side of his own addiction journey. “I’ve learned to recognise – a lot of it forced through the process of recovery – that I’m wired wrong in certain ways,” he reflects.
“The chemical balance of my brain is off in terms of depression a little bit. The despair and loneliness and rage and isolation and the not-fitting-in aspect still is in me, but I can express that in a way that feels more appropriate to who I am now. And often that rage is quieter.”
Reznor says: “I hear that I’m a prick at times; but I just want to do the best work I can do. Not unrealistic, but it’s kinda unrealistic. Nine Inch Nails is like building an army to go conquer. We build it, then we play, and we have to play so much to validate building it, financially.
“It leads to getting burn-out because a tour that would be fun if it lasted three weeks has to last 15 weeks.”
NIN play the Reading and Leeds festivals on the weekend of August 23-25.