I absolutely refuse for this to be the last time I write about Trent Reznor — and it won’t be. But what I’d like this to be is an open letter, less for protest, but rather more for clarification. Because the phrase ‘disappear for a while’ is certainly one of the last things you’d like to hear being spoken by the man responsible for producing the music you discovered you couldn’t not love the first time you watched Mark Romanek’s ‘Perfect Drug‘, then enamoured by its absinthe-coloured allusion. Indeed that was also the same year I had listened to Bowie’s ‘I’m Afraid of Americans‘ and eventually figured out the connection amongst others that bound NIN to the 1997 hit single as well as to Tool, Jane’s Addiction, Aphex Twin, Mötley Crüe and producer Bob Ezrin. But I know better than to plead, for as any fan of Nine Inch Nails would know, Reznor’s announcement at the end of last year doesn’t really come as a surprise. Any exacting musician has good sense of when a break is needed. And the ongoing decline resulting from the industry’s marginally adaptive 1990s MO further backfiring in the face of the tightening of fans’ purse-strings in difficult economic times hasn’t exactly made it easy to fill concert halls to the brim.
So the news of an impending and indefinite hiatus has again resurfaced lately, in preparation for what may be considered the final assembling of NIN on-stage, touring alongside resurrected fellow Alt-Nation legends Jane’s Addiction. In an earlier statement issued by Reznor on the band’s official site, he wrote ‘2009 marks the 20th anniversary of our first releases. I’ve been thinking for some time now it’s time to make NIN disappear for a while. Last year’s ‘Lights in the Sky’ tour was something I’m quite proud of and seems like the culmination of what I could pull off in terms of an elaborate production. It was also quite difficult to pull off technically and physically night after night and left us all a bit dazed. After some thought, we decided to book a last run of shows across the globe this year. The approach to these shows is quite different from last year — much more raw, spontaneous and less scripted. Fun for us and a different way for you to see us and wave goodbye.’ He asks, ‘Will it work? Will it resonate in the marketplace? Who knows. Is there big record label marketing dollars to convince you to attend? Nope. Does it feel right to us and does it seem like it will be fun for us and you? Yes it does.’
And perhaps he’s right. After all, the NIN canon has continued on strong since 1989, and the last few in particular have led to milestones that would be best kept untarnished in memory. The output of Reznor’s multifaceted genius coupled with his ever-changing team of musicians, engineers and producers has survived a spate of conflicts facing music corpocracy since as early as the 1990s with TVT Music up until Reznor’s decision to split with Interscope in 2007. As he puts it, ‘Corporate rock still sucks.’ That considered, an intimate tour allowing fans to remember and revel in the previous twenty-seven halos would be just the thing that’s needed at a time like this to celebrate all that’s been put forth since Pretty Hate Machine. As such, there’s a real chance that I may fork over a large sum of money I don’t yet have for a ticket when the tour schedule is announced. I had the opportunity to see NIN perform in Brixton back in October 2007 whilst on the European leg of their Live: With Teeth tour, and my memory of the performance which culminated in a profoundly moving keyboard solo for the very same ‘Hurt‘ that Johnny Cash himself later re-interpreted to great effect is reason enough to see them again. And the Beside You in Time DVD (clip below) provides additional incentive, though unlikely needed.
It may be worth mentioning that I respect Trent Reznor as much as I enjoy listening to NIN, for his understanding in the complexities of groundbreaking composition as much as for his having endured twenty years whilst making progress through well-made decisions rather than following a falsely lucrative spiral down. Having stood his ground in regards to both preserving his creative independence and being outspoken with his view of the previous US administration (to the extent of choosing not to perform), Reznor has come a long way in achieving the career he has whilst also evolving into the man he is today. He’s known for having told fans to ‘steal‘ his music. And upon finding out that the US Military had reportedly been using his music in the torture of detainees, he immediately issued the following statement: ‘It’s difficult for me to imagine anything more profoundly insulting, demeaning and enraging than discovering music you’ve put your heart and soul into creating has been used for purposes of torture. If there are any legal options that can be realistically taken they will be aggressively pursued, with any potential monetary gains donated to human rights charities. Thank God this country has appeared to side with reason and we can put the Bush administration’s reign of power, greed, lawlessness and madness behind us.’
But I must admit that I dislike to even think that the word ‘final’ fits into this equation. Deep down, I still have a sneaking suspicion that a special edition DVD will follow, alongside a greatest hits round-up and perhaps some more of that phenomenal instrumental dreamscape composition from Reznor as seen on Ghosts I-IV (the first to be released under a Creative Commons license under his independent imprint The Null Corporation, accompanied by a visually successful video competition about which I shall be posting shortly). Maybe Tapeworm will be brought out from under the dust and revived, or maybe Reznor will produce IDM under an alias, to be released on his own net-based label to continue the trend he helped to begin with Radiohead and that now Portishead is considering to follow (more on that soon). Or maybe he’ll help to turn-out a few more protégés to combat the increasingly uninspired ‘twee‘ sound of the industry mainstream. Or eventually (ideally) this would culminate in a reunion tour of sorts, five or so years down the line…Who knows? But I do know one thing: This is most definitely not the last time I will be writing about Nine Inch Nails.
Sarah Badr © MMIX
Nine Inch Nails – ‘Beside You in Time’, 12 of 19
North America, Winter 2006 (Halo 22)
See also: The slip (pieces at random)