Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails as he appears in the current
edition of Rolling Stone Magazine. Illustration by N Vetri.
My sweetest friend...
I'm sure the majority of you are aware of
You may also be aware that the current issue has within its pages the second part of The Immortals, taking the list up to 100.
At number 94, (sandwiched between Booker T. and the MG's and Lynyrd Skynyrd) is David Bowie's appreciation of Nine Inch Nails. The version that appears in Rolling Stone is edited down a little from David's original submission. But, naturally we have the full unedited version here for your reading pleasure. Take it away David...
#94 - Nine Inch Nails by David Bowie
When the gods of nasty sounds tacked audition cards to the trees around town encouraging the brutes of industrial rock to brawl for the crown, a small lad with a tuba was probably not what they had in mind for a contender. His name was Michael Trent Reznor, and he also played sax and piano and learned early in life how to engineer a recording studio console. He produced a terrific debut album called 'Pretty Hate Machine'. Melodically oriented and, because of record company contractual problems, supported by what became a three year tour, it birthed the first real mainstream breakthrough for industrial rock selling over a million copies.
Following Eno?s example, Trent Reznor unpacked his synth and threw away the manual. A decisive and important step in the creation of the new ?New Music? of the mid-nineties to be called ?The Downward Spiral?. He encouraged the computer to misconstrue input, willing it to spew out bloated misshapen chards of sound that pierced and lacerated the listener. As a companion piece to Baudelaire?s To the Reader, the preface to Flowers of Evil, second to the Velvet Underground there has never been better soul lashing in rock.
And Reznor understands imagery very well indeed. His clip for ?Closer? harnessed the creative engines of powerful image makers including Joel Peter Witkin and Man Ray and under the super-eye of Mark Romanek delivered possibly the decade?s most compelling visual counterpart to a song.
I?ll suggest that the best and most satisfying way to hear ?Spiral? is in 5.1. It takes on altogether more wound inflicting screams of despair as the sound swoops over you from six speakers as you sit in your comfy chair. The separation of instruments is extraordinary. It seems to underpin the intent somehow, maximize the alienation. Truly horrifying at times yet overall a seismic experience of both grandeur and horror.
I had a strange dream the other week. Lou Reed, myself and a friend known as Warren Peace, were having dinner in one of those old style Greenwich Village places where Pollock was supposed to have fought other painters. Our meal was served by one of the members of Einsturzende Neubauten. I slowly became aware of the house music and that it was infuriatingly familiar. Noticing my quizzical and upturned face, Blixa Bargeld (for our waiter was he) leaned in to me and whispered "The music is a birthday surprise for Lou. Trent Reznor remixed this version of Metal Machine Music as a present.".
As he said this, strands, splodges and blots from a Jackson early fifties ?drip? painting materialized in front of out faces. While the music got louder in volume, the paint, no longer bound to the canvas, hurtled around us faster and faster till we ran nauseous from the cafÃƒÂ© now chased by infernal screaming lavender, blue and black snakes.
And that is it really. Trent's music, built as it is on the now not insubstantial history of industrial and mechanical sound experiments contains a beauty that attracts and repels in equal measure. Nietzsche?s ?God Is Dead? to a nightclubbing dance beat and always lifted at the most needy moment by a tantalizing melody. He?s a fine musician that boy.
I cannot believe that ?Spiral? was released over ten years ago now. It is absolutely time for him to bring on his new work. And from what I know of him, it will indeed be singularly and uncompromisingly effective, putting to shame and disqualifying most of what passes as chart fodder. And no, no-one ever calls him Mickey.
David Bowie 2005