CLOUD NINE

RISING STAR/NINE INCH NAILS CREATOR TRENT REZNOR IS TAKING HIS FRIENDS ALONG FOR THE RIDE.

"We were looking for people whose personalities fit with us," Vrenna notes. "It's nice to have people who have the chops of a professional studio musician, but that's not all that important, because our parts aren't written for that kind of player. It's much more important that everybody be able to get along and work together."

The quintet engaged in extended woodshedding before taking to the highway, and in the process, arrangements of familiar NIN cuts such as "Closer" and "Reptile" were altered. Still, the continuing use of some taped backing tracks prevents off-the-cuff improvisation. "I have to play with a click track the entire show," Vrenna says. "Sometimes there won't be anything on the tape, but I have to keep the headphones on, because eventually something will be. Something will come in and I still have to be completely locked. So Trent can't be doing a guitar solo and think, `This is going pretty good. Let's extend it for another sixteen bars.' We could never do that."

Even so, NIN '94 quickly earned exceptional notices that culminated in a press frenzy brought on by this summer's Woodstock extravaganza, where the band played its set caked in mud. "It was totally weird the way they raved. I mean, USA Today spent all its time talking about Trent instead of Crosby, Stills and Nash," Vrenna recalls. "And the funniest part of the whole thing was, we played horribly that night. It definitely showed. It was fun, but we didn't play very well."

No matter. The media covering Woodstock needed a contemporary band to anoint to classic status, and Nine Inch Nails was it. The entertainment industry took notice as well; during a program following the festival, David Letterman spent most of a Late Show broadcast talking about how much the group frightened him. The Rolling Stone cover and the soundtrack to Oliver Stone's pretentious, scattershot film Natural Born Killers, which Reznor oversaw, followed in short order. Suddenly, Nine Inch Nails wasn't a cult band anymore. "Last month we were driving through upstate Washington, and we stopped in a little town at a McDonald's," Vrenna says. "And every single kid there knew who we were. It's taken five years, but now Trent has trouble going to the mall.

"It's been a long uphill climb. As opposed to these one-hit wonder bands that come out--their first record goes double-platinum in two weeks, and then a year later they're gone. There's no credibility there, because there wasn't any to begin with. But nobody's shoved us down people's throats. We don't give a shit about what people think. You know, fuck them. We're going to do what we're going to do, and if people follow it, great."

Spoken like Trent Reznor. Or a reasonable facsimile.
Nine Inch Nails, with Marilyn Manson and the Jim Rose Circus. 7:30 p.m. Thursday, October 20, McNichols Arena, $22, 290-

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