Nine Inch Nails' debut, "Pretty Hate Machine," is the fruit of two years' labor - a wonderously overbearing monstrosity that belies Reznor's humble manner. The opening track, Head Like a Hole, pairs wailing derision of the petty bourgeois with screeching guitar distorion; Sin and Down In It walk a tightrope of submission and degradation; The Only Time and Something I Can Never have are frustration distilled into a tangible form.
"It's a personal thing," Reznor says of "Pretty Hate Machine". "I see a lot of people over-analyzing, asking me if I've had a really tormented sex life, personal life... I haven't, not incredibly. I guess I've not always been the happiest person. The last few years have been a little darker than the rest. The premise of this record is a personal statementof what was in my head at the time. It's a sincere statement."
"I guess it has always been that way. Not that I'm Mr. Gloom or that I never smile. There's just a side of me that's come out recently, or that I've accepted, that was the main inspiration for these songs. It's what I've found I could express the best.
"Pretty Hate Machine"'s ten tracks offer a variegateed range of emotion, a human element that distinguishes Nine Inch Nails from its industrial/electronic peers.
"It was approached that way," Reznor explains, "I didn't want to come across as an industrial, snarling, Satan-singing entity. That's not what Nine Inch Nails is. I try to juxtapose some sort of life or sincerity onto a tougher musical edge that normally wouldn't fit together. You wouldn't hear Ministry going through what I go through. It's not intended to be in the Skinny Puppy vein - snarling and griping that the world sucks. It's not about politics or grandiose statements. It's more introspective. Internal decay and collapse happened to be my motivation at the time."
Written, arranged and programmed exclusively by Reznor, "Pretty Hate Machine" was a one-sided endeavor until its production stage, when Trent made room for collaboration with co-producers John Fryer (Love and Rockets, Cocteau Twins), Flood (Depeche Mode, Erasure) and Tackhead remix-masters Adrian Sherwood and Kieth LeBlanc.
"I'm pleased with the way it came out," says Reznor, "although working with a bunch of people was a roundabout, backwards way of doing a record. In an ideal situation, if I had musicians who I thought were competent and who I could collaborate with on an equal level, things would be easier. I could write songs faster and it would probably be more exciting. It would be nice to have input from people you respect. When there's somebody you just don't see eye-to-eye with, it's more of a hassle than anything."
"The way I write, there isn't anybody to bounce ideas off of. It's not like a band, where you've got so-and-so on guitar and a bass player and the whole four-piece format. I approached it knowing my tools and my limitations. I'm a shitty guitar player, but that's my style and that's where it's going to be. Same with bass and whatever else. The vocals were one take. I tried to create a very minimal feel."
"I think something that sets NIN apart from other groups of its ilk is that as much as I try not to do it, I still end up writing in a pop song vein. Also, I'm not coming from the same point of view as they are. I'm not saying it's better, it's just different. What I'm doing is taking a song and arranging it, rather than building up a groove and chanting over it."
Reznor has now assembled a young, impressionable touring unit; Chris Vrenna (drums), Richard Patrick (guitar) and Nick Rushe (keyboards).
"I'm not in the position to offer somebody a thousand dollars a week to rehearse," Reznor says, "So I took some young guys who were malleable, who would basically do what I want them to do but expand on it. The only context I've worked with them in so far is, 'Here are the songs, here are your parts, learn them.' When I start to do the next record, it'll be up in the air as to what happens. I don't see it becoming a democracy, ever."