Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor Reveals Why He Thought ‘The Downward Spiral’ Would Bomb


Trent Reznor revealed in a new interview with Zane Lowe that he did not expect Broken and The Downward Spiral to do well commercially with fans. Alternative Nation transcribed his comments.

“The unifying thread to me was, when I was working on demos for the first album, I knew I wanted to do this, whatever this was back then. But the songwriting portion of it, I was feeling my way around, what do I have to say? I didn’t live this exotic life, I grew up in a town in Pennsylvania, kind of boring. What dawned on me, is when I was as truthful as I could possibly be, and as honest as I could be, it had a power that wasn’t the posturing of trying to emulate people I liked. I loved The Clash, I don’t have a lot to say with the same authenticity of what they were saying, with their worldview. What I did know about is how I felt about myself, and my struggles to figure out who, what, and why, from my own perspective.

Hitting the pause button, one could say the courage of exposure of sharing that, I think that’s kind of what defined Nine Inch Nails initially. Every time it comes time to make something new creatively, it requires pausing for a minute, and shedding whatever ego I have at that moment, and kind of realizing how I feel right now probably isn’t the same as the last major time I did this, which may have been a couple years before with the last album. What do I have to say as the person I am right now?”

“That’s been a struggle, and I’m sure that’s a struggle for all artists who write their own music, is trying to figure [that] out. My life before Pretty Hate Machine was a loaf of bread could last a week, and my expenses were down to a couple hundred bucks a month I could survive to the next month. Then you make a record with no expectation other than your own, trying to make the best record that you can, and you’re in a van playing in front of people that you don’t know in cities you’ve never been to. You can pay the gas bill without worrying about it this month, that’s nicer than it was six months earlier.

When it comes time to write a new batch of songs, now you have something you didn’t have before, which is fans, interests, and it crosses your mind, what do they want? Because life is a lot more interesting now that they’re around, but do I cater to them? But if I’m moving this way, and it’s not that close to the thing I did before, you’re faced with a dilemma.

When I turned in Broken, I thought that would eliminate the people that were there the first time around for Pretty Hate Machine. When I turned in The Downward Spiral, it was with an apology for Jimmy [Iovine], saying: ‘Thanks for buying me out of my contract. Sorry, I had to do it.'”