Home from a soldout trip through Europe, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, Trent Reznor is back in New Orleans preparing for Fragility v2.0, Nine Inch Nails' American tour. This forty-three-round, ten-week cross-country bout will be his first U.S. shows in five years. "I'm very, very much looking forward to it," says Reznor. "Every date we played [abroad] reminded me of how much I longed to be back touring in America."
As you might expect from someone who took years to record his latest album, The Fragile, Reznor has been involved with every aspect of planning the tour. "In the studio, I'm in fine-art mode," he says. "I do purely what appeals to me and don't try to cater to an audience. In a live situation, I put myself in the seat of the fans." There will be plenty of cuts from The Fragile to Reznor's surprise, the new songs "The Day the World Went Away" and "Even Deeper" are particularly fun to play. "But there's a fair portion of older material as well," he says. "I know people want to hear the stuff they love."
Reznor's Pink Floyd obsession hasn't gone away. Bob Ezrin, producer of The Wall, helped him find a story line for The Fragile; now Reznor is working with veteran Floyd lighting designer Mark Brickman. "We're trying something never before done: using LCD monitors as lights rather than image projectors," says Reznor. "There's a good level of being unsure of what we're about to do. If I felt too confident, I'd be playing it safe." He warns us not to take the Floyd parallel too far, though. "It's not so much of a narrative theme as something like The Wall," he says. "The similarities are more in terms of pacing, climaxes, peaks and valleys – moments of restraint leading up to bigger moments of assault."
Gearing up for the assault are multi-instrumentalists Robin Finck, Danny Lohner and Charlie Clouser, and new drummer Jerome Dillon. Fans will also get their first taste of Reznor's friends A Perfect Circle, led by Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan and one-time NIN guitar-tech Billy Howerdel. Keenan describes the music as "more accessible than things I've done in the past. There's a lot more introspection and melody. I have high hopes for it. But there's no competing with the Nails. Their show is going to be devastating."
Reznor isn't planning to pummel fans into submission, though. He predicts the high point of the show will be the final tune. "We generally end with the song 'Hurt,' "he says. "It's a very quiet, intimate way to close the show. That last minute, there's a feeling of release that you've actually survived the set, and a sense of connection that I see in people's eyes."
What makes it worthwhile, according to Reznor, "is not so much playing the right note, but seeing people interpret what I've given them and make it their own."
This story is from the April 27th, 2000 issue of Rolling Stone.