Trent Reznor: 'Hesitation Marks' Feels Sparse and Minimal

Nine Inch Nails leader says 'The Downward Spiral' influenced new LP

Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails performs in London.
Will Ireland/Rhythm Magazine via Getty Images
Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails performs in London.
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It's been five years since Trent Reznor released a Nine Inch Nails album, but despite the gap, the musical mastermind feels their upcoming album Hesitation Marks is a natural progression. "What fear I had – of 'What does Nine Inch Nails have to say in 2013?' – this is it," Reznor told The New York Times. " I don't feel like it's trying to force something into the wrong container."

Although Reznor had been publicly focused on How to Destroy Angels over the past few years, he was also simultaneously writing and recording new NIN tracks. Reznor pointed to NIN's acclaimed 1994 album The Downward Spiral as a strong influence on the tone and lyrics of the new material. "I felt very aware that it's 20 years later, and I'm still that guy," Reznor said. "I know that guy, and I feel for him. I don't resent him, I don't miss him. But how would things feel on the other side of that now, in a much more stable life place, mentally and physically, and with a new family?"

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He continued, "The incentive has changed. It's not about, 'I'm going to kill myself if I don't get this out of my head.' But the excavation and the architecture behind it, the motivation behind it, is similar."

Reznor composed much of the album on his laptop and toned down the intensity of his vocals. "It feels sparse, and it feels minimal," he said. "It's hard for me to do that. I've realized over the years that if I have 100 tracks, I'll use 110 tracks. This was really about economy. It was just a weird puzzle of grooves."

That doesn't mean the record won't have teeth. "I don't think it's a gentle record. I do think it's more subversive in how it gets you," Reznor said. "It's not about everything being at 11 and the pyrotechnics of sound and scare tactics, which I've definitely used in the past. But it doesn’t feel like the middle-aged, I’ve-given-up record either."

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Reznor is also hitting the road with a revamped NIN lineup (though it's already seen some changes) and a live show for their upcoming festival gigs that draws on elements from the 1983 Talking Heads tour captured in Stop Making Sense. Reznor will emerge first, alone, and his band will gradually form around him as visuals continue to up the stakes. After the festival shows, Nine Inch Nails will go with a completely different show for an arena tour that begins in September. 

"The fact that we're doing all this only for these few shows, and then we have to do it over again, throwing all this out to do a completely new thing, with new things that won't work . . . that feels a little insane," Rezner said.

Hesitation Marks is set for release on September 3rd. NIN are currently touring Asia, and will play Lollapalooza on August 2nd in Chicago. They'll close out their run of festival shows on September 1st at the Made in America festival in Philadelphia. Their "Tension 2013" tour will kick off September 28th at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota.