For the cover story of our new issue (which hits newsstands December 31st and is available online now), we visited Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross in their West Los Angeles studio for a deep dive into their creative endeavors, from their plans with Nine Inch Nails, to their award-winning work scoring films and TV shows, to their unlikely Country Music Association Award win for Lil Nas X's "Old Town Road." The full cover story is over 6,000 words long and references musique concrète and avant-garde composer William Basinski — if that sounds awesome to you, we urge you to pick up a copy of the magazine, and stay tuned for when we post the entire story online in early January. For those of you who prefer your content in a more "snackable" format, here are some standout takeaways from our two hours in the NIN inner sanctum.
1. Nine Inch Nails plan to play shows in 2020 and record new, collaborative music
"We're talking about doing some shows next year, maybe. Probably in the last half of the year," Reznor revealed during our visit. "We have a template for the next Nine Inch Nails thing we want to do." As for what that template is, he initially hesitated to spill the beans, but then quickly relented. "I'll give it away: collaboration. We've got a list of people we like. And we thought, kind of playing on the newfound spirit of collaboration that scoring has forced us into, seeing what happens when we mix our DNA with some other people, with a no pressure environment," he said. "Let's see what happens. If something good happens, then maybe the world can hear it. But if it doesn't, we put it in the pile with the other ..."
2. Reznor has yet to recapture the feeling he felt onstage at Woodstock '94
2019 marked the 25th anniversary of Nine Inch Nails' iconic mud-covered Woodstock '94 set, and when we spoke to Reznor about the performance, he noted that, even in the moment, he recognized that it was something special. And that he has yet to feel quite the same way about any live performance since. "When lightning strikes, you don't know when that's gonna happen — that zeitgeisty, being at the right place at the right time," he said. "We knew onstage, whatever is happening ... it felt like, this is important. We're right where we need to be, and this is it. And I don't say that arrogantly. I just mean you could feel it in a weird way. I haven't felt it like that since then."
3. He's come to peace with the fact that Nine Inch Nails' song "Closer" is a strip club anthem
Earlier this year, Revolver published a thinkpiece on "Closer"'s improbable legacy as "a strip club anthem," and when we presented with the opportunity, we had to ask Reznor about it. "You learn that once you release your child into the world, you're kind of powerless as to where it winds up or what people think of it," he told us. "I remember at one point early on, I was kind of, 'You don't get it! That's not what the fucking song's [about]! It's the opposite of that!' I haven't been in a strip club recently, but, um, it is what it is. ... I'm glad it's not, like, a fucking sports anthem."
4. Reznor believes Gibby Haynes of the Butthole Surfers leaked the infamous Broken movie
After Reznor saw the fake snuff film that director (and founding member of Throbbing Gristle and Coil) Peter Christopherson had created for NIN's Broken EP, he decided not to officially release it. But he did make a few VHS copies of it and gave them to friends. The video soon leaked and was eventually sold as a bootleg, spreading virally through increasingly degraded copies, gaining notoriety with each iteration. "I know exactly how it leaked because we made a few copies, and each one had a glitch in a different spot," Reznor said. "And I'm sure the one that leaked I gave to Gibby Haynes."
5. There's a full, unreleased Reznor-Ross movie score out there
Speaking to his and Ross' work for TV and film, Reznor revealed that the duo completed "an avant-garde score" for the Joe Wright–directed movie The Woman in the Window, starring Amy Adams and due to hit theaters in May 2020. But the film "underwent a transformation after some testing audiences," according to Reznor, and so the two decided to "bow out." "There's no animosity on our end," he added. "It's frustrating when you did that much work and it's gone. And we were proud — and they were proud — of the movie that it was."
6. Reznor and Ross "had a bad time" working on the 2018 Netflix thriller Bird Box
The duo recently released Bird Box / Null 09 Extended, a two-hour-plus collection of music created during the Bird Box scoring sessions, which Reznor and Ross found deeply unsatisfying the first time around. "When we got immersed in it, it felt like some people were phoning it in," Reznor said of the experience of working on the film. "And you're stuck with a film editor who had real bad taste. That's kind of our barricade to getting stuff in the film. And the final icing on the shit cake was we were on tour when they mixed it. And they mixed the music so low, you couldn't hear it anyway. So it was like, that was a ..." He laughed. "That was a fucking waste of time. Then we thought, no one's going to see this fucking movie. And, of course, it's the hugest movie ever in Netflix."
7. Their score for David Fincher's next movie, Mank, which is set in the Forties, will use period-authentic instrumentation — eliminating many of their favorite toys
Director David Fincher — who first dragged Reznor and Ross into the film-scoring game by enlisting them for 2010's The Social Network — is currently shooting the film Mank, a biopic about Herman J. Mankiewicz, the screenwriter of Orson Welles' Citizen Kane, played by Gary Oldman. As such, the movie is set in 1940. "We're not gonna be using the modular synthesizer on that one," Reznor revealed. "We think we're gonna be period authentic, so it just creates a new set of challenges."
8. Reznor's current studio is his first since Nothing Studios closed in 2004
In the 15 years since Reznor's famed New Orleans spot, Nothing Studios, shut its doors, much of Nine Inch Nails' work has been in rentals, hotel rooms and the two-car garage of his old home in Beverly Hills. "When I was a bachelor, whatever house I was living in was the studio with a bed in the corner," Reznor noted. "[Now] there's kids and maybe they don't feel like hearing that drumbeat all day long." When we met up with them, he and Ross have been in their new digs for only around eight months.
9. Reznor's kids dance to "Old Town Road"
Reznor and Ross made headlines earlier this year for winning a CMA Award for their inadvertent production work on Lil Nas X's record-breaking smash hit "Old Town Road," which samples the Nine Inch Nails instrumental "34 Ghosts IV" off the 2008 album Ghosts I-IV. Reznor says he didn't even listen to the song all the way through when he was first contacted about permission to use the sample. Eventually, he listened to the whole song a few times, and it ended up getting stuck in his head. "That one stuck in for quite some time," he told us, "and now it's made its way to where my kids are [playing] Just Dance 2020 and they're performing aerobic workouts to 'Old Town Road (Remix).'"
Ross added, "My only hope was that it would stay No. 1 forever. There's 33 other tracks that people can happily sample away."