Trent Reznor Discusses NIN’s Failed Sessions With Arcade Fire Producer, Skepticism About Rock Hall Nomination, U2’s Devaluing Music

Trent Reznor recently sat down with Billboard for a great interview which touched on a wide range of topics, including his Gone Girl score, failed Hesitation Marks recording sessions with Arcade Fire producer Markus Dravs, his Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame nomination, and his new role at apple as chief creative officer for Beats Music. Here are some interesting tidbits:

On the failed Hesitation Marks recording sessions with Markus Dravs:

…On the last album, Hesitation Marks, we did something that impressed me. I said, “This same team of people have done the last several albums, we’re comfortable with each other. I know what’s going to happen. Let’s bring in someone else as a producer. And let’s empower them to see what happens.”

It meant everyone taking a step back and relinquishing some power. At some point we all went, “This is bullshit. This isn’t leading to a better result. This is just clutter.” It only lasted a couple weeks.

Who was the producer, and what was the difference in approach?
It was Markus Dravs, who has worked with Arcade Fire quite a bit. He’s a song-based guy that’s less a studio rat, engineer-type like we are. I don’t want to throw him under the bus. I’m not here to talk shit about him. But there was a lot of “Let’s get an ensemble of people to play this thing,” and “We need an arranger to do that.” It didn’t feel like it was leading anywhere. I respect the guy and it didn’t end in a fistfight or anything. He was a means to an end to make us realize that our instincts about the record were the right way to go. The record that was finished, I’m very proud of. It felt like a reinvention to me.

On Nine Inch Nails’ recent Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame induction nomination:

Nine Inch Nails has been nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. What would it mean to you to be inducted?
I don’t know. Having won a couple Grammys for stupid shit — best metal performance — it’s hard to feel good about the integrity of that. The politics involved and the fact [the Grammys are] a TV show trying to get ratings led me to a pretty sour stance on the world of awards.

When The Social Network came up and suddenly there’s the Oscar and Golden Globes, it felt like it’s coming from a more sincere pedigree. I’m not saying there’s not politics and bullshit, but [it was] my first look into how many different crafts are involved in making a film and how seriously each of those crafts takes that process — it felt different. Two days [after winning the Oscar] did I wake up feeling any different? No. I still can find a sour outlook on life. But I have a nice thing on my mantle now.

With the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I was in Cleveland when they were campaigning to get it built there, and I remember doing whatever you needed to do — make a phone call from the phone of the music shop I worked at — to try to raise public enthusiasm. That’s probably the most attention I had spent on it because I thought it would be nice to have some civic pride in Cleveland. But I find it flattering to be one of the nominees. It would be an honor to be a part of that if it goes that way. And if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I’ve done the best work I can do.

About his role at Apple:

You’re working with Apple. Is this an evolution of your Beats role?
It’s related to that. Beats was bought by Apple, and they expressed direct interest in me designing some products with them. I can’t go into details, but I feel like I’m in a unique position where I could be of benefit to them. That does mean some compromises in terms of how much brain power goes toward music and creating. This is very creative work that’s not directly making music, but it’s around music.

Is it about music delivery?
It’s in that world. It’s exciting to me, and I think it could have a big enough impact that it’s worth the effort. I’m fully in it right now, and it’s challenging, and it’s unfamiliar and it’s kind of everything I asked for — and the bad thing is it’s everything I asked for.

And on U2’s surprise album release:

What did U2 get right — and what did the band get wrong — with the Songs of Innocence delivery through iTunes?
As an artist, when I make a piece of music, I’d like you to know it’s out there. I don’t want to force it down your throat, but I would like you to know that if you’d like to, you might brush against it — it exists somewhere. So I can see the incentive behind what they wanted to do. I was with Bono that day. I was at the Apple event and we were hanging out after they did it. There’s an immense sense of pride toward the album he just spent several years making. He was very proud of what he did.

I think the misstep was the wording: If it would’ve been, “Here it is, if you want it, come grab it…” I am assuming the momentum of that situation led to the oversight in not thinking that people might feel intruded upon.

A recent touchstone was the Beyoncé record, which had a high price and put a high value on music. Putting no price on an album: Does that devalue things?
It’s something I spent a lot of time thinking about. I think that paying for music is a relic of an era gone by — and I’m saying that as somebody who hopes you pay for music. I’ve spent my life trying to make this thing that now everyone thinks should be free. U2, there [was] an incentive to get in front of as many eyes as possible. I can see what was appealing to them about that, and they’re getting paid for it. There’s the argument of, “Did that help further devalue music?” Yes, I think it did.

When you put your music on, or allow your music to be on, YouTube, which is free, is that [devaluing music]? There’s a whole generation of kids that listen to music on YouTube, and they’ll suffer through that ad if there is one. They’re not going to pay a dollar for that song — why would you? It’s a complex problem.

You can read the full interview here.

[Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty.]