Trent Reznor: “When I Hear Grizzly Bear In A Volkswagen Commercial, It Kind Of Bums Me Out”
Nine Inch Nails are now fully back. Last week, the band released the new EP ADD VIOLENCE, which followed last year’s Not The Actual Events. And there’s another EP coming sometime soon, as well. Vulture reports that ADD VIOLENCE is “the second in a planned trio of releases all connected by the same cryptic story line.” And with NIN playing a bunch of upcoming festivals, it’s time for another long interview with mastermind Trent Reznor, who is one of the great rock-star interviews because he has thoughts on a whole lot of things and he isn’t afraid to say them on the record. Vulture’s David Marchese recently sat down with the man, who expounded on matters like Drake, Radiohead, Ashton Kutcher, Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda” video, and Grizzly Bear.
Here’s Reznor talking about the commercialization of rebellion and about Grizzly Bear in particular:
I’ll try and piece together a theory with you right now: Something that’s struck me as a significant shift, and I don’t know when it started, is when the corporate entity became a benefactor as opposed to a thing musicians shunned. When I hear Grizzly Bear in a Volkswagen commercial, it kind of bums me out. I like Grizzly Bear a lot; I don’t want to think of a fucking car when I hear their song. But somewhere along the line it became okay to get in bed with a sponsor. More specifically it became okay for rock bands to talk about. When I started to hear musicians talking about their sponsorship deals as something to be almost proud of, it bothered me. I remember having a conversation with a well-known EDM artist. Half of the brief conversation was him humblebragging about how many corporate sponsors he’s got: I can’t do this thing because I don’t want to piss that sponsor off and I can’t do that thing because I need to make sure this other sponsorship deal stays in place. That’s not what the spirit of being a musician or a rock star is. Why are these people even making music? I’m doing it because I have to get something out and I feel vital when it resonates with someone else. When I can get paid, too, that’s a nice consequence.
Here’s what Reznor has to say about EDM in general:
As far as responding to what’s happening now, I’ve had many agent types over the years say, “EDM is the future.” No, it’s not. It’s fucking not. I understand why people like it, and if I were 18, I’d love to be listening to it in the Sahara Tent at Coachella, high out of my fucking mind. But it’s not speaking to me at a level that I think has staying power. I’m saying this judgmentally: EDM has certainly changed pop music and is an interesting flavor, but I don’t think anyone’s going to be listening to it in ten years and saying, “What a fucking great song that beat was.” I know saying that is opening me up for criticism.
It’s part of a larger conversation about how to manage cultural omnipresence, but here’s what Reznor has to say about Drake:
I don’t pay much attention, but I see what Drake’s been able to pull off in terms of being omnipresent and constantly engaging an audience that seems to enjoy the way he’s engaging them. I’m just not part of that audience. I’m not as well-rounded as I used to be about pop culture. I’m not saying pop music isn’t well-crafted or the people who make it aren’t wonderful, but it’s not for me. I’ve asked people, “What is it that’s good about Drake?” I’ve said to my friends at Apple: “Explain to me why.” As the old guy, I don’t see it…
I wasn’t even asking cynically. I was curious what it is that he’s touching on. The answers I got made me go, “That’s it?” But knowing the right way to interact with your crowd in a way that feels cool is a good thing. I’m just doing it for a different sized audience. The stakes aren’t the same for me, and that’s fine.
Reznor also looks at Radiohead as a model of how to handle that level of celebrity. At one point in the interview, Reznor said, “There’ve been people whose music I can’t like anymore because I’ve seen them bitching on Twitter about a waiter like a fucking asshole.” When Marchese asked Reznor who he was talking about, here’s what Reznor said:
I don’t really want to start a battle. I’ll give you a good counterexample: I appreciate what Radiohead has been doing the last few years. You’re not saturated with stories about them. They’re not in the press constantly talking about stuff. They create an aura that makes you more interested in what they’re doing. That’s a good position to be in versus what I’m doing right now, which I’m sure is ruining people’s impression of me.
Here’s Reznor on Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda” video:
One avenue where it seems people are trying to be provocative is by seeing how gratuitously sexy something can be. Take the “Anaconda” video. Is that supposed to be sexy? How about we just have full gynecological probing in a video? There’s a vulgarity to it. I don’t know. Maybe lines are being pushed in that way and I’m just blind to it.
I should add that “full gynecological probing” is exactly the sort of thing that could’ve appeared in a mid-’90s Nine Inch Nails video, but sexiness would not be the intent there. Anyway, here’s Reznor on Ashton Kutcher and his ventures into the tech world:
I don’t want to hear about “Ashton Kutcher’s a fucking tech genius.” I don’t give a shit about that. He seems like an asshole.
The whole interview is, as you can already tell, worth a read. Check it out here.