It's unusual for an artist to have released only three proper studio albums in the course of a career that spans over a decade. When the sonic auteur in question is Trent Reznor, mastermind behind techno-industrial pioneers Nine Inch Nails, though, fans have been accustomed to pacifying themselves with various EPs, soundtracks and remixes, while adopting the proverb "All good things come to those who wait" as a mantra. Now, more than two years' worth of anticipation might be drawing to a close.
While keeping busy with various endeavors, most recently a remix of N*E*R*D's single "Lapdance," soundtrack work and a DVD/live album, which now carries a January 22 release date (see "Nine Inch Nails To Release First Live Album, DVD"), loose ideas for the follow-up to 1999's The Fragile have been rattling around Reznor's mind for months.
"In the last year, I've been just generating things that ... seemed interesting to me without putting too much thought into it," Reznor said. "Kind of keeping them [coming] from a subconscious place. Just seeing what comes out. I generated a lot of stuff fairly quickly, but [now] it's time to move that up into the cerebral, thought-about level to see if it really makes sense to me or not."
Though his stream-of-consciousness musings require a re-evaluation before deeming them worthy of inclusion on NIN's fourth studio album, which Reznor will officially begin to work on after putting the finishing touches on the DVD, so far the rough blueprint sounds like a reflective return to the form of early albums Pretty Hate Machine (1989) and The Downward Spiral (1994).
"Right now, I just feel like I'm in a pretty good space, mentally," he explained. "I spent quite a lot of time just thinking, being alone, re-examining why I'm doing this; and what I enjoy about it, what I don't enjoy about it that is, being in the music business. I just kind of stripped some things down and got back to the core of what I might have started getting away from ... But at the moment, it's pretty primitive, stripped-down, minimalist brutal music that's interesting to me."
Unlike The Fragile, which Reznor criticized for lacking a unified feel, the new material will be subject to serious scrutiny at every step before being committed to tape.
"It might sound a bit insane, but on a lot of The Fragile it felt like I was writing on autopilot," he said. "I wasn't allowing myself to think over things. So the record would just go in big, long tangents, where one arm would grow into another arm and that would grow somewhere else and it just turned into this big thing that wasn't ever analyzed or thought out until the end procedure of putting everything together.
"On this one, I'm putting it back up into my conscious side to see where I'm at right now and just kind of assess where things are."
Reznor gave some hope that his new material would be out soon. Or maybe not.
"I would hope to have something out by the summer," he said. "Notice I didn't say the year in there."