SANTA MONICA, California — Nine Inch Nails' new With Teeth is a deeply personal album with a few exceptions. One of them is the first single, "The Hand That Feeds."
"I was so irritated and fed up with the political situation in this country that it slipped into the lyrics and I couldn't stop it from happening," Nails mastermind Trent Reznor said of the tune, which includes the lyrics "What if this whole crusade's/ A charade/ And behind it all there's a price to be paid/ For the blood/ On which we dine/ Justified in the name of the holy and the divine."
"[I was thinking,] 'I don't know if I'll include it or not,' that's kind of my safety blanket ... 'I can always throw it out,' " he continued. "And it turned out to be something that I felt good about. I didn't feel it was too heavy-handed in terms of lyrical content, and it fit nicely in the context of the rest of the record."
By context, Reznor's referring not to the album's lyrics, but its music, which he describes as "more like song songs, less soundscapey." Therefore, "The Hand That Feeds," which is reminiscent of some of his biggest singles, especially "Head Like a Hole," is the logical centerpiece.
"With 'The Hand That Feeds' ... I wondered if I should include it because it was coming out catchy, like an obvious song," he said. "For me, what's scary is the stuff that comes out a bit obvious. What wouldn't be scary would be an eight-minute dark epic of weird time signatures. I'm not saying I don't like doing that, but what felt daring and unsure was a track like 'The Hand That Feeds.' "
Reznor's always felt that way about his music, he said, but he drew on those feelings most heavily on With Teeth.
"With Nine Inch Nails, I've enjoyed doing stuff I feel is challenging, but at the same time it has a bit of accessibility that can seduce you in," he explained. "Then I can get you to subversive content. But I like having something that makes you wanna give it another chance. It's easy to create music that's impenetrable under the guise of art, and I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that, but it's interesting and challenging and hard to do to try to make stuff that's interesting to you as an artist but at the same time having a quality to it that can suck people in. I've enjoyed trying to walk that line.
"The last couple records didn't have songs that announce themselves as something you can latch onto," he continued. "If I didn't feel confident about myself, I wouldn't have included that. This time I'm not really worried about what happens. But the response has been great and unexpected and it feels great."
Reznor is so confident in the track that he's invited fans to remix it (see "Nine Inch Nails Want Fans To Destroy 'The Hand That Feeds' "). So far the most unexpected version is a mash-up with Britney Spears' "Toxic."
Nine Inch Nails will launch a theater tour Wednesday at the Warfield in San Francisco (see "Nine Inch Nails To Launch Theater Tour In April"). Reznor and his new band are also headlining Sunday at the Coachella Valley Music Festival in Indio, California.
With Teeth hits store May 3.