Nine Inch Nails leader Trent Reznor shot a dark video for the new song "We're in This Together" in Guadalajara, Mexico, last week.
The clip, filmed by director Mark Pellington, featured more than 200 local extras dressed in black and marching down a street with Reznor, according to a source on the set. The source also described a scene in which a group of burn victims and blind men from a local hospital were carted around in a wagon.
Pellington an award-winning video director (Pearl Jam's "Jeremy") whose second feature film, "Arlington Road," was recently released said he had good reason to return to the small screen for the project. "I missed the creative freedom, and I had a chance to work with Trent Reznor," Pellington said Friday (Aug. 13).
The four-day, closed-set shoot that began Aug. 5 involved 250 men between the ages of 20 and 30, all of whom were dressed in black shirts, pants and shoes. Filming often exceeded 12 hours a day, with the extras taking home $50 a day, according to Guadalajara journalist Francisco Gonzalez, who covered the shoot for Guadalajara's Periodico Publico.
Although the shoot is expected to produce the first video from NIN's long-awaited new album, The Fragile, band spokesperson Susan Swan would not confirm that the video was shot. Swan also would not say whether "We're in This Together" was the first official single from The Fragile, which is slated for a late September or early October release.
"I think [the video] was to portray some sort of nightmare Reznor was having," Gonzalez said. "We were told he was supposed to be fighting with his own interior demons, that it was a story about him and his self-conscious."
Gonzalez said he was told that the extras dressed in black were meant to portray the singer's loneliness, as well as his anger and fury.
In one scene, shot on the first day, Gonzalez said the men were filmed walking down a ramp near the intersection of Independencia and Hidalgo avenues in Guadalajara. They were led by Reznor, who was lip-synching to a tape of his aggressive composition. A scene in which Reznor and the horde were walking without singing was also shot, as well as one with Reznor on a balcony, lip-synching to the track as if serenading someone, Gonzalez said.
"One of the curious things was that 95 percent of the people [on the set] didn't know who Reznor was," Gonzalez said. "They were only curious about the shoot, and not who the artist was."
The shroud of secrecy around the shoot is in keeping with the teasing nature of the four-years-in-the-making follow-up to Reznor's most-recent NIN studio album, 1994's The Downward Spiral. A three-song single from NIN that was released last month had a little bit of everything fans have come to expect from the tortured industrial studio hound: wounded vocals; ambient washes of bleak keyboard notes; walls of distorted guitars; pounding drums; and biting, profanity-laced lyrics.
"The Day the World Went Away" (RealAudio excerpt), one of the tracks on the single, opens with the ominous moan of keyboards quickly overcome by a slowly strummed phalanx of guitars. Reznor's nearly whispered voice breaks through, exactly one-and-a-half minutes in, with the lyrics "I'd listen to the words he'd say/ In his voice I heard decay/ The plastic face forced to portray/ The insides left cold and gray."
The cynical, edgy "Starfuckers, Inc." (RealAudio excerpt) is a propulsive track featuring a robotic-sounding Reznor sneering lyrics over a skittering electronic beat. It has the familiar, explosive techno-rock sound of such early NIN songs as "Head Like a Hole" and 1997's "Perfect Drug." Both songs are expected to be on the two-CD-length The Fragile.
Another location for the Mexican video shoot was the market of Mexaclatzingo an area that Gonzalez said was, until then, used mainly for anthropological videos and documentaries about Guadalajara. On the second day of the production, Reznor was shot without the extras, in a building on La Calsada Del Independencia Avenue, 20 minutes outside of Guadalajara, Gonzalez said.
In keeping with the images of decay in such NIN videos as "Closer," a number of techniques were used to film images of degradation, Gonzalez reported.
"On the first day, we were taken to a set with a wagon on it, and they filmed a scene there with different people with burns and blind people," Gonzalez said. "They used a technique of photography where they put light on them that created grotesque effects."
Gonzalez said he was told the burn victims and blind extras were from a local hospital for burn victims. "It was disgusting to some of the people in the crew," Gonzalez said.
Portions of the video also were shot in a train station on the second day, but filming was sporadic Aug. 7 due to a rain storm that lasted 18 hours, according to Gonzalez.
The climax scene for the clip was shot on the last day. The 250 extras were filmed running from the top of a bridge down a street to a segment of music that Gonzalez said was very aggressive and reminiscent of previous hits such as "Down in It."
Nothing Records, Reznor's label, cracked down on webmasters last month when MP3 copies of "Starfuckers, Inc." and "The Day the World Went Away" began appearing on websites three days after the songs debuted on radio. On July 16, more than a dozen NIN-related websites received cease-and-desist letters ordering that all unauthorized NIN songs be pulled.