Trent Reznor Pays Tribute To David Bowie
By Brian Ives
Trent Reznor has long been a fan of David Bowie, and he recently took to the pages of the Hollywood Reporter to remind of us of his admiration. The Nine Inch Nails leader was writing for a year-end series called “The Rule Breakers,” which also includes features on Gravity director Alfonso Cuaron, the cast of characters from Duck Dynasty, and Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan.
Reznor cut right to the chase with his essay: “To me, David Bowie is in the very top tier of artists — with capital letters. He’s proved himself so many times that I sit back and trust him.” He noted that, like the rest of the world, he was surprised when Bowie announced the release of his new album in January of this year. And while he initially felt that the production on The Next Day was a bit too “conservative,” he later came around: “I’m still unraveling the riddle that he presented. I’m still getting new meanings out of the lyrics. What I thought was conservative production now feels forward-thinking. Like any great album, it’s revealed itself to be something that wasn’t what I initially thought.”
Taking a bit of a dig another band who made a big return in 2013, Reznor said: “It wasn’t like the Arcade Fire album [Reflektor] and its yearlong rollout, where it was like, ‘OK, I get it. You’ve got an album out, you’ve played every TV show in the world.’” (Ironically, Bowie sings backing vocals on that album’s title track.)
He closes with this hyperbole: “Bowie is the most important figure to have inspired me… He has found an audience yet challenges that audience and continues moving forward in a fearless way.”
The admiration goes both ways. In 2011, when Rolling Stone published their list of the 100 greatest artists of all time, Nine Inch Nails was included at No. 94. Bowie wrote the essay on their inclusion. Speaking about NIN’s masterpiece, 1994′s The Downward Spiral, Bowie wrote, “Second to the Velvet Underground, there has never been better soul-lashing in rock…. It still sounds incredible today.” Strong words from a man who counts the Velvets as one of his main influences, who covered the Velvets, and collaborated with Lou Reed in his post-VU years.
Bowie summed up his essay about the younger musician, saying, “Trent’s music, built as it is on the history of industrial and mechanical sound experiments, contains a beauty that attracts and repels in equal measure: Nietzsche’s ‘God is dead’ to a nightclubbing beat. And always lifted, at the most needy moment, by a tantalizing melody.”
Bowie and Reznor aren’t just fans of each other: they’ve collaborated over the years. In 1997 Reznor remixed Bowie’s “The Heart’s Filthy Lesson” from his Outside album; after that, NIN opened Bowie’s tour for that album. In an interesting twist on the opener/headliner relationship, there was no break between the two acts. Bowie and his band members joined NIN on stage towards the end of their set, with the expanded group performing Bowie’s “Scary Monsters” and “Hallo Spaceboy,” as well as NIN’s “Reptile” and “Hurt” together, before Reznor and his bandmates left the stage and Bowie’s band played their own set.
Renzor and Nine Inch Nails have taken to performing “I’m Afraid of Americans” in their set in recent years, reminding fans that though Reznor is one of the most influential artists of the past few decades, he still tips his hat (or crown of thorns) to the Thin White Duke.