Don’t hold your breath for a new Nine Inch Nails in the near future. Trent Reznor discussed his relationship to music in a wide-ranging new interview with Rick Rubin, revealing that these days he’s more interested in composing film scores than he is writing and touring behind traditional albums.
Surviving as a working musician typically comes down to releasing an album, supporting it on tour for two years, and then repeating the cycle, something the 58-year-old father of five isn’t exactly keen to do. “I don’t want to be away from my kids,” Reznor explained. “I don’t want to miss their lives to go do a thing that I’m grateful to be able to do, and I’m appreciative that you’re here to see it, but I’ve done it a lot, you know?”
He realized this at the onset at the pandemic, when his initial excitement at the opportunity to write more in his newfound free time turned into a desire to do… nothing. “I don’t really want to do anything right now,” Reznor recalled thinking. “I kind of want to feel okay and I want to make sure my family’s okay, and that’s great. That’s okay.”
The music industry has also changed considerably since Nine Inch Nails became one of the biggest bands in the world. So has society’s relationship to rock music, and especially rock albums. Reznor pointed to that change as another reason he’d rather stick to composing.
“In the context of Nine Inch Nails, in terms of an audience and the culture,” Reznor said, “the importance of music — or lack of importance of music — in today’s world, from my perspective, is a little defeating. It feels to me, in general — and I’m saying this as a 57-year-old man — music used to be the thing that, that was what I was doing when I had time. I was listening to music. I wasn’t doing it in the background while I was doing five other things, and I wasn’t treating it kind of as a disposable commodity.”
Reznor continued, “I kind of miss the attention music got, I miss the critical attention that music got. Not that I am interested in the critic’s opinion, but to send something out in the world and feel like it touched places, might’ve got a negative or positive [review], but somebody heard it, it got validated in its own way culturally. Culturally, that feels askew. Like I can’t think of any review I care about today that I even trust. I could write it before it comes out because it’s already written. In fact, ChatGPT could probably do a better job, you know? Or is currently doing the job. That makes for what I feel is a less fertile environment to put music out into — in the world of Nine Inch Nails.”
All this to say, you can likely expect more film scores from Reznor in the future. “I think that’s where some of the excitement of composition in film has thrust me into places I wouldn’t be with my band,” he explained. “It’s made me learn and be in awe of what music is and how powerful it is and how much there is to know about it and how much I don’t know about it. And [I’m] in awe of seeing these different ways it can affect you emotionally, and techniques and sound and soundscapes and things I don’t think I would’ve come across on the typical trajectory of being in a band.”
Reznor and his longtime collaborator Atticus Ross last provided the score to Luca Guadagnino’s Bones and All. Next up, the team will write the music to David Fincher’s film The Killer, as well as a new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie.
You can listen to Reznor’s full conversation with Rubin below.