In a new in-depth interview with Vulture, Nine Inch Nails mastermind Trent Reznor went into detail about his progression as an artist since his early, “shock”-oriented days (he claims he didn’t know he was recording in the house where the Manson murders took place when he moved in there) and his feelings about modern technology and pop culture. Reznor became a chief creative officer at Beats Electronics in 2013 and has been working for Apple Music since 2014, and a fair amount of the discussion here revolves around his feeling about the streaming industry and how people consume music.
Though he does believe that a centralized, paid music streaming service is the way forward for artists and consumers, Reznor is not as optimistic and open-minded about other forms of modern cultural dissemination and expression. Reznor used Twitter heavily in the company’s early days, but has since reigned in his online presence and grown wary of artists cultivating transparent internet personalities. Interviewer David Marchese brought up Taylor Swift and Drake as examples of artists who have “cann[ily]” used social media to their advantage, to which Reznor responded with some deference but mostly bemusement. Despite the fact that Drake, having done several Apple Music exclusives and being active with Beats 1, is part of Reznor’s extended Apple family, the NIN honcho had no problem expressing his reservations about the Toronto pop icon’s appeal:
I see what Drake’s been able to pull off in terms of being omnipresent and constantly engaging an audience that seems to enjoy the way he’s engaging them. I’m just not part of that audience. I’m not as well-rounded as I used to be about pop culture. I’m not saying pop music isn’t well-crafted or the people who make it aren’t wonderful, but it’s not for me. I’ve asked people, “What is it that’s good about Drake?” I’ve said to my friends at Apple: “Explain to me why.” As the old guy, I don’t see it.
Even as “the old guy,” however, Reznor is a bit more able to conceptualize the appeal of EDM:
I’ve had many agent types over the years say, “EDM is the future.” No, it’s not. It’s fucking not. I understand why people like it, and if I were 18, I’d love to be listening to it in the Sahara Tent at Coachella, high out of my fucking mind. But it’s not speaking to me at a level that I think has staying power.
Reznor, despite being an employee of multibillion dollar corporation Apple, also deigned to express some negative thoughts about how some acts “pay [their] rent as a musician,” referring specifically to Grizzly Bear placing music in a Volkswagen commercial. This led into a discussion of the “strong stances” artists take to distinguish themselves and cash in, and a rather-unexpected jab at Nicki Minaj:
One avenue where it seems people are trying to be provocative is by seeing how gratuitously sexy something can be. Take the ‘Anaconda’ video. Is that supposed to be sexy? How about we just have full gynecological probing in a video? There’s a vulgarity to it. I don’t know.
Since Drake co-stars in a “provocative” scene in the video, we could reasonably take this as a double Drake diss. “As the old guy,” though, how much less would we really expect from Reznor, or any other 50-something rock star? Read even more amazingly candid Reznor takes in Vulture‘s very-good interview here, and SPIN’s review of Nine Inch Nails’ new EP ADD VIOLENCE here.