Trent Reznor Was ‘Uncomfortable’ Singing a ‘Love Song for the Planet’
It appears less and less likely that Trent Reznor will make good on his promise to have a new Nine Inch Nails record out in 2016, but that’s mostly because he’s been bogged down by scoring a pair of movies with his collaborator Atticus Ross. In a new interview, he discussed the challenges in juggling all of these projects, as well as recording his first vocals since 2013’s Hesitation Marks.
Speaking to Rolling Stone, he revealed that “A Minute to Breathe,” which he wrote for Before the Flood, a Leonardo DiCaprio-narrated documentary about climate change and is embedded above, was difficult because it was so different from anything he had written before. "It was an uncomfortable and risky track to work on, because it could veer easily into eye-roll territory," he said. "At the end of the day we knew that if it sucked, it goes with all the others in the vault that no one's ever going to hear. But how does one write a love song about the planet without groans? And that's what was intriguing about it: Could we pull it off? And right up to the last second of sending it to [director] Fisher [Stevens], I was saying, 'I don't know, man. I don't know,' mostly because I was afraid. I reminded myself, after a couple of years not touring and spending time in the hot seat, that it always feels uncomfortable if you're doing it right. That doesn't mean the risks are always good. But in this case I felt alive again. I felt that uncomfortable feeling like I'm naked on stage and not sure that I want to be."
Even after getting a usable take, Reznor still expressed doubts and wanted to bring in other singers, but Ross talked him out of it. "I was just like, 'No way,’” Ross said. “No one else could sing it and we're not 'tuning' it."
The second movie they worked on is next month’s Patriots Day, which is about the Boston Marathon bombing and stars Mark Wahlberg. Reznor and Ross composed approximately 114 minutes of music for the 130-minute film, including a 20-minute stretch that runs across several scenes. Reznor credited director Peter Berg with giving the duo plenty of freedom to come up with something different.
"The main draw for us is we'd be working in this genre without relying on the expected and – quite frankly, in my opinion – super boring, lazy Hollywood film soundtrack trope," Reznor said. "We were very explicit with Peter right at the beginning: 'If you're looking for [mimics aggressive drums], we're not the guys.' He's like, 'No, I want you guys to do what you think is right.' That's the most respectful statement a director could say to me."
Still, with both of those out of the way, Reznor still has two-and-a-half weeks to fulfill his Nine Inch Nails vow, and he’s being somewhat coy about it. "That will be part of the reveal," he said. "I don't want to spoil it. If I'm interested in a film, I prefer not to watch the trailer. We live in overstimulated times."
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