November 6, 2008


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Rock to sink your teeth into
Nine Inch Nails bring their industrial sounds to Verizon

By Dana Unger

Industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails will bring their somber electronic sounds to Manchester’s Verizon Wireless Arena on Saturday, Nov. 8, at 7:30 p.m.

For the past 20 years, the band, under the direction of front man Trent Reznor, has helped popularized the industrial music sound of the 1990s. The band has eight major studio releases to its credit, and has won two Grammy Awards for Best Metal Performance.

Nine Inch Nails is now on a 25-city tour of the U.S., the current lineup featuring singer Trent Reznor, guitarist Robin Finck, keyboardist Alessandro Cortini, drummer Josh Freese, and bassist Justin Meldal-Johnsen, who joined the band this year.

Meldal-Johnsen, who is also a producer and songwriter, has worked with artists like Tori Amos and The Mars Volta, and was the bassist for Beck on several of his albums. Working with Trent Reznor was a completely new experience for the 28-year-old Oregon native.

“I’ve never met anyone with the work ethic of Trent,” Meldal-Johnsen said. “Being involved with every aspect of his professional life, I’ve learned a lot — you leave nothing to chance.”

The tour is in support of the band’s dual 2008 releases, Ghosts I-IV and The Slip. Ghosts I-IV, a 36-track instrumental album, was released via the Internet before any physical copies were available. The album features almost two hours of new music that was composed and recorded over a 10-week period last fall. Reznor explained the album’s concept on the band’s Web site: “This collection of music is the result of working from a very visual perspective — dressing imagined locations and scenarios with sound and texture; a soundtrack for daydreams.”

“What Ghosts has done is that it’s allowed Trent to express his vision of music simply in terms of space and emotion,” Meldal-Johnsen said. “It’s kicked open the door for us to have the chance to do something that’s introspective and calm as well as tense. I was shocked at how the audience has responded to it on this tour — just rapt attention. The music is so revealing, honest and pure.”

The unique nature of the album has also made for shifts in the band’s current stage show.

“It’s promoted the formation of a new band within the band,” Meldal-Johnsen said. “In the show, you will see identities shift drastically, the musicians change, so that it becomes a sort of modern chamber group.”

Additional volumes of Ghosts are in the works, Meldal-Johnsen said, but he would not say when the public might expect to see them.

On May 5, 2008, at 12:01 a.m. PST, the full-length album The Slip became available as a free download on the band’s Web site. The Slip was the first-ever completely free full album download. Unlike Ghosts, it has no paid options available and it currently only exists as a free download, though CD and vinyl versions of the album are in the works for July.

Both albums were released under a Creative Commons license, allowing fans to distribute the songs and files freely and without fear of copyright infringement. On the band’s Web site there is also an interactive community area where fans can create and share remixes of Nine Inch Nails songs.
“We encourage you to remix it, share it with your friends, post it on your blog, play it on your podcast, give it to strangers,” the band says on the Web site.

Over the years, the band has famously clashed with its record companies and parent companies over music rights, culminating in the band’s decision in 2008 to proceed as a free agent, without any recording label contracts. Mendal-Johnsen believes the trend of artists being able to take their music directly to their fans without label interference will continue.

“Whether all artists will survive without all the hand-holding and misdirection some of the companies give them is another question,” he said. “It comes down to people — you still need specialists, but now [with the Internet] it’s more of a talent pool and it becomes more about knowing where to grab them.”

For bands like Nine Inch Nails, it’s also about not being afraid to take risks and yet still being true to themselves as artists.
“Bands that stick it out and do their own thing don’t need to change their skin record to record,” Mendal-Johnsen said. “You have to have a strong identity. Those artists that care about opinions are the ones that can’t withstand the one- or two-album curse. Opinion and the creation of art are not good bedfellows.”

Having shown that they can withstand rights disputes, internal conflicts, and shifting changes in the popular music scene, the members of Nine Inch Nails continue to keep the public intrigued as to what they are going to do next. So, what is it about this band that keeps listeners wanting more?

“Emotional commitment — a sense that Trent’s lyrics are speaking to you — that’s a big deal,” Meldal-Johnsen said. “It’s a constant, rich, musical exploration. You get the whole package — the live show is something Nine Inch Nails is known for. It’s what Trent is known for, and the music involves the fans on so many levels — it’s about what he gives back to them. It gives people something substantial — something you can sink your teeth into.”

Nine Inch Nails
When: Saturday, Nov. 8, at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Verizon Wireless Arena, 555 Elm St., Manchester.
Tickets: $29.50 to $39.50, call 868-7300 or visit