Trent Reznor recently appeared as a guest on Rick Rubin’s podcast Tetragrammaton. Over the course of their two-hour conversation, the Nine Inch Nails mastermind spoke at length about his musical upbringing, songwriting process, and interest in film scoring.
“The hardest thing for me is songwriting,” Reznor explained. “To have something to say, something to say with truth, that has a reason for being and not just a thing.”
He even found that fact in his newfound appreciation for pop music, something he credits to his kids. “For a while, I kept them in a hermetically sealed way, away from pop music. Because I think it sucks in general—I used to.”
“And I heard my six-year-old daughter sing Dua Lipa,” Reznor recounted. “She’s into that and it’s so cool. Her music like that, you know, that’s her thing… It really reminded me of the art of writing a well-crafted song — I tore listening to ‘Dua Lipa’. Because it was just such a well-crafted piece of music, you know? It was Smart. Felt good.”
“It’s hard. I don’t know how to do it,” Reznor continued. “When I try to think of what to say, I say it’s who I am, disembodied. And that requires me to think about who I am and where my situation is right now and all of that together becomes something that feels like the stakes are higher.”
That’s why Reznor found comfort in scoring movies. “Sitting there and sorting things out — I know what’s right… I don’t have to evaluate my thoughts about how I feel about something,” he explained.
He continued, “The thing about it is that I really enjoy the odd act of serving something. It’s like cracking a code. It’s good to crack the code, whatever it is.”