There aren’t many musicians in the public eye right now who is quite as expansive as Nine Inch Nails maestro Trent Reznor. The iconic singer has quietly been building a career to make renaissance men shudder with jealousy as he adapts his keen musical ear and solid sense of sound to be a part of some of the film, TV and music world’s greatest projects. It was an aptitude for creation that was rightly recognised as he and the rest of Nine Inch Nails were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame earlier this year.
Reznor is able to craft such soundscapes thanks to his remarkably discerning taste. Never one to make too many musical missteps, the avant-garde industrial rock music he first began creating with Nine Inch Nails has now morphed into an appreciation of music on a whole new plain. There’s something microscopic about Reznor’s film and TV soundtracks, as though they can burrow into your brain and lodge themselves permanently as fixtures of your psyche. It’s the kind of attention to detail which should alert you to Reznor’s previously mentioned penchant for the finer things in music. It means his favourite album is likely to be of interest to anyone with ears.
Thankfully, it’s a question that was answered when Reznor wrote into Vinyl Writers, to share his favourite record of all time. While many could suppose the composer’s choice would be something on the darker side, or perhaps even a nod to former touring mates like David Bowie. Instead, Reznor picked an album that he didn’t quite fully understand at first but soon grew to love and cherish.
Reznor also answers the question of ‘what is your favourite album?’ with the correct response “There are a few candidates for this question, but one of my absolutely favourite records is Remain In Light by the Talking Heads.” The funktastic jams of the New York outfit’s incredible canon isn’t what we were expecting but when you hear the singer’s reasoning, it all becomes clear. “It is an album I didn’t understand when I listened to it for the first time, in the beginning of the ’80s. Back then, I was living in a rural small-town that was widely cut off from interesting culture. And then suddenly this album landed. A strange, synthetic, polyrhythmical piece of art with African influences which confused me in every way.”
The album has gone one to define the David Byrne-led band and is widely seen as one of the defining moments of the decade, even if it did land right at the beginning of it. For Reznor, the record was a slow burn thanks to the band’s leftfield structure, but that’s all a part of the process: “With good albums, it is the case that at the beginning you don’t know what you are actually dealing with. But you are fascinated by it, and with about six listens it slowly reveals itself to you. With the 10th listen you are completely thrilled, but even when you listen for the 30th time you still discover something new. Remain In Light taught me that.”
Reznor claims the LP both enlightened and changed him even providing some comfort as a musician during his own heyday, “Since I started making music myself, this wonderful album has been something I can always consult. The great thing is that the record can still be approached from so many different directions without losing its puzzles.” What’s more, after sharing an evening’s conversation with lead singer Byrne, Reznor can even confirm that “he is a super nice guy and a true gentleman.”
It’s clear that music has always been important to Reznor both professionally and personally. “Even now, music’s always been the thing that keeps me going,” recalled Reznor when accepting the band’s induction into Rock Hall. “As an artist, I think the most significant accomplishment or feeling is realising something you’ve created from a fragile and intimate place has reached out, resonated and affected someone else, possibly changing how they see the world. So as to whatever being in a hall of fame means, thank you for the recognition,” he concluded with the utmost class
Stream Talking Heads’ Remain In Light below.