Trent Reznor Remembers How David Bowie Helped Him Get Clean

Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor has written an essay for Rolling Stone about the late David Bowie.  Below are some excerpts:

“For me, every Bowie album has its own set of memories. Back in the heyday of records, I’d go over to my friends house and listen to his collection of records in his basement. Scary Monsters was the first one I related to. Then I went backwards and discovered the Berlin trilogy, which was full-impact. By the early Nineties, as I found myself onstage with an audience, I was in full-obsession mode with Bowie. I read into all the breadcrumbs he’d put out — the clues in his lyrics that reveal themselves over time, the cryptic photographs, the magazine articles — and I projected and created what he was to me. His music really helped me relate to myself and figure out who I was. He was a tremendous inspiration in terms of what was possible, what the role of an entertainer could be, that there are no rules.”

“At one of our first meetings, in rehearsals, we were talking about how the tour was going to go. I was faced with a strange predicament: At that moment in time, we’d sold more tickets than he did in North America. And there’s no way on earth David Bowie is going to open for me. And on top of that, he said, ‘You know, I’m not going to play what anybody wants me to play. I just finished a strange new album. And we’re going to play some select cuts from a lot of Berlin trilogy–type things, and the new album. That’s not what people are going to want to see, but that’s what I need to do. And you guys are going to blow us away every night.’ I remember thinking, ‘Wow. I’m witnessing firsthand the fearlessness that I’ve read about.’

“We found out a way to do the show that made sense, where it all felt like one experience. We’d play stripped down, then David would come out and he’d do ‘Subterraneans’ with us, and then his band would come out and we’d play together, then my band would leave. One of the greatest moments of my life was standing onstage next to David Bowie while he sang ‘Hurt’ with me. I was outside of myself, thinking, ‘I’m standing onstage next to the most important influence I’ve ever had, and he’s singing a song I wrote in my bedroom.’ It was just an awesome moment.”

“There were a number of times where the two of us were alone, and he said some things that weren’t scolding, but pieces of wisdom that stuck with me: ‘You know, there is a better way here, and it doesn’t have to end in despair or in death, in the bottom.’

“A full year later, I hit bottom. Once I got clean, I felt a tremendous amount of shame, of my actions and missed opportunities and the damage that I’ve caused in the past. And I thought back to the time when we were together a lot, and I wonder what that could have been like if I was at 100 percent. The ‘I’m Afraid of Americans’ falls into that category of me at my worst — out of my mind and ashamed of who I was at that time. So when I see that, I have mixed feelings — grateful to be involved, and flattered to be a part of it, but disgusted at myself, at who I was at that time, and wishing I had been 100 percent me. And it nagged me.

“A few years later, Bowie came through L.A. I’d been sober for a fair amount of time. I wanted to thank him in the way that he helped me. And I reluctantly went backstage, feeling weird and ashamed, like, ‘Hey, I’m the guy that puked on the rug.’ And again, I was met with warmth, and grace, and love. And I started to say, ‘Hey listen, I’ve been clean for …’ I don’t even think I finished the sentence; I got a big hug. And he said, ‘I knew. I knew you’d do that. I knew you’d come out of that.’ I have goosebumps right now just thinking about it. It was another very important moment in my life.”

  • Mr. K

    Wow. The story gave me goosebumps.

    • Billy

      was just about to write the same thing. great article!!

  • nomad

    Excellent essay.

  • — J —

    Now we just need another music legend to tell Trent it’s ok to make good music again.

    • Nikdik

      He’s on auto-pilot right now. Smashing puss and having kids will do that to a man. I fully expect a midlife crisis album from him next.

      • Felonious Punk

        Have you seen his wife? And her incredible set of hips? Who would blame the guy for quitting music altogether and just staying in the bedroom for the rest of his years, with a fox like that next to him

        • Nikdik

          I know she’s smokin’ sexy. Not a bad voice herself either

    • Jimmy Intense

      Trent will write good music once he stops working with Atticus Ross

    • Felonious Punk

      He has a new album coming out this year, so you won’t have to wait ten years for new music like you do with your heroes Tool

      • — J —

        What part of “Tool is my 4th most favorite thing Maynard does after Puscifer, his wine, and APC” did you not understand? I don’t give two shits about Tool. I literally would rather him do any of the other 3 things instead.

        • Felonious Punk

          I was just busting balls. Relax

          I mean, we get it. You don’t like NIN’s music anymore. I have faith the sun will come up tomorrow, regardless.

          • — J —

            Haha I’m relaxed. I didn’t know if you remembered.

          • Corndog

            I never liked NIN’s music.

            What do i win?

          • AOKRCEO



      He has been making great music for the last 25-27 years, maybe you have an ear problem?

      • — J —

        Nope, my ears are fine. Nothing since Year Zero has been worth its weight in wax.

        • AOKRCEO

          Ghosts, Hesitation Marks, the HTDA stuff, his scores for Fincher and all the rest are great works of music.

          • — J —

            I will definitely agree to disagree.

      • Felonious Punk

        NIN fans are a very niche audience, I think. Notoriously hard to please no matter what the guy does, because his music has changed dramatically over the years. It basically equates to this:

        Loud NIN: “Fuck this shit. Why is this dude screaming his ass off at 50 and still angry? You’d think having a smoking hot wife and a family would mellow the guy out, but I guess some people are never happy!”

        Quiet NIN: “Man, fuck this shit. Where is the raging, screaming animal who wanted to fuck me until I was next to God? I can’t mosh to this! I always knew he’d grow up to be a pussy!”

        Was it you who recommended I listen to the Hesitation Marks album a few months back? I dug it, for the most part. It’s not a complete embarrassment like I was led to believe it was going to be. I think his voice is probably shot so he needs to tone it down some, and plus he’s a family man now. There was a pop-punk sounding song on there that was pretty terrible, but everything else sounded good. The artwork remind me of The Downward Spiral, too. Was it the same artist for both albums?

  • dakotablue

    “I’m the guy who puked on the rug”–I guess it’s hard to forget THAT guy!