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As NIN prepares to hit the road, Trent Reznor looks back on electronic music's evolution

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Trent Reznor (Flickr)
Trent Reznor (Flickr)

Nine Inch Nails is embarking on its first headlining tour of the US in four years this Saturday, and Fader has just published a lengthy interview with mastermind Trent Reznor to mark the occasion. Despite having a new album and a new tour to promote, Reznor was awfully reflective, talking quite a bit about the evolution of electronic music as well as the evolution of how we listen to music — the latter of which is of particular interest to Reznor as he prepares to launch a streaming music service later this year. "Coming home with [a new record] and taking it out of the plastic and it smells a certain way and reading the inside notes and listening to it with headphones — that ritual of consumption put an emphasis on the music," Reznor recalls.

For years, fans of physical media have noted how the iTunes and Spotify models have eroded our music attention span, and it's something Reznor agrees with — but he's also keen to point out the benefits. "I realized I was actually listening to more music, because I've got hundreds of albums with me instead of a Case Logic [binder] of CDs that I'm hauling around," he says. "I'm not spending as much time with individual pieces of music, but I'm spending more time with lots of music."

As for creating electronic music now versus when Reznor got his start in the late '80s, the technology that's readily available still amazes him if he stops and thinks about it. "When I see what's accessible today," Reznor exclaims, "just on a laptop, even in just GarageBand or on your iPad, the scope of sound design and compositional tools — fuckin' kids are spoiled today!" It's a lot different than 30 years ago, when musicians had to piece things together "one sound at a time." Still, his enthusiasm for the old days when he got his start is obvious — "what sucked me in was the more aggressive use of electronics and the Wax Trax label in Chicago, which also absorbed some stuff happening in Europe," Reznor remembers. "It felt like the aggressive power of rock music but it was breaking out of that mold that Led Zeppelin created."