I like the idea of working in an album-sized chunk, you know, and I never looked at Nine Inch Nails as a project that would be a hit-driven, single-based kind of thing.
Self-examination with a close-up mirror in an antiseptic environment is what Nine Inch Nails is based on.
When I return to the writing process after being away from it for a while, the first part of it always is being honest with myself: What am I into right now? Is it rock bands and guitars, is it noise, is it dance beats and electronics? Is it space, is it clutter?
I've always been into computers. When I was getting out of high school and forming my identity musically, all of it was really coming into the fold, computers and drum machines. It felt like, you know, I'm in the right place at the right time. I liked the collision.
I really try to put myself in uncomfortable situations. Complacency is my enemy.
My life has two modes. One is sitting around writing and contemplating or building things. The other is execution mode. It takes a while to switch from one to the other.
I did not grow up in a cosmopolitan environment. I grew up in a little town in the middle of nowhere, pre-Internet, pre-college radio.
Nine Inch Nails was born out of Cleveland, Ohio, with me and a friend in a studio working on demos at night. Got a record deal with a small, little label, went on tour in a van, and a couple years later found that somehow we touched a nerve, and that first record resonated with a bunch of people.
I think early on in my career, I was heavily inspired by bands like Throbbing Gristle and Test Dept, and films of David Lynch, for example, where the soundscape plays a very important role in the listening experience.
Sometimes the worst thing that can happen is, 'Oh, I'm on stage playing a song,' because you're daydreaming about something else, you're on autopilot. You have to fight that.
What is exciting is taking back the excitement of being able to debut something to an audience in exactly the way you want to.
I think my music's more disturbing than Tupac's - or at least I thought some of the themes of 'The Downward Spiral' were more disturbing on a deeper level - you know, issues about suicide and hating yourself and God and people and everything else.
I'll be honest, watching the music industry collapse has been demoralizing and disheartening at times.
I'm sure there is a group of people that assume Nine Inch Nails is just noise and chaos - or whatever it might be dismissed as, and sometimes is.
What I was concerned about when I wrote the 'Downward Spiral' record was being a self-centred destructive force. The point was tearing down everything in a search for something else.
The 'Downward Spiral' album was a record all about beating everybody up - and then 'Hurt' was like a coda saying maybe I shouldn't have done that. But to make the song sound impenetrable because I thought it was a little too vulnerable, I tried to layer it in noise.
Frankly, I have always dreaded writing - there always seemed to be pain involved, unpleasant self-examination and a lot of fear.
It's one thing to sit back and say, 'Hey let's play a club, that will be great,' but then you get there and say, 'Hey wait, this is the dressing room? Where's my dressing room?'
Making noise is easy; making stuff people understand is an easy thing to do.
Schoolwork came easy to me. I learned to play piano effortlessly. I was coasting.