Trent Reznor On How “Mentor” David Bowie Helped Him Get Sober
Written by Tom Williams on 28th January, 2016
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Speaking with Rolling Stone, Reznor says that he “was a mess” during NIN’s co-headlining Outside tour with Bowie in 1995 and 1996 — “the peak of Nine Inch Nails’ newfound rocket ship of fame”.
“The line starts to blur between the guy onstage and the person you used to be,” Reznor says. “My way of dealing with life was to numb myself with drugs and alcohol, because it made me feel better and more equipped to deal with everything.
“My career was skyrocketing, but the scaffolding that was holding me up as a person was starting to collapse. I wasn’t fully aware of how bad it was getting, but I knew, in my heart, that I was on an unsustainable, reckless, self-destructive path.”
Reznor says that when he met Bowie, the late muso had already been through a similar experience and was now “content” and “at peace with himself”.
“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.’”
Reznor explains that he “hit bottom” a year later, before getting clean and feeling “a tremendous amount of shame” for his actions and missed opportunities.
“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,” Reznor says, before recounting how he tried to thank Bowie for getting him through his addiction.
“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.”
Speaking about his collaborations with Bowie, Reznor says, “I didn’t think we were done. It feels like the loss of a mentor, fatherly figure, someone looking out for you, reminding you that in a world where the bar keeps seeming to be lower, where stupidity has got a foothold, there is room for excellence and uncompromising vision.”
Elsewhere in his reflections, Reznor remembers the moment that Bowie first suggested they collaborate, as well as what Reznor says is “one of the greatest moments of my life” — when Bowie sung with him on Hurt. Catch footage of that very moment below, and to read all of Reznor’s reflections on Bowie head to Rolling Stone.
While Bowie reportedly planned “a long list of unscheduled musical releases” before his death which might arrive in the coming years, new NIN music is coming this year, as well as “other stuff, too”.
Watch: Nine Inch Nails – Hurt (With David Bowie, 1994)