With over 30 years under their belt, it would be safe to assume that Nine Inch Nails have their craft down to a fine art and putting together a new record would be easy work. In reality, that assumption couldn’t be further from the truth, a fact made clear by Atticus Ross when discussing the band’s newest venture Bad Witch, the final part of the trilogy that began with 2016’s Not The Actual Events and 2017’s Add Violence.
“This one took longer to find its soul, if you like, than the previous two. But when we did find it, it wasn't necessarily where we were expecting to go. We put a lot more time into it than we originally thought, but I think what came out the other end felt to us like it was an honest and fulfilling experience in terms of sitting in the studio and listening back to the album as a whole.”
Having worked with Trent Reznor on every Nine Inch Nails’ release since their 2005 record With Teeth, it’s clear the duo share the same attitude and ethos when it comes to making music. They employ a healthy juxtaposition of paying homage to their past, but also ensure there is a big essence of not giving a fuck about the rules and just doing what they want. Bad Witch is a prime example of this, combining the signature NIN sound of controlled chaos with a brooding and eerie atmosphere. This is particularly clear on single ‘God Breaks Down The Door’, a very unexpected song for the band, and a very different vocal approach from Reznor.
“That's the first time I've heard Trent sing like that. Having worked together for 18 years, or whatever it's been. To begin with, he was uncertain, but I just thought it was incredible. And I think that the idea of consistently taking risks is what keeps things exciting.”
Whilst Bad Witch has many moments of calm throughout its rather short run time of 30 minutes, the first two tracks of the record, ‘Shit Mirror’ and ‘Ahead Of Ourselves’, show that the band is still ready to be abrasive, ensuring they avoid complacency. “I want to feel, in my life, that I'm consistently interested. With music, I think that it's a journey that one will never complete. It is all about being true to oneself and maintaining that sense of energy and inspiration. And I think more than that, sitting in the studio, one wants to feel that. You have to be in touch with that part of yourself that creates, otherwise it just becomes an exercise”
The rest of 2018 sees Nine Inch Nails touring heavily and taking the trilogy to a live setting. For the band, it’s important to take that same ethos of challenging themselves and the listener that is so important in the studio to the live setting. With so many performers these days trying to have every second of their live show choreographed to a track, Nine Inch Nails are fighting hard to keep things as organic and raw as possible.
“The songs take a new life. And I think also, the nature of performances, it does take it to a new level. But there's also conceptually some stuff built into the show now where there's no screens. It's meant to feel dangerous, and it is. Everything feels so choreographed now, and so, I don't know. If you look at a festival, every festival has massive screens everywhere, you can bring a flash drive and plug it in and there's your content. Fuck that. Let's have no screens. Let's have lots of smoke. Let's have someone running lights live. Something might break or explode, but it's gonna be visible. I think last year was exciting. And I think the shows this year will continue to take that concept even further.”
With such a heralded legacy already behind them, it’s clear that Nine Inch Nails have no interest in slowing down or softening their approach. Both Trent and Atticus ensure that nothing less than 100 percent goes into anything they do, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Bad Witch is out now via Caroline Australia.