Photo courtesy of Island Records
I feel completely reenergized lately. That's partly aided by finding out that my best friend and manager of 15 years had taken all my money. That sucked. But I also got sober, and the world just kind of shifted on its axis. The end result was: "Get off your lazy fucking ass and do something. Instead of bitching about how bad music is today, make good music."
So I've never been more focused. I've seen through all the bells and whistles, all the shit that comes along with fame. The first half of the 90s was a rollercoaster going up, but at the end of the 90s I started to come down, which was shitty. I remember being on stage in '94–'95, which was this tour where it felt like we could do no wrong. I was like, "I'm going on the road for two and a half years. I'll just put my shit in storage." I remember being on stage, seeing all these people with their arms in the air, relating to my music, and just thinking, "You fuckers all get to go home to your lives. This is my life. I'm a thing now. I'm not a person anymore." I was totally mired in addiction, totally hated myself, and was absolutely disenfranchised with the business end of this career I started.
When we first got big, I didn't know how to act like a "famous rock star." I had all the accoutrements—Courtney Love's knocking on my door, there are drugs everywhere—but am I interesting enough to be this thing? So addiction crept in and then all of a sudden I was like, "Wow, I'm an addict now." It was the same thing with my manager taking all my money. I was oblivious to the signs, then I turned around one day and was like, "Holy shit."
There might be something seductive about self-destruction and all that shit, but when you really do it—when you aren't just wearing the clothes and getting the haircut—it isn't a good place to be. Back when I was pissed at the world and pissed at the cornfield town I was born in, I was like, "I'm on the wrong side of the TV and I don't like it." I was sure I would end up being the bald fat guy pumping gas at the end of the street. So I took some of the negativity that was in me and made it positive. It felt good to take the ugliness and make it work for me. But over time, it grew into me just wanting to smash my head against a fucking wall and keep smashing.
The new Nine Inch Nails album, With Teeth, is out on May 3.