From his almost unnoticed self-titled debut album in 1967 to landing over 20 top ten records in the UK charts, David Bowie’s iconic career spanned 27 studio LPs, over 70 music videos, and some of the biggest contemporary songs of the modern age. Bowie famously said at his 50th birthday party concert in Madison Square Garden in 1997: “I don't know where I'm going from here, but I promise it won't be boring...” and boy was he right. With The Beatles dominating the late 60s with their 8th studio record, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Bowie’s first record was but a dim light in the UK chart peaking at 125.
“I don't know where I'm going from here, but I promise it won't be boring...”
- David Bowie
With nothing more than his fresh-cut generic pop star image of the day to offer at the time, little did anyone know he was about to become the reborn Glam Rock alien inspired king, Ziggy Stardust. An era in Bowie’s career that would see him not only shoot for the stars, but also conquer them and come to call them home. Often feeling like an outsider, sometimes not even human by his own accord, Bowie was constantly trying to reinvent himself as a musician, and as a human being. Still, to this day, David Bowie offers one of the most diverse musical back catalogues of any generation. He adapted to his environment and stayed ahead of the times. He would become one of the most powerfully creative forces of the 20th century and his legacy will certainly expand throughout the 21st.
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During his time on Earth, David Bowie collaborated with probably more artists than most people could name. Bowie shared a microphone with the likes of John Lennon, Lou Reed, Cher, Luther Vandross, Tina Turner, Pet Shop Boys, Lenny Kravitz, Queen, and let’s not forget the remarkably 80s video for Dancing In The Street with Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones. Bowie was drawn to other musicians, or rather, they were drawn to him. This constant need for creative diversity and progress would eventually lead David Bowie to join forces with one of the most obscure and misunderstood artists of the 90s, Nine Inch Nails.
Founded by Trent Reznor in the late 80s in Cleveland, Ohio, Nine Inch Nails presented a very dark conceptual take on the commercially dominant 80s synth-pop sound of the time. With a heavy emphasis on the new wave of electronic music that also inspired Neue Deutsche härte outfit Rammstein, Trent Reznor took inspiration to combine the aesthetics of artists such as Pink Floyd, The Cars’, and even The Human League to create a darker version of what would become the very distinct Industrial Electronic Rock sound of Nine Inch Nails. A sound that still stands out as almost untouchable by today’s standards and contemporary artists.
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Whilst Trents’ debut record for Nine Inch Nails, Pretty hate Machine, only landed him a spot at number 75 in the US Billboard charts in 1989, the early 90s started out pretty rough overall as he recalls a disastrous European tour
with Rock Icon’s Guns N Roses. “It was only a couple of shows and they were some of the worst performances NIN ever had in front of the most hostile, moronic audiences I've ever experienced,” Trent said speaking to Q Magazine some years ago. Before touring with David Bowie, Nine Inch Nails also shared stages with the likes of Marilyn Manson, Type O Negative, TOOL, Jesus and Mary Chain and even Faith No More. All artists that would have shared a crowd more than welcoming to Trent’s style of Industrial nuance. Sharing a stage with David Bowie was probably the last thing on his mind in terms of a touring schedule, let alone recording together.
“Funnily enough, I’d heard Pretty Hate Machine and it was just a passing interest, I’ll be brutally frank, it was an interesting album,” Bowie says in a rare backstage interview with MTV in 1995. Casually sat, relaxed back on a brown sofa, Bowie elegantly describes how he first came to hear of Nine Inch Nails. His comments directed towards Trent Reznor himself as the pair share a conversation with MTV interviewer Kurt Loder. Bowie and Trent had just completed the first night of their tour and were currently waiting for soundcheck to take place for the second show. This was, of course, the Outside Tour. A David Bowie headline event that took place between September 14, 1995, and February 20, 1996, running for a total of 68 concerts.
Not only did the pair share a stage for over 2 months, but Trent also helped to produce a mix of The Hearts Filthy Lesson, a Bowie single taken from his 1995 record, Outside. “I’m lucky enough to have gotten a really great mix from Trent on, The Hearts Filthy Lesson,” says Bowie. This would lead to Bowie and Trent collaborating on, I’m Afraid of Americans, a single from David Bowie’s 1997 record, Earthling. The pair would also feature together in a music video for the same song. Bowie experimented heavily with electronic music in the 1980s and 1990s, so it was almost inevitable Bowie would want to work with a modern contemporary of the genre.
“It was MTV’s fault because I saw the video that you [MTV] banned and I thought, ‘That’s really good,’” Bowie says smiling to the camera. The video Bowie was referring to was, Closer by Nine Inch Nails. “Because of that, I really got into what he [Trent] was doing and Downward Spiral was, I thought, an exceptional album”. Bowie explains that whilst discussing his upcoming 1995 Outside Tour with his label at the time, Virgin Records, he wanted to bring something different to his audience. Bowie said he would be more than happy to get behind Nine Inch Nails as a support on the Outside Tour. “I said, of course I will. I’m 100 percent behind what the music’s about.”
Bowie continues: “I was trying to work out the kind of thing I really wanted to do, as you know, I really like to be quite adventurous in terms of what I do on stage. I just, on the off chance phoned up Trent’s management, as it happens, to find out if there’d be any interest in Trent working with me on a tour”. Once again, Bowie showing his nature in searching out new creative experiences. However, Nine Inch Nails had just finished a lengthy tour across Europe, North America and Australia racking up close to 150 dates. The prospect of hitting the road again so soon would be daunting for most artists. But if David Bowie calls, you have to answer. “The answer back briefly was ‘Yeah we’ll do it but no more than 6 weeks please’” Bowie recalls from the conversation. From here on, Bowie explains: “And then it just became a musical creative process, it was really good.”
“I think the danger was...I didn’t want it to be predictable” A young Trent Reznor explains as the cameras focus in on him during the interview. “We just fired some ideas back and forth and then when it finally got to the point where we had a few songs done, I’d work on one and then David would call and say “Well what do you think about these ones, try these” and then we’d work on more. It was a pretty interesting process”
Trent continues: “If David’s going to sing with Nine Inch Nails, what can we do other than just sound like a cover band”. Bowie explains: “There’s one pivotal point where we seemed to have the same sensibility and we sort of...boiled down the choices of songs that we’d done to really represent the two points, maybe where we meet nearer than anything else that we do and it proved really interesting, historically it’s kind of interesting anyway ya know, it makes kind of a continuity to why on Earth we should be working together anyway and you start to realise why. It’s a situation of opposites.”
This rare 1995 Outside Tour interview that sees two musically polar opposites, David Bowie and Trent Reznor, sharing common ground and seamlessly conversing in a way that would have you convinced the two had been collaborating for years, is fundamental in understanding how the mind of a creative genius truly works. A collaboration of sorts that we will probably never see again, one that should have never even existed in the first place if it wasn’t for the ever wondering and creative minds of characters like David Bowie. “I’ll tell you what’s terrifying,
“There really is a continuity from beginning to end, it’s strange, it’s really strange...” - David Bowie
Author Bio: AC Speed
I started my career as a music journalist in 2013 and have been involved in the music industry as a touring musician, studio engineer and artist consultant since 2002, as well as previously being a signed artist. My passion for delivering high quality, informative music-related news is a daily driving force behind the content I create. Also a huge gaming nerd! Born in the United Kingdom and currently living in Sweden. Skål!
CONTACT ME HERE
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