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Onstage it wasn't so easy; the mud was exacting its revenge. At nineteen he auditioned for a band called the Innocent. His first, strange brush with fame came when the disastrous Michael J. And what I used to think was me is just a fading memory.' He called his 1989 debut 'Pretty Hate Machine.' He got some people- including drummer Chris Vrenna, whom he'd been living with-to tour with him as Nine Inch Nails. We all felt liberated, and then if finally got to the point where...we'd always room with two guys in a room, and there'd be the Masturbation Moment. Take messages.'" Nine Inch Nails were invited on the first Lollapalooza and were suddenly being hailed as the world's primary industrial band. (He still hates no one else more in the world.) A video camera used during the "Down in It" video, which was tied to a helium balloon that had broken away as it filmed Trent pretending to be dead, was found by a farmer, who turned it in to the police. Then he adds, slightly more seriously, "An intergral part of any relationship is knowing that you could be killed in your sleep at any time." Later, at the venue, Trent makes up one of his herbal pick-me-ups, carefully dripping a cocktail of brown potions into water: echinacea, american ginseng, and something else. "It's that feeling when it's zipping across your face and you're wondering when the JFK moment is going to come." Afterward Trent mixes us up some more herbs. He published the book because no one else would, and has given up trying to sell it. I don't dislike men, and there's many times I've thought about it.Grit and sweat got in his eyes, and it became harder and harder to play the guitar. Michael Trent Reznor's parents both grew up in the same small Pennsylvania town, Mercer, where he woud spend his childhood. When Trent was five, after his sister Tera was born, his father had a talk with him. " "I'm not coming back." Trent just didn't understand what that meant. Afterward, though his parents were nearby, he lived with his grandparents. His calls are being blocked, so she must be staying somewhere in the hotel. But above all, he loved the Six Million Dollar Man, "probably because I wasn't the biggest kid in the class and I wasn't cool. In bed at night he would lie a certain way because if he lay on the other side he knew he would be in for bad things. If you could be like Gene Simmons, then every day would be...*the greatest day of the world! "Foreigner crap...dinosaur AOR bullshit rock." He was accepted, and though he didn't play on their album-"Livin' on the Streets", if you will-his photograph did appear. Fox-Joan Jett film, "Light of Day" was shot in Cleveland. You'd get the bathroom, and the deal was you wouldn't fuck with that person. "I am giving the remainder of the books to people I suspect and who I believe will aprreciate what I have written... And later-in the old Nine Inch Nails-if we wanted to get rid of people, the guitarist and I would start making out. You get into certain scenes, and I realize I should experiment down that path, and I just haven't done it yet.Some mellow rap music plays in the background and some incense is burning in the bedroom next door. Everything that might have mattered apart from Nine Inch Nails he has either rejected or made it reject him. But cocaine can make you numb, and sometimes numb is the easiest way to feel.) And the wheel turned on, down through the mad, dark days, and out again. (As a child he had bad allergies-cats and dust and ragweed and grass and corn-and his ears were all messed up. Those who ask for Steve Austin will enjoy more success. Finally he started; he was really into the Clash at the time, and he tried to write these political lyrics and they just didn't work. The first song, "Down in It," was-appropriately-a suicide fantasy. It is something Trent says when he's explaining the elegant, mortifying song "Piggy": "I'm saying 'If I don't care, you can't affect me.'" Danny calls the bus to attention. He takes a lighter, lifts his legs, and tries to light a fart. "Don't write that," he says to me, mortified-meaning not the stunt itself but his failure to deliver. But instead of doing it, he decided to chronicle the descent. A lifetime of fucking things up fixed in one determined flash." "I'm not saying this from a covering-my-ass point of view," he insists, "but I'd thought about it several times, and saying it almost demystifites it." He was not without secondhand experience. And then drummer Jeff Ward-who had taken over for the the Lollapalooza era, when Trent fell out with Chris-carbon-monoxided himself in a car because he couldn't quit heroin. You wake up and think, "Okay, we just stepped through another portal..." (pause) I think about giving head, though.He is dressed all in black and is wearing no shoes. There was nothing anybody could do, except the only thing we know how to do when we can't mend something. When he went on tour he didn't even have a home to go back to. His doctor put tubes in Trent's ears to equalize the pressure, and when Trent went swimming at the Mercer public pool he had to wear a tan bathing cap. Trent puts the card in his mouth, chomps off a little, and hands the ripped card back. The band reminisce about the night in Atlanta when, after a ribald evening in a surreal titty bar, Jon Stewart impressed them with his own fart fireballs. It was to be a concept album called "The Downward Spiral. When Trent completed the record, he was convinced it was destructively uncommerical. I don't know why I'm saying this, but I think about that.Afterward Trent took a shower, then went into the tour bus and started crying. They got married when they were still teenagers because they had to. All he could think about was their Saturday trips down to the drugstore, where they'd sit at the soda fountain. Several times he tells me how much he loves them: "I don't want to give the impression it was a miserable childhood." Trent Reznor tells me this, sitting in his Cleveland hotel suite. He will see a regular doctor, and a homeopath, who will tell him to immerse himself in a bath of lavender and peppermint and chamomile and stuff, and to cover himself with green clay. She tells him he'll know her when he sees her-she's the one who sings "Hurt" really loud at every concert. "Nobody wants to hear you." Most of the fans don't get that far. The day the Bionic Woman died on "The Six Million Dollar Man", that was a tearful day in our household." He considers this, "When i think back, I had a degree of felling mildly depressed, of melancholiness." As he got older, he made the mistake of discovering horror films. "It was the ultimate scary thing because it couldn't easily be disproved." Then there was "The Omen". He went looking around his scalp for the three sixes which would confirm the truth. Trent Reznor took the piano up when he was five, and he had talent. The mention of this record and photograph causes the most touchy and embarrassed reaction Trent will exhibit in my presence. He was asked to be in a rinky-dink synth trio who are derided midway through the film: "They used to be called the Sins, but now they're the Problems," mocks one character, which seemed obliquely appropriate. You understand true art." There is no doubt that a certain type of outsider is drawn to Nine Inch Nails. He had his septum pierced for a year, but it was a nightmare when he had a cold. I've been in situations where there's men involved, but not directly interacting.His father was named Michael, so they always called their son Trent. Cleveland was the city he moved to when he struck out on his own, but now it's just another stop toward the end of a yearlong tour. Over the last few years, Trent has stripped his life down. His idea of a drug experiecne is to take psilocybin mushrooms and cycle through Louisiana parklands, sucking in the experience. Monday in Cleveland: I loiter in the dressing room. Trent is waiting for a cortisone shot form a doctor. This is the last I see of Trent for two and a half days. In hotels across Ohio and Michigan, callers who ask for Trent Reznor will be told there is no such guest registered. He played the saxophone too, and even the tuba for a while. He had always told himself that when the time came, he would be able to write songs, but this was a theory he had carefully avoided testing. It was scary to sing about these feelings, and they weren't the sort of inner thoughts he was particularly keen to share with anyone, but somehow they made sense. The tattoo and body-piercing brigades have adopted them enthusiastically. As a rule, he doesn't even like to wear jewellery: "I don't like shit on me." It strikes me that the real message of all this is less an unwillingness to embrace modern masochistic rituals than a more primary impulse: Don't Pin Me Down. There is something else close to this, but even more fundamental. Me: So are there a lot of orgies around the Reznor household? When I'm in a relationship that overpowers the desire to...these usually arise from casual situations, usually intoxicated situations.Computers and keyboards are set up around him: He is working on a cover version of an obscure old Gary Numan song called "Metal". Maise was his last link with a life you might call normal. "That was the source of much childhood trauma," he recalls.) Today, Trent has a deep red rash running all the way up his right arm. He thinks it might have been the hotel sheets in New York. Later, a man comes up brandishing a British Petroleum business card. "Sometimes," says Trent, "it's fun just to be retarded." The second Nine Inch Nails record, the "Broken" mini album, was a nasty mixed-up splurge of unfocused hate and despair. He had discovered that the more he wrote about his depressions, the more it fed and encouraged them. If there was a template in his head, it was the album which touched him most when he was youger: Pink Floyd's "The Wall". But he either ignored, or refuses to acknowledge, the mentality of the American Pop Fan '94: Nothing is more commercial than uncommercial. I'd be good at giving head, because I know what...(laughs)... Me: Are no kisses coming to mind, or various kisses?As we talk, he puts his feet on a switched off keyboard in front of him and moves his socks up and down, playing chunky, atonal chords neither of us can hear. On the road, Trent Reznor tells me, he goes through phases: "Self-destruct mode, repair mode, and then enjoy life mode. A slightly dippy girl on the other side of the dressing room says, "Maybe you're allergic to me." Trent doesn't look impressed. After the show, we drive down to a club in the Cleveland Flats where there's a party. "And," he tells me, "I'm wondering if all this negative energy is leading to a dead end. "The Downward Spiral," he says, "is about somebody discarding parts of themselves"-religion, love, caring about the opinion of others-"ultimately for self-realization." The bleakness builds to a crescendo with the title track. And anyway, in a far more specific way he had managed to capture one of the dark ironies of our era. I mean, no one knows how to jack yourself off better than yourself, you know? Trent: A variety of ones that are pretty high up there.

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Backstage they were clowning about and pushing each other, and soon they realized they'd reached the point of no return, and so they plastered the mud all over themselves. In high school he appeared in a couple of musicals: "Jesus Christ Superstar" and "The Music Man". Before the first year was up, he knew he wanted to play music. He worked in a keyboard store and then he worked in a local recording studio. "It was the first time we'd ever acknowledged to another male that you actually masturbate. Trent fell out with the boss of TVT, his first record company. Trent boards the coach carrying a plastic shopping bag. In the copious video library on board are all the 'Planet of the Apes' films, except for the fourth, 'Conquest of the Planet of the Apes'. I think he only says this for the cheap laugh, and because he knows it is expected of him. " Someone has been tracing a red laser beam over his body. "I'm just waiting to have my arm blown off," he'll explain later. The letter, from Brett, twenty-three, is heartbreaking.

Last year he released "The Downward Spiral", an album about one man's descent into suicidal depression, about letting go of everything. Those words that they holler at him-out of imitation and, sometimes, invitation-weren't really ones of lust but of self-hatred.

"It's supernegative and superhateful," he explains. "It's 'I am a piece of shit and I am declaring that and if you think you want me, here I am.'" And now it's a modern nasty-as-nice catchphrase.

We talk about this, and after a while I get paranoid about the conversation's direction. I was sleep- ing with my mouth open and Maise never does that normally.

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I'm trying to stir a discussion, but more and more it feels as though I'm throwing up a challenge. After that, he ended up going out with a devout, religious girl. Trent: (very long pause) The first things that pop into my head would be "taste", "sweat", "lick", "come", "bite". (he nearly always speaks of her in the present tense) Me: Did you kiss back? I prefer to kiss her on the side of the mouth rather than getting right in.Onstage, Trent Reznor is a demon possessed by his own sound and fury.