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Trent Reznor Discusses Scoring ‘The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’

Trent Reznor
Frazer Harrison, Getty Images

Trent Reznor is known to many as the generally brooding frontman of Nine Inch Nails, but the rocker seems pretty content these days. “I’m not at war with myself as I once was,” he says in an interview with UK newspaper The Guardian. “Life isn’t miserable. I don’t miss that.”

Actually, Reznor doesn’t have much to be miserable about. After putting Nine Inch Nails on hold he has experienced immense success making music for motion pictures with composer Atticus Ross. The two won an Oscar for their spacey, classical-industrial-pop score for David Fincher’s ‘The Social Network,’ and he and Ross recently finished the music for Fincher’s just-released adaptation of the book ‘The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.’

The soundtrack opens with a stark, steely cover of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Immigrant Song’ with vocals by Yeah Yeah Yeahs singer Karen O. Interestingly, the move was Fincher’s call and Reznor was happy to comply.

“In my own real-job world, I’m at the top of the pyramid of creative control,” Reznor said. “But it’s been fun to not be that guy and to have a boss. The only way that works is if there’s mutual respect, and there is. You learn to trust his instincts. Nine out of 10 times — no, let’s not go that far. Four out of five times, Fincher’s right.”

The rest of the ‘Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’ score, for which Rezner and Ross have already received a Golden Globe nomination, is eerier and more epic — a surreal three-hour odyssey that ranges from ambient and droney to experimental and electronic.

Reznor began by creating sounds influenced by David Lynch haunting ‘Eraserhead’ soundtrack and moved on from there. “It gave us a few starting points, revolving around emptiness and dread. Then we started inserting chunks of texture and melody.”

While many artists compose music to actual film footage in order to compliment the onscreen action and emotion, Reznor handed Fincher the first 90 minutes of music for ‘The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’ last fall while Fincher was still shooting. In total, Reznor and Ross spent 15 months on the score.

The relationship between Fincher and Reznor dates back to 1995 when Fincher used Nine Inch Nails’ ‘Closer’ in his harrowing thriller ‘Seven.’ Since then, Reznor has become Fincher’s go-to guy; he has received numerous offers from other directors, but is wary of becoming the next Danny Elfman, who fronted new wave band Oingo Boingo between 1974 and 1995. “If every director was as smart and challenging as David Fincher, OK, that’s a discussion. But they’re not,” Reznor said.

While Reznor doesn’t have any plans for Nine Inch Nails in the immediate future, he is working on the debut full length album from his new band How to Destroy Angels, which also features his wife Mariqueen Maandig (the couple have a one year old son and are expecting another child any day now) and Ross. Reznor told The Guardian he has also been asked to direct his first movie and is making plans to produce a 10-part series for HBO loosely inspired by the 2007 Nine Inch Nails album ‘Year Zero.’

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