Dave Grohl on Trent Reznor: 'He's My Generation's Most Talented Musician-Producer-Songwriter'

Dave Grohl Trent Reznor Split - H 2011
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Dave Grohl Trent Reznor Split - H 2011

The Foo Fighters frontman shares memories of working with the Nine Inch Nails mastermind and Oscar winner, who scored the much-anticipated "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo." Says Grohl: "He can do everyone else's job better than they can, so you have to be good. And that pushes you to be great."

Of Trent Reznor’s contemporaries, there are certainly plenty of admirers, but it’s a rare rock star who can convey mutual respect in as endearingly mushy a manner as Dave Grohl.

Indeed, ask the 42-year-old Foo Fighters frontman and Nirvana drummer for his thoughts on the Nine Inch Nails mastermind, and you shall receive an essay’s worth of memories, meticulously detailed, impactful and sincere.

Grohl’s words on his time with Reznor, who is featured on the cover of this week's Hollywood Reporter, printed in their entirety, below:  

I think I met Trent for the first time in the summer of 1992. Nirvana wasn't working, so I spent the summer at my good friend's house in the San Fernando Valley, sleeping on his floor and going surfing everyday. His house had no air-conditioning, so everyday the sweltering valley heat would wake us up and force us out to the beach. My good friend Brian made it his mission to find a different swimming pool everyday for us to crash. Apartment complexes, peoples' backyards... it didn't matter. If you had a pool, and Brian 'kind of' knew you, we were in your pool all day.

One day Brian called and said, "Guess where we're swimming today? The fucking house where Sharon Tate was murdered by the Manson family..." We all freaked out, didn't ask too many questions, grabbed our towels and split. Once we arrived, I noticed some studio gear in the living room. That same living room that you've photos of a thousand times. I recognized it immediately. I couldn't believe I was actually standing there. And then someone told me it was Nine Inch Nails. They were making their new record in this house. In that room.

And it was a masterpiece.

Years later, I was at home when I got a call from my manager John Silva. He said, "Your buddy Trent Reznor is looking for you. Can I give him your email?" "Sure." I said. I hadn't seen or talked to Trent in years. To be honest, we were never really that close. Just casual acquaintances, maybe do a festival together every now and then. Of course, I had an enormous respect for him as an artist and producer. Just didn't know him as a person.

I checked my email a few hours later and found message from Trent. He was in the process of making a new NIN record and had been recording live drums. He asked if I would be interested in playing on the album, and the hair on my neck immediately stood up. I actually got the chills just from reading the sentence. I RAN down the hall and said to my wife, "Guess what... I think I'm gonna play drums on a Nine Inch Nails record..." I was so blown away. I immediately called Trent, we chatted for a few minutes, he explained what he was up to, and I of course accepted his invitation. He asked when I could start. I said, "Tonight."

We booked into my favorite studio in the valley, Sound City for a few days, then moved over to another studio Grand Master to finish out the session. Originally he only wanted me to play on maybe 5 or 6 songs. We knocked out 3 or 4 in the first day. Everyone was really excited, and at one point he came to me and said, "Hey, I don't want you to feel like I'm taking advantage, but I have a few more songs that might sound good with your drums." I think we ended up recording 10 or 12 tracks. But the funny thing was... he would say, "OK, check this out, it's a rough idea, I'm not so sure about it, but take a listen..." and it would be the most incredible piece of music I'd ever heard. Fucking mind-blowing shit. His standards are so much higher than anyone else’s. He does not settle for or accept anything that isn't amazing. 

To me, working with him in the studio was such a great experience because his understanding and knowledge of recording music is so deep. He can do everyone else's job better than they can, so you have to be good. And that pushes you to be great. Rhythmically, he works in very sophisticated patterns, without confusing the song. That's an art. Most drummers can't even do that. His sense of arrangement and composition ranges from beautiful linear structure to abstract. And the effect is always the same: he makes incredibly moving music.

I think it's safe to say that he is my generation's most talented musician-producer-songwriter. When he won the Academy Award, I was not only happy for him, but I was also happy that someone from my musical generation was being recognized not just as a rock musician, but as a brilliant composer. As an artist. It was well-deserved.