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Soundtrack Mix #15: Trent Reznor in Hollywood

A deep dark dive into the sleek, serious, and tranquil filmic music stylings of Trent Reznor.
Florence Scott-Anderton
Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers (1994) is a relic of Generation X.It plays out like a hypnotic and wild teen magazine on acid, its TV aesthetic of the pre 9/11 era is fantastical and analog. The cut and paste sonics in the film create a 3D rollercoaster. Trent Reznor produced the soundtrack. It was 1994 and Nine Inch Nails were one of the hottest bands in the world and Reznor had helped create a new aesthetic and attitude. Pop was dark and serious, unafraid of overtly sexual and political language both musically and visually. And visuals were as important as the music. Reznor’s production credit from Natural Born Killers was the start of things to come. This soundtrack mix goes deep into the journey of Trent Reznor’s explorations in cinema. 
Alongside Natural Born Killers, included in this mix are two films that signified early on Reznor’s future relationship to film, David Lynch’s Lost Highway (1997) and the opening sequence of David Fincher’s Seven (1995). The Reznor sound and aesthetic (industrial, sexy, melancholy, yearning, danceable, dangerous) fit perfectly in both neo-noir nineties fever dreams. In Lost Highway Reznor is credited for producing the album and contributing original material. He brought in musical hero Peter Christopherson (of Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV fame) to collaborate on the production of the track “Videodrones; Questions,” which is featured in this mix alongside Reznor’s “Driver Down” from the same soundtrack. The industrial dread lends itself to Lynch’s vision, creating one of his most varied and fun OST releases to date (a great moment in soundtrack history being the use of This Mortal Coil’s cover of “Song To The Siren”). It appeared that the cool sounds of the era and Reznor’s sympathetic understanding of how a film can be elevated through music were a perfect match. In Seven, the opening credits use Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer (Precursor),” (a Coil remix no less, fans of Christopherson will likely also be Coil fans). Reznor was becoming aligned with a certain sound and film of the era. 
This continued with a Nine Inch Nails cover of Joy Division’s “Dead Souls,'' from the soundtrack of the stunning and fateful The Crow (1994), one of the defining films of the industrial and steampunk revivalist nineties, and one of the great comic book to film adaptations. Other song credits from the early nineties moving into the early noughts—when cinema excited the conversations of teens all over, and filled cinema seats—include Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001), Final Destination (2000), Doom Generation (1995), Beavis and Butt- head (1994), Resident Evil (2002), to name but a few. 
David Fincher was one of the golden directors for music videos during the eighties and into the nineties. Promos were not only huge business but becoming a serious art form and Reznor admired Fincher’s music videography. Included in this mix are snippets of dialogue of Reznor fondly discussing the creative process of working with Fincher (who returned the favor in 2005, directing Nine Inch Nails’ “Only”). Reznor’s collaborations with Atticus Ross for David Fincher films have undoubtedly changed the contemporary landscape of film music and influenced a new wave of composers. They have further bridged the gap from rock star to film composer in the same vein as Paul Thomas Anderson’s fruitful partnership with Jonny Greenwood. There is a sensibility shared in Fincher’s vision and Reznor’s sounds. The gap between the avant garde and mainstream can be seen with releases such as The Girl With A Dragon Tattoo (2011). The sprawling record comes in at 39 digital tracks and 3 LPs long. As do HBO’s Watchmen (2019) and Netflix’s Bird Box (2018) soundtracks, which unabridged play out longer than the film and TV show lengths. These ultra long LPs show the hand of a musician with a background in the conceptual when it comes to the physical release experience. With each soundtrack release comes an event to unpack at home, to further find meanings and ideas behind the narratives the soundtracks support. 
Many moments from the Reznor, Ross, Fincher discography feature in this mix. There’s the switch-up scene in Gone Girl (2014) in which Rosamund Pike’s brilliant monologue and the score surrounding it rapidly unveil her truth in the mystery. This is a masterclass of sound design and atmosphere and never ceases to excite upon every re-viewing. These transcendent moments move between terror, aggression and sex. The Social Network’s (2010) “Hand Covers Bruise” (the soundtrack which catapulted Reznor to Oscar heights) breaks out into the techno quasi- banger “In Motion,” one of the most elated and hedonistic moments from all of Reznor’s output. 
In Reznor’s compositions sleekness runs through with space for gorgeous tranquility to seep out. Some films are refrained by delight, like the ambient score for the metaphysical segments of Soul (2020). Likewise Reznor and Ross offered several tracks to the documentary Before The Flood (2016) (other contributors included Mogwai) and there’s a soft, post rock melancholy to that score—the track “One Perfect Moment” opens up this mix. Reznor crosses the spectrum of sound, whether it’s the pulsating synths in “Stupid Panties” from Watchmen (2019), the soft jazz infused riffs of Mank (2020) or harking back to the industrial roots of NIN, there is almost always a certain sensibility to his film composition. 
The production is always stylish and polished, traversing big-budget Hollywood whilst staying true to its progressive roots, much like Fincher’s film work. This is a great example of artists from the underground that are given freedom and control in Hollywood (this is very much a model that comes from the 90s) and Reznor is not stopping any time soon, as we await the Oscar 2021 nominations. This mix showcases one of the most exciting and innovative musicians working in and out of cinema today.  
  1. Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, Before the Flood (Fisher Stevans, 2016), “One Perfect Moment” 0:00
  2. Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, The Social Network (David Fincher, 2010), “Soft Trees Break The Fall” 6:20
  3. Trent Reznor featuring Robert Downey Jr., and Brian Berdan – "BB Tone", Natural Born Killers (Oliver Stone, 1994), “Route 666” 10:37
  4. Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, Gone Girl (David Fincher, 2014), “The Way He Looks At Me” 11:12
  5. Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, The Social Network (David Fincher, 2010), “A Familiar Taste” 14:14
  6. Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, Soul (Pete Docter, 2020), "Escape / Inside 22" 17:16
  7. Trent Reznor featuring Peter Christopherson, Lost Highway (David Lynch, 1997), "Videodrones; Questions" 18:56
  8. Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, Watchmen (Volume 1) (Damon Lindelof, 2019), “How the West Was Really Won” 19:06
  9. Nine Inch Nails, The Crow (Alex Proyas, 1994), “Dead Souls (Joy Division Cover)” 22:40
  10. Excerpt, Gone Girl (David Fincher, 2014) 27:20
  11. Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, Watchmen (Volume 3) (Damon Lindelof, 2019), “Stupid Panties” 34:31
  12. Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, Birdbox (Susanne Bier, 2018), “Sleep Deprivation” 38:12
  13. Excerpts, various Trent Reznor Interviews (edit) 42:30
  14. Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (David Fincher, 2011), “The Sound of Forgetting” 42:52
  15. Nine Inch Nails, Seven (David Fincher, 1995), “Closer (Precursor) (Coil Remix)” 44:50
  16. Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (David Fincher, 2011), “Of Secrets” 50:08
  17. Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, The Social Network (David Fincher, 2010), “Hand Covers Bruise” 52:30
  18. Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, The Social Network (David Fincher, 2010), “In Motion” 56:44
  19. Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, Birdbox (Susanne Bier, 2018), “Undercurrents” 61:38
  20. Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, Mank (David Fincher, 2020), “Constellations” 65:28
  21. Dave Grohl, Josh Homme, and Trent Reznor, Sound City (Dave Grohl, 2013) “Mantra” 67:44
  22. Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, Soul (Pete Docter, 2020), "Pursuit / Terry’s World" 72:29
  23. Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, Waves (Trey Edward Shults, 2019) “Holding It Together” 74:06
  24. Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, Waves (Trey Edward Shults, 2019) “Forgetting” 76:40
  25. Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, Patriots Day (Peter Berg, 2016) “Fornicator” 78:08
  26. Trent Reznor, Lost Highway (David Lynch, 1997), “Driver Down” 80:00
  27. Trent Reznor,  Natural Born Killers (Oliver Stone, 1994), “Totally Hot” 85:16
  28. Nine Inch Nails, Final Destination (James Wong, 2000) “Into The Void” 85:48
  29. Excerpts, various Trent Reznor Interviews (edit) 89:48
  30. Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, Before the Flood (Fisher Stevans, 2016), “And When the Sky Was Opened” 89:52
  31. Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, Mank (David Fincher, 2020), “It Can Get Cold at Night” 96:16
  32. Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (David Fincher, 2011), “Great Bird of Prey” 100:16
  33. Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, Watchmen (Volume 3) (Damon Lindelof, 2019),“A Man Walks Into an Intrinsic Field” 105:28
  34. Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (David Fincher, 2011), “She Reminds Me of You” 106:40
  35. Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, Mid90s  (Jonah Hill, 2018), “The Start of Things” 110:48


Soundtrack MixesColumnsTrent ReznorDavid FincherAtticus RossDavid Lynch
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