Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails performs during Lollapalooza in 2013.
Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor lost more than a friend when David Bowie died.
The Nine Inch Nails frontman referred to Bowie as a “fatherly figure” that helped him get sober in a new personal essay published by Rolling Stone on Tuesday.
“I didn’t think we were done,” Reznor wrote about Bowie’s sudden passing. “It feels like the loss of a mentor, someone looking out for you, reminding you that in a world where the bar keeps seeming to be lower, where stupidity has got a foothold, there is room for excellence and uncompromising vision”
Reznor recounted the pair touring together in the mid-1990s, during Bowie’s “Outside” and “Earthling” years. He said that Bowie played a part in helping him successfully beat addiction in the long run, because at the time the Nine Inch Nails frontman himself was “a mess.”
“This was the peak of Nine Inch Nails’ newfound rocket ship of fame. It distorted my personality and became overwhelming” Reznor wrote. “My way of dealing with life was to numb myself with drugs and alcohol, because it made me feel better and more equipped to deal with everything.
“When I met David, he had been through that. And he was content. He was at peace with himself, with an incredible wife, clearly in love. There were a number of times where the two of us were alone, and he said some things that weren’t scolding, but pieces of wisdom that stuck with me: “You know, there is a better way here, and it doesn’t have to end in despair or in death, in the bottom.”
David Bowie toured on the same bill with Nine Inch Nails in the mid-1990s.
During that same tour, Bowie openly admitted that he believed Nine Inch Nails would “blow us away every night,” slighting his own band. Reznor wrote that he was humbled to be “witnessing firsthand the fearlessness” that Bowie possessed.
One of Reznor’s career highlights was singing his band’s hit song “Hurt” with Bowie during those shows.
“I was outside of myself, thinking, ‘I’m standing onstage next to the most important influence I’ve ever had, and he’s singing a song I wrote in my bedroom.’ It was just an awesome moment,” he wrote.
After hitting rock bottom, Reznor met Bowie again years later, and the “Changes” singer had a heartwarming reaction to learning that the Nine Inch Nails frontman was sober.
“I wanted to thank him in the way that he helped me. And I reluctantly went backstage, feeling weird and ashamed, like, ‘Hey, I’m the guy that puked on the rug.’ And again, I was met with warmth, and grace, and love,” Reznor wrote. “And I started to say, ‘Hey listen, I’ve been clean for …’ I don’t even think I finished the sentence; I got a big hug. And he said, ‘I knew. I knew you’d do that. I knew you’d come out of that.’ I have goosebumps right now just thinking about it. It was another very important moment in my life.”
Bowie isn’t the only musical legend that Reznor has close ties to — Johnny Cash famously covered his song “Hurt.”
The music video for the Cash cover brought Reznor to tears, and he told The Alternative Press in 2004 “that song isn’t mine anymore.”
Reznor has opened up about his past drug use before. In a 2005 interview with Kerrang!, he described his sobriety battles as “a persona that had run its course.”
“I needed to get my priorities straight, my head screwed on,” he said. “Instead of always working, I took a couple of years off, just to figure out who I was and working out if I wanted to keep doing this or not. I had become a terrible addict; I needed to get my s–t together, figure out what had happened.”