During a recent interview on BBC Radio 6 Music, the NIN frontman spoke about the evolution of his group’s stage production and how other artists have copied elements of their previous performance setups. Reznor specifically called out Kanye and Abel, claiming they “ripped off” NIN’s “immersive” concert approach.
“I remember us watching a string of bands on Coachella from the comfort of our couch. And every band has a video playing behind them. And every band is synced up with a convenient, polite lighting package, you know?” he told BBC Radio’s Lauren Laverne. “And I saw Kanye West blatantly rip off—and the Weeknd rip off—our tours production-wise, which I'll say without any hesitation. And they know.”
The NIN founder went on to say that the band collectively decided to abandon technologically advanced live shows, and instead present a much simpler and a lot less predictable.
“When I think back to the Cure, when I saw them for the first time in the mid-’80s—or the Jesus and Mary Chain when we opened for them—and all I remember of that was smoke, maybe a color, a little bit of someone’s hair, and real, real loud guitars,” Reznor said. “That’s exciting and I don’t see that happening much. So we kind of went the opposite of the arms race we had been in of immersive, technological-based production […] It’s music being played somewhat sloppily with an element of danger and uncertainty and unpredictability. And we mean it, and we’re sweating, and it hurts on stage at times. It worked, you know? So that became the template for what we’re doing now.”
Check out Reznor’s comments below. The full interview airs Wednesday.
As pointed out by Pitchfork, the frontman’s claims against Kanye and the Weeknd aren’t exactly baseless. NIN and Kanye have both worked with production designer Martin Phillips on previous shows; and in a 2017 interview with Billboard, the designers behind the Weeknd’s Starboy: Legend of the Fall Tour admitted NIN was a source of inspiration for them.
“We’ve always called [the Weeknd’s] aesthetic the Nine Inch Nails of R&B,” lighting and production designers Sooner Routhier and Robert Long explained. “His music has so many dynamics and the visuals and lighting have to reflect that. But, it still has to be simple.”