With the final entry in their triple-album sojourn, Nine Inch Nails’ Atticus Ross says he and bandmate Trent Reznor made a very deliberate hairpin turn away from what would have been an easy conclusion. “When we were back in the studio [after a run of live shows], we were working on this album, and… we decided we didn’t want to tie everything up nicely,” he tells STACK. “Trent picking up the sax for instance – something he hadn’t done for a long time, and playing around with what that instrument could be… obviously at times it’s dry, other times it’s heavily processed. We would just pop back into the idea of experimentation and trying to find something that felt exciting, interesting to us.”
This is how Bad Witch was crafted: with a determined focus on exploration, as something of an acid test to discover new ways in which artificial and analogue sounds can be manipulated – preferably to jolt or disturb. And if even a microscopic element might seem random, you can be sure that it is not. “There’s nothing, generally, in a Nine Inch Nails song, that hasn’t been thought about,” Ross says. “Everything plays into a narrative. And often, with any piece or an album or a song, we’re thinking in terms of a longer narrative. It’s the same with a live performance… [or] if you go to a good film there’s a journey that takes place,” he says, and adds drily: “And I’m not using that reference because we happen to work in film sometimes.”
Ross attests that before he was even officially a part of NIN, watching the band made him feel like he was watching a film. “It was a band, but I felt like it was more than a band,” he explains. “I was getting a full meal, in terms of every sense – it’s a stimulation of all the senses, in a visceral manner.” He’s very careful not to reveal much about the “longer narrative” of Bad Witch – it’s a journey for the listener, after all – but points towards the “collage” in the second chorus of Sh-t Mirror for concealed clues, and, of course, the album art: “The idea of primitivism is explored within the album – you can probably put that together by looking at the images on the cover.”
Bad Witch EP is out now via Caroline.
Keep up with the latest Australian release dates for music.