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1998.07.23 - The New York Times - Failure's Hard But Success Can Be Worse

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1998.07.23 - The New York Times - Failure's Hard But Success Can Be Worse Empty 1998.07.23 - The New York Times - Failure's Hard But Success Can Be Worse

Post by Blackstar on Tue Feb 25, 2020 3:45 pm


THE POP LIFE; Failure's Hard But Success Can Be Worse

By Neil Strauss
July 23, 1998

Making music after recovering from a failure or scandal can be very difficult, but it's even harder to make a record after recovering from a great success. For some musicians, it can be hard to write songs knowing that every word and every note will be scrutinized and held up for comparison against their previous work. Living with fame may be tough, but living up to high expectations is one of an artist's greatest challenges.

''When I write something, I think, 'Do I want people to know this?' '' Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails said in an interview last year while working on his next record, which still hasn't been released. '' 'Do I want to give up that element of my life and my personality to be criticized?' '' For four years, pop fans have been waiting for a new album from Mr. Reznor, one of the biggest rock musicians of the 90's. It has been six years since fans have heard a new album from Dr. Dre, the innovative rapper and producer who helped invent the West Coast gangsta sound. And it has been seven years since fans have heard a record of original material from Axl Rose, whose band, Guns 'n' Roses, was the biggest heavy metal act of the 80's.

What ties these three musicians together is that they have all been struggling with new material for years, confronting their own perfectionism, procrastination, writer's block and ambition. If they're not geniuses, they're at least talented musicians burdened by the notion of their own genius. Unlike other successful pop stars in hibernation, these musicians are not has-beens, yet. They still have hundreds of thousands of dedicated fans who have been waiting eagerly for new music, holding fast to rumors of album release dates that keep getting pushed back farther and farther. Even the most unlikely of these acts, Guns 'n' Roses, is suddenly selling over 10,000 copies a week of its ''Appetite for Destruction'' album, which was released in 1987. But every year these acts don't make new music, their audiences shrink as the teen-age angst of some fans (a commodity all three trade in) gives way to the responsibilities of adult life.

Though these musicians are emblematic of three very different genres -- heavy metal, industrial-rock and gangsta rap -- their careers have also intersected. Mr. Rose has been working with several former members of Nine Inch Nails and has tried to tour and collaborate with Dr. Dre's former band, N.W.A, while Mr. Reznor and Dr. Dre have also been talking about collaborating. Though the wait for new music from these acts probably won't end this year, here's what friends, collaborators and publicity agents had to say about their progress.

AXL ROSE With the exception of the keyboardist Dizzy Reed, every past member of Guns 'n' Roses has left or been dismissed by Mr. Rose. In their place, he has been working with musicians known for their electronic-instrument savvy, from Moby to Chris Vrenna, formerly of Nine Inch Nails, both of whom have since left the project. The current band lineup is said to include the guitarist Robin Finck (formerly of Nine Inch Nails), the drummer Josh Freese (the Vandals), the bassist Tommy Stinson (the Replacements) and the producer Youth (Killing Joke and the Orb).

A spokeswoman for Mr. Rose refused to confirm the current Guns 'n' Roses lineup, but she did say that after resolving personal issues and lawsuits a few years ago, Mr. Rose set about recording an electronica-influenced album. Instead of depending on the work of others, however, he has been teaching himself how to program electronic instruments, make drum loops and play guitar, she said, which is one reason the process has taken so long. Mr. Rose has recorded a number of demo recordings -- over 300 tapes of music, sounds and ideas -- and is expected to enter the studio in the fall to begin recording the new album, which is supposedly due in 1999.

DR. DRE After releasing ''The Chronic'' in 1993, one of the most important rap albums of the decade, Dr. Dre left Death Row records, renounced gangsta rap and started his own label, Aftermath. Between working on new material for L. L. Cool J, Mack 10, and King Tee, Dr. Dre has been laboring over his next record. The reason it's been taking so long, those who know Dr. Dre say, is because he's a perfectionist. For his new album, he reunited with Snoop Doggy Dogg, the popular gangsta rapper that Dr. Dre put on the map, for two songs and has been working with a newer rapper, Hitman.

An Interscope spokeswoman said that Dr. Dre was midway through the recording process and that she expected a 1999 release. Asked for more information, she replied, ''Only God and Dre know what's going to be on this album.''

NINE INCH NAILS Although Mr. Reznor hasn't released a record of new material since 1994, his star doesn't seem to have dimmed. He shares a perfectionist tendency with Dr. Dre, but he is also plagued by insecurity, especially when it comes to writing lyrics, which he is working on now. According to his spokeswoman, Mr. Reznor has recorded some 45 songs for a a new album, tentatively titled ''The Fragile,'' that would be less aggressive, more musically and rhythmically sophisticated than his past works. Mr. Reznor is considering packaging it as two conceptually different CD's sold in one package.

Like Mr. Rose, Mr. Reznor is no longer working with most of the musicians who appeared on his last album. Instead, he has been recording with the guitarist Adrian Belew (of King Crimson), the keyboardist Mike Garson (of David Bowie's band), the producer Steve Albini (Big Black) and two different percussionists, Bill Rieflin (Ministry) and Tony Thompson (Chic and Power Station ). Though Mr. Reznor has said he hoped to have the album out in November, it doesn't seem likely to come out until next year.

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