Author of the Nine Inch Nails book centred around the creation of ‘The Downward Spiral’, ‘Into The Never’, Adam Steiner talks to us about his work.
How do you reflect on the release of ‘Into The Never’ now?
The book has been really well received – like a lot of authors whose books were released around the pandemic there was a struggle to get the book out there to people, we all had bigger, more important worries – but at the same time – books like mine were a great thing for people to just order online and lose themselves in. In a similar way that music and The Downward Spiral can be cathartic and help us work through our emotional struggles or escape them all together.
The best thing has been really positive feedback from fans, I’d love to have more reviews from music mags etc. but that’s largely ego talking – it’s actually much more important that fans of NIN feel that I did the album justice, they found new information or insights, or even discovered some perspectives that chimed with their own experiences of the record – that’s the great connective thing about music.
What were some of your biggest challenges in building that book?
There was a lot of great information and ideas floating out there about meanings of the album, and individual songs that people are very attached to. Editing is knowing what to take out and what to leave in, I feel like I could have written double the book, and some people would appreciate that, others might feel that at more than 200 pages I’ve already said enough. So I think striking that balance is hard, something that’s legible, accessible but also gives people some information, ideas, connections that might be new to them and perhaps illuminate aspects of the record.
What about a defining/great moment?
I guess a kind of defining moment would be putting extracts from the book and writing new blog pieces on other NIN topics such as The Social Network soundtrack and putting them onto my blog. Because they’re online for people to stumble upon or find through FB fan groups which has been a great way to get the book out there. Knowing there is a potential readership out there for your work is always rewarding. I recently posted the chapter about the song Reptile and got great responses from NIN fans who said it was there favourtie song from the album – which was a surprise to me – but it shows how different people are attracted to certain things on the record that might be unfamiliar to others.
Can you remember the first moment you listened to NIN, can you talk me through it?
I’m not really sure, I have a definitive memory of the live version of Terrible Lie from And All That Might Have Been, it seems definitive and show the sonic reach of the song going far beyond the album. I think overall it would have to be the shock of hearing Mr Self Destruct, from the opening of the repeated blows to the hammering metal, whirring pinion and the chainsaw guitars, it all struck me like a blow to the body. I think that experience dominated my initial vision of the album and it gave me so much to say from the start and I just ran with it from there
What keeps you passionate outside of writing – people, places, games for example?
I guess reading would be a major thing – it sounds stupid but the more you read the better you can trade in words – so it becomes a regenerative process, one enriches the other, and I also write some fiction and poetry, so all these genres can talk to each other in your head. Otherwise I love swimming and trying to spend time with my daughter – she is two and a half and changes your whole view on life – every day.
How do you define success as a writer?
I’d like to say ‘money’. But in essence it’s really not about that; if you’re writing something you love, even though it can be really slow going/give you headaches/make you tired/very frustrating, that can be the reward in itself. Being successful in what you set out to create / achieve is almost indepedent of external reward/assessment, so you can make yourself happy with your writing, art, whatever. Money can be a bonus, but if you’re not gettiing where you want to go in the first place, the money probably won’t come. Also – it’s really nice to see reviews, online, Goodreads, comments, whatever, where someone took the time just to say they enjoyed it, learnt something, from your book – that’s genuine success. Being rich, famous, lauded etc would seem quite hollow without that.
What advice would you give to emerging writers, who are inspired by your work?
I like to think we’re all continually emerging, like the great painters, you’ve never truly ‘made it’ and if you have, then you might feel you’re doing your best work but others see you in decline. So it is with musicians especially. However – practical terms – I think get an agent if you can, find support networks of other writers and writers orgs (Society of Authors, for example, have helped me a lot) and also try to support others. Give and take go hand in hand. I think try to be authentic, true to yourself and open and honest in your dealings with others, as that can stand you in really good stead down the line, and you cna build genuine working relationships.
When it comes to writing, music writing, don’t try to write what you think is expected of you, someone else will already be doing that, finding your own voice is a big part of that mission, and if others don’t bother, you’ll always have that to separate your writing and how you approach a subject. Always read through contracts and get someone with a legal eye/mind to check it for you…
What are your planned projects for the future?
Like most writers/artists, lots of things up in the air, some will be realised, others not. I’m working on a critical Nick Cave book and another about a special David Bowie album…