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Trent Reznor: Iconoclast To Icon, Via Oscar

WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 27:  Musician Trent Reznor arrives at the Vanity Fair Oscar party hosted by Graydon Carter held at Sunset Tower on February 27, 2011 in West Hollywood, California.
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WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 27: Musician Trent Reznor arrives at the Vanity Fair Oscar party hosted by Graydon Carter held at Sunset Tower on February 27, 2011 in West Hollywood, California.

Last month, the haunting and delicate music from the film The Social Network won best original score honors at the Academy Awards, and for millions of fans of the industrial-goth band Nine Inch Nails — a band that became huge in the 1990s — there was a moment of almost jaw-dropping surprise.

Trent Reznor, the man behind Nine Inch Nails, composed the music for The Social Network. When his name was announced, a clean-cut, tuxedo-clad Reznor bounded onstage to hold his Oscar high. This is the same man who, for much of the 1990s, personified a dark and estranged voice in the world of rock. Most of his fans know Reznor from songs like "Head Like A Hole," an abrasive, thrashing tune about obedience and rebellion.

"In my early 20s I had this need to express myself that could have come out as punching a wall, or writing a poem, or screaming," Reznor tells Weekend All Things Considered host Guy Raz about that song, from the 1989 album Pretty Hate Machine. "[I] wound up ... marrying a journal I had been keeping with music I was writing, and this weird concoction came out. And it had a truth to it, because I meant it."

Reznor has battled depression for much of his life; music was a cathartic release.

"For me it felt like I had found this perfect vehicle to get this out of my system," Reznor says. "Anytime a new project comes up, really it's just a matter of mining into my own feelings and thoughts. That place I'm in has changed, as I hope it would. It went from a place that was pretty dark and unbearable to where it is now, which has lots of nice things in it."

When David Fincher first approached Reznor to score The Social Network, the singer was hesitant. He had just finished touring and had promised to give himself a little time off. But after a few months, Reznor had a change of heart.

"It was nagging me that I'd disappointed him. I got in touch with him just to say sorry, and in the future if anything comes up, let me know," Reznor says. "And then he said, 'Well, I'm still waiting for you to say yes to this film.' I got in my car that day and went over, and we were off to the races."

Reznor says that the process of making the Oscar-winning score was unlike anything he'd done before.

"The act of working on the film, the entire experience, was unmatched with anything I've done in my life."

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