My experience with record labels throughout my career has generally fallen into wishing I could do things that they're not built to do, whether it be arguing about having a nicer package - because I do believe some people care about that - to trying to always bank on art-versus-the-easy-commerce route; there's always been headbutting involved.
In my life, I was always floating around the edge of the dark side and saying what if take it a little bit too far, and who says you have to stop there, and what's behind the next door. Maybe you gain a wisdom from examining those things. But after a while, you get too far down in the quicksand.
Nine Inch Nails was born out of Cleveland, Ohio, with me and a friend in a studio working on demos at night. Got a record deal with a small, little label, went on tour in a van, and a couple years later found that somehow we touched a nerve, and that first record resonated with a bunch of people.
I think the whole aspect of social networking is vulgar and repulsive in a lot of ways. But I also see why it's appealing - I've had that little high you get from posting stuff online. But then you think, 'Did I need to say that?' I've explored that enough to know to stay kind of quiet these days.
For me, 'The Social Network' isn't about Facebook. It certainly isn't about how people use it. It's about a flawed character and his pursuit of that grand idea that defines him and validates his life and how far he'll go to get it, and the repercussions that come as a result of that - what he gives up in the process.
A lot of what I've done as Nine Inch Nails has been governed by fear. I was trying to keep the songs in a framework that was tough, and I learnt a lot from Jesus and Mary Chain about how to bury nice pop songs in unlistenable noise - the idea being if you can get behind that wall, you find there's a pearl inside.
When David Fincher called me up a few years ago and said, 'Hey, I'd like you to score this film 'The Social Network,' I said, 'I'm flattered, but I really don't have any real experience scoring films, and I'd rather not screw it up on a high-profile project. And I like you and I don't want to compromise our friendship.'
I've attended many concerts where I felt let down and I was wishing it would be something else. Not that it's their duty to please me, but at the same time, I think a lot about what it's like through the eyes of the consumer, the fan. I want not to pander to the audience, but to be aware of them.
I spent a long time experimenting, saying, 'Here's a record that's free, or $5 if you want a nice version or $250 if you'd like a really nice coffee-table thing.' Everything felt like the right thing to do at the time and then six months later would feel tired. And I would feel tired. So that's one reason for returning to a major label.
My life has been many examples of shortsighted goals that I thought would fix things. You know, if there's something broken inside me, if there's a hole in there, I thought: If I could just write a good song someday, then I'd be OK. You know, if I could just be on stage in front of people I'd never seen before and be validated by them.