JILL KRAJEWSKI | Creative Communications, Promotion & Writing
Nine Inch Nails’ most prominent visual theme evolved from decay into glitch during the With Teeth (2005) and Year Zero (2007) eras though the work of Rob Sheridan (Tumblr), a Los Angeles-based artist, designer and photographer. Sheridan started working with Trent Reznor in the late ’90s at a time when he was a budding artist with a well-run NIN fansite and Reznor was looking to expand his digital presence. As their partnership grew more and more collaborative, Sheridan’s role evolved from designer and photographer to Art Director. He also went on to create glitched visuals for Reznor’s work on The Social Network soundtrack in 2010 and with How to destroy angels_ this year in addition to becoming Reznor’s bandmate in the latter project. Despite being just as swamped as Reznor with NIN’s comeback, Sheridan was kind enough to speak with me over email about how he matches visuals to Reznor’s music.
Jill Krajewski (One Week One Band): What interests you about glitch art?
Rob Sheridan: I’ve always been fascinated with things that feel off, things that break formality or break the expected in interesting ways. When I started working with Nine Inch Nails and found myself tasked with visually representing the themes and emotions and sounds of the music, visual glitching was a natural fit. Trent has always played with things that sound slightly “wrong” in his music, and seeking the same visual metaphors often leads me to trying to use visual tools in “wrong” ways. Over time that’s meant dragging paper through broken printers, pouring liquids onto scanners, intentionally breaking cameras, corrupting code, disrupting signals, and on and on. But it depends entirely on the project and the themes and emotions behind it - you won’t find a trace of glitching on some of the albums I’ve done with NIN, because it wasn’t appropriate thematically.
I had the chance to see a lecture by Bill Nye “The Science Guy” in Ottawa. While the lecture on doing more with less was great itself, the following moment was the most important thing that happened.
Bill was extremely generous with the Q&A and even went overtime so most people could speak. While there were great science questions (and not so great joke ones), the most inspiring discussion came from the question “How do you make red?” It was by a second grade girl in the audience with her family.
Bill spoke to her with the same level of respect he gave the neuroscience majors, taking the time and care to explain how iron oxide gives both our blood and Mars their bold red colour. He also gave her an experiment of her own: to take apart some steel wool in her kitchen sink, get it wet, and leave it on her windowsill so she could “make red” herself.
It was only five minutes, but those five minutes of encouragement were all it took to remind everyone why we were hooked on Bill Nye as kids. He spoke not to our age, but to our curiosity with the world.