Trent Reznor's Killer Soundtrack

They're a star-crossed couple, two misfit provocateurs brought together by fate, on a mission of mayhem to shock the system with images of extreme brutality.

Mickey and Mallory, the merciless titular figures of "Natural Born Killers"?

Or Oliver Stone, the film's director, and industrial-rock star Trent Reznor, who helped shape the movie's ambitious musical track and album?

The latter, like the former, was a match made in, well, wherever.

Reznor tapped right into Stone's graphic realization of Quentin Tarantino's violent story. Catching his ear was the way Stone used music as an aural representation of the movie's synaptic-overload theme: Dozens of songs were used, sometimes two or three layered on top of each other, for a unique, disturbing soundscape.

For Reznor, who aims for the same effect with his band, Nine Inch Nails, it was a natural fit.

"The movie's about isolation--not a giant stretch for me," says Reznor, who in leading Nine Inch Nails has used some particularly disturbing images in his own songs and video, including one way-too-rough-for-MTV clip depicting a man submitting himself to unspeakable debasements, mutilations and ultimately becoming, literally, ground meat.

Talking about the film, Reznor could easily be describing his own work: "The main characters of this film are basically pieces that don't fit into the right holes and they have a strong love for each other in a world that's rejected them. And they kill people. It all makes sense."

Was it Reznor's artistic fascination with violence that attracted Stone?

"Draw your own conclusions on that," the director says, calling in from vacation in Indonesia.

Given that Stone also enlisted the services of Dr. Dre--the rap star known for artistic and real-life fascination with violence--for the soundtrack, the conclusion more or less draws itself.

"I admire both artists very much," Stone says. "They're young and obviously troubled people and their lyrics and music reflect that. So is Eddie Vedder and so was Kurt Cobain. There's something going on in our world, you know that. It's a violent society, violent system, and corrupt--the system, the media, the government."

And there were plenty of appropriate songs for Stone to choose from when assembling music for the film. Producers Jane Hampshire and Don Murphy sent dozens of tapes to Stone while he was scouting locations. Budd Carr, the film's music supervisor, also brought in ideas, and such figures as Peter Gabriel were also consulted.

Stone first approached Reznor just to see about using one of his songs in the film. But when Reznor saw the movie in a private screening and heard the way the music was employed, he had a brainstorm about a possible soundtrack album:

"I said to Oliver, 'I think it would be cool if you could take the songs and edit them and edit them and layer them and incorporate dialogue and make more of a keepsake of the film, something unique instead of just 10 songs from the movie like usual.' "

So Reznor took editing and mixing equipment with him on the road during NIN's spring tour, Carr got on the phone to get clearances from artists whose work Reznor was tinkering with and soon the album was ready: collages, remixes and medleys constructed from 27 of the film's songs and some of its dialogue, plus new songs by Nine Inch Nails and by the Dr. Dre-produced Dogg Pound.

Says Carr, "Trent took a lot from our film editors and music editors. They did a great deal of music layering for Oliver, songs playing simultaneously and against each other, creating cacophony and energy."

Is this effort--due to be released the week of Aug. 21--the start of a beautiful friendship?

Both Stone and Reznor say they'd love to work with the other again.

"I'll do his life story," the director jokes.

"He has a lot of that (Jim) Morrison thing going on," says Stone of Reznor. "Very romantic, a balladeer . . . no, poet is the right word."

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