The dark lord of industrial music, Trent Reznor, famously lived in New Orleans for around a decade. The period when both he and vampire author Anne Rice lived here simultaneously, boosted New Orleans’s rep as a goth capital. I would see him standing atop his sweetly elaborate Uptown recording studio, catching beads during Mardi Gras Parades. Despite living in a part of town that took on no floodwater, Trent moved away a year or so after Hurricane Katrina.
I technically met him at a packed Kool Keith show at House of Blues. I always stand behind the sound booth at HoB, because it’s often fun to watch them man the glowing boards. I assume Trent stood there for the same reason. With longish hair, in cargo shorts and black t-shirt, he looked like my friends back in Florida. We stood beside each other as Kool Keith threw chicken wings and juice boxes and porn magazines to his fans up front, and the crowd crammed Trent and I together to where we were forced to say hello out of politeness.
After Katrina, a friend of mine planning a benefit concert in the Lower 9 met one of Reznor’s assistants, who invited my friend to Reznor’s badass studio, to possibly borrow a PA system for the charity event. Because her boss was packing up his studio to finally move away from New Orleans, Reznor’s assistant ended up giving my friend a massive PA that took up all the space is his apartment. “Trust me, you’re doing him a favor. He has way too much gear,” the assistant reportedly said. “Right now, you could probably take any of this stuff, and he’d never even notice it was gone.”
My friend pointed to a huge guitar amp, a Mesa Boogie cabinet and head, worth thousands of dollars, and joked, “So you don’t mind if I take that too, then?”
“Sure, go ahead,” she told him.
Even though Reznor very likely did not OK that sketchy transaction, it still left me with a forever impression of Reznor as a charitable sort.
But my own strongest memory of Trent Reznor will always be the morning I left a teaching job where my teen students had really beat me up. Almost literally. Adding to the stress, my bike had broken, I’d have to wait until payday to fix it, and so I walked along some Uptown road toward the bus stop, sweating, stressed out. Not at all hungry, I noticed a very grungy gas station selling two pieces of chicken and a biscuit for 99-cents, and I felt I had to partake of this amazing deal, since who knew how I’d afford lunch later otherwise.
Back outside the dirty gas station, as I chomped on this cheap, greasy chicken I wasn’t even hungry for, and hoped my life would get better, before my eyes appeared a beautiful shiny black Porche, contrasting brightly against the gross gas station, and my self-pity. Trent Reznor stepped out of the car, wearing a black leather jacket in the heat (I think), definitely all black clothes with black sunglasses. He looked very unlike my friends in Florida. And he looked even less like me.
I wish I could say that moment, watching him pump gas into his Porche, made me take my fate into my own hands and never suffer in poverty again. But I still eat gas station chicken from time to time.
Michael Patrick Welch’s “132 Famous People I Have Met” series is FREE, but please consider donating to his VENMO (michael-welch-42), or to his PayPal account (paypal.me/michaelpatrickwelch2), so he can feed his kids, pay his mortgage, etc.