Alessandro Cortini on instrumental music and talking trash

Long-standing Nine Inch Nails cohort goes his own way

Trent Reznor has long served as the principal architect behind the industrial-metal machine Nine Inch Nails. Over much of the last decade, Alessandro Cortini has been by his side, appearing on albums such as Ghosts I-IV, The Slip, and Hesitation Marks. In the meantime, Cortini has also embarked on various solo endeavors, releasing his own electronic compositions under various monikers including SONOIO, blindoldfreak, and under his own name. Before making his way to Atlanta for a show of his intimate audio-visual blast, Cortini took a few minutes to discuss the nature of his work with Nine Inch Nails, how his solo projects take shape, and talking trash with Richard Devine.

How did working with Nine Inch Nails differ from working with How to Destroy Angels?

How to Destroy Angels was a composition that initially was just playing around in the studio. Only later did it become How to Destroy Angels, as opposed to Nine Inch Nails, where it was more of a conscious effort of being there for a specific project. When I work in the studio with Trent it feels like a machine that runs very well. We’re always searching for new sounds, both from a songwriting point of view and from a sound design point of view; and trying to make those two worlds collide in a way that we’re proud of. It’s a lot of fun and I definitely wouldn’t be where I am now if I wasn’t coming from that family.

You have worked under a few different names. What makes one project different from the others and how do you decide which music falls under which moniker?

There is a common thread between all of them, but I’ve always found it difficult to use one specific name for everything. It’s easier to justify an interest in a new musical direction if I label it under a different name. Instrumental stuff, when I started, always felt like it was a temporary hold music until I could come up with lyrics for it. Working on Ghosts I-IV with Trent, Alan Moulder, and Atticus Ross, you realize how much fun it can be to make instrumental music without thinking about it. Recently, I’ve been releasing more stuff under my own name, especially instrumentally. No matter what instrument I use to create the music, it’s still me. It’s like trying to get the same message across in different languages.

What’s the scope of material you’re playing here in Atlanta?

It’s going to be compositions from the Sonno record that came out last year, and a few compositions from the new record coming out in July. It’s going to be me performing with a visual counterpart that is just as important, as I’ve learned working with Nine Inch Nails for so long, by this amazing artist named Sean Curtis Patrick.

Your opening act is Atlanta-based electronic music composer Richard Devine. The two of you have performed together in the past. Any chance you’ll be collaborating in any way at this show?

We’ve known each other a long time. We are part of an online collective called Trash_Audio, where we basically talk shit about people and post images of gear we like. We’ve played a few shows together in the past and done some things live together. But when I do something like play the Sonno record live, I have to stick to a specific gear configuration that doesn’t really lend itself to improvisation.

When will we see you performing with Nine Inch Nails again?

We’re all busy doing other stuff; Trent’s particularly busy with Apple and other things. But no one ever said, “This is it.” It’s always been an unspoken agreement that if it needs to happen it will happen. If he wants me to be there, I’ll definitely be there. He’s still a good friend of mine and I believe our paths will cross in the studio again because I believe that when we’re together things come out that might not necessarily come out if he’s on his own. I enjoy that and I think he does, too. But I don’t think anyone wants to talk about touring right now because we just finished. I know it was last year, but it still feels like it was yesterday because it was a very long tour. It was probably the best incarnation, for me at least — I was working with the best musicians and the best human beings. It was an amazing traveling situation, the crowds were great, the shows were great, the songs were great. If that were to be the last tour we ever did, it would be a great one. But we’re still kind of recovering from the last tour.