Nine Inch Nails play their first live show in four years tonight at Japan’s Fuji Rock Festival, kickstarting a new world tour that sees them playing 14 music festivals worldwide, and hopefully adding Australia’s Soundwave to that list early next year if rumours prove true. And as a new interview with The New York Times reveals, Trent Reznor’s been keeping busy whipping his typically ambitious live show into shape.

Once again partnering with art director Rob Sheridan, the man who ‘played light’ for the visually stunning How To Destroy Angels tour, the new Nine Inch Nails live show features all the bells and whistles, with “smoke, strobe lights, and video screens on wheels,” as well as “interactive displays featuring cascades of virtual particles,” according to the New York Times. Adding that: “The trajectories of lights and video screens, pushed around by the road crew, are so complex that the tour has them choreographed – with time-code cues – to avoid collisions and tangled power cords.”

The show begins with Trent Reznor alone on stage, before his band gradually builds around him over the course of the concert, with the visuals escalating in tandem. It’s an idea that the prolific musician admits he freely borrowed from Talking Heads’ 1983 world tour, later captured on film as Stop Making Sense,but with “no dance moves,” says Reznor.

“We’re always pushing the envelope,” says Reznor’s long-term lighting and production designer, Roy Bennett. “We’ve always tried to make people think and keep them on edge and keep them wondering what’s going on.”

The forthcoming tour precedes the release of Hesitation Marks, the brand new Nine Inch Nails album that Reznor had secretly been working on (due September through Columbia Records); fans got their first taste of the album in lead single ‘Came Back Haunted’ and its David Lynch-directed video.

Reznor says Hesitation Marks harkens back to NIN’s 1994 opus The Downward Spiral in lyrics and tone, as well as artwork, which was again conceived by designer Russell Mills who did the iconic sleeve for The Downward Spiral.

“I felt very aware that it’s 20 years later, and I’m still that guy,” says the 48-year-old musician. “I know that guy, and I feel for him. I don’t resent him, I don’t miss him. But how would things feel on the other side of that now, in a much more stable life place, mentally and physically, and with a new family?” “It feels sparse, and it feels minimal… a weird puzzle of grooves.” – Trent Reznor

The Downward Spiral dealt openly with thoughts of suicide and self-destruction, most poignantly in the Johnny Cash-covered hit ‘Hurt’, but Reznor says that Hesitation Marks takes a less explicit approach.

“It’s not about, ‘I’m going to kill myself if I don’t get this out of my head.’ But the excavation and the architecture behind it, the motivation behind it, is similar,” he adds, but the album proves to be a far less aggressive work. “It feels sparse, and it feels minimal.”

“The mechanism of screaming choruses doesn’t exist here. And that wasn’t by design,” says the 48-year-old musician, “It’s not about everything being at 11 and the pyrotechnics of sound and scare tactics, which I’ve definitely used in the past. But it doesn’t feel like the middle-aged, I’ve-given-up record either.”

The album is “a weird puzzle of grooves,” according to Reznor, and features extensive work with King Crimson guitarist Adrian Belew (who ended up quitting the band ahead of the live shows), and contributions from bassist Pino Palladino, and Fleetwood Mac guitarist Lindsey Buckingham on three tracks. “There was a bit of a kindred spirit there even though the styles were different,” says Buckingham of Reznor.

“I’m proud of it,” Reznor adds of the record. “What fear I had — of ‘What does Nine Inch Nails have to say in 2013?’ — this is it. I don’t feel like it’s trying to force something into the wrong container.”

The new visually ambitious Nine Inch Nails live show – their first since 2009 – gets its premiere tonight at Japan’s Fuji Rock before the band continue playing festivals around the world and hit America for the extensive three-month Tension Tour. If persisting rumours prove correct, Reznor and co will be due in Australia in early 2014.

Whether that’s headlining Soundwave 2014, appearing on the lineup for the Big Day Out 2014 come its July 31st reveal, or simply a headline tour remains to be seen.

Nine Inch Nails 2013 Festival Tour Dates

July 26th – Niigata Prefecture, JP @ Fuji Rock Festival
July 28th – Ansan, KR @ Ansan Valley Festival
August 2nd-4th – Chicago, IL @ Lollapalooza Festival
August 9th – 11th – San Francisco, CA @ Outside Lands Festival
August 15th – Kiewit, BE @ Pukkelpop
August 16th – Biddinghuizen, Holland @ Lowlands Festival
August 18th – Hockenheim, DE @ Rock ‘n’ Heim
August 23rd – Leeds, UK @ Leeds Festival
August 24th – Paris, France @ Rock en Seine Festival
August 25th – Reading, UK @ Reading Festival
August 28th – Milan, Italy @ Mediolanum Forum (w/ Tomahawk)
August 31st – Philadelphia, PA @ Made In America Festival
October 25th – 27th – Ashville, NC @ Mountain Oasis Electronic Music Summit
November 1st – 3rd – New Orleans, LA @ Voodoo Festival

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