Reznor Bares Teeth in Court
05/17/2005 2:06 PM, E! Online
Did Trent Reznor's ex-manager bite the hand that fed him?
The Nine Inch Nails frontman is trying to persuade a New York
jury of just that as he finds himself in the most clich of all rock 'n'
roll soap operas: band versus manager.
post-industrial poster boy testified Monday against his ex-manager, John
Malm, accusing Malm of swindling millions of dollars and misleading the
rocker for years on the state of his NIN money.
suit for breach of contract and breach of fiduciary, filed May 19, 2004,
claims Malm engaged in a host of deceptive practices, including
diverting funds without Reznor's knowledge, using band money for
personal travel and entertainment purposes and tricking Reznor into
signing a contract that allowed Malm to collect 20 percent of the
singer's gross earnings, rather than the less lucrative net earnings.
Around the same time Reznor filed his suit last year, Malm
filed a counterclaim contending Reznor actually owes him $2
million in commissions.
Ironically, even in the unlikely
scenario that Reznor wanted to pay Malm the commissions, he may be a
little short on cash because of his ex-manager. On the witness
stand Monday, Reznor said as recently as 2003 he had only $400,000 in
liquid assets, per a financial statement sent to him from Malm.
Naturally, the multiplatinum-selling artist blames his
ex-manger, who helmed Reznor's NIN career since the late 1980s and
helped him land, then successfully escape, his first record deal with
TVT Records in 1989.
Malm's lawyer, meanwhile, painted a
different picture of Reznor's financial situation.
millions upon millions upon millions that Trent Reznor and Nine Inch
Nails made, the vast majority went into his [Reznor's] pocket," attorney
Alan Hirth said in his opening statement.
Reznor said he
spent more time making music and taking drugs than reading the fine
print. "John was the business guy, and I was the guy working for nothing
in the studio," the alt-rock icon told jurors.
Pennsylvania-born songwriter said he became suspicious in 2002 when Malm
said there was "cause for alarm" regarding Reznor's finances.
Shortly thereafter, the "Hurt" singer asked for a financial
statement from Malm. The statement Malm sent showed Reznor had $3
million in total assets, including a New Orleans home the artist sold
earlier this year, but only $400,000 in cash.
million in assets surely beats working at Burger King, Reznor has sold
north of 20 million records worldwide since 1989's Pretty Hate
Machine and expected to have more in the bank.
did all my money go?" Reznor asked rhetorically in a recent interview
with the New Zealand Herald. "When I was f--ked up I wasn't
really paying attention but I trusted this guy with my life. So I fired
[him] and it was like, 'Okay, let's start over again.' "
And start over again is just what a newly sober Reznor has done.
His first post-Malm studio release, and first new music in
six years, With Teeth, debuted atop Billboard's Hot 200
last week, moving 272,000 copies. "The Hand That Feeds," the first
single off Teeth, is the number two song on Billboard's
Modern Rock Tracks chart for the second week in a row.
While things are certainly looking up on the financial front for Reznor
(he is currently in the middle of a sold-out U.S. tour), Malm says the
Grammy-winning artist has no one but himself to blame for his past
"After 20 years of my professional and
personal friendship and support, through some of his darkest hours and
at great expense to me, he has decided that everyone in the world is to
blame for his problems except himself," Malm said in a statement last
year when Reznor filed suit.
"It's time for him to take
some responsibility for his actions."
Now, it's up to a
jury to decide.