Twenty-four years after Manson ''family'' members brutally murdered actress Sharon Tate and four guests in her Benedict Canyon home in L.A., Trent Reznor, 28, took up residence there, recording The Downward Spiral, the second album from the ''band'' Nine Inch Nails, of which he is the sole permanent member. Though it may seem like the ultimate publicity stunt for a man whose dark, violent industrial music has made him a favorite amongst angst-ridden youths, Reznor claims the move was motivated by nothing more than the need for a space big enough to hold an in-house studio. ''I looked at a lot of places, and this just happened to be the one I liked most,'' he says.
In fact, Reznor had already decided to move into the ranch-style house on Cielo Drive before a friend discovered the Tate connection. ''We got the Helter Skelter book to see if it was the place, and there was the same bedroom, front door, pool,'' says Reznor, who called his living room studio PIG, the word found scrawled in Tate's blood on the front door. His taste for the morbid notwithstanding, Reznor will admit to an early case of nerves. ''Little sounds would make me jump at first, but after a while it was just like home,'' he says. ''The house didn't feel terrifying so much as sad peacefully sad. But that could just be my own insanity.''
Reznor describes Spiral as ''more emotionally wrought and sonically sadistic'' than Nine Inch Nails' gold debut, Pretty Hate Machine, but says his surroundings had nothing to with the altered sound. ''The difference between albums has to do with every aspect of my life changing, from living in the ghetto in Cleveland to having some amount of recognition,'' says Reznor. ''My new album may be less obviously listener-friendly than Hate Machine, but I think it signifies growth.''
Embarking in April on a yearlong world tour to promote Spiral (released Stateside this week), Reznor moved out of the Tate house last December, just before it was torn down. He suggests the demolition was prompted by Cielo Drive residents sick of the curious who were constantly trolling their street. ''Sometimes I'd come home and find bouquets of dead roses and lit candles in the front gate,'' says Reznor, who managed to salvage the front door as a momento of his stay. ''It was really eerie. Who were they leaving the shrines for Tate or Manson?''