Rock School

Lesson No. 71: Be Yourself

Aaron North Nine Inch Nails
Act like a prick, and they'll respect your independence. Trent Reznor didn't become successful and then become an asshole. Narcissism and sharp elbows are the means to success, not the by-product. You have to push to get to the front of the line. If you can't figure that out, there's a reason you're in back.

As co-founder of snarky online 'zine Buddyhead and guitarist for the San Diego rock band the Icarus Line, Aaron North made a career out of rubbing people the wrong way. Whether telling the Distillers they might want to vary the tempo ("constructive criticism") or heckling Axl Rose ("We were shouting, 'Duff! Duff! Duff!', then 'Slash! Slash! Slash!', until he had us removed"), North never let hurting somebody's feelings get in the way of a good time.

"Everyone thought we were sketchy dudes. We're not. It's just too boring to pretend and be the happy nice band," North said while on tour with Icarus Line a couple years ago. "If you make good music, no one's going to care, and kissing everyone's asses is so fucking boring."

North left the Icarus Line shortly after the tour, only to slide into a much sweeter (and more lucrative) gig: guitarist for Nine Inch Nails. Evidently Reznor recognized a kindred spirit.

"He shows up, he looks shitty, he's got junk equipment, he looks like he's just got up, and I want to punch him," Reznor told the New Zealand Herald last year. "Then Aaron starts playing, and on the first note it's like, 'You're the guy.'"

Call it better living through negative karma.

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