Trent Reznor and his wife Mariqueen Maandig after Reznor won an Oscar in 2011 (image credit Craig Barritt/Getty)
McLean, VA (written by Mike Snider/USA Today) -- Long before Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor became an Oscar-winning composer for the soundtrack of The Social Network, he wrote music for a pair of video games - Quake and Doom 3.
A lifelong gamer, Reznor has just finished the theme song for Call of Duty: Black Ops II, due Nov. 13 as the latest entry in the multibillion-dollar franchise. His teaming with Black Ops II developers at Treyarch Studios is a natural; Reznor is a longtime CoD fan.
"I have always looked to that franchise as the cutting edge of what seemingly unlimited budgets and full-on, not-cutting-any-corners can do in the current day and age," he says.
The Black Ops II story envisions a new Cold War between the U.S. and China, and an international villain plays them off each other.
"There is a lot of reservation and angst, and sense of loss and regret and anger, bubbling under the surface," Reznor says. "So it didn't make sense to have a gung-ho patriotic theme song. It has to feel weighty."
Treyarch head Mark Lamia and the creative team were looking for "the kind of artist who could represent something a little bit dark, sometimes conflicted, bold, original and engaging," says Black Ops II director and writer Dave Anthony. "Trent's name stuck out. He was perfect for it."
After finishing the soundtrack for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo with Atticus Ross (also his partner on the Social Network soundtrack), Reznor says that "coming off two films in a row, I wasn't looking to really dive into a super-big project. So the idea of scoring the theme song for this sounded interesting."
His regular video game collaborations have given Reznor an appreciation for the industry's growth. He worked with id Software - his work as Doom 3 sound engineer didn't make the final product - as it grew, and he recently visited Treyarch's Santa Monica home.
"There's everybody in their cubicles working on minutiae that fits into this whole in some way. And I start thinking, 'Man, this is coming out in a few months. Somebody has planned out that all these pieces fit together,' " he says. "I know how hard it is to get three other guys and the lights to come on for a tour. It is mind-blowing to see that coordination and effort."
With the Black Ops II theme finished, Reznor, 47, is turning his attention to his band How to Destroy Angels, which includes his wife, Mariqueen Maandig, and soundtrack partner Ross. "We have a finished album," he says, adding that they've been doing "little tweaks" and that it should be out soon.
Reznor is also working on new Nine Inch Nails music - it has been more than four years since 2008's The Slip. "Right now, it's in its gestation period."