Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor has developed a strong relationship with Andrew Youssef after learning of the battle with cancer the photographer was fighting, and the devout appreciation he’s held for NIN throughout his illness.
Youssef worked as a freelance photographer for the last 7 years, juggling his pharmacist job by day and snapping photos of his favorite musicians – including everyone from Cold War Kids to Black Sabbath – in action by night. This continued even after Youssef was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer in 2011, when doctors gave him a projected survival rate, past 5 years of treatment, of less than 6 percent.
Rather than let his disease overcome him, Youssef proceeded to shoot more than 330 shows since the day he was diagnosed. Then, this February, he began chronicling his battle with cancer in the OC Weekly blog “Last Shot.”
Reznor eventually heard of Youssef’s fate, likely thanks to the photojournalist’s frequent mention of NIN as one of his favorite bands. This included Youssef’s emotional review, following his witnessing of the band at San Francisco’s 2012 Outside Lands Festival:
My adrenaline levels soon would spike upon hearing the opening pulsating synthesizer notes of “Copy of A” from Nine Inch Nails. Bandleader Trent Reznor has mentioned that these Nine Inch Nails festival shows would be different from their fall arena tour which provided me with even more incentive to attend. I admittedly cheated and had watched their prior performance at Lollapalooza in order to study the light patterns and how they correlated with the songs in order to get the best photos as possible.
Since I was able to only shoot three songs, I made the most of my time by capturing twelve hundred images. Those songs went by in seconds as I ran back to meet up with a friend in order to take in the whole set. While I was tired from the activities of the day, I quickly forgot about the two heavy cameras I was carrying as well as anything related to my cancer as I was immersed in the moment. The crushing synthesizer bass line of “March Of The Pigs” transported me away as the eye popping visuals bombarded your senses.
I was holding back tears for “Something I Can Never Have”, as I so badly want to have my cancer cured. Even the bleak instrumental “Help Me I Am In Hell” resonated within me. The watershed moment came to me during “Head Like A Hole.” Reznor repeatedly chants “I’d rather die than give you control”. I was immediately overwhelmed with emotion and couldn’t hold back my tears as I’d rather die than give my cancer control.
Reznor began following Youssef on Twitter this fall, then invited him and his brother to the intimate NIN show at L.A.’s Troubadour. The lead singer and his #1 fan even had lunch together every day for a week as the band prepared for their gig at L.A.’s The Sports Arena, in September.
Doctors recently convinced Youssef to cut his NIN attendance down to 2 last shows, partly due to their diagnosis that he might only have a few more weeks to live. And so Youssef made his way to the band’s set November 8th, at L.A.’s Staples Center, but became too weak to make it to the planned gig November 16th, in Las Vegas.
That’s when Reznor made it so his new friend could be there for part of the show, however. Watch as the lead singer FaceTime’s Youssef at NIN’s show at The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, right before he launches the band into “In This Twilight,” for the photographer. It’s a beautiful moment that firmly acknowledges the power music has on us all: