Like most of us, Alessandro Cortini is not an official member of Nine Inch Nails.
Unlike most of us, however, Cortini has spent the past 15 months playing Nine Inch Nails songs to thousands of thousands night after night, alongside NIN's lone official member, Trent Reznor.
"He's stolen a year of my life," the affable keyboardist jokes over the phone from Grand Rapids, Mich., adding perhaps more seriously, "I'm still trying to deal with it."
It's a curious existence for the Italian native who still refers to himself as primarily a guitarist. ("I've never been, like, a super keyboard player," Cortini shrugs, "so when the chance came to play with Nine Inch Nails I had to go back and learn the instrument.")
But there are worse ways to earn a living and "to stay in the country legally" than to mine one of the most influential catalogues in contemporary rock/industrial/electronic for the NIN faithful.
Besides, while the buck may stop at Reznor -- who earned that right 17 years ago by bringing industrial music to the masses via the landmark Pretty Hate Machine -- Cortini is quick to credit his leader with allowing his touring bandmates to bring their own voices to the proceedings.
"I've had previous experiences with touring musicians, so I had a certain expectation when I joined this band," Cortini relates. "But my expectations were totally changed as soon as we started rehearsing.
"If you see the show and you're used to the CDs it's pretty clear that the studio entity is different from the live entity. And I was given freedom to arrange the parts and use the instruments I wanted, which is something I didn't expect. Of course, Trent is always going to give you his opinion, but he's willing to let you express yourself as far as the way you'd like to do it."
That, as Cortini notes, might have something to do with Reznor's determination to reinvent his own music. The new songs, from the recently released (With Teeth), help, but at NIN shows, even the old songs can become new again -- with the help of an ever-changing backing band.
"A lot of the old stuff was prepared in a certain way by (former NIN keyboardist) Charlie Clouser and have been kept that way because it makes more sense from a live point of view to play them that way," Cortini begins. "But other stuff, especially songs we've rearranged because Trent was tired of playing them the same way or because they didn't translate live, we've tried to play rather than just triggering stuff."
Those reborn songs include NIN favourites such as Terrible Lie and Closer, songs that for more than a decade have been dear to the black hearts of most planning to be at Scotiabank Place tonight.
Most, though not necessarily all in attendance.
"I've never been into the goth scene, which, unfortunately is what Nine Inch Nails created, even though I don't believe they have anything to do with that," Cortini admits. "I was more into pop and rock generally. And a huge Guns 'N Roses fan, I have to say. The real Guns 'N Roses, of course, not whatever it is now."
For now, he'll have to be content with abetting the original one-man-lineup of Nine Inch Nails.
And he is.
"I love this job," Cortini enthuses. "I'm not looking forward to having to switch to something else. Especially now that the band is kicking ass."
And those other guys onstage with him aren't bad either.