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Mariqueen Maandig, the 29-year-old singer of How to Destroy Angels, prefers to maintain a little anonymity. It’s hardly surprising considering she’s married to rock’s extraordinarily private Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails. “I like to stay in a shroud of mystery,” Maandig says. “I tell people [Trent and I] met at a Mensa meeting, because we met under such unusual circumstances,” she continues, declining to elaborate. Maandig even tried to keep her pregnancy under wraps. “There have been requests for photo shoots with these recent interviews, and I needed a good reason to decline,” she says.
But now there’s a good reason for the public to know her business. She — along with Reznor, 45, and his longtime collaborator Atticus Ross, 42 — are set to release How to Destroy Angels’ self-titled debut EP today.
Known as Q to her friends, Maandig was born in the Philippines but grew up in Orange County. She always knew she wanted to be in show business but wasn’t sure which part of it appealed to her most. “For a brief period in my youth I really wanted to do Broadway,” she says. “But after being in one school musical I realized I wasn’t into [it] as much as I thought, so that dream died.” She continued to sing in her school choir. “Then I got into ‘Miss Saigon,’ which sparked my interest in singing [professionally],” Maandig says. (For the record, her fandom of Nine Inch Nails extended as follows: “I had a couple of his albums but never went to any of his shows or bought any T-shirts.”)
But Maandig was also “really into fashion.” So following high school she majored in merchandise marketing at Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandise in Orange County. After becoming “uninspired,” she dropped out. “My friend saw that I was really unhappy and asked me what my skills were, and I told her that I can sing,” she recalls. That friend subsequently introduced Maandig to the bass player of psychedelic indie-rock L.A. band West Indian Girl. “I guess they were planning on kicking out one of the singers,” she says. “I was pretty bold. I told them they needed me. And they put me in.” Soon, the band’s fans became enamored with the exotic beauty, and later, as sometimes follows in Hollywood, Playboy came calling. She agreed to be Babe of the Month for their January 2009 issue “because I didn’t have to show any of my goods,” she says.
Then she met Reznor (though she’s not saying how) and they became engaged in spring 2009. By summer she had left West Indian Girl to pursue her own career. She joined Reznor on his “Wave Goodbye” tour and married him in October. Soon they started experimenting with their own music.
With Maandig on vocals and synthesizer and Reznor producing the majority of instrumentals with Ross, the trio put together a six-song EP that Maandig describes as more feminine and subtler than Reznor’s unambiguously hard sound. With little to no fanfare, the group digitally released the single “A Drowning,” followed by “The Space in Between” and “The Believers.” In June, How to Destroy Angels released the full EP as a free digital download in anticipation of the physical release. Plans for a full-length follow-up are on hold due to Maandig’s pregnancy, but the band hopes for it in early 2011. Reznor and Ross are also working on a film soundtrack, the name of which they naturally won’t disclose.
But right now, the biggest project on Maandig’s mind is a baby name: “I have a list, it’s so hard. It’s like here’s a brand-new life and you’re in charge of it, now go!”