Nine Inch Nails


Nine Inch Nails Biography


Bursting onto the scene in 1989, Nine Inch Nails married the electronic assault of industrial music with the predictable hooks of pop music. The band, largely a front for the solo efforts of one Trent Reznor, blazed new aural landscapes on their blockbuster 1989 debut, Pretty Hate Machine. Reznor's dark and twisted lyrics inspired legions of teenagers to apply black eyeliner and to don dark trenchcoats, reenergizing a Goth scene that had been festering just below mainstream radar screens while existing on a steady diet of bands like Laibach and Einsturzende Neubauten.

Michael Trent Reznor was born May 17, 1965, in the small town of Mercer, PA; he went by his middle name to avoid confusion with his father Michael. At age five, Reznor's parents divorced and he wound up being raised mostly by his maternal grandparents; even so, Reznor stated repeatedly that his childhood was mostly happy. He began playing the piano at age five, studying classical music, and later learned tenor sax and tuba in the school band; he also acted in musicals and became an avid Kiss fan. Reznor spent a year studying music and computers at Allegheny College, but dropped out after a year to pursue music full-time; he soon packed up and moved to Cleveland with high school friend Chris Vrenna. Around the same time, he was discovering new wave and assorted underground music; he was most fascinated with early industrial, since it offered an edgy, aggressive way to use electronic instruments. At age 19, he successfully auditioned to join an AOR band called the Innocent, which released one album, Livin' in the Streets (Reznor's picture does appear on the jacket). He quit the Innocent after just three months and subsequently gigged with local bands; he also worked in a keyboard store and as a janitor in the local Right Track recording studio. Eventually, he became a studio engineer, teaching himself various computer applications and working on his own material during off hours. In 1987, Reznor appeared in the Michael J. Fox/Joan Jett film Light of Day, where he played keyboards with a trio dubbed the Problems during a bar scene.

Reznor recruited a band and hit the road with the Lollapalooza circus in 1991, expanding the NIN fan base with a series of inspired performances and subsequent release of the explosive Broken EP in 1992. Flirting with top-of-the-charts popularity, Reznor martialed the troops to produce 1994's The Downward Spiral, a prog-rock concept album that was recorded in the Hollywood house where Sharon Tate met her fate at the hands of the Manson Family. A year later, Further Down the Spiral, an extended EP of remixed tracks from The Downward Spiral, was released on Interscope. Their 1997 single, "The Perfect Drug," was included on the Lost Highway movie soundtrack and earned a Grammy nomination for Best Hard Rock Performance. As the millenium draws to a close, Reznor is widely regarded as one of the most influential voices in alternative music, earning himself a slot in a canon of musical auteurs previously carved out by the likes of Bowie, Reed, and Eno.

NIN's sound has variously been described as alternative, electronica, heavy metal, rock, synth pop, or, most commonly, industrial. Regarding his music being categorized as industrial, Reznor had this to say in a 1994 Axcess magazine interview:

"What was originally called industrial music was about 20 years ago Throbbing Gristle and Test Dept. We have very little to do with it other than there is noise in my music and there is noise in theirs. I'm working in the context of a pop song structure whereas those bands didn't. And because someone didn't come up with a new name that separates those two somewhat unrelated genres, it tends to irritate all the old school fans waving their flags of alternativeness and obscurity. So, I'd say I've borrowed from certain styles and bands like that." [2]

NIN's songs cover a range of genres; as a body of work, they cannot be pigeonholed. "The Perfect Drug" has the flavor of drum and bass, vocals in "Down in It" seem influenced by early rap & hip-hop, "Happiness in Slavery" is in the vein of Skinny Puppy and Ministry, "The Frail" is a melancholy piano piece, and most of Pretty Hate Machine could be considered dark synth pop.

NIN's debut album, Pretty Hate Machine (1989), largely consists of studio versions of demo recordings. This was also NIN's first collaboration with producer Mark 'Flood' Ellis. It went triple platinum in the US and produced the singles "Head Like a Hole," "Down in It" and "Sin". Music videos were made for all three tracks, but the one for "Sin" was never released to the public, due to video never being finished. However, since 1997 this video has been available on Halo 12. "Something I Can Never Have" also appeared on the soundtrack for Natural Born Killers. Trent Reznor is planning to release a re-mastered version of Pretty Hate Machine but due to certain mishaps, fans might have to wait for it a little longer as on August 17 2005, the ownership rights to Pretty Hate Machine will be put on auction block by TVT Records, compliments of Prudential Securities Financial Services. Pretty Hate Machine is part of an overall biddable package that also includes the rights to the Television's Greatest Hits compilations and the Mortal Kombat movie soundtracks. In addition, the highest bidder will be able to collect a percentage on future sales of Nine Inch Nails' other TVT-related releases, including Broken, Fixed, The Downward Spiral and Further Down the Spiral.

NIN's second major release was Broken (1992), an EP of six tracks plus two bonus tracks. It was originally released in a fold-out format, containing the first six tracks on a regular CD and an additional three-inch minidisc with the remaining bonus tracks. It was later released as one CD, with the bonus songs as "hidden" tracks 98 and 99. The song "Wish", aided by the video directed by Peter "Sleazy" Christopherson of Coil, won a Grammy in the "metal" category. Jon Reiss directed a music video for "Happiness in Slavery," which was almost universally banned due to its graphic content. The video depicts performance artist Bob Flanagan strapping himself to a machine that subsequently pleasures, tortures and kills him. A video for "Pinion" aired twice on MTV before being banned for its objectionable content, although images from it did become a fixture in the opening title sequence of the MTV show 120 Minutes. A full length video informally called The Broken Movie was also made by Sleazy, but has not seen an official release. The Broken movie, as of 2005, can only be found on bootleg. Broken was followed by the remix EP Fixed.

NIN's second full album and third major release was The Downward Spiral (1994). This was NIN's second collaboration with Mark Ellis (Flood). It went quadruple platinum and is often considered by critics to be NIN's best work. There were two singles released, "March of the Pigs", "Closer", "Hurt" was sent to radio only, but never released as a single, and "Piggy" was also only sent to radio. Music videos were made for the singles "March of the Pigs", "Closer", and official live videos for Eraser (which was never aired) and "Hurt", with the edited MTV version of "Closer" becoming very successful. The video for "Closer," in many ways, set a standard for Nine Inch Nails videos with its eerie images of pigs' heads and S&M paraphenalia. The album's final track, "Hurt", would enjoy success once again when it was covered, with slight alterations to the lyrics, by Johnny Cash in 2003. The Downward Spiral was followed by the remix EP Further Down the Spiral. A remastered version of the album was released on November 23, 2004, with an accompanying CD of b-sides and rarities. The Remaster was also released as a two-sided DualDisc Format The SACD edition of the remastered album featured multichannel and stereo SACD versions of the album as well as a remastered standard CD layer, disc 2 featured stereo SACD and standard CD layers. The DualDisc contains a remastered CD-Audio on one side and features a DVD-Audio format side containing High Resolution Stereo and 5.1 Surround mixes of the entire album with expanded album art, a discography and Music Videos [Closer(in Stereo & 5.1 audio), March of the Pigs, and Hurt (Live).

NIN's fourth major release was the two-disc album The Fragile (1999). It produced three singles, one released in the US ("The Day the World Went Away"), one in the UK ("We're In This Together") relese was the two-disc album The Fragile (1999). It produced three singles, one released in the US ("The Day the World Went Away"), one in the UK ("We're In This Together") released as a 3 part single, and one in Japan and Australia ("Into The Void"). Music videos for "We're In This Together", "Into the Void", and "Starfuckers Inc." (retitled as "Starsuckers, Inc.") were aired in the US. "Starfuckers, Inc." was a vicious mockery of Reznor's former friend, Marilyn Manson. Several vocal takes were chopped up and spliced together as a not-so-subtle jab at Manson's usual inability to sing well in a single take. The lyrics satirized Manson as being vain and insincere. The recording ended with a clip from a KISS concert -- Manson repeatedly professed to be "the KISS of the Nineties." While NIN was on tour, Reznor would snidely introduce the song as being "about a friend of mine." During one such performance in New York, Reznor subtly changed the lyrics of one part of the song ("How did you think we'd get by without you?" became "How did we ever get by without you?"), then put the song on hold halfway through as he was joined on stage by a surprise guest -- Manson himself. The two duetted the rest of the song, with Manson putting his arm around Reznor at one point, then they finished the show with Manson's hit "The Beautiful People." This marked the end of their feud, and Manson then appeared in the "Starsuckers, Inc." video. In interviews prior to the album's completion, Reznor said he was considering organizing the tracks such that one disc would have all instrumentals and the other would have lyrics. These plans changed when Bob Ezrin (producer of Pink Floyd's The Wall, a two-disc album often seen as a predecessor of The Fragile) suggested an arrangement of tracks that would strengthen the "four corners of the album," namely the beginnings and ends of each of the two discs. Ezrin is credited in the liner notes as having "provided final continuity and flow."

NIN's fifth major release, With Teeth (2005), was written and recorded following Reznor's painful battle with alcohol addiction and substance abuse. The music video for the first single, "The Hand That Feeds" premiered on the official NIN website rather than on the traditional music video channel. The album was leaked before its official release. It was officially released on May 3, 2005 in a DualDisc format as well as CD-Audio. Though the new album lacks any liner notes, nin.com/with_teeth features access to download a digital PDF Poster full of lush artwork and stylized liner notes and lyrics. The single was also released in a format for Garageband so that it could be remixied by anyone with the program. The band also allowed the entire album to be listened to in streaming audio at Myspace beginning April 27, 2005. Myspace NIN album streaming audio

Nine Inch Nails dropped out of the 2005 MTV Movie Awards show because of a disagreement with MTV over the use of an image of George W. Bush as a backdrop to the band's performance of "The Hand That Feeds", which includes such lyrics as: What if this whole crusade's a charade / And behind it all there's a price to be paid / For the blood on which we dine / Justified in the name of the holy and the divine
"Apparently, the image of our president is as offensive to MTV as it is to me," Trent Reznor said. They were replaced on the show by Foo Fighters. In fall 2005, the group will go on tour in North America supported by Queens of the Stone Age, as well as Autolux the first half of the tour followed by Death from Above 1979 the second half. The second single for this album, set to be released in mid-July, is Only. A video for Only was completed around May. It was created using primarily computer-generated imagery, and directed by David Fincher. It debuted on July 11th on FuseTV and can been seen on the band's official website. The Fragile was followed by the remix album Things Falling Apart. The Fragility Tour was recorded and released on CD and DVD as And All That Could Have Been. There was also a companion disc called Still, featuring remakes of songs from across NIN's career along with some new recordings. Three videos for Still were released on NIN's official website.

Axcess magazine interviewed Reznor after the release of The Downward Spiral in 1994. They asked him how he came up with the name Nine Inch Nails and this was his reply: "I don't know if you've ever tried to think of band names, but usually you think you have a great one and you look at it the next day and it's stupid. I had about 200 of those. Nine Inch Nails lasted the two week test, looked great in print, and could be abbreviated easily. It really doesn't have any literal meaning. It seemed kind of frightening. [In his best he-man voice] Tough and manly! It's a curse trying to come up with band names." The Nine Inch Nails logo (which consists of the letters "NIN" with the the second "N" reversed, which looks similar to "NI?") was designed so that Trent Reznor could have a design that in his own words "looked cool on my leather jacket." According to Reznor, the logo was inspired by the typography of the album cover for Talking Heads' album Remain In Light.



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