Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series, “Industrial Metal Edition,” where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore psychedelic tunes from the 60’s to today. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!
Nine Inch Nails began in Cleveland in 1988 while Reznor was working at a recording studio. He wrote, arranged, performed, and produced the majority of the material, bringing in other musicians for live performances. The band quickly gained popularity with its debut release, Pretty Hate Machine (1989), which eventually sold more than three million copies in the United Statesand signaled a breakthrough into the American mainstream for industrial music. After a drawn-out legal battle with his recording company, TVT, Reznor set up his own label, Nothing Records, and released the EP Broken (1992), which earned a Grammy Award. Reznor signed glam shock rocker Marilyn Manson to the Nothing label, and the two fed on each other’s successes throughout the 1990s.
Reznor’s second full-length release, The Downward Spiral (1994), bowed at number two on the Billboard album chart. On the strength of such singles as “Closer” and “Hurt,” the album soon surpassed the band’s debut in sales. (An emotional acoustic version of “Hurt” later became a surprise hit for country legend Johnny Cash .) Nine Inch Nails appeared as a headliner at the 1994 Woodstock festival, and “Happiness in Slavery,” a single recorded at that performance, earned Reznor a second Grammy. In 1995 Nine Inch Nails opened for David Bowie on his North American tour, but a new album was slow to follow, and much of Reznor’s time was spent in the production studio with label mate Marilyn Manson.
Friends became enemies in the late ’90s as Nine Inch Nails mastermind Trent Reznor and Marilyn Manson exchanged verbal blows. Reznor produced Marilyn Manson’s ‘Antichrist Superstar’ album, but shortly after, the two butted heads as Manson jumped ship from Reznor’s Nothing Records label to Interscope.
“He and I are two strong personalities that could coexist for a while, but things changed,” stated Reznor. “I think fame and power distort people’s personalities,” Manson fired back. The two have since buried the hatchet, with Manson appearing in Nine Inch Nails’ ‘Starf—ers Inc.’ video and joining NIN onstage in Madison Square Garden.
Nine Inch Nails arrived on the music scene like a wrecking ball and left a wave of destruction behind. Frontman Trent Reznor released explosive and confrontational music that bowled over fans and enraged critics as he battled infamy, drug addiction, and a string of vicious controversies. During the ’90s, Nine Inch Nails were one of the biggest bands on the scene, and they continue to tour and release music today.
Despite weathering controversial press Reznor managed to keep a level of privacy and an air of mystery by focusing on the music. Because of this, surely there are things you didn’t know about Nine Inch Nails.
In 1995, Trent Reznor toured with David Bowie, and the two performed several of each other’s songs together. At the time, Reznor was dealing with severe cocaine and alcohol addiction. After Bowie’s death on January 10, 2016, many celebrities came forward with stories to share about the musician, including Reznor.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Reznor spoke at length about his time with Bowie and revealed that Bowie, who suffered addiction problems in the past, regularly gave him advice without being mean or judgmental. One time while on tour, Bowie reportedly said to Reznor, “You know, there is a better way here, and it doesn’t have to end in despair or in death, in the bottom.”
Reznor was able to maintain sobriety shortly after. Years after the tour, Reznor went to a Bowie concert in Los Angeles and went backstage to thank him for helping him with his drug problems. Reznor said of the encounter:
I’d been sober for a fair amount of time. I wanted to thank him in the way that he helped me. And I reluctantly went backstage, feeling weird and ashamed, like, “Hey, I’m the guy that puked on the rug.” And again, I was met with warmth, and grace, and love. And I started to say, “Hey listen, I’ve been clean for… ” I don’t even think I finished the sentence; I got a big hug. And he said, “I knew. I knew you’d do that. I knew you’d come out of that.” I have goosebumps right now just thinking about it. It was another very important moment in my life.
Reznor wrote the song “Hurt,” which he included on NIN’s 1994 album, The Downward Spiral. In 2002, producer Rick Rubin contacted Reznor and asked what he’d think about Johnny Cash remaking the song. Reznor said he would be flattered for Cash to do his version, and two weeks later, he received Cash’s cover song in the mail.
Later, Reznor recalled, “I listened to it, and it was very strange. It was this other person inhabiting my most personal song. Hearing it was like someone kissing your girlfriend. It felt invasive.”
“Hurt” went on to be one of Cash’s final hits, earning him commercial and critical acclaim. NME named Cash’s music video for the song the greatest of all time. Reznor, recalling watching the video for the first time, stated:
Tears started welling up. I realized it wasn’t really my song anymore. It just gave me goosebumps up and down my spine. It’s an unbelievably powerful piece of work. After he passed away, I remember feeling saddened, but being honored to have framed the end of his life in something that is very tasteful.
On April 20, 1999, 17-year-old Dylan Klebold and 18-year-old Eric Harris carried out the Columbine High School massacre in Jefferson County, CO. When it was over, they had killed 12 students and one teacher and injured 21 others in the attack, and injured three others who were attempting to leave the school.
After the shooting, both Klebold and Harris took their own lives by shooting themselves. The teens left journals behind detailing their plans for the school massacre, as well as video footage of the two talking about explosives and weapons, and showing them at target practice.
In the daily planner he left behind, Klebold makes many references to Nine Inch Nails songs, including “Piggy,” “Something I Can Never Have,” “Hurt,” “Closer,” “The Perfect Drug,” “The Downward Spiral,” and “Happiness in Slavery.”
And Harris references Reznor in one of his journal entries, stating, “Who can I trick into my room first? I can sweep someone off their feet, tell them what they want to hear, be all nice and sweet, and then ‘f— ’em like an animal, feel them from the inside’ as Reznor said,” referring to the Nine Inch Nails song “Closer.”
Days after the Columbine massacre, authorities shared Harris’s and Klebold’s journals with the public, and the music they listened to and video games they played received a public backlash. Some people even went as far as blaming the school shooting on the teens’ interest in music and violent video games.
On May 4, 1999, the United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation held a hearing regarding violent content aimed toward minors by the television, music, movie, and video game industries. During the hearing, senators explicitly criticized Nine Inch Nails.
In 2012, director David Fincher reached out to Reznor in regards to the movie The Social Network. Fincher wanted Reznor to score the film. Initially, Reznor turned down the requestdue to his hectic touring schedule, but then he changed his mind and agreed.
Reznor collaborated with Atticus Ross on the composition, arrangements, performance, programming, and production of songs. They earned several awards for the score, including an Academy Award for Best Original Score in February 2011 and a Golden Globe Award in January 2011.
In 1987, Reznor left the band Exotic Birds to work on his own music. By 1988, he was working as a janitor at Right Track Studios. Reznor asked his boss if he could record his demos while the studio was not in use, and his boss obliged.
Reznor was unable to find a band to work with that had the particular sound he was looking for, so, inspired by the artist Prince, he began playing everything himself, aside from drums – keyboards, drum machines, guitars, and samplers. He also used a Macintosh Plus computer.
Reznor’s demo earned him a record contract with TVT Records, and the songs turned into a platinum album, 1989’s Pretty Hate Machine. Critics credit the album with helping to create an entirely new genre of music, “Industrial Metal.”
n 1995, former senator Bob Dole, former education secretary William Bennett, and former secretary of Pennsylvania and civil rights activist Cynthia Delores Tucker went to the annual Time Warner shareholders’ meeting in New York to air their grievances. The social conservatives took issue with specific bands that had signed with Warner Music. During the meeting, Tucker demanded Michael Fuchs, head of the Warner Music Group, read the lyrics aloud to the Nine Inch Nails song “Big Man With a Gun.”
I am a big man
(Yes I am)
And I have a big gun
Got me a big old d*ck and I
I like to have fun
Held against your forehead
I’ll make you suck it
Maybe I’ll put a hole in your head
You know, just for the f*ck of it
Fuchs refused to read the lyrics. Tucker repeatedly referred to NIN as a gangsta rap band during her speech. Afterward, Newsweekreported on the meeting, also referring to “Big Man With a Gun” as a rap song.
To promote the 1992 album Broken, Reznor worked with Peter Christopherson to create a short film of the same name that featured songs from the album. The 20-minute film is considered a horror musical and was made as a snuff-style film: The beginning of the video starts with an execution via hanging. The movie was never officially released due to its extremely graphic subject matter, but it leaked and became popular in the VHS tape trading days.
In December 2006, the film leaked on the Pirate Bay website, with many assuming Reznor was responsible for putting the film online. In 2013, the movie was uploaded onto Vimeo and posted on the official Tumblr page for NIN. Vimeo promptly removed the video, citing a Terms of Service violation. This pushed the film back into the underground until 2016, when it was uploaded to Archive.org under fair use laws.
Nine Inch Nails ran into several issues while creating a music video for the 1989 song “Down in It.” During filming in Chicago, the band used several Super 8 cameras, including one connected to a weather balloon filled with helium. While filming a scene featuring Reznor lying on the ground and appearing dead, the ropes holding the camera snapped, and the camera floated away.
More than a year later, Reznor’s manager informed him that the camera had landed 200 miles away in a farmer’s field in Michigan. The farmer, believing it held surveillance footage of marijuana fields, gave the camera to his local police department. Police reviewed the video and, thinking it was a snuff film, turned it over to the FBI. The FBI also believed it was a snuff film, possibly involving a ritual gang slaying.
Eventually, the FBI learned the alleged dead man in the footage was Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails. Hard Copy later did a segment on the FBI’s investigation of the Nine Inch Nails video.
The address 10050 Cielo Drive in Beverly Crest, CA, is synonymous with the Manson Family – the home where the brutal murder of Sharon Tate occurred. Rudolph Altobelli, a music and film talent manager, rented the house to Tate and Roman Polanski in 1969. After Tate’s murder, Altobelli moved into the home and stayed for more than 20 years. But the last resident of the original house before it was demolished in 1994 was none other than Trent Reznor.
Reznor rented the mansion in 1992 when he was 28 years old and used the location to record The Downward Spiral. Many believe the move to the Cielo Drive home was intentional on Reznor’s part, perhaps as a way to garner publicity for his upcoming album at the time, but Reznor insists that was not the case.
In fact, Reznor claims he was interested in the home due to how spacious it was, and after looking at several properties, he figured the location was best for an in-house studio. Reznor later found out about the house’s haunted history when a friend mentioned it to him, and they looked at photos in the book Helter Skelter.
In the Nine Inch Nails logo, the last N appears backward. The 1980 album Remain in Light by the Talking Heads inspired Reznor to do this. In the Talking Heads logo, the A letters in their band name appear upside down.
NIN’s catchy logo appears in many projects Reznor has been a part of, including the 1996 video game Quake. Reznor created the soundtrack for the game, and the NIN logo features on the ammo box for the nailgun. In the 2011 film The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, viewers can spot a man wearing a Nine Inch Nails sweater with the NIN logo. Reznor, along with Atticus Ross, composed the score for the movie.
In the 2019 Marvel Film “Captain Marvel,” you can see the main character, Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel sporting a Nine Inch Nails shirt.
As we see in the film, shortly after Carol crash-lands on earth in her black and green Kree supersuit, she realizes that she’s in need of 1) transportation, and 2) an undercover outfit, so that clever young S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Nick Fury has a more difficult time tracking her down. Rather serendipitously, she finds both in a strip mall parking lot: she steals a motorcycle from a sexist biker who asked her to “smile” for him, and then expertly steals a full outfit off a fashion store mannequin. Rather than putting her in “neon spandex or something equally silly,” Hays said they settled on grunge being Carol’s preferred aesthetic.
Thus, Carol’s now-iconic outfit of a Nine Inch Nails t-shirt, loose-fitting jeans, a black leather jacket, and a flannel tied around her waist was born. Does it mean Carol is humming “Hurt” just offscreen? According to Hays, not exactly.
One thing is for certain, Reznor has kept things interesting over the years. He’s explored industrial dance tracks (‘Down in It’ and ‘Sin’), worked through some thrashier moments (‘March of the Pigs,’ ‘Wish’ and ‘Head Like a Hole’), and dug deep into the soul for some deeply emotional catharsis (‘Hurt,’ ‘Something I Can Never Have’). He’s questioned both political (‘Capital G,’ ‘The Hand That Feeds’) and religious (‘Terrible Lie’) leaders, and all the while sustained a loyal following always anxious to see where he’s taking things next.