Psychedelic Lunch

Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series, where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore music from the 60’s to today. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!

Founded in 1988 by Trent Reznor in Cleveland, Ohio, Nine Inch Nails (NIN) is commonly referred to as an industrial rock act though NIN defies genre convention, drawing musical inspiration from hardcore industrial bands like Skinny Puppy and Throbbing Gristle, while incorporating solo piano ballads, synthpop variations and even elements of drum & bass into their sound. Trent Reznor is the only official member of the project although backing musicians are employed for live performances.

As a studio engineer and fresh out of the bands The Innocent and Exotic Birds, Reznor started his own project borrowing John Malm Jr. from Exotic Birds as his informal manager. At the time, Reznor worked as a janitor and assistant for Right Track Studios. There he recorded his first demos. Unable to find like-minded individuals that suited his artistic needs, Reznor played all the instruments himself except for the drums and went on to support Skinny Puppy at several concerts.

Reznor’s aspirations for NIN included a 12-inch single on a small European label, but he signed with TVT records and recorded nine tracks in November 1988. These tracks were later included in NIN’s first full length album release in 1989. There was much speculation about the project’s name, perhaps alluding to the nine-inch nails used for the crucifixion of Jesus or, it was speculated, meant to allude to Freddy Kreuger’s nails from the horror franchise Nightmare on Elm Street. Reznor himself disputed any literal meaning claiming he chose the title because it abbreviated well and made a good logo.

In 1989, Reznor collaborated with Adrian Sherwood and Mark “Flood” Ellis on the production of the album Pretty Hate Machine, including the now classic NIN singles “Head Like A Hole” and “Down In It.” This album was one of the first independently released albums to ever achieve platinum status. The original music video for “Down In It” sparked controversy when the helium weather balloon used to film the last scene, where Reznor lies seemingly dead and covered in corn starch while other band members walk off screen in weird costumes, escaped its mooring and ended up in a farmer’s field. The farmer took the camera to the FBI suspecting marijuana surveillance footage. The FBI thought the footage was related to gang violence or possibly even a snuff film.

In 1990, NIN hit the road for The Pretty Hate Machine Tour Series, opening for Peter Murphy and The Jesus and Mary Chain. This tour developed into a world tour that continued through the Lollapolooza tour in 1991. Reznor’s onstage antics became increasingly aggressive resulting in smashed equipment and ecstatic fans.

After disillusion with the TVT record label and trying to record music under various pseudonyms to get around the label’s insistence that NIN assume a more synthpop sound for their follow-up album, Reznor and Mark Ellis started recording in secret. TVT eventually traded NIN over to Interscope, which encouraged Reznor to make the music he wanted to and also helped him set-up his own label, Nothing. In 1992, Reznor released Broken, Nothing’s first album, an EP featuring six songs and two bonus tracks. Heavier and harder than the band’s previous album, two of the tracks off Broken, “Wish” and “Happiness in Slavery” won NIN two Grammy awards for Best Metal Performance, the first two of twelve subsequent Grammy nominations.

Having moved into an LA residence famous for being the site of the Tate Murders (perpetrated by cult leader, Charles Manson) controversy continued to dog Reznor when the music video for “Happiness in Slavery” was universally banned. The footage featured Bob Flanagan naked on a machine which pleasured, tortured and eventually killed him. Continuing along these graphic lines, Reznor’s videos for “Pinion” and “Help Me I’m In Hell” featured a toilet flushing into the mouth of a person in bondage and a young man kidnapped, tortured and killed respectively. Although these videos were never officially released, they were circulated amongst covert tape trading groups at the time.

Living and recording at his LA home dubbed Le Pig, Reznor chose to record rather than tour and began work on The Downward Spiral released in 1994. Influenced by Bowie and Pink Floyd, The Downward Spiralfeatures a range of moods as the music seems to follow the psychological development of a central character. The most successful NIN’s album to date, the album’s success was anchored by the singles “Closer,” “Hurt” (nominated for a Grammy and later covered by Johnny Cash), “March of the Pigs” and “Piggy.” The video for “Closer” directed by Mark Romanek received heavy rotation on MTV2 after extensive editing, the original considered too graphic once again for most watchers. The video is an industrial take on the lab of a 19th century mad scientist complete with animal cruelty, religious symbols including a monkey suffering crucifixion, graphic sexual images and a variety of S&M/bondage paraphernalia. Reznor himself dons an S&M mask while swinging in shackles, which only added to the controversial content.

Reznor embarked on the Self Destruct Tour, culminating in a mud-drenched Woodstock ’94 performance. The Downward Spiral album and tour garnered NIN both critical acclaim and a horde of new fans, catapulting the relatively unknown industrial act onto the mainstream charts with significant, but censored, radio play. After the tour, Reznor took a break from NIN, working on several soundtrack projects. Reznor produced the soundtrack for Natural Born Killers directed by Oliver Stone, developed the music and sound effects for the first person shooter video game Quake and produced the soundtrack for David Lynch’s Lost Highway. The soundtrack for Lost Highway spawned the single release of “The Perfect Drug.” The video, again directed by Romanek, features a father mourning his dead son in a Gothic mansion while losing himself to absinthe addiction, perhaps prophetic of Reznor’s later battles with alcoholism and drug addiction.

In 2005, NIN released their long overdue fourth full-length album, With Teeth, written in the shadow of Reznor’s battle with alcoholism and substance abuse. Singles include “The Hand That Feeds” and “Every Day is Exactly The Same” but the album was generally slammed by critics as being unoriginal and lacking in signature Reznor creativity.

NIN followed up the mediocre success of With Teethwith their 2007 offering, Year Zero, a concept album critical of the US government’s approach to politics. The album’s story is set in 2022, in an America ravaged by terrorism now operating under a Christian theocracy while distributing a drug designed to make the masses apathetic. Rebel movements from 2022 travel back in time to warn 2007 Americans of the coming apocalypse. This album met with critical acclaim but failed to perform in the charts. Although Reznor planned to create a movie adaptation of the album, that idea has since been superseded by HBO and BBC interest in developing a miniseries for TV.

In 2008, Reznor released two albums – Ghosts I-IVand The Slip – under creative commons license, making them available for free download on NIN’s official website. The albums were surprisingly popular, receiving over 5 million downloads. Since 2009, Reznor has officially put NIN on indefinite hiatus while working on side projects including How to Destroy Angels with his wife Mariqueen Maandig, and Atticus Ross. Reznor and Ross worked together on the soundtrack for the film The Social Network, winning a Golden Globe and Academy Award for Best Original Score 2010. Reznor and Ross again collaborated on the score for the 2011 film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Hesitation Marks, the band’s eighth studio album, was released in August 2013 through Columbia Records, reaching number three on the Billboard 200. After teasing a release in early 2016, Nine Inch Nails began releasing a trilogy of new releases: the EPs Not the Actual Events in December 2016 and Add Violence in July 2017, followed by the band’s ninth studio album, Bad Witch, in June 2018. On March 26, 2020, the band released the albums Ghosts V: Together and Ghosts VI: Locusts.

Trent Reznor appeared fleetingly in the 1987 Michael J. Fox movie Light Of Day, where he’s part of a Synth-Pop band who aren’t much good.

Trent Reznor married Mariqueen Maandig in October 2009. They have two sons, Lazarus Echo (born October 10, 2010) and Balthazar, (born December 31, 2011). Reznor settled on his boys’ names ahead of their births, but admitted to Scotland’s The Daily Record that he would have had a battle on his hands with his in-laws if he’d had a daughter. “With those names, the boys are going to have to learn how to fight,” he laughed. “The in-laws are fine with it. The children were going to be stuck with those names regardless. But if there was a female, we were going to have a punch-up for sure.”

In 2009, before privacy was a major concern to most users, Trent Reznor released a Nine Inch Nails iPhone app with an innovative feature: Nearby, which let fans find other fans using the app in their area. The app didn’t work very well and never caught on.

Stabbing Westward frontman Christopher Hall credits Nine Inch Nails for getting his band and other industrial acts signed to major labels. “They had amazing songs that were super edgy to be on the radio and made everyone feel edgy and dirty.” “When that happened, every record label in America – and this is what they always do, they’re reactive as opposed to being proactive – they looked around and said, ‘Where can we get one of them?'”

Nine Inch Nails entered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2020. At the ceremony (virtual, due to coronavirus), the Rock Hall made it clear that Reznor was the group, but inducted six other members as well:

Chris Vrenna
Danny Lohner
Robin Finck
Atticus Ross
Alessandro Cortini
Ilan Rubin

Ross, Cortini, and Rubin didn’t make any contributions to NIN in the ’90s.

New Nine Inch Nails Ghosts V – VI

Trent Reznor took to his Twitter Account to announce new music for the first time in a while. Heres what he had to say.












If you’re a die hard Nine Inch Nails fan you’ve been in luck. There’s been quite a lot of activity going on with them in the past few years with plenty of material via albums and movie scores and that’s not slowing down any time soon.

The band are currently scoring the new Watchmen film as well as Pixar’s Soul (after scoring both Mid90s and Bird Box on top of three EPs), but once everything is wrapped up we’ll be getting a new full-length album.

Trent Reznor told Rolling Stone nothing will be coming in 2019 while they wrap up the movie scores but they’re hard at work on new NIN material.

“Right now, we are finishing up Watchmen, and we’re working on the Pixar film that we are doing. And we have plans for Nine Inch Nails stuff, but we haven’t got down to doing it because literally every minute of the day for the last several months has working on score stuff. But the plan is to do stuff, yes,” says Reznor.

Later in the interview, Reznor discusses working on a Pixar film and how it relates to the idea of enjoying the process of making art. He explains a quote he heard from a director about making films for the process instead of the end result and how it relates to people asking him about the Pixar score.

“What I found in my own life is that by taking on these scoring projects, for us, it’s not, “How’d it do at the box office?” or “What was the Rotten Tomatoes score?” It’s nice if it does well. But being in the trenches, collaborating with someone new, learning from them, fighting with them, figuring out their process — that’s the exciting stuff, especially when it’s someone you resonate with,” says Reznor.

“I don’t think anybody does animation better than they do. And we end up meeting with [Pixar’s chief creative officer] Pete Docter, and he’s what you hope he would be. It feels very authentic, it feels very exciting and it’s very, very different from anything else we’ve ever done, from the way they do it to how they think about it. And we’re a risky choice for them, so that makes it very appealing. Can we do something like that? That means us working out of our comfort zone. It’s early days but it’s been really cool.

Nine Inch Nails History and Biography

Nine Inch Nails are an American industrial metal band fronted by Trent Reznor. Reznor is the only constant member as well as the main producer and songwriter. The band currently – as of of 2013 – consists of Robin Finck, Alessandro Cortini, Ilan Rubin, and Josh Eustis as well as Reznor.

Forming in 1988, the band released their debut record ‘Pretty Hate Machine’ the following year. They’ve since gone on to release seven more studio albums, hitting #1 in the US twice and becoming one of the most influential acts in modern alternative music.

Nine Inch Nails and Reznor are known for their intense live performances and extensive gigging – before 2013 they’d already notched up close to 1,000 shows. Reznor is known to assemble a talented bunch of backing musicians and reimagines their tracks on stage.

Though NIN announced that they’d be calling time on their touring life in 2008, we knew it wouldn’t be long before one of the world’s best live acts made their return. That came in 2013 along with eighth record ‘Hesitation Marks’, with Reznor teaming up with an experienced crew to put together an amazing stage production that wowed lucky fans across the globe. They’ve since been nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice!

Having since returned with a further two EPs – ‘Not the Actual Events’ and ‘Add Violence’ – Nine Inch Nails are well and truly back at the top of their game.

Are you excited about a new Nine Inch Nails record coming soon? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

Written By Braddon S. Williams

Nine Inch Nails: Pretty Hate Machine

Trent Reznor’s Nine Inch Nails made a fan of me with the arrival of 1989’s Pretty Hate Machine. Industrial music with heart and raw human emotion was Reznor’s particular form of genius, and Pretty Hate Machine functioned on multiple levels due to the strength of the songwriting.

Head Like A Hole was the breakout single, and it was full of rage, angst, and rebellion. The video gained NIN an instant cult of fanatical followers, and Reznor’s touring version of the band started building a legacy of revolutionary live performances. Other memorable songs included Terrible Lie, Sin, Sanctified, Down In It, That’s What I Get, Ringfinger, and the monumental Something I Can Never Have (my favorite Nails song).

Reznor was critical of the album’s production, and it is certainly nowhere near the level of sound that listeners would become accustomed to with subsequent NIN albums.

I always hoped Reznor would take the time to re-record Pretty Hate Machine with state of the art sound…the songs are good enough that it would have been a project worthy of salivating over!

As it is, Pretty Hate Machine established Reznor as a force to be reckoned with, and as a sort of antidote to much of the grunge explosion that would rule the music world in the following years. For myself personally, PanterA and NIN were a welcome respite from the Seattle sound (and I loved a lot of that stuff, too) in the ’90’s, so I will take a flawed production with the quality of songwriting that was present on Pretty Hate Machine.

Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

Written By Braddon S. Williams


I must confess…Trent Reznor can do very little wrong in my humble opinion. Having said that, I can still tell when he hits on all cylinders and creates a masterpiece.

Such a work is The Fragile (1999), a double album of sonic majesty and despair to rival Pink Floyd’s The Wall.

I’m not going to attempt to compare the two, but just wanted to set the tone that Trent didn’t exactly go to his happy place for inspiration.

The textures and atmosphere are nearly suffocating throughout large portions of this album but there is immense beauty, too. Some of it will rock your face off as well.

Basically functioning as a continuation of The Downward Spiral, Reznor took more time and space to do what he does best; create a musical landscape to mirror a tortured soul.

A small army of musicians and technicians contributed to the making of The Fragile, but Nine Inch Nails is, and always has been, Trent Reznor as the primary creative force.

I can’t even break this one down into favorite songs, because it is so well conceived as a continuous piece of music that it practically demands to be played (loudly) in sequence (preferably through a good set of headphones).

Bryson’s Picks

“Closer” by Nine Inch Nails

I never realized how much the intro sounds JUST like an Icee machine until now. So every time you get an Icee, remember these words. Remember this song. It’s impossible to disagree. Haha.


Influences And Recollections if a Musical Mind

The Downward Spiral, Trent Reznor’s harrowing account of a man’s descent into madness and attempted suicide from 1994, is an album that will likely be on my playlist forever. Nine Inch Nails recorded in the house where the first night of the infamous Manson murders took place. Whether or not any psychic energy pervading that house influenced the material and sound remains to be seen, but Reznor definitely tapped into something that resonated with music fans in the ’90’s. I won’t even attempt to break it down into favorite songs. This album exists as a whole, like a thrilling book or movie, and should be experienced from beginning to end at least once. Some music evokes the time it was recorded in and sounds dated eventually. To my ears, The Downward Spiral remains timeless, a testament to Trent Reznor’s vision and remarkable ability to channel emotion through machines.

Written By Braddon S. Williams

The Lathe of Heaven: A Narrative Bleeding Through Trent Reznor’s Work


By: u/i_am_heathen_king

“To let understanding stop at what cannot be understood is a high attainment. Those who cannot do it will be destroyed on the lathe of heaven.” – Chuang Tse: XXIII

Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails is no stranger to concept albums. His most famous work, 1994’s The Downward Spiral, was touted as a concept album about self-destructive behavior in which a protagonist loses himself to drugs, sex, and violence, ultimately resulting in an act of suicide. Among many of his inspirations is Pink Floyd’s The Wall, the concept album about a rock star suffering a nervous breakdown and walling himself off from the world. Ten years after the success of Spiral, Reznor had been out of the spotlight for half a decade after the commercial failure of the outstanding follow-up, The Fragile.

NIN Poster Art By: Ian-Calavera on Deviant Art

In the intervening years, Reznor had gotten clean after a near fatal heroin overdose in London in 2001 and spent a summer in a rehab facility. It took time to get that artistic spark again. Nearly six years lapsed between The Fragile and 2005’s With Teeth. After that, his output skyrocketed—between Nine Inch Nails, his side-project How to Destroy Angels, his Oscar-winning cinematic scores with partner Atticus Ross, and production work for artists such as Saul Williams, fans received as much music in the span of 3 years as Nine Inch Nails had released in its first decade and a half of existence. But in 2004, a Reznor with shaken confidence attempted to grapple with a story that seems to have haunted his work to this very day.


The website had been updated after years of inactivity, including a Chuang Tse quote used by Ursula K. Le Guin to title a 1971 science fiction work—The Lathe of Heaven. In short order, Reznor announced an upcoming album, Bleedthrough, answered fan questions, and started an online NIN fan club called The Spiral. The album was eventually renamed because, “it was supposed to be about different layers of reality seeping into the next, but I think some people were thinking about blood or a tampon commercial.” He described the themes and focus of the album shifting—With Teeth is ultimately a much more personal work about his struggles with getting clean. However, some of the references to the original title of the work still appear in the released album. As a matter of fact, lyrics directly referencing “bleeding through” appear in a couple of songs: “Every Day is Exactly the Same” and “Beside You In Time.” Additionally, other songs, such as “Right Where It Belongs” or “The Line Begins to Blur” feature suggestions of layers of reality seeping into the next.

A lyric sheet, which Spiral members received as an oversized poster, accompanied the album, and included some tantalizing hints to a broader story.

Reznor is also no stranger to hiding additional lyrics in the liner notes of his previous records—all of them featured lines that weren’t used in the finished songs. But the With Teeth lyric sheet had whole songs that had been cut out. Never mind the vinyl-only track “Home” or the live-only “Non-Entity,” neither of which were included in the lyric sheet, but poems called “Message to No One,” “The Warning” (which may or may not have been related to the later Year Zero track), and “The Life You Didn’t Lead,” as well as a song titled “My Dead Friend” that he name-checked in a message board post. Reznor had a batch of ideas that he wasn’t using that had changed and morphed into the final With Teeth product.

It’s also important to take into account the Chuang Tse/Ursula K. Le Guin reference in relation to what Bleedthrough was going to be about. The Lathe of Heaven was the story of a man whose dreams could reshape reality, which he was trying to manage with drugs. George Orr (an obvious reference to 1984 and Animal Farm author George Orwell), after stealing a “pharma-card” to get drugs, is assigned a therapist, William Haber, who uses a machine to augment and dominate Orr’s abilities. You can see the influence this had on the Reznor of the early 2000s both through his statement about “the different layers of reality seeping into the next” and his getting clean—but especially the lyrics that were left in: “feel the little pieces bleeding through.”

Year Zero

After With Teeth, Reznor embarked on another ambitious concept album, Year Zero. This one was about a dystopian future fifteen or so years down the line, where a resistance movement struggles against a totalitarian government while strange phenomena occur involving giant hands reaching down from the sky, referred to as “The Presence.” He slowly unveiled this story through an elaborate alternate reality game of websites (created by 42 Entertainment). With each website, a glimpse of the world was revealed, a sort of snapshot of what Reznor thought the dystopian future would look like. The ARG may have been more popular at the time than the record, which Reznor has defended as “a great fucking album.” The story on the album does have a discernible storyline thread, that may involve a president-like character (see “Capital G”) who is coerced through drugs (“The Greater Good”) to launch nukes (“The Great Destroyer”), which triggers the Presence phenomena to an apocalyptic event (“Zero Sum”). Reznor even pursued a possible Year Zero television show, which would’ve been produced by Lawrence Bender.

Some of the glimpses of the Year Zero world revealed by the websites included: * The Presence—a ghostly hand that reaches down from the sky, theorized to be linked possibly to drugs laced in public water supplies. However, the phenomenon appears on both a small scale, such as to graffiti vandals, and on a large scale, such as at a stock car racing event. Relates to the song “The Warning.” * Angry Sniper—a prominent character on a message board, a former soldier on a killing spree. Relates to the song “The Good Soldier.” * Opal and Parepin—a pair of drugs that may be related to one another. Opal is considered “The new crack” and induces feelings of euphoria and possible religious epiphany. Relates to the song “Vessel.” * Art is Resistance—a resistance movement against the totalitarian government, characterized by a spray-painted flag stencil. Relates to the song “My Violent Heart.” * Judson Ogram Correctional Facility—a prison, similar to Guantanamo, for criminals related to Art is Resistance or people who mention the Presence. Not necessarily related to a single song, but many Nine Inch Nails songs after Year Zero include references to imprisonment, such as “Echoplex,” “Various Methods of Escape,” and “The Idea of You.” * Church of Plano—a right wing, conservative group preparing for the apocalypse, similar to the real-world Westboro Baptist Church. Related to the song “God Given.”

* U.S. Bureau of Morality—a government agency tasked with suppressing dissidence, regulating all forms of media. This bureau is specifically illustrated in the music video for the song “Survivalism.” * Secure Broadcast Informatics/The Solutions Backward Initiative—a group of scientists attempting to send information back in time using quantum computing to warn people about the world of Year Zero. This is meant to be an explanation for how people in 2007 were finding these websites. * Numbers formatted 24.x.y (for instance, a website would be found with the number 24.1.1 as a sort of tag for the site). A list of “known subversives” (corresponding to names/handles on fan club site The Spiral) was included on one of the websites.

Welcome Oblivion

After the success of the ARG, fans have speculated about a possible Year Zero sequel, which probably would’ve coincided with the television series that never materialized. Elements of Year Zero have popped up in multiple places in Reznor’s catalog. For instance, on The Slip, the follow-up album released in 2008, the Art is Resistance flag stencil from Year Zero appears as artwork for the song “Letting You.” Other elements seem tangential on The Slip—“Echoplex” deals with isolation and imprisonment, and “Lights in the Sky,” as you might tell from the title, references something otherworldly in the sky, which might be The Presence and might not.

By the time Hesitation Marks, Nine Inch Nails ninth studio album (depending on how you count) was released in 2013, those Year Zero elements seemed to be mostly gone. For this album, Reznor said that he had returned to some of the ideas from The Downward Spiral, even using Russell Mills to once again create the album artwork. Like With Teeth, it deals with more identifiably personal topics such as drug abuse, feelings of obsolescence, insecurity, and mortality. There’s also a thread of disappointment in the political discourse in the Obama years—With Teeth and Year Zero were certainly an angry response to the George W. Bush era.

2013 also saw the first full-length album from How to Destroy Angels, Reznor’s collaboration with Atticus Ross, his wife Mariqueen Maandig-Reznor (whom he wed in 2009), and his longtime art director Rob Sheridan. This album, Welcome Oblivion, shared a heavy synth and processed drum machine sound similar to Year Zero. Could this be where those Year Zero sequel ideas went? Aside from the similar sound, some thematic elements remained. Technological apocalypse, entities in the sky, and repeated lyrics. Trent and Mariqueen harmonize “the beginning is the end” on “The Loop Closes,” similar to one of the opening tracks of Year Zero, “The Beginning of the End.” On “We Fade Away,” Trent whispers, “breathe” repeatedly, similar to Year Zero’s “The Greater Good.” But an additional thematic element was introduced on Welcome Oblivion—waking up. This is something we’ll come back to later.

Self-Aware Substructures

At the end of 2016, Reznor surprised the world with a new EP, Not the Actual Events, with the lead single “Burning Bright (Field on Fire).” The interesting part of this track is the quiet closing lyrics, “I can’t tell if I am dreaming anymore,” lyrics that recurred from the previously mentioned HTDA track “We Fade Away.” (“Burning Bright” also features a repeated refrain of “breathe” over and over.) He also announced that this would be the first in a set of three EPs, the second of which, Add Violence, was released in 2017, peppered with more Welcome Oblivion, Year Zero, and even Bleedthrough references. Could these references mean that many of the works since With Teeth are part of an interconnected narrative, something spawned from those early Lathe of Heaven references?

With Add Violence, Reznor said, “What the obsessives maybe don’t know is that if I were to explain everything to you, or just explicitly lay out what the new EP is about, you’d only be disappointed. You don’t really want to know. The experience of grappling with the thing is what makes it interesting, not the immediate gratification of going, ‘Oh, that’s what it means.'” (Author’s Note: And here I am, an obsessive, laying it out.)

The album artwork and the “physical component” that could be ordered through provide perhaps the most tantalizing threads for this narrative theory. The artwork depicts a control panel (“Panel K” according to the physical component, which is referred to as a quick reference guide for the machine, model number 24.0.00, using the numbering system from Year Zero) with a number of gauges, components, and adjustors. Some of these have very direct links to Year Zero—including a “Presence Console” and a “Termination Event Estimation” gauge. If you assemble the clues from the Panel K quick reference guide, you’re meant to infer that Year Zero was a simulated reality. The Presence Console measures interference in that simulated reality, which is estimated to terminate at 2022—the year that Year Zero is supposed to take place according to the alternate reality game.

A few other interesting items in the quick reference guide: * A mention of “self-aware substructures” roughly correlating to the number of people on earth. This term is related to the cosmological theory called the Mathematical Universe Hypothesis put forth by Max Tegmark, that “our external physical reality is a mathematical structure,” and is in line with a layer of the multiverse, of which Tegmark claims there are four levels. * A mention of the Kardashev Scale, which is a method of measuring a civilization’s level of technological advancement. Type I is a planetary civilization that can use and store all energy that reaches the planet from its parent star, and we’re not even at that level yet. Type II uses all energy from that star. Type III controls all energy from its entire galaxy.

You might be able to see how some of this could have been inspired by The Lathe of Heaven—Panel K is somewhat similar to the Augmenter of Le Guin’s novel. Reznor has indicated that Not the Actual Events and Add Violence, two of the three parts of the EP triptych, are part of a single story, and connecting these other works to the story through lyrical references and physical components means those works are part of the story too—as a matter of fact, they reach back to The Fragile and The Downward Spiral as well. Maybe it’s a unified theory of Nine Inch Nails.

The most prominent theme of the two EPs is sleeping and dreaming. “Yes, everyone seems to be asleep” he repeats in NTAE’s “Dear World.” As previously mentioned in “Burning Bright (Field on Fire),” “I can’t tell if I am dreaming anymore.” On Add Violence, “I can’t seem to wake up” echoes throughout “Not Anymore.” As a matter of fact, that last lyric is the name of Nine Inch Nails’ tour in 2017-2018. After dismissing Bleedthrough and The Lathe of Heaven over a decade ago, Reznor appears to be exorcising the story finally—a series of interconnected works that detail multiple layers of reality through sleeping and dreaming, determining what are and what are not the actual events.

“Because I don’t want to change things!” Orr said, as if stating the superobvious. “Who am I to meddle with the way things go? And it’s my unconscious mind that changes things, without any intelligent control. I tried autohypnosis but it didn’t do any good. Dreams are incoherent, selfish, irrational—immoral, you said a minute ago. They come from the unsocialized part of us, don’t they, at least partly? I didn’t want to kill poor Ethel. I just wanted her out of the way. Well, in a dream, that’s likely to be drastic. Dreams take short cuts. I killed her. In a car crash a thousand miles away six weeks ago. I am responsible for her death.” – Ursula K Le Guin, The Lathe of Heaven

It’s not as simple as waking up in The Matrix or in the sense of Plato’s famous “cave” allegory. If there’s a control panel, then there’s someone controlling the simulation. Maybe that’s where The Lathe of Heaven parallel is the strongest. In Le Guin’s novel, George Orr is a weak and submissive figure, despite having the godlike powers of dreams that reshape reality. It’s William Haber, the psychiatrist and dream specialist, who dominates and abuses George’s power until he puts himself in the Augmenter, where he suffers a nervous breakdown that nearly destroys all of reality. In the Add Violence narrative, who is in control of Panel K? Someone is clearly inside the machine, but since the controls are manual, someone needs to be outside as well. Perhaps someone submitted to be placed inside, at the mercy of someone without—just like in Le Guin’s story.

To muddy the waters, Reznor posted a picture to his Instagram account of a Panel J (which comes before K alphabetically) accompanied by the term “Nescience” and an equation: G = X ·10-Y, which may be related to the Kardashev Scale portion of Panel K. The variable G typically refers to a gravitational constant, while X and Y are typically unknown variables. The dial on Panel J is a knob with the labels Nescient, Cognitive, and Conscious (pointing to Nescient). The definition of nescience is ignorance.

The Wake Up

Connecting the dots here in Reznor’s loose narrative, a character exhibiting symptoms of mental illness is caught between sleep, dream, and conscious states, but may actually be experiencing a simulated reality controlled by one or more external beings, whose physical or “background” world bleeds through, causing the symptoms of the mental illness—anxiety caused by disorder, or rather, how the external world affects one’s inner mental health, and perhaps vice versa. How we reshape our reality.

How all this connects to the other pieces of the narrative—the Year Zero world, the apocalyptic aftermath of Welcome Oblivion, or the earlier story threads of Bleedthrough remains to be seen. The description for Add Violence on exclaimed, “PART TWO. THE VIEW WIDENS AND EVERYTHING IS IN QUESTION.” Perhaps the third EP, whenever we receive it, will widen the scope further to close the narrative or provide us with ever more tantalizing clues. He could explain it all to us, but why should he? He’s a friend of David Lynch and a proponent of JJ Abrams “mystery box” style of storytelling, as noted in his earlier quote. The fun is not being told what the answer is, but in engaging the content to come up with our own answers. After all, the truth is that it’s all Trent Reznor’s world—it’s all Nine Inch Nails’ music—so it is all connected in that literal sense. How we interpret and shape that reality is up to us. After an artist releases their work to the world, it no longer belongs to the artist—and that’s the struggle. Reznor can keep the tightest of control over his work, but once it’s released… we are inside Panel K and he is at the controls—or is it the other way around?

“When you sleep, you don`t control your dream. I like to dive into a dream world that I’ve made, a world I chose and that I have complete control over.” – David Lynch

If you enjoyed this essay and science fiction stories that are also about different layers of reality seeping through to the next, check out my author page on Amazon. My first book, THE ERASED, is about imprisonment, artificial intelligence, and transcendence. My most recent series, I AM MERCURY, delves into multiple genres and multiple realities—journalists digging for the truth, spies looking to obscure it, fugitives on the run from it, and protestors dedicated to it. You can also follow me on twitter @heathen_king.

Conspiracy Theory Posts That Trent Reznor Recently Appeared on Curb Your Enthusiasm

Did Trent Reznor play one of those irritating “living statue” street performers on the most recent episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, “Namaste”? The question should immediately strike you as odd. For one thing, Reznor doesn’t act (although he was once briefly slated to make a cameo in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, which didn’t actually end up happening). For another, if Reznor was going to make an attempt at acting, it seems unlikely that his debut would arrive in the form of a brief cameo on Curb.

And yet, after watching the episode, some Reznor fans are convinced that this was, indeed, the Nine Inch Nails frontman, decked out in silver, on the HBO sitcom.

site, it’s difficult to tell how much of this is meant to be a joke and how much of it isn’t… but the theory points to the cover of Strobe Light, a fake NIN album Reznor announced on April Fools’ Day 2009 as a way of satirizing Scream, Chris Cornell’s much-maligned foray into pop music. See, there’s a certain item Reznor wore on the Strobe Light “cover” that… well, here have a look for yourself:

Boy that’s co…incidental. Funny, but coincidental.

Few things in life would make me happier than imagining what the fucking fuck Larry David and Trent Reznor talked about while Reznor was on set, but I remain unconvinced. I guess we’ll see if Reznor says anything about the theory in the next few days…

On This Day in History


On this date in history, 9/10/1994, I traveled to the Ball State University campus in Muncie, IN, to see an incredible show at Emens Auditorium featuring Nine Inch Nails, The Jim Rose Circus Sideshow, and Marilyn Manson. To say that this show brought out an interesting crowd is a massive understatement.

Marilyn Manson – Sweet Dreams

I was so mesmerized by the collection of enticing goth girls and assorted bold fashion statements worn by the members of the incoming audience that I barely took notice of Marilyn Manson during their opening set. I would rectify this poor decision with a quickness in the following weeks, but at the time I spent most of their allotted time simply people watching in the lobby as the fringes of society converged on this prestigious venue to witness this wonderful collection of alternative possibilities.

The Jim Rose Circus Sideshow:



The Jim Rose Circus Sideshow featured bizarre displays of physical abnormality performed by characters such as The Enigma and Mr. Lifto, all energetically emceed by the charismatic and manic Jim Rose, who participated in the show by laying shirtless in a pile of broken glass with a heavy female volunteer gleefully standing on his back…and he never stopped talking during the entire stunt.


The main event was the brainchild of Mr. Trent Reznor, the incredible Nine Inch Nails. This was at the height of their popularity and the lights, sounds, and sheer physicality of the performance was absolutely riveting.

nine-inch-nails-1994Reznor designed the light show himself, and it dazzled with enough strobe lights to cause seizures, but also featured some disturbingly haunting imagery in some of the best screen projections I have ever witnessed at a concert.

Nine Inch Nails – March Of The Pigs (Unclean Live) 1994

This was my first NIN show and would not be the last. Actually, I’m hoping to see them again now that they have new music to bring to the faithful.

Written By Braddon S. Williams aka The Concert Critic


Website Powered by

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: