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Members include CharlieClouser, keyboards; JeromeDillon, drums;RobinFinck,guitar; DannyLohner, guitar, keyboards, bass; TrentReznor, vocals, guitar, bass, drums, electronics, computers; and ChrisVrenna, drums. Addresses: Record company--Nothing/Interscope Records, 10900 Wilshire Blvd., Ste. 1230, Los Angeles, CA 90024.

Nine Inch Nails (NIN), the elaborate brainchild of auteur Trent Reznor, shattered the concept of popular music by crafting songs from sounds which could easily have been heard in a metal fabrication plant. Along with the industrial nature of the music, dark, tortured lyrics completed the product seemingly forged on an anvil by a furious blacksmith. Even though the music fabricated by NIN was mechanical and often created on a hard drive of a computer instead of a traditional instrument, deeply emotive lyrics gave evidence that the creator was indeed human. The Trouser Press Guide to `90s Rock described NIN by stating that Reznor, "virtually perfected the tantrum-rock genus, spewing lyrical vitriol at an astounding array of targets (not the least of which being himself) and obsessively sequestering himself, Macintosh at the ready, to craft the caustic isolationist anthems that made him the anti-hero to a bleaker-than-bleak generation of young devotees."

Perhaps NIN was the perfect expression of how even the great advent of the information age at its best can only be used to improve the human condition by revealing it. Even so, Reznor impacted 1990's rock music in a huge way. Chris Norris of Spin stated, "his brand of post-grunge introspection and self-disgust were central to that era's alternative-rock ethos." Reznor was considered the most artistically consistent innovator of industrial music along with Ministry, Skinny Puppy, and KMFDM. A description by Rolling Stone stated, "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."

Trent Reznor grew up in Mercer, an isolated rural town in Pennsylvania. Born on May 17, 1965, he studied classical piano as a child, taught himself tuba and saxophone and dove into the keyboard as a teen. His career began as many other rock stars have--in garage bands in his home town. Reznor briefly studied computer engineering at Allegheny College before moving to Cleveland in 1987, where his career truly caught fire. He released singles with several bands while in Cleveland and Erie, Pennsylvania. Those groups were techno driven such as the synth-pop sound of the Exotic Birds, pomp-pop enunciations of Innocence, and dance beats of Slam Bam Boo. While with Problems, small success was earned when one of their songs, "True Love Ways," was performed by Joan Jett in the film, Light of Day.

Nine Inch Nails formed in Cleveland, Ohio in 1988 while Reznor worked at a recording studio as a general assistant. The studio job provided him with crucial experience to create and record music. He began NIN when he was 23 years old, as a modern, technological one-man band. TVT, an independent label, signed Reznor based on the demo he wrote, arranged, performed, and produced. Assistance from other musicians was mainly for touring. Members of the touring Nine Inch Nails included at one time or another Robin Finck on guitar; Danny Lohner on keyboards, guitar, and bass; Charles Clouser on keyboards; Chris Vrenna on drums; and Jerome Dillon on drums.

Started the Machine

Nine Inch Nails burst onto the scene in 1989 with the debut release, Pretty Hate Machine.It was coproduced by Flood (Depeche Mode, U2), John Fryer (Cocteau Twins), Adrian Sherwood, and Keith LeBlanc. Three college radio hits came from the album, which charted in 1990, stayed on for a couple of years and eventually went triple-platinum. The release fed the glowing ember of a Gothic scene and brought it to a rage as hoards of teenage fans wore black eyeliner and black trenchcoats. Pretty Hate Machine turned out to be a turning point in the industrial-pop genre. "Head Like A Hole," with its ferocious digital sound, screamed incessantly from radio and MTV. "Sin," a song with darker content, was refused for play on MTV due to its graphic sexual content; however, it further expanded the concept of pop music. NIN's ascension to stardom was helped by their live shows on the first Lollapalooza tour in 1991. Machine gunning across the country, Reznor introduced a stage persona that was full of energy, power, and anger, revealing frustrations that lay deep within.

Some of those frustrations were with his label at the time, TVT. Reznor spent three years at odds with TVT, stating it was an antagonistic relationship, which did not support him artistically or financially. Finally, Interscope came up with a deal to core-lease the group, and he eventually broke away from TVT and set up his own studio along with his manager, John Malm: Nothing Records. Soon, Pop Will Eat Itself and Marilyn Manson were signed, and were symbolic of Reznor's energy. Most notable was the production of Marilyn Manson's Antichrist Superstar, during which he and Manson became close friends.

Broken, released in 1992, was the first release from Nothing. Debuting in the Billboard Top Ten, the project was harder and more abrasive than Pretty Hate Machine. Again bringing in Flood, who produced three tracks, the EP included raging songs like "Last" and "Wish," which earned a Grammy for Best Metal Performance in 1993; and "Happiness in Slavery," which earned a Grammy for Best Metal Performance in 1996. "Happiness in Slavery" also drew attention because of the accompanying video which portrayed a man being sexually tortured and then destroyed by a machine. "Down In It" was more extreme, as the origin for a video clip which was so lifelike that the FBI investigated it under the premise of it being a snuff film.

Fixed, an EP also released in 1992, was the second project from Nothing. J.G. Thirwell, Butch Vig, and others assisted Reznor on this collection of remixes from Broken. Reznor expanded his synthesizing by working with other industrial bands during 1992 such as Pigface, and Revolting Cocks, which was lead by Al Jourgensen and Paul Barker of Ministry. A live tour in 1993 saw a full band thrash through sets with the wrath of a chainsaw. So impressive was NIN's show, that they opened for Guns-n-Roses on a tour in Europe. Creativity continued however, as they recorded a song by Joy Division, "Dead Souls," for the soundtrack to The Crow.

Industrial Supremacy

The Downward Spiral, from 1994, took five years to create but debuted at number two on the charts and went quadruple platinum. It included segments which were recorded in his home studio, the same house where members of the Charles Manson family murdered Sharon Tate nearly 25 years earlier. Reznor claimed he realized the house's significance only after recording had begun despite accusations of distaste by the media. With Flood again coproducing, it featured ex-King Crimson guitarist Adrian Belew. This album included more variety than previous work. "A Warm Place" reflected a softer side of Reznor, whereas "Closer" revealed the primitive desires of physical attraction. Perhaps alluding to Charles Manson, "pig" was mentioned throughout the album. Harsh and scarred as the album was, it even had its limits. Reznor recalled in 1995 that he almost included "Just Do It," a song about suicide on The Downward Spiral, but Flood persuaded him from it. Reznor later stated that, "I had a story to tell [with The Downward Spiral], and I was--and still am--very pleased with how it turned out. I didn't realize at the time, however, that it was about to become a self-fulfilling prophecy."

Success was roaring and NIN was impacting many. In 1994, Reznor produced the soundtrack for Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers. It included three NIN songs: "Burn," "A Warm Place," and a remix of "Something I Can Never Have." Reznor even recorded a song with Tori Amos, "Past the Mission," for her Under the Pink album. The band epitomized and directed the alternative rock scene by headlining at Woodstock `94. Rage let loose on stage and from the studio inspired artists like Chuck Palahniuk, author of the story Fight Club. He admitted, "I listened to The Downward Spiral and Pretty Hate Machine constantly while I was writing Fight Club; there were cuts on it that I would put on "repeat" to the point that my housemates were just insane. "Hurt" was one of the big ones."

Further Down The Spiral,an EP released in 1995, offered remixes of several tracks from The Downward Spiral. Rick Rubin, Thirwell, and Coil joined in on the companion album. The band gained additional attention when they toured with David Bowie in the United States. Feeling the vibe, Bowie joined Reznor on the rendition of his own "Scary Monsters" and on NIN's "Hurt" and "Reptile." Another success was "The Perfect Drug," released in 1997, which was on the Lost Highway movie soundtrack and received a Grammy nomination for Best Hard Rock Performance.

Wrench in the Works

Reznor hit a low period during the late 1990s. His grandmother, who raised him since he was five, died in 1997, leaving him with even less personal stability than that which produced the sordid songs of The Downward Spiral. A falling out with close friend Marilyn Manson left him staggering. Writer's block set in and even a retreat to Big Sur, California did not turn out the work he wanted for his next album. Alan Moulder, the engineer/co-producer for The Fragile,guided Reznor to the producer of The Wall, Bob Ezrin. Ezrin helped Reznor sort through a huge mass of sonic expression recorded at Nothing Records, which was in a former funeral home in New Orleans, to pull together a double album.It was a full 100-minute autobiographical masterpiece.

The Fragile, which took two years to complete due in part to writer's block, debuted at number one on the charts and went platinum within ten months. Reznor brought in David Bowie, pianist Mike Garson, guitarist Adrian Belew and Ministry drummer William Rieflin as contributors. Chris Norris of Spin described The Fragile when he stated, "Rather than the lurid thrills of The Downward Spiral--whose catchy tunes about sex and death fueled many study-hall fantasies--The Fragile chronicles, in slow, torturous movements, an unglamorous descent into depression and self-negation. It deals with aging, numbness, disillusionment, and uneasy self-acceptance." Whereas the work contained some familiar anger such as in the discourse about his split from Manson in "Starf***ers, Inc," many of the lyrics were the most optimistic of his career. Spin magazine selected The Fragile as the 1999 album of the year.

Completing The Fragilemust have been somewhat therapeutic for Reznor as he set out on several more projects. He and Manson showed some sign of making up when Manson appeared on the "Starf***ers, Inc" video. A slight step back in complexity, but still challenging, he was slated for a collaboration with hip-hop auteur Dr. Dre. In addition, he began to form a band with a female vocalist so that he could still create music, but enlist someone else to perform vocals.

by Nathan Sweet

Nine Inch Nails's Career

Formed in 1988 in Cleveland, OH; Reznor wrote, arranged, performed, and produced most all of the material on Nine Inch Nails albums, enlisting band members for touring; debut album, Pretty Hate Machine,released 1989, went triple-platinum; formed Nothing Records, 1991; played in first Lollapalooza tour, 1991; released both Brokenand Fixed EPs, 1992; The Downward Spiral,with controversial lyrics and video released, 1994, went quadruple platinum; produced soundtrack for Natural Born Killers;headlined Woodstock `94; Further Down the Spiral,remixes from previous album, released 1995; opened for David Bowie on U.S. tour; released The Fragile,1999.

Nine Inch Nails's Awards

Grammy for Best Metal Performance for "Wish," 1993; Grammy for Best Metal Performance for "Happiness in Slavery," 1996; Spin magazine Album of the Year for The Fragile, 1999.

Famous Works

Recent Updates

July 13, 2004: Nine Inch Nails' albums, 2000's Damaged and the 1999 box set Fisted, were re-released. Source: Billboard.com, www.billboard.com/bb/releases/week_2/index.jsp, August 5, 2004.

July 19, 2005: Nine Inch Nails' dual disc, With Teeth, was released. Source: Billboard.com, www.billboard.com/bb/releases/week_3/index.jsp, July 29, 2005.

Further Reading



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