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Members include Charlie Clouser, keyboards; Jerome Dillon, drums; Robin Finck, guitar; Danny Lohner, guitar, keyboards, bass; Trent Reznor, vocals, guitar, bass, drums, electronics, computers; Chris Vrenna, drums. Addresses: Record company--Nothing/Interscope Records, 10900 Wilshire Blvd., Ste. 1230, Los Angeles, CA 90024. Website--Nine Inch Nails Official Website: http://www.nin.com.
Nine Inch Nails (NIN), the elaborate brainchild of auteur Trent Reznor, shattered the concept of popular music by crafting songs from sounds that 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 the 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 ... 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."
Chris Norris of Spin stated that Reznor's "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 was born on May 17, 1965, and grew up in Mercer, a small mining town in Pennsylvania. He lived with his parents until he was six, but was then raised by his grandparents. He studied classical piano as a child, taught himself tuba and saxophone, and learned keyboards as a teen. His career began in garage bands in his home town. Reznor briefly studied computer engineering at Allegheny College before moving to Cleveland in 1987. He released singles with several bands while in Cleveland and Erie, Pennsylvania. These techno driven groups included the synth-pop sound of the Exotic Birds, the pomp-pop enunciations of Innocence, and the 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 a demo that he wrote, arranged, performed, and produced. Assistance from other musicians was mainly for touring. Members of the touring Nine Inch Nails included, over time, 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 and eventually went triple-platinum. The release fed the hoards of teenage NIN fans, who wore black eyeliner and black trenchcoats; and Pretty Hate Machine became a turning point in the industrial-pop genre. 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.
Reznor spent three years at odds with his label, TVT. Finally, Interscope came up with a deal to co-release the group, and Reznor eventually broke away from TVT and set up his own studio, Nothing Records, along with his manager, John Malm. Soon, Pop Will Eat Itself and Marilyn Manson were signed, and were symbolic of Reznor's energy.
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." The latter earned a Grammy for Best Metal Performance in 1993; and "Happiness in Slavery" earned a Grammy for Best Metal Performance in 1996.
The EP Fixed was also released in 1992, and 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 led 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. They also recorded a song by Joy Division, "Dead Souls," for the soundtrack to The Crow.
The Downward Spiral, from 1994, took five years to create but debuted at number two on the charts and went quadruple platinum. With Flood again coproducing, it featured ex-King Crimson guitarist Adrian Belew. This album included more variety than had NIN's previous work. "A Warm Place" reflected a softer side of Reznor, whereas "Closer" described the primitive desires of physical attraction. Reznor recalled in 1995, "I was---and still am---very pleased with how [the album] turned out. I didn't realize at the time, however, that it was about to become a self-fulfilling prophecy."
Success was roaring for NIN. In 1994 Reznor produced the soundtrack for Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers. The film 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.
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. 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 had raised him since he was five, died in 1997, and a falling out with close friend Marilyn Manson left him staggering. Even a retreat to Big Sur, California, did not help him turn out the work he wanted for his next album. Then Alan Moulder, the engineer/co-producer for The Fragile, guided Reznor to Bob Ezrin, the producer of The Wall. Ezrin helped Reznor sort through a huge mass of sonic expression recorded at Nothing Records, and they pulled together a double album. It was a full 100-minute autobiographical masterpiece.
The Fragile 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." Spin magazine selected The Fragile as its 1999 album of the year.
Although the album was initially successful, many of the songs did not translate well to stage performance. Reznor told a writer in Spin that he began going "down a very dark and terrible path. At the end of it ... it was very clear to me that I was trying to kill myself." His lowest point came when a close friend was murdered and he was too drunk to attend the funeral. He told Spin that at that point he realized he had to get clean.
"Somebody telling me I had a drinking problem was not something I wanted to hear," he told the Spin writer about his initial reaction to rehab. But the message sank in, as well as the notion that he didn't know everything. "That was a new concept," he admitted. "Because I was pretty sure that I did."
In April of 2005 Reznor sold his New Orleans house and moved to Los Angeles in order to be closer to the center of the music industry. He told Spin that he was enjoying his newfound sobriety. "I'm not hiding anymore. I've actually returned people's calls, which is a first. It's mainly to be around peers. Just to be around ... and not feel like I'm on an island." That same year, NIN released With Teeth, which Spin described as "lyrically dense and confessional." The album hit the top of the American album sales chart in May of 2005. In Entertainment Weekly, David Browne wrote that "Both [Reznor] and his music sound more invigorated than at any time since Spiral."
Reznor told Spin that he felt his music was more emotionally honest than it had been in a long time: "People need to believe that I mean what I'm saying again. I don't think I believed it last time because I was lying about everything else. I felt like an actor on that last tour. An actor in a play that wasn't that great." However, he added, "Fans always have a way of finding out the real thing."
by Nathan Sweet and Kelly Winters
Nine Inch Nails's Career
Group formed in Cleveland, OH, 1988; Reznor wrote, arranged, performed, and produced most of the material on Nine Inch Nails albums, enlisting band members for touring; debut album Pretty Hate Machine released, 1989, and went triple-platinum; formed Nothing Records, 1991; played in first Lollapalooza tour, 1991; released both Brokenand Fixed EPs, 1992; released The Downward Spiral, 1994, went quadruple platinum; produced soundtrack for Natural Born Killers; headlined Woodstock `94; released Further Down the Spiral, remixes from previous album, 1995; opened for David Bowie on U.S. tour; released The Fragile, 1999; released With Teeth, 2005.
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.
- Selected discography
- Pretty Hate Machine TVT, 1989.
- Broken (EP), Nothing/TVT/Interscope, 1992.
- Fixed (EP), Nothing/TVT/Interscope, 1992.
- The Downward Spiral Nothing/Interscope, 1994.
- Further Down the Spiral Nothing/Interscope, 1995.
- The Fragile Nothing/Interscope, 1999.
- With Teeth Nothing/Interscope, 2005.
- MusicHound Rock, Visible Ink Press, 1999.
- Robbins, Ira A., editor, The Trouser Press Guide to `90s Rock, Fireside/Simon & Schuster, 1997.
- Daily Variety, May 12, 2005, p. 3.
- Entertainment Weekly, April 29, 2005, p. 145.
- New Orleans CityBusiness, April 4, 2005, p. NA.
- Rolling Stone, May 31, 1990, p. 34; July 9-23, 1992, pp. 32-33.
- Spin, May 9, 2005, p. 63.
- Variety, June 12, 2000, p. 22.
- MTV Online, http://www.mtv.com (May 10, 2005).
- "Nine Inch Nails," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (April 17, 2005).
- Nine Inch Nails Official Website, http://www.nin.com (May 22, 2005).
- Rolling Stone.com, http://www.rollingstone.com (May 7, 2000).
- Rough Guide to Rock, http://www.roughguides.com (April 17, 2000).
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