A Six-Pack of Nine Inch Nails

“I’m really into old David Bowie stuff for what it was, I’m really into Led Zeppelin or whatever. But I’m not going to have a band that tries to sound like that because it’s been done. I never liked the Beatles. If you’re going to have a band that is guitar, bass, drum, and vocal, try to do something different with it instead of trying to sound like every other band that uses the same equipment and plays the same chords.

“I think my affiliation with so-called industrial bands now is, I like the energy. I always liked the fact that it was electronic, but it wasn’t Thompson Twins. It wasn’t where Devo went with it. It was something that was kind of cool.” – Trent Reznor

Wikipedia: Michael Trent Reznor was born in New Castle, Pennsylvania on May 17, 1965, He began playing the piano at the age of 12 and showed an early aptitude for music. His grandfather said he “was a good kid […] a Boy Scout who loved to skateboard, build model planes, and play the piano. Music was his life, from the time he was a wee boy. He was so gifted.”

Reznor has acknowledged that his sheltered life left him feeling isolated from the outside world. “I don’t know why I want to do these things,” he told Rolling Stone, “other than my desire to escape from Small Town, U.S.A., to dismiss the boundaries, to explore. It isn’t a bad place where I grew up, but there was nothing going on but the cornfields.”

At Mercer Area Junior/Senior High School, he learned to play the tenor saxophone and tuba and was a member of both the jazz band and marching band. He became involved in theater while in high school, being awarded the “Best in Drama” accolade by his classmates for his roles as Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar and Professor Harold Hill in The Music Man.

In 1987 in Cleveland, Ohio, Reznor played keyboards in the Exotic Birds, a synthpop band. He was employed as an assistant engineer and janitor at Right Track Studios where the studio owner gave him free access to the studio between bookings to record demos. Unable to find a band that could play it the way he heard it, but inspired by Prince, Reznor played all the instruments except drums himself.

Nine Inch Nails’ debut album in 1989 was called Pretty Hate Machine and it’s pretty much all Trent and a thousand engineers. Reznor chose the name “Nine Inch Nails” because it “abbreviated easily” rather than for any literal meaning. I will say that for such a small town band geek/Boy Scout, Reznor sure came up with some aggressive shit.

Since I don’t do these six-packs in any particular order, I’ll start with the EP Broken and the incredible deathfuckmetal of “Wish.” The video appears to be from the very bowels of hell. Play it loud:

Spotify link

The thing about Trent Reznor is that, well, he wants to fuck you like an animal. And who are you to resist? “Lyrically, “Closer” is a song about self-hatred and obsession. To Reznor’s dismay, the song was widely misinterpreted as a lust anthem due to its chorus. (How could people possibly have interpreted any sexual meaning to that?? – ME).

Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee, said of the song, “Come on dude: ‘I wanna fuck you like an animal’? That’s the all-time fuck song. Those are pure fuck beats—Trent Reznor knew what he was doing. You can fuck to it, you can dance to it and you can break shit to it.” (I did all three at the same time to it once – ME). 

Spotify link

And so back to Pretty Hate Machine and “Down In It,” one of the first tunes Reznor ever wrote. I did the insistent beat and the chorus.

I’ll cross my heart, I’ll hope to die
But the needle’s already in my eye
And all the world’s weight is on my back
And I don’t even know why
And what I used to think was me
Is just a fading memory
I looked him right in the eye
And said goodbye

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“Hurt” – from NIN’s breakthrough album The Downward Spiral – is every bit as much a signature song for Reznor as “Closer” is. Famously, Rick Rubin got Johnny Cash to sing it on one of his albums. Reznor at first thought it was “gimmicky” but on seeing the powerful video he said, ” .. Wow. [I felt like] I just lost my girlfriend because that song isn’t mine anymore.”

Spotify link

Let’s go back to Pretty Hate Machine for “Head Like a Hole.” And remember to:

Bow down before the one you serve
You’re going to get what you deserve
Bow down before the one you serve
You’re going to get what you deserve

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I end this Industrial rock, industrial alternative, rock electronic, rock industrial, metal ambient fest with “The Hand That Feeds” from 2005’s With Teeth.

About ten or twelve years ago, Reznor started putting his energies into film and television scores. With his co-writer, Atticus Ross, a partial list of stuff he’s scored includes The Social Network, Gone Girl, Patriots Day, and Ken Burns’ documentary, The Vietnam War. 

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14 thoughts on “A Six-Pack of Nine Inch Nails

  1. I knew the name and as I read I started to connect. The “Hurt’ song by Cash and Reznors work with Burns. Other than that I dont know the music. Like what I heard. Lots of good ideas going on. The last cut has a more straight ahead rock sound and more accessible but I would spend more time with it all. It’s just remembering to.


  2. I didn’t swing the NIN way before… it never floated my boat. I think I had some of that pre-conceived nonsense about Reznor some of which may be valid… some probably not. Then I caught him on that Grohl doc Sound City and really enjoyed both his segment and talking about how he approaches music (starting from a sort of classical piano approach) and the track he, Grohl and Homme came up with.
    Since then I’ve had more time for his stuff. His soundtrack work is very much my cup of coffee – especially the moody vibes on the Vietnam doc – but I’ve enjoyed all I heard here including a few I hadn’t before.
    I’m off to test out two of the options for Closer.


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