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The page of Nine Inch Nails, NIN, English biography

Image of Nine Inch Nails, NIN
Nine Inch Nails, NIN


Nine Inch Nails is a one-man industrial-rock band whose symphonic noise and intense lyrics articulate an alienation and rage that have attracted a wide audience. The diviner of this millenarian angst is Trent Reznor, who writes, arranges, performs, and produces all of Nine Inch Nail's material.

Reznor grew up isolated in small-town Pennsylvania, where he studied classical piano as a kid, switching to keyboards and playing in garage bands as a teen. He dropped out of Pennsylvania’s Meadville College, moved to Cleveland, and recorded a self-made demo. That tape got him signed to TVT, an independent label best known for compilations of TV jingles.

Pretty Hate Machine was coproduced by Flood (Depeche Mode, U2), John Fryer (Love & Rockets, Cocteau Twins), and Adrian Sherwood and Keith LeBlanc. It yielded three college-radio hits, most notably “Head Like a Hole,” the video for which got extensive MTV play. Although the album vented an extremely dire, introspective outlook, it sold a million copies. This was at least in part due to the fact that Reznor assembled a band that spent three years on the road promoting Pretty Hate Machine, in the process dazzling audiences at the 1991 Lollapalooza Tour and opening for Guns n’ Roses in Europe. NIN spent so long touring because Reznor was suing to be released from TVT, who he said didn’t support him artistically or financially. Several other companies were interested in NIN, and when TVT wouldn’t let Reznor go, Interscope negotiated an agreement to corelease the band. Interscope also gave Reznor his own label, Nothing. Broken (#7, 1992) was recorded during this period in a number of locations “without the permission of The Record Label,” as the liner notes say. The EP is an intensely devastated and devastating document, once again entirely masterminded by Reznor, with three tracks coproduced by Flood. NIN had Coil and Foetus’ Jim Thirwell remix tracks from Broken on Fixed.

Broken debuted at #7 on the pop albums chart, while “Wish,” a track from the record, won a Grammy for Best Metal Performance. Reznor tested the freedom granted by his new record company on the video for “Happiness in Slavery,” which showed a man being sexually tortured and ground into a pulp by a machine - a visualization of NIN’s own tortured nature as a synth band venting human emotions and an apt metaphor for Reznor’s feelings about the music business. This was not the first controversial NIN video: “Sin,” from the first album, was refused by MTV for its images of genital piercing and gay men smearing blood on each other, while outtakes from “Down in It” were investigated by the FBI, which suspected that they were culled from a snuff film.

Working on his next album in L.A., Reznor moved into the house where Charles Manson’s followers murdered Sharon Tate. Flood again coproduced, and the album featured guitarist Adrian Belew. The Downward Spiral (1994), a dense, depression-filled, and uncompromising work, debuted at #2 on the chart and went on to sell 5 million copies.

In the summer of 1994, NIN appeared at the Woodstock ’94. A version of “Happiness in Slavery” from the live album culled from performances at the festival earned NIN its second Grammy for Best Metal Performance. In 1996, Reznor coproduced shock-rocker Marilyn Manson’s Antichrist Superstar (the two men later had a falling-out). Reznor also produced the soundtracks for Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers (1994) and David Lynch’s Lost Highway (1997).

Accolades from both the rock and mainstream press were pouring in by this time, with Time magazine naming Reznor one of the 25 most influential Americans. In 1999 NIN released its first studio album in five years, a despairing double CD called The Fragile (#1). Working with a broader sonic palette than before, Reznor tempered his throbbing cacophony with moodier, subdued moments; ROLLING STONE hailed the record “a brutal and delicate masterpiece.” “The Day the World Went Away” debuted at #17 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart to become the first Top 40 single of NIN’s career.


(Editor of this page: Répás Norbert)

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