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Nine Inch Nails
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Nine Inch Nails
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Nine Inch Nails
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Nine Inch Nails (abbreviated as NIN) is an American industrial rock band formed in Cleveland, Ohio circa 1988 by Trent Reznor. As its main producer, singer, songwriter, and instrumentalist, Reznor is the only official member of Nine Inch Nails and remains solely responsible for the musical direction of the band. His lyrics are largely concerned with dark explorations of the self, and the time between major studio albums (bridged by releases of remixes and live albums) has been extended by Reznor's battles with personal issues. After recording a new album, Reznor usually assembles a live band to tour with him extensively; this live component is generally considered a separate entity from Nine Inch Nails in the recording studio. On stage, NIN performs amongst visually spectacular elements and live performances often culminate with the destruction of musical instruments.
NIN's music straddles a wide range of genres and techniques while retaining a characteristically intense sound. Underground music audiences warmly received the band's early activity, and Nine Inch Nails went on to produce several highly influential releases in the 1990s to international acclaim. Media coverage of NIN reached a peak in 1997, when Time magazine named Trent Reznor one of the 25 most influential people in America. In the United States alone, it is estimated that Nine Inch Nails has sold at least 10.5 million units of all of its albums.
The upcoming Nine Inch Nails studio album is Year Zero, to be released on April 17, 2007. The first single is entitled "Survivalism," with filming for its music video scheduled to begin on February 5, 2007 in the Los Angeles area. All other track titles are available on the Year Zero website.
Initial ambitions for Nine Inch Nails were modest: in 1988, Reznor hoped to release one 12 inch single on a small European label. At that time, Reznor was employed as a programmer (and janitor, as some sources have it) by Bart Koster, owner of Right Track Studios in Cleveland. Reznor asked to engineer some demo recordings of his own songs at night during unused studio time, free of charge; Koster agreed, remarking that it cost him "just a little wear on tape heads." Several labels responded favorably to Reznor's material, and he chose to sign with TVT Records. Nine selections from the Right Track demos were unofficially released in 1994 as Purest Feeling; Reznor completed five of these, dropped the others, and wrote several new songs to complete the first NIN album, Pretty Hate Machine.
Several rumors have persisted about the origins of the name "Nine Inch Nails", one being that Reznor chose to reference the story of Jesus' crucifixion with nine inch long spikes. Others claimed that Reznor was inspired by the sight of nine inch fingernails on Freddy Krueger. Reznor asserts that he coined the name partly because it "abbreviated easily", rather than for "any literal meaning". Gary Talpas and Reznor designed the Nine Inch Nails logo that first appeared on NIN's debut, "Down in It" (which consists of the letters "NIN" set inside a border with the second "N" reversed), inspired by Tibor Kalman's typography on the Talking Heads album cover for Remain in Light. Talpas would continue to design NIN packaging art through the 1997 double VHS Closure.
Expanding upon the Purest Feeling demos written, arranged, and performed by Trent Reznor with the addition of studio production and several new songs (including singles "Head Like A Hole" and "Sin"), NIN released Pretty Hate Machine in 1989. The album's production marked Reznor's first collaboration with Adrian Sherwood (who produced "Down in It" in London, England without having met Reznor face-to-face) and Mark "Flood" Ellis. Flood's production would appear on each major NIN release until 1994, and Sherwood has done remixes for the band as recently as 2000. The songs on Pretty Hate Machine feature catchy melodies set against dark, introspective lyrics; Reznor proclaimed this combination "a sincere statement" of "what was in head at the time." In the album's liner notes, Reznor thanks Horror fiction writer Clive Barker for inspiration. MTV aired videos for "Down in It" and "Head Like a Hole", but an explicit video for "Sin" was not released until 1997 on Closure (in edited form). Spending two years on the album charts, Pretty Hate Machine became one of the first independently released records to go platinum, eventually selling over three million copies in the US.
While recording the earliest NIN tracks, Reznor was unable to find a band that could articulate his songs as he wanted and instead decided to play all the instruments himself. For the band's studio recordings, this role largely remains Reznor's, though he has since involved other musicians and assistants. Nine Inch Nails first toured North America opening for industrial band Skinny Puppy as well as alternative rock acts such as Peter Murphy and The Jesus and Mary Chain; Reznor soon received a reputation for smashing instruments on stage out of frustration. This aggressive attitude won over NIN's earliest audiences, who were often openly confrontational towards synthesizer-based bands. NIN then supported Pretty Hate Machine with a world tour that continued through the first Lollapalooza festival in 1991, where the band "stole the show" from headliners Jane's Addiction despite numerous equipment problems. After receiving a disastrous European reception opening for Guns N' Roses, NIN returned to America amidst pressure from TVT to produce a more commercial follow-up to Pretty Hate Machine. In response, Reznor secretly began recording Broken under assumed names to avoid record company interference.
The fruit of Reznor's disillusionment with his record label and culmination of the band's harsh, aggressive live sound, Broken was released in 1992 and took the form of an EP of six songs plus two bonus tracks; it went platinum in the US by the year's end. In the liner notes, Reznor credits his band from the 1991 tour as an influence on the guitar-based sound of Broken, a sound that he described as "a blast of destruction." The single "Wish" won a Grammy award in the 1992 Best Metal Performance category; its video was directed by Peter 'Sleazy' Christopherson of Coil. A music video for "Happiness in Slavery," which was almost universally banned for graphic content, depicts performance artist Bob Flanagan lying naked on a machine that subsequently pleasures, tortures and then kills him. The band's live recording of the same song at Woodstock '94 won another Grammy award for Best Metal Performance in 1995. A video for "Pinion" aired twice on MTV before being banned for objectionable content, although images from it did become a fixture in the opening title sequence of the MTV show Alternative Nation. Christopherson and Reznor collaborated on a longform music video (informally called The Broken Movie), incorporating all three of these clips plus the tracks "Help Me I Am In Hell" and "Gave Up" (accompanied by footage even more gruesome than the "Happiness in Slavery" clip), but it has never been officially released. Alternate videos for "Gave Up" (filmed in Beverly Hills, California at Le Pig studios, site of the Charles Manson murders, where Reznor recorded The Downward Spiral) and a 1995 live performance of "Wish" were made separately. Broken was followed by the remix EP Fixed in late 1992. Rather than tour in support of either EP, Reznor returned to the studio and began work on a full-length follow-up.
NIN released its second full album in 1994, The Downward Spiral, which debuted on the Billboard 200 at number two. The Downward Spiral eventually became the highest-selling NIN release to date, certified quadruple-platinum by the RIAA. Most of The Downward Spiral was mix engineered by Alan Moulder, who would take on more extensive production duties for subsequent NIN albums. The album spawned two commercial singles ("March of the Pigs" and "Closer") and two additional tracks ("Hurt" and "Piggy") that were issued to radio without a commercial single release. The "Closer" video directed by Mark Romanek set a standard for NIN videos with its images of a pig's head, dead meat, a topless woman, and BDSM paraphernalia. MTV made significant edits to the video for objectionable content, but broadcast the edited version frequently. A censored radio edit that partially mutes the song's explicit lyrics received extensive radio airtime. "Hurt" was nominated for a Best Rock Song Grammy award in 1995, and enjoyed renewed success when it was covered by Johnny Cash in 2002 to great acclaim. Reznor has stated that hearing Cash's cover revitalized his interest in writing music and partly inspired the stripped-down approach to songwriting for With Teeth. David Bowie sang a duet of "Hurt" with Reznor on the Dissonance concert tour in 1995. This and other performances from NIN's marathon Self Destruct tour were documented on Closure. The Nine Inch Nails live band also made appearances in performance videos for "Hurt", "Wish" and "Eraser", which were not issued to MTV, as well as "March of the Pigs" (re-recorded in-studio with one camera in a single take).
After The Downward Spiral, Reznor produced a remix album entitled Further Down the Spiral, the only non-major NIN release to be certified gold in the US. It featured contributions from electronic music pioneer Aphex Twin and Jane's Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro. There are two versions of Further Down the Spiral, both featuring exclusive content. A tenth anniversary reissue of The Downward Spiral was released on November 23, 2004 as a two disc "Deluxe Edition" package. The first disc, a hybrid SACD, featured the entire album in high definition 5.1 surround sound and a remastered version of the original CD stereo mix. The second disc featured album b-sides, previously unavailable demos, and other non-album tracks in remastered stereo sound. The first disc was also released concurrently as a two-sided DualDisc playable in standard DVD players as well as high-definition DVD-Audio players and most traditional CD players.
Inspired by late-1970s rock albums Low and The Wall, The Downward Spiral features a wide range of textures and moods that serve to illustrate the mental progress of a central character. Widely regarded as NIN's most influential magnum opus, The Downward Spiral marked a high point for the band, which reached its widest ever mainstream audience with a mud-drenched performance at Woodstock '94, broadcast on Pay-Per-View and seen in as many as 24 million homes. Many bands cited Reznor as an influence after the release of The Downward Spiral, and the album was nominated in 1994 for the Best Alternative Music Performance Grammy award. After the album's release, Nine Inch Nails received considerable mainstream success in the mid-1990s and an expanded live show allowed the band to take advantage of arena rock production values by adding intensely theatrical visual elements to an already overwhelming live show. At the same time, Reznor's relentless studio perfectionism, struggles with addiction and bouts of writer's block began to elongate the time between major NIN releases. This served to increase fan anticipation for the band's next move during the wait between releases: in early 2005, David Bowie named Nine Inch Nails one of "the Immortals" in Rolling Stone's list of the one hundred greatest artists of all time, despite the band not having published any new music in several years. Reznor's appearance in Time magazine on the list of 1997's twenty-five most influential people solidified his status as "the most vital artist in music"; however, the end of NIN's first decade was characterized by a very long tour in support of The Downward Spiral followed by an even-longer period of relative silence.
Fans waited five years between The Downward Spiral and NIN's next major release, The Fragile, which arrived as a double CD in 1999 and was nominated that year for a Grammy in the Best Alternative Music category. Dense in musical texture but lyrically sparse, the album was built around "sound-scapes", according to Reznor, in which "songwriting and arranging and production and sound design became the same thing. A song would start with a drum loop or a visual and eventually a song would emerge out of it and that was the song." Reznor initially considered organizing The Fragile such that three discs would contain songs and the other instrumentals. These plans changed when producer Bob Ezrin was consulted on the album's track-listing: the liner notes state that "Ezrin provided final continuity and flow," suggesting an arrangement of songs that would strengthen their overall cohesiveness. In advance of the album's release, fans speculated that the song "Starfuckers, Inc." (nominated for a Best Metal Performance Grammy in 1999) was a parody of Reznor's former friend and protégé, Marilyn Manson. According to this view, the lyrics satirized Manson as being vain and insincere. Manson and Reznor soon put aside their differences: Manson co-directed and appeared in the music video (retitled "Starsuckers, Inc.") and performed the song alongside NIN at Madison Square Garden in 2000.
On the heels of NIN's previous successes, media anticipation surrounded The Fragile before its release. After many delays, it finally debuted on top of the Billboard 200, selling 228,000 copies in one week and receiving generally favorable reviews. Without sufficient promotion from Interscope Records, however, it slipped out of the charts soon afterwards, and Reznor was forced to pay for the subsequent North American tour out of his own pocket. The RIAA certified The Fragile double platinum in January of 2000, Spin hailed it as the "album of the year" and several songs from the album were regular features on alternative rock radio stations. NIN released three CD singles from the album in different territories: "The Day the World Went Away" in North America; "We're In This Together" in the EU and Japan (on three separate discs); and an EP with "Into the Void" as its lead track in Australia. The latter song was nominated in 2000 for a Best Male Rock Vocal Performance Grammy. MTV aired music videos for the latter two tracks, as well as "Starsuckers, Inc."
Reznor followed The Fragile with another remix album, Things Falling Apart. This was released soon after the 2000 Fragility tour, itself recorded and released on CD, DVD and VHS in 2002 as And All that Could Have Been. A deluxe edition of the live CD came with a companion disc entitled Still, featuring stripped-down re-interpretations of songs from the band's entire career along with several new pieces of music. Some of Still originated in Reznor's unreleased score for Mark Romanek's film One Hour Photo, and three videos for it were released on the official NIN website.
NIN's fourth album, released in 2005, was written and recorded following Reznor's battle with alcoholism and substance abuse: the lyrics of With Teeth reflect this struggle. While most critics hailed the album as a "return to form" after The Fragile, some criticized With Teeth for being trite and unoriginal. With Teeth, which leaked prior to its official release date of 3 May 2005, contains guest appearances by Dave Grohl on drums and live percussion. Just as The Fragile had, the album debuted at the top of the Billboard 200. The music video for the first single, "The Hand that Feeds" (which was nominated in 2005 for a Grammy in the Best Hard Rock Performance category) premiered on the NIN website rather than on a traditional music video channel. Though the package for the album lacks typical liner notes, the album website features access to a digital PDF poster full of stylized artwork and lyrics. The entire album was made available in streaming audio on the band's official MySpace page in advance of its release date. Japanese, Australian & EU releases of the album all feature an extra track from the With Teeth recording sessions, "Home" (also found on the album's vinyl configuration).
In April of 2005, Trent Reznor released the source files for "The Hand that Feeds" in GarageBand format, allowing his fans to remix it. This release spawned an unofficial remix contest, in which over 500 fan remixes were submitted. In response to this successful experiment, Reznor released the source files for the album's second single, "Only" in a wider range of formats, including ProTools and ACID Pro. Fans were also invited to access the band's official MySpace page to upload remixes, vote for favorites, and comment about them in a blog. David Fincher directed a video for "Only" using primarily computer-generated imagery; it debuted July 11, 2005 on Fuse. The third single from With Teeth, "Every Day Is Exactly the Same", was released in April 2006 and was nominated for a Grammy in the Best Hard Rock Performance category. Though a planned music video was scrapped in the post-production stage, "Every Day is Exactly the Same" still topped Billboard's 2006 year-end Hot Dance Singles Sales and Hot Digital Songs charts. In late 2006, Nine Inch Nails' official website announced that a tour documentary entitled Beside You in Time would be released in the US on February 27, 2007 in three formats: DVD, HD DVD and Blu-ray.
In the months following the release of With Teeth, two new songs surfaced: "Non-Entity" (first performed by Reznor solo at the ReactNow! Hurricane Katrina benefit concert) and "Not So Pretty Now", both of which have appeared on set lists of the With Teeth tour. During a chat with fans on the official NIN fan club, The Spiral, Reznor stated that these songs were outtakes from the With Teeth sessions, and studio recordings of them may surface. A live recording of "Non-Entity" appears on Beside You In Time.
In autumn 2005, Nine Inch Nails launched a North American arena tour supported by Queens of the Stone Age, as well as Autolux and Death from Above 1979. Other opening acts on this tour included Saul Williams (a hip-hop/spoken-word performer for whom Reznor is producing a "genre-breaking" album), and dance-rockers Moving Units. To conclude the With Teeth era of the band, NIN did a tour of US amphitheaters in the summer of 2006. Joining them were Bauhaus, TV on the Radio (first half of the tour), and Peaches with her band The Herms (second half of the tour).
In the early 1990s, Nine Inch Nails was involved in a much-publicized feud with TVT Records, the first record label to sign the band. Reznor successfully sued to leave the label, but not without begrudgingly allowing them a percentage of all his future songwriting royalties. In reaction to TVT's artistic meddling, Reznor began releasing NIN albums on his own Nothing Records imprint. In 2005, Reznor sued his former friend and manager John Malm, Jr., co-founder of Nothing, for breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty. Their relationship was formally severed in a New York courtroom, with all claims awarded to Reznor (a sum in excess of three million dollars).
Nine Inch Nails dropped out of the 2005 MTV Movie Awards show because of a disagreement with the network over the use of an unaltered image of George W. Bush as a backdrop to the band's performance of "The Hand that Feeds", which includes such lyrics as:What if this whole crusade's a charade And behind it all there's a price to be paid For the blood on which we dine Justified in the name of the holy and the divine
On May 26, 2005, Reznor wrote "apparently, the image of our president is as offensive to MTV as it is to me" on the NIN website. MTV replied that they respected Reznor's point of view, but were "uncomfortable" with the performance being "built around partisan political statements." A performance by the Foo Fighters replaced NIN's time slot on the show.
The ownership rights to Pretty Hate Machine were put on auction by TVT in 2005 at the behest of Prudential Securities bankruptcy proceedings. They offered the album as part of an overall package that included the rights to the Television's Greatest Hits compilations and the Mortal Kombat movie soundtracks. In addition, the highest bidder was offered a percentage of future sales in all of Nine Inch Nails' TVT-related releases. Rykodisc, who did not win the auction but were able to license the rights from Prudential, re-issued Pretty Hate Machine on November 22, 2005. Ryko also reissued the vinyl edition of the album and its "Head Like a Hole" CD single on January 31, 2006, and wanted to release a deluxe edition of the album (as Interscope had done for The Downward Spiral tenth anniversary) as well; however, Reznor was not willing to produce it without payment.
On October 24, 2006, after being alerted by a fan website, Reznor issued a cease and desist to Fox News for using three songs from The Fragile on air without permission. The songs ("La Mer", "The Great Below" and "The Mark Has Been Made") appeared in an episode of War Stories with Oliver North detailing the battle of Iwo Jima. A post appeared on Reznor's blog, which read: "thanks for the Fox News heads-up. A cease and desist has been issued. FUCK Fox Fucking News." Little else is known about the case.
While Nine Inch Nails has only issued five major studio albums, each is accompanied by numerous satellite releases, including remix albums, singles with extensive b-sides, and tour documentaries. Indeed, each primary release is seen as the center of an associated era, in which the secondary releases are vital to understanding the artistic whole. This is underscored by the use of Halo numbers, a sequential numbering system that applies to every NIN release and carries the implicit message that each is an equally-weighted component of the catalog, regardless of length or format. Halo numbers could also be considered as marketing enticement for fans to complete their collections.
Nine Inch Nails has recorded five songs specifically for film soundtracks: a cover of Joy Division's "Dead Souls" for The Crow, "Burn" and a reworked version of "Something I Can Never Have" for Natural Born Killers, "The Perfect Drug" for Lost Highway (which was nominated for a Best Hard Rock Performance Grammy in 1997), and "Deep" for Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. Reznor himself has remixed a number of songs by other artists, only a few of which are credited to NIN.
Reznor has stated that he would like to release remastered editions of Pretty Hate Machine, Broken/Fixed and The Fragile akin to The Downward Spiral tenth anniversary re-release. A deluxe DVD version of the 1997 VHS release Closure was delivered to Interscope Records in 2004. They were reportedly working on the interactive menu artwork as late as December 2005, and no release date has been set.
Nine Inch Nails' music has been categorized as rock, electronica, heavy metal, alternative, or, most commonly, industrial rock. This latter categorization upset industrial music "purists", most of whom disdained the application of the term to what could be regarded as pop songs. Reznor has never referred to his music as industrial but admits to borrowing techniques from such bands as Throbbing Gristle and Test Dept. Despite the disparity between those artists initially operating under the term "industrial" and NIN itself, it has become common in journalistic descriptions of Reznor's body of work to describe it as such. In actuality, the band's output has covered a wide range of genres: "The Perfect Drug" has the flavor of drum and bass, "Down in It" was influenced by early Skinny Puppy (particularly their song "Dig It"), "Happiness in Slavery" is tinged with industrial metal in the vein of Ministry, "The Frail" is a melancholy piano piece, and most of Pretty Hate Machine could be described as dark electronic pop.
While it displays uncommonly versatile sonic design and composition for a rock band, certain techniques and styles are found throughout NIN's catalog. Extreme dynamics are staples of songs like "Wish" (sample (info)) and "The Day the World Went Away" (sample (info)), which quickly change from quiet to loud and back again, ending with a loud climax followed by an abrupt stop (rather than by fading out or letting the final note resonate). Reznor's singing follows a similar pattern, frequently moving from whispers to screams. The band's music also has distinct rhythmic features, occasionally favoring odd time signatures, abrupt time signature changes and jarring cross-rhythms (examples of which can be found in songs like "La Mer", "March of the Pigs" and "The Collector").
On each album since Broken, Reznor has included at least one piece built around an instrumental ostinato. These tracks tend to begin moderately quiet and slowly crescendo into a climax of noise and distortion; "Help Me I Am In Hell," "Eraser," "The Way Out Is Through" and "Beside You in Time", all of which are typically accompanied by a video segment when performed live, fit into this category. Similarly, some NIN albums contain a repeating motif that reappears multiple times in different songs and contexts (either on a different musical instrument, with a transposed harmony or in an altered tempo).
Reznor also has an affinity for dissonance in his compositions, often created with chromatic melody and/or harmony. Perhaps the most famous use of this technique is in the song "Closer" (sample (info)), where Reznor adds a four-note synthesizer riff featuring an augmented interval after the first chorus. He concludes the song with a heavily chromatic piano motif, the same that recurs on the title track of The Downward Spiral. "Hurt" (sample (info)), from the same album, features a highly dissonant tritone in the verses, a B5(#11), which is emphasized when Reznor sings the eleventh on the word "I" every time the B/F dyad is played. In other cases, Reznor resorts to pure atonality, either by using oddly tuned instruments (as in tracks such as "Leaving Hope" and "The New Flesh") or literal noise in the song's arrangement ("Happiness In Slavery", "Mr. Self Destruct" and "The Wretched" being prime examples).
Live performances are usually concluded with the various whines and drones of guitars being destroyed by the band.
It is generally understood that the Nine Inch Nails live band is a separate entity from the recording studio-based component of NIN. Occasionally, past band members are invited to participate in the process, but when not directly involved with recording new material, Nine Inch Nails' lineup tends to change drastically between major tours. Aside from Trent Reznor remaining on lead vocals, nothing about the live band has remained constant since its inception. Reznor cited the long gestation period between studio albums as part of the reason for these personnel changes. NIN's most recent incarnation features Aaron North on guitar, Jeordie White on bass, Alessandro Cortini on keyboards, and Josh Freese on drums, although Jeordie and Alessandro occasionally perform different instruments.. They are set to continue touring with the band in Europe, Australia and Japan through summer 2007.