Nail It

Adam gets the week off to a hammering good start with a guide to Nine Inch Nails…

Nine Inch Nails is an American industrial rock band, formed in 1988 in Cleveland, Ohio. Nine Inch Nails’ music straddles a wide range of music genres. While it would be difficult to say who invented industrial music and even more so to say who was the first to successfully fuse it with heavy metal, the band that brought this blend to the eyes of the mainstream was unquestionably Nine Inch Nails. The band is in fact more or less the one-man project of musical mastermind Trent Reznor (below, second from right). Reznor is solely responsible for doing all the singing, writing all the music, and playing all the instruments, with the exception of live performances, where he employs a full backing band to play his music.


Reznor derived musical influences from various industrial bands, such as Skinny Puppy, Einstürzende Neubauten, and Ministry. After signing to the record label TVT, Reznor released his debut album, Pretty Hate Machine, in 1989. His first single was the song “Head Like a Hole,” which eventually aired on MTV in 1991. Around this same time, Nine Inch Nails played a slot on the very first Lollapalooza tour. Shortly after this, Pretty Hate Machine went platinum. It was the first industrial album to do so in the history of music.

After a stressful legal battle with his record label TVT, which was constantly trying to dictate the way Reznor made songs and would cause him to go on creative strike, Reznor eventually dropped his first record label and signed on to Interscope. Interscope allowed Reznor to set up his own record company, which he called Nothing Records. Reznor was able to operate with his new company from his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. It was shortly after this that Nine Inch Nails released their first album from Nothing Records, which was entitled Broken. The album debuted in the Top 10 and won a Grammy for its hit single “Wish.” Not long after this, Reznor put out the album Fixed, which was a companion piece to Broken that was composed entirely of remixed versions of that album’s songs.  Reznor was officially a big star now and decided to work on his new album in Beverly Hills, in no other place than the very same house where the Charles Manson cult slaughtered Sharon Tate and four others. He made this area into a recording studio and began working on his next album there.

Reznor emerged again in 1994 with the release of the classic The Downward Spiral. This album was the one that truly put Nine Inch Nails on the map, even more so than they had previously been. It debuted at number two and went platinum several times over, due partially to the hit single “Closer.” The album takes a turn to the progressive side somewhat, as it is a concept album. It tells the story of a young, troubled man who ends up committing suicide. This album contained brutally heavy, pulsating songs such as “March of the Pigs,” “Big Man with a Gun,” and “Mr. Self Destruct.”

It tones down drastically with ballads such as “Hurt” (which was later covered by Johnny Cash), and the almost jazzy-sounding song “Piggy.” The album was followed one year later by the now-customary companion remix album, which was this time entitled Further Down the Spiral.

It was also at this time that Reznor began expanding his résumé to include the composition of film soundtracks, creating the score to Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers. It was on this soundtrack that Reznor put out the angst-fueled anthem for angry youths throughout the world, “Burn.”

Three years after this, he wrote the soundtrack to David Lynch’s Lost Highway. At this time, he was holed up in New Orleans, where he relocated after leaving Los Angeles, this time converting a funeral home into a recording studio for his next album. After a long absence, Nine Inch Nails put out their sixth album, The Fragile. This album debuted at number one but was still not as noteworthy as The Downward Spiral. The Fragile was followed a year later by the customary companion remix album, then a live album two years later. NIN released the album With Teeth in 2005, after which they have been putting out only remix albums put together by Reznor. Nine Inch Nails still tour to this day, and they are in fact headlining this summer’s upcoming Lollapalooza tour.