Trent Reznor ("Reznor" not "Razor." Forever I thought he used "Razor" as his stage name, which would be pretty cool...) founded Nine Inch Nails in 1988 and has since been the band's only official member. Reznor began his musical pursuits in 1987, playing keyboard with a band called the Exotic Birds. A year later he had split off from the band to create music of his own, recording his first album at Right Track Studios where he had been working as a janitor. Unable to find a band that could bring the sounds inside his head into reality, Reznor took a leaf out of Prince's book and personally recorded all the instruments in his first demos excluding the drums. A few months later the demos had received a warm enough reception to land Nine Inch Nails (a name that Reznor claims "was easy to abbreviate" but some have speculated references either the length of the nails used to crucify Jesus or Freddy Kruger's fingernails) a gig supporting Skinny Puppy.
Reznor signed with TVT records and began to revise nine live demos, collectively known as Purest Feeling, into Nine Inch Nails' first album: Pretty Hate Machine. (Which by the way is a beautiful, beautiful album. Please listen to it now. I'll wait.) Pretty Hate Machine featured the production talents of Adrian Sherwood, who had previously worked with Reznor on the song Down In It without ever having met him, and Mark Flood. Rolling Stone described Pretty Hate Machine as "industrial-strength noise over a pop framework ...harrowing but catchy music." During this period, as Nine Inch Nails started to get rolling, Reznor befriended Sean Beavan and asked him to produce his music. Beavan is most famous for working with Guns N' Roses, Marilyn Manson, and Slayer. Beavan produced so much Nine Inch Nails music over the years that he became an unofficial member of the band, and sometimes provided background vocals from his mixing station.
In 1989, while intoxicated, the band (Reznor and the musicians he had assembled for touring) was asked which show they would most like to appear on. Sarcastically, they replied Dance Party USA because it was the most absurd response they could think of. Much to their surprise, they were soon booked on the show and so they appeared. By 1990, Nine Inch Nails was opening for Peter Murphy and The Jesus and Mary Chain. Reznor's stage personality became more and more violent, and he began to smash his equipment on stage. This attitude melded well with the grunge attitude of the 90's, and only increased the band's popularity.
In 1994, Beavan accepted Reznor's invitation to mix The Downward Spiral (Also a beautiful album. Listen to it in a dark room and tell me I'm wrong) and the pair embarked on a music video project to promote the new CD. MTV aired the videos for Head Like A Hole, and Down In It, but refused to play the video for Sin as it was too explicit for TV. In the video for Down In It, Reznor's character apparently falls off a building and dies. Through a rather amusing mix up, the footage was tracked and reviewed by the FBI. In Convulsion Magazine, Reznor explains:
"There was a scene where I was lying on the ground, appearing to be dead, in a Lodger-esque pose and we had a camera with a big weather balloon filled with helium hooked up to it... the first one we did, we started the film, I was laying on the ground and the ropes that were holding the balloon snapped, the camera just took off into the atmosphere... the camera landed two hundred miles away in a farmer's field somewhere. He finds it and takes it to the police, thinking that it's a surveillance camera for marijuana, they develop the film and think that it's some sort of snuff film of a murder, give it to the FBI and have pathologists looking at the body saying, 'yeah, he's rotting,' (I had corn starch on me, right) 'he's been decomposing for 3 weeks.' You could see the other members of the band walking away and they had these weird outfits on, and they thought it was some kind of gang slaying."
At this time, Reznor began running into some problems with his record label. A botched opening for Guns N' Roses earned Nine Inch Nails the title of Synth-Pop which Reznor renounced. Upon finding out that TVT was hindering his project, he dismissed their label and demanded that they terminate his contract, but the company wasn't ready to let go. Enraged, Reznor began recording secretly under different names, continuing to pursue the music he wanted to create. Reznor later stated that he hated TVT, and even encouraged his fans to illegally download his music as a sort of revenge on the company.
"We made it very clear we were not doing another record for TVT. But they made it pretty clear they weren't ready to sell. So I felt like, well, I've finally got this thing going but it's dead. Flood and I had to record Broken under a different band name, because if TVT found out we were recording, they could confiscate all our shit and release it. Jimmy Lovine got involved with Interscope, and we kind of got slave-traded. It wasn't my doing. I didn't know anything about Interscope. And I was real pissed off at him at first because it was going from one bad situation to potentially another one. But Interscope went into it like they really wanted to know what I wanted. It was good, after I put my raving lunatic act on."
The Downward Spiral continued to receive critical acclaim, selling 4 million copies in the USA and an additional 5 million copies worldwide. Its influences from Pink Floyd, David Bowie, and Low gave the album a new variety that chronicled the mindset of a central character. Explicit music videos accompanied the album, most notably the one for Closer which was apparently set in a 19th century mad scientist's laboratory The video dealt with such themes as terror, animal cruelty, politics, religion, and sexuality and was banned from many television stations, although a partially muted radio version of the song received excessive air time. Reznor presented The Downward Spiral at the Woodstock '94 festival. It was during this time that many argue Nine Inch Nails made the transition from underground music into the mainstream circulation. Reznor's obsession with perfection in the studio coupled with his struggles with addiction and writer's block delayed a follow up for five years when The Fragile was released.
With Teeth, Year Zero, Ghosts I-IV, and The Slip, became Nine Inch Nails' next albums, and in 2009 Reznor announced that it was "time to make NIN disappear for a while." Although he is far from finished creating music under the name, Nine Inch Nails will not be touring any time soon. The band's final live performance was on September 10th, 2009 at the Wiltern Theatre. In 2009, Reznor married Mariqueen Maandig, and they formed the project How To Destroy Angels (another band I've been listening to for a while, but I didn't know they were associated with Nine Inch Nails in any way!).
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