Published Apr 01, 2013Trent Reznor pulled off the unthinkable by forming Nine Inch Nails: he took a deliberately abrasive, noisy music like industrial and streamlined it for the masses to eat up. An astute producer, innovator and pained songwriter, Reznor has won Grammys, sold tens of millions or records and found a devout legion of fans with his music. However, along with his accomplishments, he's led a fascinating life full of controversy, addiction and professional battles.
Following the recent release of the debut album by his new band How to Destroy Angels, Welcome Oblivion, as well as the rebirth of Nine Inch Nails, Exclaim! visited the story of Trent Reznor for this month's Timeline feature.
Below are five highlights, detailing some of the odder moments in his long career. For the rest of his story, find an issue of Exclaim! near you.
Five Noteworthy Facts You May Not Know About Trent Reznor:
5. The FBI mistook the video of Nine Inch Nails' "Down In It" for a snuff flick.
While shooting the video for first single "Down In It," a video camera tied to a helium balloon breaks away as it films Trent lying on the ground covered in corn starch pretending to be dead. The footage is found by a farmer 200 miles away, who turns it into the police. After watching it, the FBI launches a murder investigation thinking the tape is a snuff film made by the other members of the band, who are seen walking away in the video. Trent and his manager have to convince the authorities that he is, in fact, still alive.
4. Nine Inch Nails toured Germany with Guns N' Roses and Skid Row in 1991. It was an experience to forget.
Right after Lollapalooza, they head over to Europe where they open two shows for Guns N' Roses and Skid Row in Germany. In 2012, Reznor tells Q, "It was only a couple of shows and they were some of the worst performances we [Nine Inch Nails] ever had in front of the most hostile, moronic audiences I've ever experienced. They were there to rock; what they didn't want was some homo-looking dudes playing noisy synths and they made that very clear to us. Our first show was in Mannheim, Germany. There were thousands of people standing there going [raises middle finger] and there were bits of sausage on the stage. I've tried to block it out."
3. Nine Inch Nails may have killed it at Woodstock in 1994, but they were almost killed themselves on their tour bus on the festival site. Oh, and David Crosby saw Trent in his gotchies.
NIN are invited to perform at the 25th anniversary of Woodstock. They steal the show. Trent recalls the experience to Spin: "We got there the night before, and that rave was going on. I'm glad I saw it. We slept on the bus. The next day, a power line had fallen on the bus and there was voltage going through the bus while we were on it. I went back to the bunks: 'Guys, don't panic, but try not to touch any metal. There is a lot of voltage going through the bus right now.' I walk to the front of the bus, and I see fucking Crosby, Stills, and Nash looking in, and a sea of cameras, seeing me in my underpants. Hi everybody! That was the most nerve-wracking day of my life. But that changed things for us a lot, in terms of brand-name recognition."
2. Trent Reznor pulled off one of music's great practical jokes at Chris Cornell's expense.
Trent takes to Twitter to slam Chris Cornell's disastrous, Timbaland-produced solo album, Scream, tweeting, "You know that feeling you get when somebody embarrasses themselves so badly YOU feel uncomfortable? Heard Chris Cornell's record? Jesus." Cornell responds with a veiled tweet that reads, "What do you think Jesus would twitter? 'Let he who is without sin cast the first stone' or 'Has anyone seen Judas? He was here a minute ago.'" A few weeks go by and then on April 1, 2009, Trent tweets, "I've been busy. Brand new FULL LENGTH NIN record available now." A link takes fans to a site for a fake Nine Inch Nails album titled, Strobe Light, which is produced by Timbaland and featuring a photo of Trent in a hip-hop pose wearing Kanye shades. Instructions read as follow: "Your credit card will be charged $18.98 plus a $10 digital delivery convenience fee. Your files will arrive as windows media files playable on quite a few players with your name embedded all over them just in case you lose them. You will also receive an exclusive photo and a free email account with our partner Google's Gmail service. Your email will be kept confidential and will not be used for spam, unless we can make some money selling it." Tracks on the album include "Everybody's Doing It" (featuring Chris Martin, Jay-Z and Bono), "Pussygrinder" (featuring Sheryl Crow) and "Aid, Paid and Played" (featuring Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas and Al Jourgensen).
1. Trent made Pretty Hate Machine while he was cleaning the toilets of a recording studio.
While working at Right Track recording studio as a janitor, programmer and engineer, Trent begins writing his own music based on his newfound love for industrial music like Ministry and Skinny Puppy. He tells Spin in 1996, "Finally I was hearing bands that were using electronics, and they didn't sound like Howard Jones or Reflex. They had all this fucking aggression and tension that the hardest of heavy metal or punk had. But they were using tools I understood. And it seemed more interesting, because this music couldn't have been made five years ago, let alone 20. It was based on tools that were now." During his off-hours, Trent's boss lets him record demos that he names Purest Feeling.