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Gifted with an ear for music and a talent for breaking boundaries, Trent Reznor is one of the most influential artists in the world. The genius behind the bands Nine Inch Nails and How To Destroy Angels has changed the face of music and left a lasting impact on generations.
Humble beginnings in Smalltown, USA
Mercer, PA's Hometown Boy
Michael Trent Reznor was born in May 1965 in Pennsylvania. From the start he was called Trent to avoid confusion with his father, Michael. A few short years later his sister Tera was born, but by the time Trent was five his parents split and divorced. Trent was sent to live with his maternal grandparents while Tera lived with their mother, Nancy.
Around that time Trent started piano lessons, his ear for music and talent for playing encouraged by his family. In school he continued to expand on his musical prowess by learning both the saxophone and tuba, playing in the school jazz and marching bands.
Far from having a miserable childhood, Trent had a good one but longed for life outside small town Mercer, PA. He joined the drama group in high school, notably playing the character of Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar and Professor Harold Hill in The Music Man, and was voted 'Best in Drama' by his peers.
Graduating from high school in 1984, (after receiving the dubious distinction of being 'Top Woodwind' in band and 'Mr Punk 1984') Trent enrolled in Computer Engineering at Allegheny College. But after a year, he dropped out to pursue a career as a musician full-time. Around this time he had also joined up with a local band called Option 30 who played a lot of cover songs. Growing weary of playing other peoples' music, Trent quit and moved to Cleveland, OH, joining the band The Innocent as a keyboardist in 1985.
It too was a short gig; Trent quit after three months. In 1986, he joined local Cleveland band Exotic Birds and played on their album L'oiseau. As fate would have it, Trent met John Malm Jr. who then-managed the Exotic Birds. Eventually Trent moved on from this band as well to continue his dream of making his own music.
By now Trent had taken a job at Right Track Studio in Cleveland as a handyman. During off hours, Trent was allowed to use the studio to work on his own music and record a demo. A demo that would evolve into Pretty Hate Machine.
Option 30 & the Cleveland Music Scene - Love the 80's hair.
A local newstation in Cleveland did a segment on local band Option 30, including an interview with Trent Reznor.
"It passed the two week test."
The evolution of Nine Inch Nails
While working at Right Track Studios in Cleveland, OH, Trent eventually produced a demo and began to shop it around. (Eventually this demo was bootlegged and released as Purest Feeling, the earliest known recordings by Nine Inch Nails.) Eventually the demo was picked up by the label TVT Records.
All that was needed was a name. Eventually Trent chose "Nine Inch Nails", with no apparent deep-meaning or conspiracy theory behind the name. It just looked good, was easily abbreviated, and with help from Gary Talpas the logo was designed with the second N reversed, a logo that would be easily recognized from that point on.
Pretty Hate Machine was released in October of 1989 and received moderate success at first, catching on with underground fans. Eventually it would attain the distinction of being one of the few independently released albums that has received platinum certification.
For now, Trent put together a live band and went on tour, opening for the likes of Skinny Puppy, Peter Murphy, and The Jesus and Mary Chain. The band really caught fire with audiences during the 1991 Lollapalooza tour. There was even a mostly-disastrous opening slot with Guns N' Roses in Europe. Undaunted, Trent came back to the States to continue creating music. There was only one problem: TVT Records was pressuring him to create a commercial follow-up for more mainstream fans.
In secret, Trent recorded the follow up to Pretty Hate Machine in California and out of reach of TVT Records. This EP was named Broken and contained six original songs and two covers. Released in September 1992, it contained the fury and frustration Trent felt towards his TVT Records contract. Interscope Records was able to buy Trent's contract out and set him up with his own label. Broken was released jointly by TVT and a new label, Nothing Records.
Post-Broken, now armed with his own label and creative control, Trent began to work on his second album. That album would become forever associated with Nine Inch Nails and put Trent Reznor in the history books permanently.
The Art of Self-Destruction, Part 1
The Downward Spiral of Trent Reznor
The Downward Spiral was released in March 1994. A sound-scape and conceptual album with multi-layered songs, thrashing guitars, and screaming, the album spawned NIN's most-known single Closer. Accompanied by a video directed by Mark Romanek that got heavily censored by MTV. Coupled with a blistering mud-covered performance at Woodstock '94, NIN shot to fame over-night.
NIN toured extensively to promote The Downward Spiral, crisscrossing the globe. Fame and its pitfalls began to take their toll on Reznor personally.
It would be five long years before NIN would record another album.
In September 1999, The Fragile was released to the public. A 2-CD set full of more of Reznor's soundscapes and progressive musical masterpieces, it was a documented study in depression and the after-affects of fame. Commercially the album was not well received, though some recognized it for its beauty and genius. Trent regrouped and toured for the album, as well as releasing several singles and music videos.
Then another five years would pass before Trent reemerged into the public eye.
A Warm Place
Trent's battles with inner demons
"I was at my most miserable when I had everything I ever wanted..." - Trent Reznor
Though mostly kept behind the scenes, it was clearly obvious Trent had his own demons to deal with. Suffering from social anxiety disorder, depression took root and both were compounded by the non-stop lifestyle of a touring musician with a world-famous band. Self medicating with alcohol and drugs, Trent accidentally overdosed in London during the Fragility tour.
An earlier attempt at sobriety had half-heartedly worked, but this time Trent entered a rehab facility in July 2001 and committed to getting clean. Through therapy and perseverance he has stayed sober. Trent has talked openly and candidly about his experiences in interviews and articles that have followed since the release of With_Teeth. A marked change has come through in his music since he has become sober and the party days of old have been retired.
Right Where It Belongs
The return of Trent & NIN
With_Teeth was released May 3rd, 2005. Having gone through many changes in the five years since the release and subsequent touring to promote The Fragile, Trent was ready to return.
Originally titled Bleedthrough, the album departed from the musical soundscapes and returned to a more rock-driven song style. It was also the first NIN release to not contain any music-only tracks.
Along with sobriety, Trent's personal world changed. After nearly a decade living and recording in New Orleans, LA, Trent sold his house and moved to California; a change of scenery as well as breaking old habits was necessary for his mental health and career.
Also, Nothing Studios (as well as the label) folded. Trent had a major falling out with his then-manager John Malm Jr. Trent sued Malm over asset withholding and while owning to the fact he had his own issues and addictions, he had lost all trust in Malm as a manager. On May 17th 2005 (Trent's 40th birthday) a jury ruled in favor of Trent returning all assets with interest and the NIN brand.
The tour for With_Teeth was wildly popular and many shows sold out as the new band assembled to tour circled the States and Europe.
Finding lots of free time on his hands and having to find new ways of entertainment to keep from slipping into old bad habits, Trent started to work on a new album. A new concept that would become Year Zero.
I've got Survivalism!
The bleak future world of Yeaz Zero
Just short of two years later, Nine Inch Nails released Year Zero on the world in April 2007. A conceptual album set in an Alternative Reality Game universe with its own characters and world events, Trent created an entire idea of what the future will be like if the worlds' societies continue without change.
In 2005 Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, LA, Reznor's previous hometown, causing the levees to break and the city to flood, resulting in one of the worst disasters the US has ever faced. Trent's dismay at the government on all levels to act was clearly apparent and set in motion some of the sentiments revealed in Year Zero.
An entire campaign based on the ARG concept was built around the album's story and fans were bombarded in multiple ways; the world of online was used in a massive way, when the band began to 'leak' songs via USB cards left in bathrooms at their shows in Europe. Clues were printed on t-shirts, messages began to pop up online and a frenzy was created before the album was even released.
Where the world of Year Zero goes is yet unclear. Presently NIN is touring Asia and Trent has revealed the concept might extend into a television version. A follow-up album is expected but no release date has been given.
Reznor on Year Zero
Trent Reznor gives a brief interview about the creation and concept of his album 'Year Zero'.
Trent battles the record industry
Even from the beginnings of his career, Trent has insisted on creative control and artistic freedom and abhorred corporate influence. His first clash came with TVT Records, ending with portions of his publishing rights forfeited to TVT for freedom to have his own label Nothing Records, and a move to Interscope.
Credit given when credit is due is important to Trent and while his music has been used in television (heavily by the likes of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation) he has had to issue cease and desist letters to FOX News Channel for using his songs without permission.
The latest controversy and clash with the corporation of the music industry started with the 'leak' of several songs off Year Zero. Fans found themselves targeted by the RIAA for 'stealing', when Reznor had freely leaked his own songs (and eventually the whole album) for his fans before the release date. (With_Teeth had been leaked, as the online climate of 'try before you buy' has done loads of damage to already-falling album sales. Unfortunately, the leak had not been made by Reznor and with Year Zero he saw the opportunity to take matters into his own hands.)
Interscope did not understand the concept of the ARG Reznor had created and yet again clashing ensued. Ironically, the label had signed off on the whole campaign and then done an about face when no one understood it.
In May 2007, Trent publicly criticized Universal Music Group for the pricing and distribution plans for Year Zero outside the US. While on tour in Australia, Trent was shocked to see the sticker price and decried the "absurdity" of it all.
"As the climate grows more and more desperate for record labels, their answer to their mostly self-inflicted wounds seems to be to screw the consumer over even more." -- Trent Reznor
The result of an experiment
On March 2nd, Trent Reznor and NIN again made history by the digital release of Ghosts I-IV, a 36-track instrumental album. Recorded in 10 weeks with no set agenda or other thinking, it is an album that could never have been made if NIN was still tied to a traditional record label.
Trent brought in Atticus Ross, Alan Moulder, Alessandro Cortini, Adrian Belew and Brian Viglione to help him in the studio. Rob Sheridan and Artist in Residence worked on the visual aspect of the album. The songs are almost soundscapes, reminiscent of earlier NIN instrumentals but taken to the next level. Each track comes with its own image, viewable in iTunes as well as an overall PDF booklet for the album.
Released in digital format first, fans could chose from five different packages: a free download of Ghosts I, $5 for the digital album, $10 for the digital download and 2-CDs, $75 for a Deluxe package, and $300 for a Limited Edition package signed by Trent. Physical CDs are to be released in April, with the Deluxe and Limited Editions to follow in May.
Since its release, estimates show the release of Ghosts I-IV being a critical success, with a so-far sales gross of $1.6 million. Trent Reznor has once again set the bar for the coming future of the music industry.
May 5th, 2008
On April 21st 2008, Trent Reznor posted on NIN.com that there would be "something new" in 2 weeks. The following day, Nine Inch Nails released Discipline, to both radio stations as well as making a download link available on their website.
This was followed by the release of a second song, Echoplex, on May 2nd. This song was released via a Facebook application, sending fans into another round of excitement.
The ID3 tags show a two images as well as a "?" for the album title when the songs are loaded in iTunes. A note says to check NIN.com on May 5th, 2008.
A flurry of speculation is surrounding the releases of Discipline and Echoplex, with hints that NIN was set to drop a new album on May 5th before setting out on a US tour. Trent did not disappoint...
At midnight on May 5th, 2008, the official NIN website posted a link to download The Slip with a note from Trent: "Thank you for your continued and loyal support over the years - this one's on me."
The album was indeed a free download, in several formats from CD-quality to high resolution WAVE and FLAC files, completely free to listeners. A physical product was released in July 22nd, 2008, in the form of a Limited Edition number CD and a vinyl LP.
Friends & Feuds
Marilyn Manson, Courtney Love, & Tori Amos
Throughout his career, there have been many high profile friendships and feuds that Trent has been a part of.
The most notable is his now-former friendship with Marilyn Manson. Trent signed the band of the same name to his Nothing label and helped produce their first album. Mr Manson even appeared in the video for Gave Up. Trent opened his studios in New Orleans to the band and helped produce their pinnacle album AntiChrist Superstar in 1996. A friendship and a bond formed between the two but it was not without its pitfalls.
The two fought a bit in the press with a 'he-said, he-said' battle but appeared to make up in 2000 with Mr Manson appearing in the StarFuckers, Inc. video as well as making an on stage appearance to sing a few songs with Trent while NIN was in New York City. But not long after they had another falling out. Trent got a few barbs in about Marilyn Manson's cover of Personal Jesus while Mr Manson drummed up a story about Trent deleting the master recordings of several of Marilyn Manson's albums. As of this writing, it appears no attempt to bury the hatchet is in the works.
Another person to affect the friendship is former Hole front-woman Courtney Love. Ms Love and her band opened for NIN at one point (who had also taken Marilyn Manson on the road.) As things happen on the road, Courtney started to spread rumors about Trent while Trent maintained that nothing had ever happened between them, that he'd only ever felt sorry for her and tried to be a friend.
Both seem to have moved on and found other people to target, in Courtney's case.
Someone who was indeed a dear friend was Tori Amos, who at one point tried to make fried chicken for Trent when he was living in California during the recording of Broken. The joke came that no matter what she did, the chicken would not cook. In interviews, Trent blamed the ghosts that haunted the house, which happened to be where Sharon Tate was murdered by Charles Manson.
Tori seemed to understand Trent and he even sang on her song Past The Mission but eventually the two drifted apart. Trent chalked it up to some 'malicious meddling' on the part of Courtney Love.
Trent eventually settled down and married musician Mariqueen Maandig on October 17th, 2009. Their son, Lazarus Echo, was born in 2010 and their second child is expected in 2012/2013.
Official releases by Nine Inch Nails
Halo 01 Down In It
Halo 02 Pretty Hate Machine
Halo 03 Head Like A Hole
Halo 04 Sin
Halo 05 Broken
Halo 06 Fixed
Halo 07 March Of The Pigs
Halo 08 The Downward Spiral
Halo 09 Closer to God
Halo 10 Further Down The Spiral
Halo 11 The Perfect Drug Versions
Halo 12 Closure (2-VHS boxed set)
Halo 13 The Day The World Went Away
Halo 14 The Fragile
Halo 15 We're In This Together (3-part set)
Halo N/A Into The Void
Halo 16 Things Falling Apart
Halo 17 And All That Could Have Been/Still (DVD/CD release)
Halo 18 The Hand That Feeds
Halo 19 With_Teeth
Halo N/A Collected (DVD)
Halo 20 Only
Halo 21 Every Day Is Exactly The Same
Halo 22 Beside You In Time
Halo 23 Survivalism
Halo 24 Year Zero
Halo N/A Capital G (vinyl only release)
Halo 25 Y34RZ4R0R3M1X3D
Halo 26 Ghosts I-IV
Halo 27 The Slip
Halo 28 Hesitation Marks
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