Year Zero is the fifth studio album by American industrial rock act Nine Inch Nails, released on April 17, 2007, by Interscope Records. Frontman Trent Reznor wrote the album's music and lyrics while touring in support of the group's previous release, With Teeth (2005). In contrast to the introverted style of songwriting Reznor used on previous records, Year Zero is a concept album that criticizes contemporary policies of the United States government by presenting a dystopian vision of the year 2022. The album is part of a larger Year Zero project which includes a remix album, an alternate reality game, and a potential television or film project. The Year Zero alternate reality game expanded upon the album's fictional storyline by using media such as websites, pre-recorded phone messages, and murals.
Upon its release in April 2007, Year Zero sold over 187,000 units in its first week, and it reached number two on the Billboard 200 chart. The album also received generally positive reviews, many of which were favorable toward the accompanying alternate reality game. Year Zero produced two singles, "Survivalism" and "Capital G", the latter released as a promotional single. Disputes arose between Reznor and Universal Music Group, parent company of Interscope Records, over the overseas pricing of the album. Year Zero was the last Nine Inch Nails studio album released on Interscope. In October 2007, Reznor announced that Nine Inch Nails had fulfilled its contractual commitments to Interscope, effectively ending the band's relationship with the label.
In a 2005 interview with Kerrang!, Trent Reznor expressed his intentions to write material for a new release while on tour to promote the group's fifth album, With Teeth (2005). Reznor reportedly began work on the new album by September 2006. While on tour, Reznor devised much of the album's musical direction on his laptop. Reznor told Kerrang! in a later interview, "When I was on the tour, to keep myself busy I just really hunkered down and was working on music the whole time, so this kept me in a creative mode and when I finished the tour I felt like I wasn't tired and wanted to keep at it." The limitations of devising the album's musical direction on a tour bus forced Reznor to work differently than he would have otherwise. Reznor said, "I didn't have guitars around because it was too much hassle ... It was another creative limitation ... If I were in my studio, I would have done things the way I normally do them. But not having the ability to do that forced me into trying some things that were fun to do."
By the end of the tour, Reznor began work on the album's lyrical concepts, attempting to break away from his typically introspective approach. Reznor drew inspiration from his concern at the state of affairs in the United States and at what he envisioned as the country's political, spiritual, and social direction. Note: DVD included with pre-ordered copies of Year Zero from Best Buy. Year Zero was mixed in January 2007, and Reznor stated on his blog that the album was finished as of February 5. The album's budget was a reported US$2 million, but since Reznor composed most of the album himself on his laptop and in his home-studio, much of the budget instead went toward the extensive accompanying promotional campaign.
AIR flier.jpgthumbAn Art is Resistance flier from the Year Zero alternate reality game
In an interview with Kerrang! magazine, Reznor hinted that the album was "part of a bigger picture of a number of things I'm working on". In February 2007 fans discovered that a new Nine Inch Nails tour t-shirt contained highlighted letters that spelled out the words "I am trying to believe". This phrase was registered as a website URL, and soon several related websites were also discovered in the IP range, all describing a dystopian vision of the fictional "Year 0". It was later reported that 42 Entertainment had created these websites to promote Year Zero as part of an alternate reality game.
The Year Zero story takes place in the United States in the year 2022; or "Year 0" according to the American government, being the year that America was reborn. The United States has suffered several major terrorist attacks, and in response the government has seized absolute control on the country and reverted to a Christian fundamentalist theocracy. The government maintains control of the populace through institutions such as the Bureau of Morality and the First Evangelical Church of Plano, as well as increased surveillance and the secret drugging of tap water with a mild sedative. In response to the increasing oppression of the government, several corporate, government, and subversive websites were transported back in time to the present by a group of scientists working clandestinely against the authoritarian government. The websites-from-the-future were sent to the year 2007 to warn the American people of the impending dystopian future and to prevent it from ever forming in the first place.
The Year Zero game consisted of an expansive series of websites, phone numbers, e-mails, videos, MP3s, murals, and other media that expanded upon the fictional storyline of the album. Each new piece of media contained various hints and clues to discover the next, relying on fan participation to discover each new facet of the expanding game. Rolling Stone described the fan involvement in this promotion as the "marketing team's dream". Reznor, however, argued that "marketing" was an inaccurate description of the game, and that it was "not some kind of gimmick to get you to buy a record – it IS the art form".
Spectrogram - Nine Inch Nails - My Violent Heart.pngleftthumbA spectrogram of the noise at the end of "My Violent Heart", one of the tracks on the USB drive found at a concert in Portugal.
Thewarningspectrogram.pngrightthumbA spectrogram of "The Warning" off of the CD release.
Part of this promotional campaign involved USB drives that were left in concert venues for fans to find during Nine Inch Nails' 2007 European tour. During a concert in Lisbon, Portugal, a USB flash drive was found in a bathroom stall containing a high-quality MP3 of the track "My Violent Heart", a song from the then-unreleased album. Another USB drive was found at a concert in Barcelona, Spain, containing the track "Me, I'm Not". Messages found on the drives and tour clothing led to additional websites and images from the game, and the early release of several unheard songs from the album. Following the discovery of the USB drives, the high-quality audio files quickly circulated the internet. Owners of websites hosting the files soon received cease and desist orders from the Recording Industry Association of America, despite Interscope having sanctioned the viral campaign and the early release of the tracks. Reznor told The Guardian:
On February 22, 2007 a teaser trailer was released through the official Year Zero website. It featured a quick glimpse of a blue road sign that said "I AM TRYING TO BELIEVE", as well as a distorted glimpse of "The Presence" from the album cover. One frame in the teaser led fans to a URL containing the complete album cover. In March, the multitrack audio files of Year Zeros first single, "Survivalism", were released in GarageBand format for fan remixing. The multitrack files for "Capital G", "My Violent Heart" and "Me, I'm Not" were released on April 26; "The Beginning of the End", "Vessel" and "God Given" were released on June 12. In response to an early leak of the album, the entire album became available for streaming on Nine Inch Nails' MySpace page on April 10.
Performance 2007 tour
NIN Munich 2007.jpgthumbNine Inch Nails during the Performance 2007 tour
After taking a break from touring to complete work on Year Zero, the Nine Inch Nails live band embarked on a world-tour in 2007 dubbed Performance 2007. The tour included the band's first performance in China. Reznor continued to tour with the same band he concluded the previous tour with: Aaron North, Jeordie White, Josh Freese, and Alessandro Cortini. The tour spanned 91 dates across Europe, Asia, Australia, and Hawaii.
Between tour legs Nine Inch Nails gave a performance as part of the Year Zero game. A small group of fans received fictional in-game telephone-calls that invited them to a "resistance meeting" in a Los Angeles parking lot. Those who arrived were given "resistance kits", some of which contained cellphones that would later inform the participants of further details. After receiving instructions from the cellphones, fans who attended a fictional Art is Resistance meeting in Los Angeles were rewarded with an unannounced performance by Nine Inch Nails. The concert was cut short as the meeting was raided by a fictional SWAT team and the audience was rushed out of the building.
Nine Inch Nails' 2006 tour merchandise designs featured overt references to the United States military, which Reznor said "reflect future directions". Reznor later described Year Zero as "the soundtrack to a movie that doesn't exist". The album criticizes the American government's policies, and "could be about the end of the world". Reznor specifically cited what he labeled as the "erosion of freedoms" and "the way that we treat the rest of the world and our own citizens". Reznor had previously called the results of the 2004 US election "one step closer to the end of the world."
Even though the fictional story begins in January 2007, the timeline of the album and alternate reality game mentions historical events, such as the September 11 attacks and the Iraq War. From there, fictional events lead to worldwide chaos, including bioterrorism attacks, the United States engaging in nuclear war with Iran, and the elimination of American civil liberties at the hands of the fictional government agency The Bureau of Morality. Regardless of being fictional, a columnist of The Hartford Courant commented, "What's scary is that this doesn't seem as far-fetched as it should, given recent revelations about the FBI's abuse of the Patriot Act and the dissent-equals-disloyalty double-speak coming out of Washington in recent years."The "recent revelations" he referred to was the Justice Department's inspector general revealing abuses of the Patriot Act by the FBI.
Reznor called Year Zero a "shift in direction" in that it "doesn't sound like With Teeth". He also said that when he finishes a new album, he has to "go into battle with the people whose job it is to figure out how to sell the record. The only time that didn't happen was With Teeth. This time, however, expecting an epic struggle. is not a particularly friendly record and it certainly doesn't sound like anything else out there right now."
Fifteen original tracks were considered for inclusion on the album, which Reznor described as "Highly conceptual. Quite noisy. Fucking cool." Reznor also described the album as a "collage of sound type of thing", citing musical inspiration from early Public Enemy records, specifically the production techniques of The Bomb Squad. Most of Year Zeros musical elements were created by Reznor solely on his laptop, as opposed to the instrument-heavy With Teeth. Allmusic's review described the album's laptop-mixed sound: "guitars squall against glitches, beeps, pops, and blotches of blurry sonic attacks. Percussion looms large, distorted, organic, looped, screwed, spindled and broken." Many reviews of the album compared the album's electronic sound to earlier Nine Inch Nails releases such as The Downward Spiral and The Fragile, while contrasting its heavily modified sounds to the more "organic" approach of With Teeth. Many critics also commented on the album's overall tone, including descriptions such as "lots of silver and grey ambience" and reference to the album's "oblique tone". The New York Times review described the album's sound by saying "Hard beats are softened with distortion, static cushions the tantrums, sneaky bass lines float beneath the surface." The article went on to describe individual tracks: "And as usual the music is packed with details: "Meet Your Master" goes through at least three cycles of decay and rebirth; part of the fun of "The Warning" is tracking the ever-mutating timbres."
Many of the songs on the album feature an extended instrumental ending, which encompasses the entire second half of the three-minute long "The Great Destroyer". The album was co-produced by Reznor and Atticus Ross, mixed by long-time collaborator Alan Moulder, and mastered by Brian Gardner. The album features instrumental contributions by live band member Josh Freese and vocals by Saul Williams.
Nine inch nails year zero cd face.jpgthumbThe two states of the Year Zero disc: black when cooled, white when heated
All of the artwork for Year Zero was created by Rob Sheridan, acting art director for Nine Inch Nails, who is also credited for artwork on With Teeth, among other Nine Inch Nails releases since 2000. The album features a thermo-chrome heat-sensitive CD face which appears black when first opened, but reveals a black binary code on a white background when heat is generated from the album being played. The binary sequence translates to "exterminal.net", the address of a website involved in the alternate reality game. Reznor displayed displeasure at the extra $10 added to the CD's price in Australia for the thermo-coating, saying it only cost an extra 83¢ per CD and that the extra cost came from his pocket.
Included with the album is a small insert that is a warning from the fictional United States Bureau of Morality (USBM), with a phone number to report people who have "engaged in subversive acts". When the number is called, a recording from the USBM is played, claiming "By calling this number, you and your family are implicitly pleading guilty to the consumption of anti-American media and have been flagged as potential militants."
It was named one of the best album covers of 2007 by Rolling Stone Magazine.
Release and reception
Upon its release in April 2007, Year Zero sold over 187,000 in its first week. The album reached number two on the Billboard 200 and peaked in the top 10 in six other countries, including Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom. Note: User must define search parameters, i.e. "Nine Inch Nails". The album's first single, "Survivalism", peaked at number 68 on the Billboard Hot 100, and topped the Modern Rock and Canadian singles charts. The "Capital G" promotional single reached number six on the Modern Rock chart.
In a post on the official Nine Inch Nails website, Reznor condemned Universal Music Group—the parent company of Interscope Records—for its pricing and distribution plans for Year Zero. He labeled the company's retail pricing of Year Zero in Australia as "ABSURD", concluding that "as a reward for being a 'true fan' you get ripped off." Reznor went on to say that 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." Reznor's post, specifically his criticism of the recording industry at large, elicited considerable media attention. Reznor continued his attack on Universal Music Group during a September 2007 concert in Australia, where he urged fans to "steal" his music online instead of purchasing it legally. Reznor went on to encourage the crowd to "steal and steal and steal some more and give it to all your friends and keep on stealin'." Although Universal never replied publicly to the criticism, a spokesperson for the Australian Music Retailers Association said "It is the same price in Australia as it is in the US because of the extra packaging." Due to the pricing dispute, plans to release a "Capital G" maxi-single in Europe were scrapped. The track was instead released as a promotional single, without a "Halo number", unlike most official Nine Inch Nails releases.
Year Zero was the last Nine Inch Nails studio album released on Interscope. Reznor announced in October 2007 that Nine Inch Nails had fulfilled its contractual commitments to Interscope and could proceed "free of any recording contract with any label", effectively ending the band's relationship with its record label.
Critical response to the album was generally favorable, with an average rating of 76% based on 28 reviews on Metacritic. Robert Christgau described Year Zero as Reznor's "most songful album",. Archived from on 2009-08-28. while Thomas Inskeep of Stylus magazine praised it as "one of the most forward-thinking 'rock' albums to come down the pike in some time". Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone called the album Reznor's "strongest, weirdest and most complex record since The Downward Spiral", and concluded that "he's got his bravado back." Rolling Stone ranked it at number 21 on its "Top 50 Albums of 2007" list.
Some reviews were more critical, however; Spin magazine's review summarized the album by saying "The songs drag in the middle, choruses become interchangeable, and too many tracks end with the same electronic stuttering." Hot Press magazine had a similar complaint: "A number of tracks here follow a similar, frustrating formula. For three minutes they showcase Reznor’s worst tendencies; the boorish plod of the choruses, the hoarse moan of the vocals."
Several reviewers also commented on the accompanying alternate reality game. Ann Powers of The Los Angeles Times, praised the album and game concept as "a total marriage of the pop and gamer aesthetics that unlocks the rusty cages of the music industry and solves some key problems facing rock music as its cultural dominance dissolves into dust." In relation to the declining music industry, Joseph Jaffe of Brandweek commented that such "mysterious marketing measures are what's desperately needed to gain attention in this uncertain era of distribution dilemmas and sagging sales", also commending acts such as Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead for being "more innovative than marketers".
On the fictional world depicted in the album and promotional campaign, The Cleveland Free Times commented that the album's fictionalized world and characters "often seemed heavy-handed and forced", but also conceded that "its clotted claustrophobia suited its subject matter". Ann Powers added, "The songs on 'Year Zero,' each from the perspective of a character or characters already existent in the ARG, draw a connection between the music fan's passionate identification with songs and the gamer's experience of becoming someone else online." In 2008, 42 Entertainment won two Webby Awards for its work on the Year Zero game, in the categories of "Integrated Campaigns" and "Other Advertising: Branded Content".
A remix album, titled Year Zero Remixed, was released in November 2007. Due to the expiration of his contract with Interscope Records, the album's release, marketing, and promotion were completely in Reznor's control. The album features remixes from artists including The Faint, Ladytron, Bill Laswell, Saul Williams, Olof Dreijer of The Knife, and Sam Fogarino of Interpol. Reznor himself strongly supports fan-made remixes of songs from the album, as evidenced by his decision to upload every song in multi-track form to the then-newly launched Nine Inch Nails remix website. Instrumental versions of the songs on Year Zero are available at the site for download in multiple formats, including MP3, WAV, GarageBand, and Ableton Live formats.
Kerrang! Radio reported that Reznor was in talks concerning a filmed version of the Year Zero project. Reznor has since commented that he is currently more interested in a television project, rather than a film project. In August 2007, he revealed that a producer is involved with the project, that he has met with writers, and that he would be pitching the idea to television networks. Since first announcing his plans for a television series, however, progress has slowed, reportedly due to the 2007–2008 Writer's Guild strike. Despite this, Reznor has commented that the project is "still churning along", and that he has begun working with American film producer Lawrence Bender. In 2010, Reznor started developing the Year Zero miniseries with HBO and BBC Worldwide Productions. Reznor, along with Carnivàle writer Daniel Knauf, will be creating the sci-fi epic with film producer Lawrence Bender, whose production credits include Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, Inglourious Basterds, and former WB series Roswell.
* Trent Reznor – vocals, guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, production
* William Artope – trumpet on "Capital G"
* Matt Demeritt – tenor sax on "Capital G"
* Josh Freese – drums on "HYPERPOWER!" and "Capital G"
* Jeff/Geoff Gallegos – brass / winds musical arrangement, baritone sax on "Capital G"
* Doug Trantow - recording engineer
* Brian Gardner – mastering
* Elizabeth Lea – trombone on "Capital G"
* Alan Moulder – mix engineering
* Atticus Ross – production, sound design
* Saul Williams – backing vocals on "Survivalism" and "Me, I'm Not"
ReferencesThis text has been derived from Year Zero (album) on Wikipedia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License 3.0
Nine Inch Nails is an American industrial rock project, founded in 1988 by Trent Reznor in Cleveland, Ohio. As its main producer, singer, songwriter, and instrumentalist, Reznor is the only official member of Nine Inch Nails and remains solely responsible for its direction. NIN's music straddles a wide range of genres, while retaining a characteristic sound using electronic instruments and processing. After recording a new album, Reznor usually assembles a live band to perform with him. The touring band features a revolving lineup that often rearranges songs to fit a live setting. On stage, NIN often employs visual elements to accompany performances, which frequently include light shows.
Underground music audiences warmly received Nine Inch Nails in its early years. Reznor produced several highly influential records in the 1990s that achieved widespread popularity; many Nine Inch Nails songs became radio hits, two Nine Inch Nails recordings won Grammy Awards, and have reached record sales exceeding over 20 million albums worldwide, with 10.5 million sales certified in the US alone. In 1997, Reznor appeared in Time magazine's list of the year's most influential people, and Spin magazine described him as "the most vital artist in music."
In 2004, Rolling Stone placed Nine Inch Nails at 94 on its list of the 100 greatest artists of all time. Despite this acclaim, the band has had several feuds with the corporate side of the recording industry. In 2007, these corporate entanglements resulted in Reznor announcing that Nine Inch Nails would split from its label and release future material independently.
Since 1989, Nine Inch Nails has made eight major studio releases. The most recent releases, Ghosts I–IV and The Slip, both released in 2008, were released under Creative Commons licenses. Both were initially released digitally, with physical releases coming later. The digital release of The Slip was made available completely free of charge. NIN has been nominated for twelve Grammy Awards and won twice for the songs "Wish" and "Happiness in Slavery", in 1992 and 1995 respectively.
Nine Inch Nails logo.svgthumbrightalt=The letters N, I, and a backwards N set in a strong typeface within a simple black boarder.The Nine Inch Nails "NIN" logo designed by Reznor and Gary Talpas
In 1987, Trent Reznor played keyboards with a Cleveland band called the Exotic Birds, then managed by John Malm, Jr. Reznor and Malm became friends, and when Reznor left the Exotic Birds to work on music of his own, Malm informally became his manager.Reznor v. J. Artist Management, Inc. et al., 365 F. Supp. 2d 565 (S.D.N.Y. 2005). At the time Reznor was employed as an assistant engineer and janitor at Right Track Studios, and asked studio owner Bart Koster for permission to record some demos of his own material for free during unused studio time. Koster agreed, commenting that it cost him "just a little wear on tape heads". While assembling these, the earliest Nine Inch Nails recordings, Reznor was unable to find a band that could articulate the material as he desired. Instead, inspired by Prince, Reznor played all the instruments except drums himself. This role remains Reznor's on most of the band's studio recordings, though he has occasionally involved other musicians and assistants. In 1988, after playing its first shows supporting Skinny Puppy, Reznor's ambitions for Nine Inch Nails were to release one 12-inch single on a small European label. Several labels responded favorably to the demo material, and Reznor signed with TVT Records. Ten selections from the Right Track demos were later released in revised form on the band's first full-length studio release, Pretty Hate Machine in 1989.
Reznor said in 1994 that he coined the name "Nine Inch Nails" because it "abbreviated easily", rather than for "any literal meaning". Other rumored explanations have circulated, alleging that Reznor chose to reference Jesus' crucifixion with nine-inch spikes, or Freddy Krueger's nine-inch fingernails. The Nine Inch Nails' logo, which consists of the letters set inside a border, was designed by Reznor and Gary Talpas. The logo first appeared on the music video for NIN's debut, "Down in It", and was inspired by Tibor Kalman's typography on the Talking Heads album Remain in Light. Talpas, a native of Cleveland, would continue to design NIN packaging art until 1997.
Pretty Hate Machine (1989–1991)
Trent Reznor Lollapalooza 1991.jpgthumb170pxAlt=A man caked in mud screaming into a microphone.Reznor during the 1991 Lollapalooza festival
Written, arranged, and performed by Trent Reznor, Nine Inch Nails' first album Pretty Hate Machine debuted in 1989. It marked Reznor's first collaboration with Adrian Sherwood (who produced the lead single "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 Nine Inch Nails release until 1994, and Sherwood has made remixes for the band as recently as 2000. Reznor and his co-producers expanded upon the Right Track Studio demos by adding singles "Head Like a Hole" and "Sin". Rolling Stones Michael Azerrad described the album as "industrial-strength noise over a pop framework" and "harrowing but catchy music"; Reznor proclaimed this combination "a sincere statement" of "what was in head at the time". After spending 113 weeks on the Billboard 200, Pretty Hate Machine became one of the first independently released records to attain platinum certification. MTV aired videos for "Down in It" and "Head Like a Hole", but an explicit video for "Sin" was only released on the 1997 home video Closure.
In 1990, NIN began the Pretty Hate Machine Tour Series, in which they toured North America as an opening act for alternative rock artists such as Peter Murphy and The Jesus and Mary Chain. At some point, Reznor began smashing his equipment while on stage; Rockbeat interviewer Mike Gitter attributed NIN's early success in front of rock oriented audiences to this aggressive attitude. Nine Inch Nails then embarked on a world tour that continued through the first Lollapalooza festival in 1991. After a poor European reception opening for Guns N' Roses, NIN returned to America amid pressure from TVT to produce a follow-up to Pretty Hate Machine. In response, Reznor secretly began recording under various pseudonyms to avoid record company interference.
Happiness in Slavery video.jpgthumbleftAlt=A shirtless man strapped to a chair in a dark dungeon.Bob Flanagan being tortured in the music video for "Happiness in Slavery"
In 1992 Nine Inch Nails released Broken, an EP featuring six songs and two bonus tracks. In the liner notes, Reznor credited the 1991 Nine Inch Nails touring band as an influence on the EP's sound. Reznor characterized Broken as a guitar-based "blast of destruction", and as "a lot harder than Pretty Hate Machine". Songs from Broken earned NIN both of its two Grammy Awards: a performance of the EP's first single "Happiness in Slavery" from Woodstock '94, and the second single "Wish". Reznor later joked that his epitaph should read: "REZNOR: Died. Said 'fist fuck', won a Grammy."
Peter Christopherson of the bands Coil and Throbbing Gristle directed a performance video for "Wish", but the EP's most infamous video accompanied "Happiness in Slavery". The video was almost universally banned for its graphic depiction of performance artist Bob Flanagan disrobing lying on a machine that pleasures, tortures, then kills him. A third video for "Pinion", partially incorporated into MTV's Alternative Nation opening sequence, showed a toilet that apparently flushes into the mouth of a person in bondage. Reznor and Christopherson compiled these three clips along with footage for "Help Me I Am In Hell" and "Gave Up" into a longform music video also called Broken. It depicts the murder of a young man who is kidnapped and tortured while forced to watch the videos. This footage was never officially released, but instead appeared covertly among tape trading circles.
A separate performance video for "Gave Up" featuring Richard Patrick and Marilyn Manson was filmed at 10050 Cielo Drive (then renamed "Le Pig studios" by Reznor), site of the Tate murders; a live recording of "Wish" was also filmed, and both videos appeared on the Closure video compilation in 1997. Broken was followed by the remix EP Fixed in late 1992. Rather than tour in support of the new material, Reznor began living and recording full-time at Le Pig, working on a follow-up free of restrictions from his record label.
The Downward Spiral (1994–1997)
Closer Monkey.jpgthumbAlt=A monkey strapped to a crucifix.An image from the music video for "Closer"
Nine Inch Nails' second full-length album, The Downward Spiral, entered the Billboard 200 in 1994 at number two, and remains the highest-selling NIN release in the United States. Influenced by late-1970s rock albums The Wall by Pink Floyd and Low by David Bowie, The Downward Spiral features a wide range of textures and moods to illustrate the mental progress of a central character. Flood once again co-produced several tracks on the album, though it proved to be his last collaboration with Nine Inch Nails. Longtime Flood-collaborator Alan Moulder mixed most of The Downward Spiral and subsequently took on more extensive production duties for future NIN releases. It was recorded at Le Pig Studios, Beverly Hills – built by Reznor in the house where Charles Manson's "family" murdered Sharon Tate, wife of noted film director Roman Polanski, and four of her friends.
The album spawned two singles, "March of the Pigs" and "Closer", along with "Hurt" and "Piggy" which were issued to radio without a commercial single release. The music video for "Closer" was directed by Mark Romanek and received frequent rotation on MTV, though the network made extensive edits to the original version, which they perceived to be too graphic. A radio edit that partially mutes the song's explicit lyrics also received extensive airtime. The Closure video documented highlights from NIN's Self Destruct tour, including full live videos of "Eraser", "Hurt" and a one-take "March of the Pigs" clip made for MTV.
Critical response to The Downward Spiral has generally been favorable: in 2005 the album was ranked 25th in Spin's list of the "100 Greatest Albums, 1985–2005", and in 2003 Rolling Stone ranked the album number 200 on their "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time" list. After The Downward Spiral's release, Reznor produced an accompanying remix album entitled Further Down the Spiral, the only non-major NIN release to be certified gold in the United States. It featured contributions from Peter Christopherson, electronic musician Aphex Twin, producer Rick Rubin, and Jane's Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro, among others.
The Self Destruct tour in support of the album reached its widest mainstream audience with a mud-drenched performance at Woodstock '94 that was broadcast on Pay-Per-View and seen in as many as 24 million homes. Nine Inch Nails received considerable mainstream success thereafter, performing with significantly higher production values and adding theatrical visual elements to the live show. Around this time, Reznor's studio perfectionism, struggles with addiction, and bouts of writer's block prolonged the production of a follow-up record.
In 1997 Reznor produced the soundtrack to the David Lynch film Lost Highway. The release spawned the single "The Perfect Drug", the video for which was again directed by Mark Romanek. A tenth anniversary deluxe reissue of The Downward Spiral was released in 2004.
The Fragile (1999–2002)
Five years elapsed between The Downward Spiral and NIN's next studio album, The Fragile, which arrived as a double album in September 1999. On the heels of the band's previous successes, media anticipation surrounded The Fragile more than a year before its release, when it was already described as "oft-delayed". When the album was finally released, it debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, selling 228,000 copies in its first week and receiving favorable reviews. Spin hailed The Fragile as the "album of the year", and several songs from it were regular features on alternative rock radio stations. However, the album slipped out of the Billboard Top 10 only a week after its release, and Reznor funded the subsequent North American tour out of his own pocket.
According to Reznor, The Fragile was conceived by making "songwriting and arranging and production and sound design 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." Canadian rock producer Bob Ezrin was consulted on the album's track listing; the liner notes state that he "provided final continuity and flow."
Before the album's release, the song "Starfuckers, Inc." provoked media speculation about whom Reznor had intended its acerbic lyrics to satirize. Cinesexuality critic Patricia MacCormack interprets the song as a "scathing attack on the alternative music scene", particularly Reznor's former friend and protégé Marilyn Manson. The two artists put aside their differences when Manson appeared in the song's music video, retitled "Starsuckers, Inc." and performed on stage with NIN at Madison Square Garden in 2000. Nine Inch Nails released three commercial 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 "Into the Void" in Australia.
Reznor followed The Fragile with another remix album, Things Falling Apart, released after the 2000 Fragility tour, which itself was 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 the companion disc Still, featuring stripped-down versions of songs from the NIN catalog along with several new pieces of music.
With Teeth (2005–2006)
Nine Inch Nails Moline 03.jpgthumbleftAlt=A man playing guitar and singing into a microphone on stage in front of a series of red teeth-like light patterns.Live performance during the Live:With Teeth tour in 2006
A further six years elapsed before Nine Inch Nails' fourth full-length album, With Teeth, was released in 2005, though it was leaked prior to its official release date. The album was written and recorded following Reznor's battle with alcoholism and substance abuse. Like The Fragile, With Teeth debuted on top of the Billboard 200. The album's package art lacks typical liner notes; instead it simply lists the names of songs and co-producers, and the URL for an online PDF poster with lyrics and full credits. The entire album was made available in streaming audio on the band's official MySpace page in advance of its release date. Critical reception of the album was generally favorable: Rolling Stones Rob Sheffield described the album as "vintage Nine Inch Nails".
A promotional video for the song "The Hand That Feeds" premiered on NIN's website in March 2005, rather than the traditional music channels. Reznor also released the source files for the song in GarageBand format a month later, allowing fans to remix the song. Reznor similarly released files for the album's second single "Only" in a wider range of formats, including Pro Tools and ACID Pro. David Fincher directed a video for "Only" using primarily computer-generated imagery. The third single, "Every Day Is Exactly the Same", was released in April 2006, but a planned music video was reportedly scrapped in the post-production stage. The song topped Billboards Alternative Songs charts.
Nine Inch Nails launched a North American arena tour in autumn 2005, supported by Queens of the Stone Age, Autolux and Death from Above 1979. Another opening act on this tour, hip-hop artist Saul Williams, performed on stage with Nine Inch Nails at the Voodoo Music Experience festival during a headlining appearance in hurricane-stricken New Orleans, Reznor's former home. To conclude the With Teeth era of the band, NIN completed a tour of North American amphitheaters in the summer of 2006, joined by Bauhaus, TV on the Radio, and Peaches. In late 2006, the official NIN website announced that a tour documentary entitled Beside You in Time would be released in three formats: DVD, HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc.
Year Zero (2007)
AIR flier.jpgthumbuprightAlt=A black-and-white flier with the words "Art is Resistance" featured prominently with a stenciled flag of four sections and a single star.An Art is Resistance flyer from the Year Zero alternate reality game.
Nine Inch Nails' fifth studio album, Year Zero, was released only two years after With Teeth, a marked change in pace from the release of previous albums. With lyrics written from the perspective of multiple fictitious characters, Reznor described Year Zero as a concept album criticizing the United States government's current policies and how they will impact the world 15 years in the future. Critical response to the album was generally favorable, with an average rating of 76% on MetaCritic.
An alternate reality game emerged parallel to the Year Zero concept, expanding upon its storyline. Clues hidden on tour merchandise initially led fans to discover a network of fictitious, in-game websites that describe an "Orwellian picture of the United States circa the year 2022". Before Year Zeros release, unreleased songs from the album were found on USB drives hidden at NIN concert venues in Lisbon and Barcelona, as part of the alternate reality game. Fan participation in the alternate reality game caught the attention of media outlets such as USA Today and Billboard, who have cited fan-site The NIN Hotline, forum Echoing the Sound, fan club The Spiral, and NinWiki as sources for new discoveries.
The album's first single, "Survivalism", and other tracks from Year Zero were released as multitrack audio files for fans to remix. A remix album titled Year Zero Remixed was later released, featuring remixes from Year Zero from other artists. The remix album proved to be Nine Inch Nails' final new release on a major record label, as the act had completed its contractual obligation to Interscope Records and did not renew its contract. The remix album was accompanied by an interactive remix site with multi-track downloads and the ability to post remixes, after legal issues delayed its debut.
Ghosts I–IV and The Slip (2008)
NIN2008.jpgthumb220pxleftAlt=A man sitting in front of a field of craggy rocks.Trent Reznor in 2008.
In February 2008, Reznor posted a news update on the Nine Inch Nails website entitled "2 weeks." On March 2, Ghosts I–IV, a 36-track instrumental album, became available via the band's official website. Ghosts I–IV was made available in a number of different formats and forms, ranging from a free download of the first volume, to a $300 Ultra-Deluxe limited edition package. All 2500 copies of the $300 package sold out in three days. The album is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike licence. The album was created improvisationally over a 10-week period and contributors included Atticus Ross, Alan Moulder, Alessandro Cortini, Adrian Belew, and Brian Viglione.
Similar to the announcement that ultimately led to the release of Ghosts I–IV, a post on the band's website in April 2008 read "2 weeks!" On May 5, Nine Inch Nails released The Slip via their website without any advertisement or promotion. The album was made available for download free of charge, protected under the same Creative Commons licence as Ghosts, and has seen individual downloads surpassing 1.4 million. The Slip has since been released on CD as a limited edition set of 250,000.
Since the release of Ghosts I–IV and The Slip, a 25-date tour titled Lights in the Sky, was announced in several North American cities, and was later expanded to include several more North American dates as well as dates in South America. Cortini and Freese returned as members from the previous tour, while Robin Finck rejoined the band and Justin Meldal-Johnsen was added on bass guitar. In late 2008, Freese and Cortini left the live band, and with the addition of Ilan Rubin on drums, the band became a four-piece. In January, 2009, Reznor uploaded unedited HD-quality footage from three shows as a download of over 400 GB via BitTorrent.
End of touring, and subsequent events (2009–present)
In February 2009, Reznor posted his thoughts about the future of Nine Inch Nails on NIN.com, stating that "I've been thinking for some time now it's time to make NIN disappear for a while." He has said outright in an interview on the official website that he isn't done creating music under the moniker, but that Nine Inch Nails is done touring for the foreseeable future. He later discussed, in an interview with Pink Is The New Blog, about the end of the band as a touring act. Nine Inch Nails played its final show at the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles. The following month, the band started selling excess touring equipment on eBay.
In an interview with The Quietus following the Wave Goodbye tour, Gary Numan said that he expected to begin collaborating with Reznor. Discussing the form that this new material might take, Numan was quoted as saying, "probably just a few songs to start with and see how it goes on. It'll be cool."
Trent Reznor indicated on the Nine Inch Nails website that he was continuing work on Nine Inch Nails and other projects after the Wave Goodbye tour, and that new material from Nine Inch Nails was planned for release in 2010.
In late 2009 the theme for the film Tetsuo: The Bullet Man was released, making it the first new NIN track since the live band was disbanded
and an entry on the Nine Inch Nails official Twitter page hinted at a deluxe reissue of The Fragile scheduled for 2010. Beginning February 9, 2010, Trent Reznor started posting images of studio recording equipment, including a synthesizer and Reznor singing into a recording microphone, on the front page of nin.com accompanied by a "?".
It was revealed in 2009 that Reznor was working on another project with his wife Mariqueen Maandig and musician Atticus Ross dubbed How to Destroy Angels. Their first release, a six track self titled EP, was made available for free download on June 1, 2010.
Again working with Atticus Ross, Reznor co-wrote and produced the official score for David Fincher's 2010 film, The Social Network. A five-song downloadable sampler was released on September 17, 2010 and the entire album became available digitally on September 28. Various physical formats of the album were released in October. On February 27th 2011 at the 83'rd Academy Awards, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross were awarded the Oscar for Best Music (Original Score) for The Social Network.
Following the release of the film was a remastered re-issue of the band's debut album, Pretty Hate Machine, released on November 22, 2010.http
It has been confirmed that Trent and Atticus Ross will be composing the soundtrack for the American adaptation of the film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and its sequels. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo will be released in December 2011.
NineInchNails.jpgthumb220pxleftAlt=Three men performing on stage, one plays guitar, another sings into a microphone, and the other plays bass.Nine Inch Nails live on tour in 2005
Allmusic's Steve Huey states that "Nine Inch Nails were the most popular industrial group ever and were largely responsible for bringing the music to a mass audience." Reznor has never referred to his own work as industrial music, but admits to borrowing techniques from such early industrial bands as Throbbing Gristle and Test Dept. Despite the disparity between those artists initially operating under the term "industrial" and Nine Inch Nails, it has become common in journalistic descriptions of Reznor's body of work to describe it as such. Reznor acknowledged in Spin magazine that "Down in It" was influenced by early Skinny Puppy, particularly their song "Dig It"; other songs from Pretty Hate Machine were described in the same interview as synth-pop. Reviewing The Fragile, critic Steve Cooper noted that the album juxtaposes widely varied genres, such as solo piano in "The Frail" and drum and bass elements in "Starfuckers, Inc."
Certain techniques and styles can be found throughout NIN's catalog. Songs such as "Wish" (), and "The Day the World Went Away" () exhibit terraced dynamics. Reznor's singing follows a similar pattern, frequently moving from whispers to screams. The band's music also occasionally features complex time signatures, notably in "The Collector", from With Teeth, and concert favorite "March of the Pigs". Archived at . Reznor also uses noise and distortion in his song arrangements, and incorporates dissonance with chromatic melody and/or harmony. These techniques are all used in the song "Hurt" (), which features a highly dissonant tritone played on guitar during the verses, a B5#11, emphasized when Reznor sings the eleventh note on the word "I" every time the B/E# dyad is played. "Closer" () concludes with a chromatic piano motif: the same melody that first appears during the chorus of Piggy, and then recurs on the title track of The Downward Spiral. On The Fragile, Reznor revisits this technique of repeating a motif multiple times throughout different songs, either on a different musical instrument, with a transposed harmony, or in an altered tempo. He also has used software to alter his voice in several songs, such as in "Starfuckers Inc." and "Burn".
Nine Inch Nails has influenced many newer artists, which according to Reznor range from "generic imitations" dating from NIN's initial success to younger bands echoing his style in a "truer, less imitative way". Following the release of The Downward Spiral, mainstream artists began to take notice of Nine Inch Nails' influence: David Bowie compared NIN's impact to that of The Velvet Underground. In 1997, Reznor appeared in Time magazine's list of the year's most influential people, and Spin magazine described him as "the most vital artist in music". The Recording Industry Association of America certified sales for 10.5 million units of the band's albums in the United States, which accounts for roughly half of the band's reported sales worldwide. Bob Ezrin, producer for Pink Floyd, Kiss, Alice Cooper, and Peter Gabriel, described Reznor in 2007 as a "true visionary" and advised aspiring artists to take note of his no-compromise attitude. During a rare appearance at the Kerrang! Awards in London that year, Nine Inch Nails accepted the Kerrang! Icon, honoring the band's long-standing influence on rock music. "Weird Al" Yankovic did an obvious parody of his style of music entitled "Germs", though it was not acknowledged as a parody of his songs because it did not parody one of his songs in particular, but rather what Yankovic referred to as a "style parody". The song is likely based on the sound of "Terrible Lie" (general melody), "Mr. Self Destruct" (in the pre chorus) and "Closer" (drum beat).
Trent Reznor is the sole official member of Nine Inch Nails. However, Reznor has typically formed a backing group of musicians to perform the songs in a live setting. This live band, also known as Nine Inch Nails, rearranges the band's studio catalog and creates a different sound than that of Reznor's studio recordings. Band members have occasionally been invited to participate in the recording process, but creative control within the studio has always been exclusively with Reznor.
The Tapeworm project was created in 1995 as a Nine Inch Nails side-project between Reznor and various live-band members as a more "democratic" creative environment. The band initially included band members Danny Lohner and Charlie Clouser, but eventually expanded to feature other frequent NIN contributors Josh Freese, Atticus Ross, and Alan Moulder. However, after 9 years of studio sessions, no material was ever officially released from the group, and it was confirmed to be no longer active in 2005.
The lineup of the live band had a tendency to change drastically between major tours: aside from Reznor remaining on lead vocals, keyboards and guitar, no member of the live band had remained constant since its inception. Reznor cited the long gestation period between studio albums as part of the reason for these frequent personnel changes, as well as his desire for fresh interpretations of his music. In 2009, the final incarnation of the live band featured Reznor with Robin Finck (besides Reznor, Finck has played on the most tours), Justin Meldal-Johnsen, and Ilan Rubin.
Trent Reznor is an outspoken critic of the music industry, particularly corporate influence on his artistic freedom. As a result, Nine Inch Nails has clashed with several corporations, culminating in a decision to proceed as a free agent without any recording label contracts.
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 objected to the label's attempted interference with his intellectual property. Ultimately, they entered into a joint venture with Interscope Records in which Reznor forfeited a portion of his publishing rights to TVT Music in exchange for the freedom of having his own Nothing Records imprint. In 2005, Reznor sued his former friend and manager John Malm, co-founder of Nothing, for fraud, breach of contract and fiduciary duty, and other claims. Their relationship was formally severed in a New York courtroom, with damages awarded to Reznor in excess of three million US dollars.
At the behest of Prudential Securities bankruptcy proceedings, TVT put the rights to Reznor's recordings for the label on auction in 2005. This offer included the whole TVT catalog, including Pretty Hate Machine and a percentage of royalties from Reznor's song publishing company, Leaving Hope Music/TVT Music. Rykodisc, which did not win the auction but was able to license the rights from Prudential, re-issued the out-of-print Pretty Hate Machine CD on November 22, 2005. Ryko also reissued the "Head Like a Hole" CD and a vinyl edition of Pretty Hate Machine in 2006. The label considered releasing a deluxe edition, just as Interscope had done for The Downward Spiral. They were influenced by Trent and liked the idea, but did not want to pay him for the album and the idea was scrapped.
Nine Inch Nails was scheduled to perform at the 2005 MTV Movie Awards, but withdrew from the show due to 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". Soon afterwards, Reznor wrote on the official NIN website: "apparently, the image of our president is as offensive to MTV as it is to me." MTV replied that it respected Reznor's point of view, but was "uncomfortable" with the performance being "built around partisan political statements." A performance by Foo Fighters replaced NIN's time slot on the show. During the Lights In The Sky tour in 2008, some performances of "The Hand That Feeds" had the image of Bush on a video screen behind the band. At some gigs leading up to the election, the face of Bush slowly morphed during the song into the face of John McCain.
In 2006, after being alerted by a fan website, Reznor issued a cease and desist to Fox News Channel 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."
As part of the alternate reality game which accompanied the release of Year Zero, three tracks from the album were intentionally "leaked" prior to their official release at a number of NIN concerts on USB flash drives. The high-quality audio files quickly circulated the internet, and owners of websites hosting the files soon received cease and desist orders from the Recording Industry Association of America, despite the fact that the viral campaign, and the use of USB drives, was sanctioned by Nine Inch Nails' record label. The source that broke the story was quoted as saying "These fucking idiots are going after a campaign that the label signed off on."
The music of Nine Inch Nails has reportedly been used by the U.S. military as music torture to break down the resolve of detainees. Reznor objected to the use of his music in this way with the following message on the front page of the Nine Inch Nails website: "It's difficult for me to imagine anything more profoundly insulting, demeaning and enraging than discovering music you've put your heart and soul into creating has been used for purposes of torture. If there are any legal options that can be realistically taken they will be aggressively pursued, with any potential monetary gains donated to human rights charities. Thank GOD this country has appeared to side with reason and we can put the Bush administration's reign of power, greed, lawlessness and madness behind us."
Apple rejected an update to Nine Inch Nails' iPhone application because it found the contents of The Downward Spiral to be "objectionable."
Disputes with Universal Music Group
In May 2007, Reznor made a post on the official Nine Inch Nails website condemning Universal Music Group (parent company of Nine Inch Nails's record label, Interscope Records) for their pricing and distribution plans for Year Zero. He criticized the company's retail pricing of Year Zero in Australia as "ABSURD", concluding that "as a reward for being a 'true fan' you get ripped off." Reznor went on to say that 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." Reznor's post, specifically his criticism of the recording industry at large, elicited considerable media attention. In September 2007, Reznor continued his attack on UMG at a concert in Australia, urging fans there to "steal" his music online instead of purchasing it legally. Reznor went on to encourage the crowd to "steal and steal and steal some more and give it to all your friends and keep on stealin'."
Reznor announced on October 8, 2007 that Nine Inch Nails had fulfilled its contractual commitments to Interscope Records and was now free to proceed as a "totally free agent, free of any recording contract with any label". Reznor also speculated that he would release the next NIN album online in a similar fashion to The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of NiggyTardust!, which he produced. Reznor later released The Slip in 2008 for free download.
Via another post on the official NIN website, Reznor again openly criticized Universal Music Group for preventing him from launching an official interactive fan remix website. Universal declined to host the site just days before its scheduled launch, citing the potential "accusation", in Reznor's words, "that they are sponsoring the same technical violation of copyright they are suing for". Reznor wrote in response that he was "challenged at the last second to find a way of bringing this idea to life without getting splashed by the urine as these media companies piss all over each other's feet". Despite these obstacles, the remix website was launched in November 2007.
* Pretty Hate Machine (1989)
* Broken (1992)
* The Downward Spiral (1994)
* The Fragile (1999)
* With Teeth (2005)
* Year Zero (2007)
* Ghosts I–IV (2008)
* The Slip (2008)
Nine Inch Nails has been nominated for twelve Grammy Awards and has won twice. Winning nominations are listed below in bold.
*"Wish" – Best Metal Performance, 1992
*The Downward Spiral – Best Alternative Music Performance, 1995 (nomination)
*"Happiness in Slavery" – Best Metal Performance, 1995 (from Woodstock '94 compilation)
*"Hurt" – Best Rock Song, 1995 (nomination)
*"The Perfect Drug" – Best Hard Rock Performance, 1997 (nomination)
*The Fragile – Best Alternative Music Performance, 1999 (nomination)
*"Starfuckers, Inc." – Best Metal Performance, 1999 (nomination)
*"Into the Void" – Best Male Rock Vocal Performance, 2000 (nomination)
*"The Hand That Feeds" – Best Hard Rock Performance, 2005 (nomination)
*"Every Day Is Exactly the Same" – Best Hard Rock Performance, 2006 (nomination)
*"34 Ghosts IV" – Best Rock Instrumental Performance, 2009 (nomination)
*Ghosts I–IV – Best Boxed Set or Limited Edition Package, 2009 (nomination)
ReferencesThis text has been derived from Nine Inch Nails on Wikipedia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License 3.0