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Spin, March 1992.
There are many people - in fact, you may be one
of them - who devote much of their daily energy toward hearing about things
first, even if those specific things don't particularly matter. This has been
exacerbated by technology; the degree to which a rock song is new has become
nearly as important as how interesting it sounds, even though there's no inherent
advantage to hearing a song today as opposed to five weeks from now (when it
will still sound exactly the same). I sometimes think it would be to my benefit
if I never listened to any album until two years have passed since its release
date. I suspect I would avoid a lot of crap whose only value is that most
people haven't heard it (yet). As such, I was confused by the people who, in
March 1992, kept telling me how they'd been listening to Nine Inch Nails since
1989. March '92 was when Trent Reznor got his first cover of Spin, with a
headline touting the industrial revolution, a movement Mr. Reznor was said to
be leading. Many, many readers (at least at my college) responded to this
coverage by insisting that the story was irrelevant and that all the geniuses
who attended Lollapalooza the previous summer had already been
"stoked" about industrial crap, while everyone else was still
slavishly devoted to Extreme and C+C Music Factory. And perhaps these geniuses
had a point; perhaps when I am dying from colon cancer at the age of 64, my
chief concern will be those lost years when I could have been listening to
Pretty Hate Machine. We all live with regret.
Reznor still has enough dap to get his jowls on
the cover of Spin - his mug was on last year's May issue, and he hasn't aged
much since 1992 (it appears that sitting inside a New Orleans dungeon and
hating yourself does wonders for one's complexion). Back in '92, I had numerous
questions about Reznor:
Is this person suicidal?
Why is this dude trying to make me think he's
If you're a solo artist, why would you pretend
you're actually a full band?
(This issue continues to elude me.)
Is the name Nine Inch Nails a reference to the
spikes used to crucify Jesus?
Is Reznor saying that all his fingernails are
nine inches long (like Freddy Krueger), or that he has nine nails that are each
one inch in length (like Olympic sprinter FloJo)?
Are these lyrics supposed to be funny?
Sadly, none of these talking points are
addressed in the original article. The story is mostly about the genre of
industrial music and Reznor's role at the scene's vanguard. Nine Inch Nails
were the best and most popular industrial band of all time; as a consequence,
industrial purists usually assert that Nine Inch Nails aren't an industrial
band at all (this is a counterintuitive phenomenon that tends to occur with
purists from all subcultures, musical or otherwise). Reznor even implies this
himself: "For every band that I think has something to say, there's twice
as many that have realized the formula for industrial music: repetitive
16th-note bass lines, snarling vocals - usually unintelligible screaming about
the horrible condition of the planet....Front Line Assembly is a textbook case
- just monotonous, boring, uninspired bullshit. And they're far more
traditional and far more exemplary of 'industrial' than NIN is."
This cogent remark raises two more questions:
When Reznor delivered this quote, did he
really say "NIN"? Because that's actually harder to say than
"Nine Inch Nails."
What made his band different? Because,
somehow, it was.
The answer probably has to do with a flawed
hypothesis that was presented in the story's fourth paragraph: The writer
wonders if industrial music is becoming "the new heavy metal." This,
of course, is completely crazy; the only relationship industrial music has to
metal is that they both sound better at high volumes. Kids who liked metal were
the most skeptical of industrial music, because metal people (a) hate
synthesizers and (b) will even hate guitars, if those guitars don't sound like
guitars. The reason NIN succeeded is because they didn't cater to metalheads at
all; NIN were for people who hated that shit. And that was a big audience. I
realize some people probably figured this out in 1989. Well, bully for