Nine Inch Nails
Michael Trent Reznor was something of a musical prodigy in his younger years. He knew how to play the tuba, not to mention piano and saxophone, and he was fairly skilled at manning the console of a recording studio. This latter skill would prove especially fundamental in establishing his later career as the figurehead for industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails. Reznor was integral in producing their debut album, Pretty Hate Machine, which became a mainstream success due to its driven melodies. While the band would encounter contractual snafus with the recording company over the next three years as they toured the album’s soundtrack, their success was indisputable—the record sold more than one million copies worldwide.
By the time the band released their third album, The Downward Spiral, Reznor had learned to rely heavily on his piano skills. The band’s style became strongly associated with the use of synthesizers. Reznor was not the only band member to possess this particular skill. Bandmates Robin Finck and Alessandro Cortini were fairly talented with synth as well, while Ilan Rubin laid down percussive beats behind their industrial mixture of synth, guitar, keyboard and vocals. The band’s use of synthesized noise was a fundamental keystone of industrial rock. Reznor and his bandmates never shied away from sounds that one might not traditionally consider to be music.
The sounds created by Reznor and Nine Inch Nails could easily be called experimental. They are to the music industry what abstract paintings are to the art world. There is no doubt that industrial rock belongs in the grand scope of music as an art form, but it has its own little niche carved out that can hardly be compared to any other musical genre. The band’s style is off-putting in one sense because it goes against what the listener has come to expect from other music, and yet the sounds are still designed to fit together in a way that is bafflingly pleasing to the ears. It doesn’t hurt that the melody behind the synthesizers is generally entrancing enough to hold its listeners rapt in the music.
Nine Inch Nails did not exist in a vacuum. They were influenced by a wide array of artists, from Skinny Puppy to Public Enemy and even Prince. They also influenced a number of newer music acts, with Reznor being described by publications such as Time, Spin, and Rolling Stone as one of the most vital and influential recording artists to impact the music industry.
The band’s style was not its only rebellion against the music industry. As previously stated, Reznor had his run-ins with recording studios and other businesses that he felt were trying to interfere with artists’ sense of free expression. Over time, Reznor grew more and more infuriated with the state of the music industry, ultimately deciding to go his own way. Although highly popular in the mainstream, Nine Inch Nails inevitably became independent, relying on their own financial success to fund subsequent ventures. Reznor’s clash with businesses in the industry only furthered the public image of Nine Inch Nails as a band that stood behind rebellion and free thinking, a message that appealed to their younger listeners and that still resonates today with many of their fans.
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