9 Inch Nails exploded out of the gate in 1989 with their stellar debut disc Fairly Hate Machine, then satiated followers with the scorching industrial EP Damaged, however by the point 1994 rolled round, followers have been greater than able to see what could be Trent Reznor’s follow-up act.
Surprisingly to some, it was not a crushing but danceable Fairly Hate Machine II, however slightly a tougher edged, aggressive conceptual album known as The Downward Spiral. As Reznor defined to Choose Journal, “The idea behind the album is of someone who sheds everything around them to a potential nothingness, but through career, religion, relationship, belief and so on. It’s less muscle-flexing, though when I started it I didn’t know what I wanted it to sound like. I knew I didn’t want to be a full metal album, so I tried to address the issue of restraint. It was a long process.”
Reznor arrange store at 10050 Cielo Drive in Los Angeles, initially claiming he was unaware of the importance of the tackle when he rented the home, however as many are conscious, it’s the dwelling the place Sharon Tate and her associates have been murdered in 1969 by members of Charles Manson’s household. The house had a studio dubbed “Le Pig” that Reznor used for recording each Damaged and The Downward Spiral.
Chatting with Guitar World, Reznor said, “I wanted it to be a departure from Broken, where I wanted to make a real hard-sounding record that was just one big blast of anger. Not necessarily a well-rounded record — just one ultra-fast chunk of death. This time I wanted to make an album that went in 10 different directions, but was all united somehow. I didn’t want to box Nine Inch Nails into a corner, where everything would be faster and harder than the last record — where every song had to say, ‘Look how tough we are.’ I don’t think that’s really me … Or rather, there are lots of times when I’ll come up with musical ideas that don’t fit that mold. On this record, I was more concerned with mood, texture, restraint and subtlety, rather than getting punched in the face 400 times.”
Digging a bit deeper he added, “The record also looks at certain vices as being ways of trying to dull the pain of what this person is hiding. Of course I’m talking about myself. So that was the general theme. Not that that’s any great leap for me, thematically. The reason why I hope people like Nine Inch Nails is the lyrics. I think that’s the element I care about most on this record, in terms of honesty and nakedness of emotion.” Reznor wouldn’t solely use his personal points for inspiration, however would additionally depend upon some influences, citing David Bowie’s Low and the music of Iggy Pop and Lou Reed for serving to to gas his inventive fireplace.
By the point, Reznor received able to report, he assembled an attention-grabbing crew of musicians to assist him within the course of. Co-producer Mark “Flood” Ellis labored in coordination with Reznor and The Downward Spiral would change into one of many in-demand producer’s calling playing cards for years to come back. Reznor additionally had Sean Beavan, Invoice Kennedy and Alan Moulder engaged on the blending for the hassle. On drums, programming and sampling, Chris Vrenna held issues down. Jane’s Habit’s Stephen Perkins got here on board to drum on the monitor “I Do Not Want This.” Longtime 9 Inch Nails collaborator Danny Lohner lent some guitar work to the disc, whereas drummer Andy Kubiszewski and programmer Charlie Clouser additionally made contributions to the disc. However maybe probably the most intriguing title in all of that was King Crimson guitarist Adrian Belew.
“His name just popped into my head. I called my manager and two days later he was here. As it turned out he was already in L.A., working on something else,” Reznor advised Guitar World. “We basically told Adrian, ‘Just play whatever you want and we’ll piece it together however we see fit. Maybe stuff from one song will fit into another.’ We did about six or seven songs with four or five passes each. One time we’d tell Adrian something like, ‘Concentrate on a rhythmic part.’ Another time, ‘Think in terms of countermelody.’ Or, ‘Think in terms of no pitch at all, just noise.’ He pulled out a bunch of great sounds that he never gets to use.”
With a stellar crew surrounding him, Reznor was in a position to create in methods he had beforehand solely dreamed of. “On Downward Spiral, I got to explore making an electronic sound that doesn’t sound electronic for some parts of it. We did things with drums that I don’t know if anyone has really done,” mentioned Reznor to Spin. “We sampled drums in stereo with stereo mics and discovered if you play them on keyboards it sounds like you’re sitting behind the drums for real. On ‘March of the Pigs,’ ‘Eraser’ and those songs, there’s no live drums, but it alluded to being real because it didn’t sound like a machine. No way someone could play that like that. It further added a kind of mind f–k to it. Instead of falling into a Ministry-type trap of how can I make things harder and harder, it’s scarier to have something creep up on you.”
By March 8, 1994, Reznor and his 9 Inch Nails cohorts lastly launched The Downward Spiral. The album debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 chart, bested solely by Soundgarden’s Superunkown in its opening week. But it surely did not have a sizzling music proper out of the gate.
9 Inch Nails, “March of the Pigs”
The thrashy industrial rocker “March of the Pigs” was launched per week forward of the album’s road date, however solely managed to climb to No. 59 on the charts. It wasn’t a pure music for radio play, however was positively embraced by followers of the band within the reside setting who beloved the excessive vitality BPMs that bridged the music’s piano breakdowns. Including to the music’s legacy was the single-camera video for the monitor, which merely had the band rambunctiously acting on a white soundstage, with no mic stand in web site secure. Whereas the monitor set issues in movement for the album, nobody may have predicted what would come subsequent.
In Could of 1994, 9 Inch Nails launched a cool single known as “Closer” that wanted main edits with a view to be aired each on MTV and radio. However there was no denying the infectious nature of the music. With the memorable NSFW line, “I want to f–k you like an animal,” 9 Inch Nails had successful on their fingers. “The song started with that line. Everything else kind of got pieced around that,” mentioned Reznor. “I was trying to get a vibe something like the song ‘Nightclubbing’ from Iggy Pop’s album The Idiot. I don’t know what it sounded like when it came out. But now it sounds like a real obvious, cheesy, almost disco, song–but in a cool way.”
And whereas the music wanted edits to cowl the curse phrases, the video wanted far more work earlier than it may air. The singer advised Spin, “I thought, f–k it, instead of the Super 8 video directors we’ve used in the past, underground people, let’s go with Mr. F–king Gloss, Mark Romanek, who just did that Michael Jackson piece of s–t. But he could do a beautiful shot, Stanley Kubrick-like in its attention to detail. So we decided to spend some money and go to ridiculous lengths to recreate some works of artists that we liked, from Joel-Peter Witkin to Man Ray, Brothers Quay, this hodgepodge of stuff. The video was great. It was cool as f–k looking. Right away, MTV said, ‘Can’t have that, can’t have that.’ Now okay, there was naked p–sy. We knew that was going to get cut. And then we got complaints that people still found the video disturbing. ‘Well why?’ ‘Well, we don’t know why, but it seems satanic and evil.’ And then I thought, ‘Great, we did it.'” “Closer would fall just shy of breaking the Top 40 on Billboard’s Hot 100, but did climb to No. 11 at Alternative Radio.
Nine Inch Nails, “Nearer”
The album featured three more key tracks. “Piggy” was pure Reznor, with the song sauntering along while Reznor played guitars, bass, piano, organ, synths, drums and percussion while also singing on the track. The song is one of the few on the album to feature live drums as the singer liked the sound that emanated as he set up the mics in the studio. The track would crack the Top 20 at Alternative Radio.
Nine Inch Nails, “Piggy”
The somber, gut-wrenching song “Harm” was released in April of 1995 and climbed to No. 8 on the alternative chart. It also received a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Song in 1996. Sean Beavan told us of the session for the song, “We recorded ‘Harm’ in Studio B at A&M studios (now Henson) as a result of Bob Seger was on Christmas break so the room was accessible. Seger’s microphone was nonetheless arrange with it is pristine vocal chain, however when it got here time to report Trent’s vocal he did not wish to sing via that massive polished setup within the stunning reside room. Trent most well-liked to take a seat on the console and sing via a handheld Shure SM Beta 58 so he may join extra intimately with the lyrics of the music.”
He continued, “It was simply the 2 of us within the room, sitting aspect by aspect. We did three takes, every one was unimaginable, I keep in mind being in tears more often than not, and I believe we simply used the third absorb it is entirety. Trent by no means wished to do a lot comping, no single phrase edits. We at all times had to make use of entire phrases so the emotion got here via. He believed the voice and the guitars have been the human points, the emotional touchstones and that they should not be excellent, they need to be sincere, to offer a counterpoint to the relentless equipment of the rhythm part.”
9 Inch Nails, “Harm”
While the Nine Inch Nails version of “Harm” is the original, Reznor would later agree to let Johnny Cash record it as one of his final releases. The singer said of his decision to let Cash record it, “I pop the video in, and wow … tears welling, silence, goosebumps. Wow. I felt like I simply misplaced my girlfriend, as a result of that music is not mine anymore. It actually made me take into consideration how highly effective music is as a medium and artwork kind. I wrote some phrases and music in my bed room as a manner of staying sane a few bleak and determined place I used to be in, completely remoted and alone. That winds up reinterpreted by a music legend from a radically completely different period/style and nonetheless retains sincerity and that means — completely different, however each bit as pure.”
Johnny Money, “Harm”
Rounding out the key tracks, “Mr. Self Destruct” opened the album on a high note, pushing the pulse with a high energy feeling. The track is one of the ones that Reznor turned over to Belew to lend a hand on, and the guitarist came back with the song’s ending. The guitarist said of Reznor, “Trent has an astounding command of expertise, outdated and new. He is such an intriguing individual to work with, however that will have helped in a roundabout way. The music simply lent itself to so many concepts which can be in my realm.”
The combination of a stellar record, a major hit single and a well-received tour and Nine Inch Nails were on their way to major success. And with a tipping point performance at Woodstock ’94, the band reached more audiences than ever. When the dust settled, The Downward Spiral was certified four-times platinum and became the group’s biggest selling disc.
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