Trent Reznor:
Dedication and vindication
take PHM to the top.

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Fearing the Music Within
After teaching himself the basics while working at a recording studio after high school, he felt it was time to test his ability to do some serious writing. But he was plagued by self-doubt.

Red Trent “I was afraid to write because I knew what I liked and what I didn’t like,” says Reznor, “but I didn’t know if what I could create would be something I liked.” He had played keyboards in a bunch of bands, but the focus of the band had never been his vision.

As an experiment, he stopped every other aspect of his life and spent every waking minute writing music, using the studio he worked at.

Then a revelation hit him...

“I realized I’d never really worked that hard in life before, because things had always come pretty easily to me,” says Reznor, “And I realized I’d never really tried anything — you know, really tried.

“So then I really wanted to see what would happen if I went wholeheartedly into it,” he adds.

Spiraling Down His Budget
“I got my living expenses down to sub-poverty level and just spent several months locked inside the studio,” says Reznor. “When I wasn’t doing sessions for terrible Cleveland bands, I was working on my own stuff.” He couldn’t find a band at the time, so he wrote and recorded everything by himself. And that resulted his first hit record, Pretty Hate Machine.

Going for The Gumbo
“Every band I’d been in seemed to think the way to make it was just to play bars where somebody would hear you some day and it just seemed stupid, especially in Cleveland,” reflects Reznor. So he put together a demo tape, shopped it around, and quickly received several offers from the small labels he had approached.

Scary Trent Reznor finally signed on with a label then known for its distribution of old television tunes, TVT. But that turned out to be a painful, rather than pleasurable, experience. “They had no artistic insight whatsoever, and were very meddling and interfering,” Reznor reflects. “So I had the pleasure of putting a record out that I was told would be my “career ender.’”

Proof in the Puddin’
That same album, the completed version of Pretty Hate Machine (PHM), released by Reznor under his assumed band name Nine Inch Nails (NIN), went on to sell several million copies over the next few years.

Yet relations did not improve as a result of the album’s success. Luckily, due to the immense success of PHM, a bigger label, Interscope, came over and bought NIN out of their contract. Reznor and his longtime manager, John Malm, started their own label, Nothing Records, which Interscope agreed to distribute.

Next page: From MIDI to HD

Trent Reznor

1. Alchemist of Melody
2. Dedication and Vindication
3. From MIDI to HD
4. Technology on Tour

Reznor Calculates His Future
After high school, Reznor thought about designing synths or recording consoles of his own. To pursue this idea, he went to college to study computer engineering. But like a lot of creative kids, he realized he didn’t enjoy doing calculus all day.

So he dropped out of college. “I got a job at a studio, basically cleaning toilets and doing the odd jobs no one else wanted to do,” explains Reznor, “But this gave me the opportunity to spend time around recording equipment.” And that’s how Reznor got into audio engineering.

Useful Links

More NIN Interviews
Recording “With Teeth”
Sound Design for NIN
Producer Alan Moulder
Remixer Chris Vrenna

Nine Inch Nails
Pretty Hate Machine
The Downward Spiral
The Fragile
With Teeth
Year Zero
Ghosts I—IV
The Slip

Power Mac

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GRM Tools
Native Instruments

Audio Interfaces
Pro Tools HD

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