Since the alphabet is the building block of our language, the Powet Alphabet is the building block of what makes us geeks.
“Only” music video, directed by David Fincher with effects by Digital Domain

Nine Inch Nails were a group actively largely in the 1990s and 2000s that performed various permutations of rock, including industrial, goth, techno, metal, pop and other influences. Because the musical styles varied from album to album and often from song to song, its hard to peg them into a single genre, though if you like heavy music its not hard to be a fan.

Nine Inch Nails started in 1988 as a studio project by Trent Reznor. He was the singer and songwriter and played most of the instruments, as he was unable to find musicians that could match the sound he wanted. These recording sessions eventually led to the first album Pretty Hate Machine.

The breakout single for Pretty Hate Machine was “Head Like A Hole” and it encapsulated elements of the 80s synth and industrial sounds, house music, and lyrics that evoked the grunge music fad that was about to break into the mainstream. Trent Reznor formed a touring band for Nine Inch Nails, opening for rock bands including Guns And Roses, and featured on the main stage of Lollapalooza.

Nine Inch Nails would be awarded a Grammy award for a recording of this performance from Woodstock in 1994 of the song “Happiness In Slavery”

His biggest success to date, and no doubt the NI? legacy is the song “Closer” originally included on the 1994 album The Downward Spiral. The chorus containing the lyric “I want to fuck you like an animal” was edited for radio and MTV heavily edited the corresponding music video. Its not difficult to imagine that the power of the song comes directly from that edit, but its also one of the most well produced and performed songs in the NI? catalog, and as such a fitting achievement.

Director David Fincher used a remix of the song in the opening credits to the film Se7en with Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman. The line “you get me closer to god” is evocative of the serial killer’s motivations in the film, patterning each act after one of the seven deadly sins.

During and after the success of The Downward Spiral, Reznor continued to contribute to films such as Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers and David Lynch’s Lost Highway

It would be another 5 years before Reznor could deliver another Nine Inch Nails record, The Fragile. He struggled with addiction, writer’s block, and his own perfectionism. In this video, he helps bring the instrumental “Just Like You Imagined” to life with the Nine Inch Nails touring band.

As if the five year gap between albums was not long enough, it would be six years until the next release With Teeth. In this release Reznor put an end to his substance abuse and became a much more prolific writer and performer.

Major singles from this album included “The Hand That Feeds” which was featured in the game Rock Band and “Only” which the music video posted at the top of this post.

Nine Inch Nails continued on with Year Zero, which conceptualized a near future of 2022 with US foreign policies throwing the world into chaos. Reznor mentioned he considered the idea worth of a movie or TV series and at this time a miniseries for HBO is currently in pre-production.

Year Zero would be the final release from Nine Inch Nails on a major label. With their contract fulfilled, the band turned to the fans for release, promotion, everything. A remix site with raw tracks was established for fans to create their own versions of Nine Inch Nails songs, a four disc instrumental album called Ghosts I-IV was independantly released in limited editions for $300 and as a digital release for as little as $5. In 2008 Reznor released The Slip for free from their website under a creative commons non commercial sharing license.

Reznor released 400GB of unedited HD video to torrent sites for fans to construct their own concert videos, such as this video of “1,000,000”

in 2009, Reznor announced NI? would no longer tour, and played a series of shows to fans in smaller venues focusing on classic material. Reznor said he will still use Nine Inch Nails as a studio outlet, but has moved on to a new project called How To Destroy Angels with his wife Mariqueen Maandig and composer Atticus Ross.

Most recently, Ross and Reznor composed the musical score to The Social Network, again teaming with David Fincher.

Nine Inch Nails are an important group to music, but their effect on film, tv, social media, the web, and other aspects of geek culture are staggering. If you’re not already a fan, starting with any of these albums would be great.