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Trent Reznor

Reznor at the Music Box Theatre in September 2009.
Background information
Birth name Michael Trent Reznor
Born May 17, 1965 (1965-05-17) (age 44)
Mercer, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Genres Industrial rock, alternative rock, industrial metal, synthpop
Occupations Musician
, Sound designer
Record producer
Instruments Vocals, guitar, piano, synthesizer, keyboard, programming, bass guitar, saxophone, drums, tuba, sousaphone, marimba, pan flute, tambourine, wood block
Years active 1982-present
Labels Independent
Associated acts Option 30 (1982–1984)
The Innocent (1985)
Exotic Birds (1986–1988)
Lucky Pierre (1988)
Nine Inch Nails (since 1988)
Revolting Cocks
David Bowie
1000 Homo DJs
Saul Williams
Gary Numan

Michael Trent Reznor (born May 17, 1965) is an American singer-songwriter, musician, producer and multi-instrumentalist. Founder of the industrial rock musical project known as Nine Inch Nails, he was previously associated with the bands Option 30, Exotic Birds, and Tapeworm, among others. Reznor left Interscope Records in 2007, and is now an independent, unsigned musician.

Reznor began creating music early in his life, and cites his sheltered Western Pennsylvania childhood as an early influence. After being involved with a number of synthesizer-based bands in the mid-80s, Reznor gained employment at Right Track Studios and began creating his own music during the studio's closing hours under the moniker Nine Inch Nails. Reznor's first release as Nine Inch Nails, Pretty Hate Machine (1989), was a commercial success, and he has since released seven major studio releases. Outside of Reznor's chief project Nine Inch Nails, he has contributed to many other artists' albums, including Marilyn Manson and Saul Williams. In 1997, Reznor appeared in Time magazine's list of the year's most influential people, and Spin magazine described him as "the most vital artist in music."[1]



Early life

Michael Trent Reznor was born in Mercer, Pennsylvania, halfway between Pittsburgh and Erie, to Michael Joseph Reznor and Nancy Lou Clark.[2] Reznor was referred to by his middle name to avoid confusion with his father. After his parents divorced, he lived with his maternal grandparents, while his sister Tera lived with their mother.[3] Reznor is a direct descendant of George Reznor, founder of the Reznor Company (founded 1888), a heating and air conditioning company. The family sold the business in the 1960s.[2][4]

Reznor began playing the piano at the age of five and showed an early aptitude for music. In a 1995 interview, his grandfather, Bill Clark, remarked, "Music was his life, from the time he was a wee boy. He was so gifted."[5] His former piano teacher Rita Beglin said "Reznor always reminded me of Harry Connick, Jr." when he played.[5]

Reznor has acknowledged that his sheltered life in Pennsylvania left him feeling isolated from the outside world. In a 1994 interview with Rolling Stone, he references his choices in the music industry.

I don't know why I want to do these things, other than my desire to escape from Small Town, U.S.A., to dismiss the boundaries, to explore. It isn't a bad place where I grew up, but there was nothing going on but the cornfields. My life experience came from watching movies, watching TV and reading books and looking at magazines. And when your fucking culture comes from watching TV every day, you're bombarded with images of things that seem cool, places that seem interesting, people who have jobs and careers and opportunities. None of that happened where I was. You're almost taught to realize it's not for you.

—Trent Reznor, Rolling Stone[6]

However, Reznor later said, "I don't want to give the impression it was a miserable childhood".[7]

At the Mercer Area Junior and Senior High Schools, Reznor learned to play the tenor saxophone and tuba. He was a member of both the jazz and marching band. Former Mercer High School band director Dr. Hendley Hoge remembered Reznor as "very upbeat and friendly".[5] Reznor also became involved in theater while in high school. He was voted "Best in Drama" by classmates for his roles as Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar and Professor Harold Hill in The Music Man. Reznor graduated from this high school in 1983 and enrolled at Allegheny College, where he studied computer engineering.[8]

Early musical projects

Reznor (far right) on the cover of Option 30's self-titled album.

While he was enrolled in Allegheny College, Reznor joined local band Option 30, playing three shows a week with them. After only a year of college, Reznor dropped out and moved to Cleveland, Ohio to pursue a career in music.[5] In 1985, he joined The Innocent as a keyboardist. They released one album, Livin' in the Street, but Reznor quit after just three months. In 1986, Reznor joined local band Exotic Birds. He also appeared with them as the fictional band "The Problems" in the 1987 film Light of Day.[9]

Reznor got a job at Right Track Studio (now known as Midtown Recording) as an assistant engineer and janitor.[10] Studio owner Bart Koster later commented that Reznor was "so focused in everything he [did]. When that guy waxed the floor, it looked great."[5] Reznor asked Koster for permission to record demos of his own songs for free during unused studio time. Koster agreed, remarking that it cost him "just a little wear on [his] tape heads".[5] While assembling these, the earliest Nine Inch Nails recordings, Reznor was unable to find a band that could articulate his songs as he wanted. Instead, inspired by Prince, he played all the instruments except drums himself.[11] This role remains Reznor's on most of the band's studio recordings, though he has occasionally involved other musicians and assistants. Several labels responded favorably to the demo material, and Reznor signed with TVT Records.[10] Nine selections from the Right Track demos were unofficially released in 1988 as Purest Feeling; many of these songs had appeared in revised form on his 1989 debut studio album under the stage name Nine Inch Nails.

Formation of Nine Inch Nails

Reznor performing at the Lollapalooza festival, 1991

Nine Inch Nails' debut album, Pretty Hate Machine was released in 1989. It was a moderate commercial success, and was certified Gold in 1992.[12] Amid pressure from Reznor's record label to produce a follow-up to Pretty Hate Machine, Reznor secretly began recording under various pseudonyms to avoid record company interference, resulting in the Broken EP, released in 1992.[13] In the summer of 1991 Nine Inch Nails was included in the Lollapalooza package tour. They later won a Grammy Award in 1993 for the song "Wish" in the Best Heavy Metal Performance category.[14]

Nine Inch Nails' second full-length album, The Downward Spiral, entered the Billboard 200 chart in 1994 at number two,[15] and remains the highest-selling Nine Inch Nails release in the United States.[12] To record the album, Reznor rented and moved into the 10050 Cielo Drive mansion, site of the 1969 Manson Family murders.[16] Reznor built a studio space in the house, which he renamed Le Pig, after the word that was scrawled on the front door in Sharon Tate's blood by her murderers.[16] Reznor told Entertainment Weekly that despite the notoriety attached to the house, he chose to record there because, "I looked at a lot of places, and this just happened to be the one I liked most".[16]

Nine Inch Nails toured extensively over the next few years, including a performance at Woodstock '94, although he admitted to the audience that he did not like to play large venues.[17] Around this time, Reznor's studio perfectionism,[18] struggles with addiction, and bouts of writer's block prolonged the production of a follow-up.[19]

Drug abuse and depression

During the five years following the release of The Downward Spiral, Reznor struggled with depression, social anxiety disorder, and the death of his grandmother, who raised him. During this period, Reznor began abusing alcohol and other drugs. He eventually became addicted to alcohol and cocaine, although Reznor has stated that he did not use heroin.[20] Five years elapsed before Nine Inch Nails' next album, The Fragile, a double CD that debuted in September 1999 at number one on the Billboard 200, selling 228,000 copies in its first week and receiving favorable reviews.[21]

Suit against John Malm

In 2004, Reznor's former manager John Malm Jr. filed suit in the United States district court of Ohio against Reznor for over $2 million in deferred commissions. The suit alleged that Reznor "reneged on every single contract he and Malm ever entered into", and that Reznor refused to pay Malm payments which he was contractually entitled to.[22] Weeks later, Reznor filed a counter-suit in the U.S. District Court of New York, charging Malm with fraud and breach of fiduciary duties.[23] Reznor's suit arose from a five-year management contract signed in the earliest days of Nine Inch Nails, between Reznor and Malm's management company J. Artist Management. This contract, according to the suit, was unlawful and immoral in that it secured Malm 20% of Reznor's gross earnings, rather than his net earnings, as is the standard practice between artists and their management. The suit also alleged that the contract secured this percentage even if Malm was no longer representing Reznor, and for all Reznor's album advances.[24] The suit also described how Malm had misappropriated the ownership rights regarding Nine Inch Nails, including the trademark name "NIN".[25] According to testimony by Malm, Reznor gave him half of the "NIN" trademark "as a gift."[25]

Reznor stated that he began to fully understand his financial situation after tackling his addiction to drugs and alcohol.[24] Reznor requested a financial statement from Malm in 2003, only to discover that he had only $400,000 in liquid assets. "It was not pleasant discovering you have a 10th as much as you've been told you have," Reznor told the court.[26] Malm's lawyers, however, claimed that Malm had worked for years "pro bono", and that Reznor's inability to release an album or tour and his uninhibited spending were the reasons for Reznor's financial situation.[27]

After a three week trial in 2005, jurors sided with Reznor, awarding him upwards of $2.95 million and returning to him complete control of his trademarks.[26] After adjustment for inflation, Reznor's award rose to nearly $5 million.[25]

Return to music

In 2001, Reznor successfully completed rehab, and eventually moved from New Orleans to Los Angeles. In a 2005 interview with Kerrang!, Reznor reflected on his self-destructive past: "There was a persona that had run its course. I needed to get my priorities straight, my head screwed on. Instead of always working, I took a couple of years off, just to figure out who I was and working out if I wanted to keep doing this or not. I had become a terrible addict; I needed to get my shit together, figure out what had happened".[19] Reznor also admitted in another interview that "[he is] pretty happy right now."[28] Nine Inch Nails' next full-length album, With Teeth (2005), reached number one on Billboard 200.[29][30]

Nine Inch Nails' 2007 major studio recording, Year Zero, was released alongside an accompanying alternate reality game.[31] With its lyrics written from the perspective of multiple fictitious characters, Reznor described Year Zero as a concept album criticizing the United States government's current policies and how they will affect the world 15 years in the future.[32]

Trent Reznor announced later that Nine Inch Nails split from its contractual obligations with Interscope Records, and would distribute its next major albums independently. The last Nine Inch Nails release on Interscope was Year Zero Remixed, based on material from Year Zero.[33]

Career as an independent artist

Trent Reznor and Robin Finck, Santa Barbara, California 2009

In May 2008, Nine Inch Nails released the studio album The Slip as a free digital download. In his appreciation for his following and fan base, and having no contractual obligation, he made "The Slip" available for free on his website, stating “This one’s on me.”[34] A month and a half after its online release, The Slip had been downloaded 1.4 million times from the official Nine Inch Nails website.[35]

In February 2009, Reznor posted his thoughts about the future of Nine Inch Nails on, stating that "I've been thinking for some time now it's time to make NIN disappear for a while."[36] Reznor noted in an interview on the official website that whilst he has not stopped creating music as Nine Inch Nails, the group will not be touring in the foreseeable future.[37][38]

In April 2009 Trent Reznor became engaged to Mariqueen Maandig, former lead singer for West Indian Girl and former keyboard and synthesizer player for I Will Never Be The Same. They married that October. Also that year, Reznor received eight proclamations from the United States House of Representatives, the United States Senate, the Governor of New York, the NYS Comptroller, the NYS Senate and the Suffolk County Legislature in recognition of his fundraising for Eric De La Cruz, brother of CNN anchor Veronica De La Cruz.[39]

Other activities

Work outside of Nine Inch Nails

Reznor produced Marilyn Manson's first album Portrait of an American Family (1994), several tracks on Marilyn Manson's albums Smells Like Children (1995), and Antichrist Superstar (1996), as well as the soundtrack for the films Natural Born Killers and Lost Highway. Reznor is credited for "Driver Down" and "Videodrones; Questions" on the soundtrack for Lost Highway, while another track, "The Perfect Drug," is credited to Nine Inch Nails instead. Reznor sang backing vocals on "Past the Mission" a 1994 Tori Amos song on the album Under the Pink. In 1998 Reznor produced a remix of Notorious B.I.G.'s song "Victory" which also featured Busta Rhymes.[40] The original music from id Software's video game Quake is credited to "Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails";[41] Reznor helped record sound effects and ambient audio, and the NIN logo appears on ammunition boxes in the game.[42] Reznor's association with id Software began with Reznor being a fan of the original Doom. He reunited with id Software in 2003 as the sound engineer for Doom 3, though due to "time, money and bad management",[43] he had to abandon the project, and his audio work did not make it into the game's final release. Reznor also sang vocals for the song "Black Bomb" on the Josh Wink album "Herehear" (1998).

Under the band name Tapeworm, Reznor collaborated over the span of nearly 10 years with Danny Lohner, Maynard James Keenan, and Atticus Ross, but the project was eventually terminated before any official material was released.[44] The only known released Tapeworm material is a reworked version of a track called "Vacant," retitled "Passive," on A Perfect Circle's 2004 album eMOTIVe,[45] as well as a track called "Potions," off Puscifer's 2009 "C is for ..."

In 2006, Reznor played his first "solo" show(s) at Neil Young's annual Bridge School Benefit. Backed by a four piece string section, he performed stripped-down versions of many Nine Inch Nails songs.[46] Reznor co-produced Saul Williams' 2007 album The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of NiggyTardust! after Williams toured with Nine Inch Nails in 2005 and 2006. Reznor convinced Williams to release the album as a free download, while giving fans the option of paying $5 for higher quality files, or downloading all of the songs at a lower quality for free.[47][48] Reznor was also credited as "Musical Consultant" on the 2004 film Man on Fire.[49] The movie features six Nine Inch Nails songs.[50] He has produced a number of songs for Jane's Addiction in his home studio in Beverly Hills. The first recordings, new versions of the early tracks "Chip Away" and "Whores," were released simultaneously on Jane's Addiction's website and the NIN|JA Tour Sampler digital EP.

Criticisms of the music industry

In May 2007, Reznor made a post on the official Nine Inch Nails website condemning Universal Music Group—the parent company of the band's record label, Interscope Records—for their pricing and distribution plans for Nine Inch Nails' 2007 album Year Zero.[51] He labeled the company's retail pricing of Year Zero in Australia as "ABSURD" [sic], concluding that "as a reward for being a 'true fan' you get ripped off". Reznor went on to say that as "the climate grows more and more desperate for record labels, their answer to their mostly self-inflicted wounds seems to be to screw the consumer over even more."[52] Reznor's post, specifically his criticism of the recording industry at large, elicited considerable media attention.[53] In September 2007, Reznor continued his attack on Universal Music Group at a concert in Australia, urging fans there to "steal" his music online instead of purchasing it legally.[54] Reznor went on to encourage the crowd to "steal and steal and steal some more and give it to all your friends and keep on stealin'."[55]

Chinese Fur Trade

Shortly after the tour in support of 'With Teeth' selling out in around 10 minutes, Reznor narrated a video on behalf of the animal rights group, Peta, on the subject of the Chinese fur trade. He begins the video with the warning "What you're about to see may shock you." In the video he describes the treatment of the dogs and cats who are brutally killed and skinned with a video of undercover footage accompanying it. He ends the video by criticizing all wearers of fur. "If you buy or wear fur, you must share the blame for the suffering of these cats and dogs. If you know someone who wears fur, please, show them this video."

Musical style and influence

Reznor is a fan of David Bowie, and has cited Bowie's 1977 album Low as one of his favorite albums. Reznor has stated that he played the album constantly during the recording of The Downward Spiral for inspiration.[7] In 1995, Nine Inch Nails and David Bowie toured as a co-headlining act on the Outside Tour, alongside "Angel" he co-wrote songs and finally agreed, with his coaxing, to appear in Bowie's video for "I'm Afraid of Americans", cast as Bowie's stalker. Reznor also made several remixes for the single release of the same song, as well as a remix of "The Hearts Filthy Lesson". Reznor also stated "Freddie Mercury's death meant more to me than John Lennon's" and covered Queen's "Get Down Make Love" produced by Paul Barker & Al Jourgensen of Ministry released on the single for "Sin".[56]

Reznor's work as Nine Inch Nails has influenced many newer artists, which according to Reznor range from "generic imitations" dating from the band's initial success to younger bands echoing his style in a "truer, less imitative way".[57] Following the release of The Downward Spiral, mainstream artists began to take notice of Nine Inch Nails' influence: David Bowie compared NIN's impact to that of The Velvet Underground.[58] In 1997, Reznor appeared in Time magazine's list of the year's most influential people, and Spin magazine described him as "the most vital artist in music."[1] Bob Ezrin, producer for Pink Floyd, Kiss, Alice Cooper, and Peter Gabriel, described Reznor in 2007 as a "true visionary" and advised aspiring artists to take note of his no-compromise attitude.[59] During a rare appearance at the Kerrang! Awards in London that year, Reznor accepted the Kerrang! Icon, honoring Nine Inch Nails' long-standing influence on rock music.[60] Timbaland, one of pop music's most successful producers in recent years has cited Trent Reznor as his favorite studio producer.[61]



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External links

  • − official website
  • The Spiral − The official NIN fan club was shut down 3/31/09
Preceded by
Jim Lauderdale
AMA Song of the Year (Songwriter)
Succeeded by
Rodney Crowell


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Reznor in February, 2008

Trent Reznor (born 17 May 1965) is an American musician and the founder of the industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails.


  • " I think, fundamentally, music is something inherently people love and need and relate to, and a lot of what's out right now feels like McDonalds. It's quick-fix. You kind of have a stomachache afterwards."

External links

Wikipedia has an article about:

Simple English

Trent Reznor (born Michael Trent Reznor) (May 17, 1965) is an American singer and musician. He is the lead singer and only regular member of the band Nine Inch Nails (often called NIN.) He sings and plays most of the music himself. He also writes all of the lyrics.

Reznor started playing music when he learned the piano, which he started when he was five years old. He was so good he could maybe have become a pianist if he had wanted to. He also learned saxophone and tuba.

He joined his first band when he was in college, called Option 30. He moved to Cleveland, Ohio, USA in 1985 and joined a band called The Innocent where he played keyboard. In 1986 he joined another band, The Exotic Birds.

He got a job as a cleaner at a music recording studio called Right Track Studio which is now called Midtown Recording. He sometimes used the studio to record songs which later went on his first album Pretty Hate Machine. When the studio heard how good he was, he quit his job as a cleaner and made the band Nine Inch Nails. Their albums since then have been Broken (1992), The Downward Spiral (1994), The Fragile (1999), With Teeth (2005), Year Zero (2007), Ghosts I-IV (2008), and The Slip (2008).

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