One of the most popular and intensely creative figures in the alternative rock movement of the 1990s, Trent Reznor blended raw, violent emotion with stark electronic landscapes to create Nine Inch Nails, a formidable, Grammy-winning industrial band that topped the charts for over a decade with releases like The Fragile and The Downward Spiral. Reznor was the band's chief architect, crafting its violent explosions of anger, angst and turmoil in his studio, and then assembling a crack team of players to translate his music in eye-popping stage shows for adoring fans. The pressures of fame and the music industry took a severe toll on him for much of the 1990s, but after expunging many of his demons in the new millennium, Reznor brought Nine Inch Nails to a close at the top of their game before exploring new venues in music, including soundtracks for films like "The Social Network" (2010). A committed, fiercely independent and astonishingly prolific figure in music, Reznor's pain became the fire for a stellar career and a balm of support for millions of fans.
Born Michael Trent Reznor in Mercer, PA on May 17, 1965, he was the son of Michael and Nancy Reznor, and a direct descendant of the Reznor Company, which made heating and air conditioning units. Raised largely by his maternal grandparents, he showed an aptitude for music at an early age, and learned to play a wide variety of instruments, including piano, saxophone and tuba while in high school. Reznor later attended Allegheny College, where he studied computer engineering, but left after a semester to pursue a career in music. He relocated to Cleveland, OH, where he performed in several bands, including the Exotic Birds, which appeared in the 1987 Michael J. Fox film, "Light of Day."
Reznor eventually landed a job as a janitor and assistant engineer at Right Track Studios in Cleveland, where he gained permission to record several demos, which would serve as the earliest Nine Inch Nails recordings. He played the majority of the instruments on the demos, and would continue to do so on the majority of his subsequent efforts. Several of these tracks would later form the backbone of the first Nine Inch Nails record, Pretty Hate Machine, in 1988. A modest success on the indie rock circuit, it featured the band's first hit single, the bracing "Head Like a Hole," which set the tone for Reznor's musical aesthetic: deeply personal and aggressive lyrics set to a maelstrom of guitar and keyboard programming.
Reznor assembled a band of musicians to tour behind Pretty Hate Machine, which resulted in a lengthy and arduous trek across the globe, culminating in a spot on the first Lollapalooza tour in 1991. The exposure thrust Reznor further into the spotlight, which in turn ramped up demands by his label, TVT, to turn out more material like Pretty Hate Machine. Reznor, however, loathed the idea of repeating the first album, and disappeared into studios to vent his frustration into a new album. He was already locked in combat with depression, grief over the death of his grandmother and a mounting drug and alcohol addiction. The result was the band's second album, The Fragile (1991), which explored themes of entropy and destruction in harrowingly personal terms. It peaked at the top spot on the Billboard charts and preceded a global tour that was largely funded by Reznor himself.
To fulfill his contract with his first label, TVT, Reznor released the 1992 EP Broken, which hewed to a noisier, more industrial sound, fueled in part by the turmoil of constant touring and his personal demons. A single from the release, "Wish," won a Grammy in 1993 for Best Heavy Metal Performance. That year, he moved into 10050 Cielo Drive in Beverly Hills, the site of the Manson Family's lethal assault on actress Sharon Tate and her companions in 1969, to begin work on Nine Inch Nails' next album. The result was The Downward Spiral (1994), the biggest hit of the band's career and one of its darkest in terms of subject matter and tone. More live musicians - including guitarist Adrian Belew and drummer Stephen Perkins - were integrated into the sound mix, but at its core, songs like the hit "Closer" and the apocalyptic "March of the Pigs" detailed the dissolution of societal constructs as well as the singer's own sanity. At the time, Reznor's own mental health was at its most tenuous, but the success of the record, which debuted at No. 2, sent him back on the road for more touring.
Six years would pass between Spiral and the next Nine Inch Nails record. During this period, Reznor would work extensively on other musicians' projects, including albums by Marilyn Manson, Tori Amos, Jane's Addiction and Saul Williams. He also produced the soundtracks for Oliver Stone's "Natural Born Killers" (1994) and David Lynch's "Lost Highway" (1997). In 2001, he successfully completed rehab for his dependency issues, and finally released a fourth Nine Inch Nails record in 2005. With Teeth, which drew much of its inspiration from his personal struggles, debuted at the top spot on Billboard and yielded three No. 1 singles, including "The Hand That Feeds." A modest club tour in 2005 preceded a North American arena tour in 2005 and 2006 that cemented the band's status as the preeminent industrial outfit in the country.
In 2007, Reznor released the band's fifth album, an ambitious concept record called Year Zero, which took aim at the Bush administration's policies through song and an alternative reality game played through a network of Internet sites. The band's next two albums - the sprawling instrumental record Ghosts I-IV (2008) and The Slip (2009) - were released for download only through the Nine Inch Nails website, a move designed to bypass the music industry itself, of which Reznor had been a vocal and ardent opponent for many years. The band's subsequent tour proved to be their last; in interviews and on website posts, Reznor stated that while he would continue to record as Nine Inch Nails, the band would effectively cease as a touring outfit. Sales of the group's touring equipment on eBay proved to be an effective underscore of that sentiment.
Freed to an extent from the pressures of live performance, Reznor launched into a wide variety of new projects, including collaborations with electronic music pioneer Gary Numan and a new band with his wife, Mariqueen Maandig, called How to Destroy Angels. In 2010, he co-wrote and produced the score for David Fincher's film about the founding of Facebook, "The Social Network," along with longtime collaborator Atticus Ross. The album reached No. 20 on the Billboard charts, and in January 2011, earned a Golden Globe for Best Original Score. A month later, the pair earned an Academy Award in the same category.
Cast (Feature Film)
Music (Feature Film)
Joined local band Exotic Birds and appeared with them in the Michael J. Fox film, "Light of Day"
Nine selections from the Right Track demos were unofficially released as Purest Feeling
Nine Inch Nails¿ released their debut album, Pretty Hate Machine
Nine Inch Nails¿ released their second album, The Fragile
Performed on the first Lollapalooza tour
Released the album, Broken, featuring the Grammy winning single "Wish"
Nine Inch Nails¿ released their most successful album to date, The Downward Spiral
Produced Marilyn Manson's first album, Portrait of an American Family
Produced the soundtrack for Oliver Stone¿s "Natural Born Killers"
Contributed music to id Software's video game "Quake"
Produced the soundtrack for David Lynch¿s "Lost Highway"
Produced a remix of Notorious B.I.G.'s song "Victory" which also featured Busta Rhymes
Credited as 'Musical Consultant' on the film, "Man on Fire"
Released fourth Nine Inch Nails album, With Teeth
Played first solo show at Neil Young's annual Bridge School Benefit
Released the band¿s fifth album, Year Zero
Founded The Null Corporation and released the studio album, The Slip as a free digital download
Formed new band, Destroy Angels, with wife Mariqueen Maandig and Atticus Ross
Co-wrote and produced the score for David Fincher¿s "The Social Network" with longtime collaborator Atticus Ross
Nominated for the 2011 Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score ¿ Motion Picture ("The Social Network")