Monday, June 1, 2015

The Summer School of Rock - Nine Inch Nails

Funny story about how this band was chosen to be profiled this week...

Last week, there was a video making the rounds on the internet where the Single Ladies video was mashed up with the Duck Tales theme song. It was, in a word, magnificent. You can watch it here if you haven't seen it already. Wooo-oo.

Anyhow, I showed it to the kids a few times because it was hilarious. Every time we watch a mash up like this, The Oldest always asks me to play the best mashup in history. One that isn't even a video. The Call Me Maybe/Head Like a Hole Carly Rae Jepsen/Nine Inch Nails masterpiece. It is the most disturbing combination of songs I've ever heard, and it is gloriously wrong. So deliciously wrong.  

If you haven't heard it, prepare to have your mind blown. Just come back after you listen, because I'm talking about NIN today.

Incidentally, Trent Reznor despises that mashup because he thinks it trivializes his work and turns it into a joke. Eh, I think it's great and it's in all likelihood exposed some pop fanatics to music they might not have otherwise heard. And I love me some NIN.

NIN was started by Reznor in 1988 in Cleveland, Ohio. He's technically the only member of the band and is the creative core of the music produced. When he plays live, he does recruit other people to play, but the rest of the time it's usually just him. The best way to describe the band is probably industrial rock/metal since so much of the music is fairly heavily produced. Stage shows generally involve lighting and imagery as well.

Reznor says he named the band Nine Inch Nails because it abbreviated easily, though other rumors for why that name was chosen have existed for years, including theories about references to the crucifixion of Jesus and theories about Freddy Krueger. 

NIN is known for graphic and disturbing videos that push the boundaries of what is appropriate, and has had videos refused or played only in part. The video for Closure actually attracted some attention from the FBI.

It isn't just the videos that invite controversy when it comes to NIN either. The lyrics of some of the songs have made censors, religious leaders and parents cringe for decades. Both the song and video for Closer were heavily censored, but would still go on to become the band's best known release.

NIN has released eight studio albums, though Reznor has more recently been doing work on soundtracks and scores for movies and videogames. Some of his work is included in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Gone Girl and Call of Duty, Black Ops II.  Reznor has also been doing a lot of work with other artists in recent years, including collaborations with Dave Grohl and a music service project with Dr. Dre.

One of the more interesting things that happened with NIN's music was when Johnny Cash decided to cover Hurt. The song was written by Reznor with clear references to drug use and self-loathing, words full of regret. It took on a whole different meaning when Cash sang it, and was one of the last songs he ever recorded. "I pop the video in, and wow... Tears welling, silence, goose-bumps... Wow. [I felt like] I just lost my girlfriend, because that song isn't mine anymore... It really made me think about how powerful music is as a medium and art form. I wrote some words and music in my bedroom as a way of staying sane, about a bleak and desperate place I was in, totally isolated and alone. [Somehow] that winds up reinterpreted by a music legend from a radically different era/genre and still retains sincerity and meaning — different, but every bit as pure."  

NIN was touring last year with Soundgarden and was voted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility. They've been nominated for 13 Grammy's and won twice. Reznor was also named one of the most influential people in 1997 by Time Magazine.

Reznor has never been enamored with corporations and has a long history of animosity. He claims that the music industry interferes with creativity, finally breaking away from it entirely in 2007, producing his own music from that point forward. At one performance, he encouraged fans to steal his music online rather than buying it legitimately because he was angry that fans and artists get screwed while music executives make all the decisions and make all the money.

Reznor has also always been vocal in the political sphere. He backed out of his scheduled performance at the 2005 MTV Movie Awards after they told him he wouldn't be allowed to show a picture of George W. Bush while playing The Hand That Feeds. He also demanded that Fox News stop using his music after being alerted to it by a fan. 

A disturbing piece of trivia, one that upsets Reznor greatly, is that his music has reportedly been used to torture detainees in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay. 

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