Worth an Ear: Trent Reznor

By Maggie Serota 07/18/14

Spotlight on... Trent Razor

In the early 90s, Trent Reznor became known for being the sole creative architect behind the band Nine Inch Nails. 

In 1990, Reznor first gained notoriety with the album Pretty Hate Machine, a record that flirted with an aggressive industrial influence made palatable by some solid synth-pop sensibilities. 

As Reznor’s relationship with his label soured, Nine Inch Nails’ sound became harder and more caustic, often abandoning typical verse/chorus structure, as evidenced by the 1992 album Broken.

By the time 1994’s The Downward Spiral came out, Reznor may not have been aware of his own substance abuse issues, but his life had already been affected by addiction. The song “Hurt,” which was famously covered by Johnny Cash almost a decade later, was about former Nine Inch Nails drummer Jeff Ward, who committed suicide after failing to kick heroin. 

During the touring cycle for The Downward Spiral, known as the conveniently titled Self-Destruct tour, Reznor’s own drinking and drug abuse came to a head, and he checked into rehab before the release of Nine Inch Nail’s next release, 1999’s double album, The Fragile. 

Reznor completed a rehab program, but relapsed during the album’s release and subsequently overdosed on heroin during the album’s tour cycle. 

The overdose served as a personal wake-up call and Reznor went through extensive rehab in 2001 and was ready to direct his energy back to a new Nine Inch Nails album around 2005. Since the release of With Teeth, Reznor has released a solid stream of well-received albums with Nine Inch Nails and his side-project How To Destroy Angels. 

It was in sobriety that Reznor found a new musical direction, specifically writing film scores with Atticus Ross. Surely, fans who knew him as the guy in fishnets stomping around in the “Wish” video must have gotten a kick out of seeing Reznor accept an Academy Award for his work scoring The Social Network soundtrack in 2011. 

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Maggie Serota is a staff writer at Spin. She has contributed to Glamour, NBC News, Esquire, Rolling Stone,BuzzFeed, and many other publications and outlets.  You can find Maggie on Linkedin or follow her on Twitter.