Category Archives: Trent Reznor

“Something I Can Never Have”- Nine Inch Nails and My Eating Disorder

(Note: This post is sort of dark in nature. I am sorry, I will try to post something happier tomorrow)

As I have repeated many times on this blog, Nine Inch Nails is and probably forever will be my favorite band. And I have not posted one of their songs since AUGUST! Granted, it was a seven post series on their third album, The Downward Spiral. But I recently (aka a month ago) I was listening to NPR and Terry Gross was interviewing Trent Reznor! Now, I have listened to every interview Trent has ever given (that I could find on youtube) and this one is by far the best. For one, it was over 35 minutes long, probably one of the longest. And Terry Gross is one of the best interviewers I have heard. She asks the right questions, but is so polite and considerate of whom ever she is interviewing.

If you want to listen to it, and I highly recommend it, here is the link.

Most of the interview was about “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” because Reznor and Atticus Ross composed the soundtrack to the movie. The soundtrack is amazing by the way. Here is my favorite. I didn’t think anyone could best Led Zeppelin’s version of “Immigrant Song,” but Reznor, Ross, and Karen O did.

However, towards the end of the interview, Terry Gross started asking about NIN and the future of NIN. This is the part of the interview where I was literally sitting on the edge of my seat. Unfortunately, Reznor didn’t outright say that NIN would tour again but he did bring up a something that resonated with me as much as his music. He talked about that if he played those older songs, (many from The Downward Spiral album when he too was experiencing his own downward spiral into drugs and depression) it would be hard for him to revisit those bad times that are so connected to certain songs.He also discussed how these songs have changed in meaning over time.

Trent Reznor, 2011

Today, when I listening to NIN’s first album Pretty Hate Machine, I realized that even as a listener some of NIN earlier songs are very emotional to listen to because of things that have happened in the past. When I first listened to “Something I Can Never Have,” I was severely relapsing with my eating disorder: exercising 7 hours a day, eating very little food, and worrying constantly about what I looked like and how much I weighed. I knew I was headed down a bad path that would probably lead to the same outcome as a few years earlier–hospitalization. At this time, the lyrics to “Something I Can Never Have” echoed this thought of a “perfect body” that I could never have (“I just want something/I can never have”). But the lengths that I was going was scaring me (“I’m down to just one thing/And I’m starting to scare myself”).

Today I am better, though probably will never be fully recovered. I still strive for something. It is not to have the “perfect body” but rather self-acceptance. I know now that my life will not be “more perfect” if I lose weight, but I still strive to lose the self-hatred and self-doubt that I still battle with on a daily basis. This song will always remind me of the bad times. I guess you could say it acts as a “fading fucking reminder of who I used to be.” But I will still listen to it even if it is through tears. Not just because it is beautifully crafted and Reznor’s voice is amazing (as always), but because it also reminds me that I never want to go back to that place. I want to slowly and surely release myself from the eating disorder that has plagued my life for over nine years of my life. I want to move on and capture that something that I have never had–self acceptance.



Filed under Eating Disorder, Industrial, NIN, Terry Gross, Trent Reznor

The Downward Spiral Series Finale (#7): “The Downward Spiral” and “Hurt”

You can probably guess by the lack of post yesterday that the hotel didn’t have internet. Heck, they didn’t even have a pool. But I am back and ready to finish up The Downward Spiral Nine Inch Nails series. Here are the links for the other parts of the series: first, second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth.

#12 The Downward Spiral, the namesake of the album, is the song where everything comes together and everything falls apart. All the melodies from previous songs intertwine in the most interesting and beautiful ways. For being the “climax” of the album, it is very diminutive and devoid of the loud, emotional outburst in the previous songs. That however does not decrease the power; it augments it. Here are the lyrics for the song. Like “Eraser,” they are short but so raw and powerful.

he couldn’t believe how easy it was
he put the gun into his face
(so much blood from such a tiny little hole)

problems have solutions
a lifetime of fucking things up fixed in one determined flash

everything’s blue
in this world
the deepest shade of mushroom blue
all fuzzy
spilling out of my head 

It is obvious from the lyrics that the character in the album, after going through mental hell, decides that the only way to end the mental anguish is death. The most poignant line I feel is “a lifetime of fucking things up fixed in one determined flash.” I of course do not condone suicide. There are always other solutions. But I know how it feels to think that there are no solutions to the current problems. Everything seems unfixable; everything seems too hard. And when you are alone (or feel alone) these problems multiply and become almost unbearable. What has undoubtivly helped me through those times is asking people for help. Without my mother I don’t know what I would have done, nor do I even want to know.

(This video was made by a fan. I normally don’t post fan videos since they are not very good, but this one does a great job capturing the essence of the song.)

#14 “Hurt” is probably the next most well-know Nine Inch Nails song and rightly so. I have yet to listen to this song without tearing up. The pain, regret, and anguish portrayed in Trent Reznor’s voice is breathtaking and so sorrowful. Even sadder is the fact that the song (and whole album) prophesizes the next few years for Trent. Here is a man that has so much. He pioneered the industrial rock genre; he has influenced countless artists; he has created some of the most powerful music people will ever hear (his “empire of dirt”). But he struggled after the release of The Downward Spiral, slipping into alcohol and drugs. He isolated himself from his band members, his friends, his family. He let everyone down, he made them hurt. “Hurt” is frighteningly like a apology letter to his loved ones before his own downward spiral. (Side note: He did recover, go on to produce many other Nine Inch Nails albums, and recently win a Oscar for “The Social Network” soundtrack. However, the pathway for his recovery was difficult both physically and mentally.)

Many different theories have circulated about the ending of the song with the electric guitar blast and the ensuing white noise. Is it the character’s (and thus Trent’s, since they are so entertwined in the album) death followed the absence of life? Or is the last stanza promising a break from the self-destructive behavior? A belief that he is worth keeping. A belief that he is worth something.

Which ever the case, this song (and video) will always be a favorite of mine. It provides a perfect ending to one of the most amazing albums in existence. The Downward Spiral is so raw, powerful, rich in meaning, and strikingly beautiful. It has gotten me through battles with mental illnesses and “everyday” problems.

Thank you Trent. I doubt you will ever know how much of an inspiration (and not just musically) you are to your fans.



Filed under Industrial, NIN, The Downward Spiral, Trent Reznor

The Downward Spiral #6: “Eraser” and “Reptile”

This is the sixth post of The Downward Spiral Nine Inch Nails Series. If you want/need to read the others, here are the links:
FirstSecondThirdFourth, Fifth posts.

#11 “Eraser” picks up where “A Warm Place” (#10) ends, including even the basic musical rhythms. Thoughout the song, more and more layers of  sound are added. The character, not in his “warm place” anymore, hears his internal voice louder and louder. Finally, it gets too much and he lashes out at the woman that has been mentioned throughout the album. The lyrics, though few, are so raw and powerful that I had to post them here:

need you
dream you
find you
taste you
fuck you
use you
scar you
break you

lose me
hate me
smash me
erase me
kill me 

He lets down everyone, not just the woman, and decides the only way to make amends is to “erase” himself. This in my mind is even worst that death. Death means the end of life but erasure means never having lived at all. So to wish that one’s whole life never happened is the most horrible and saddest thing someone can wish for.

Here is a live version of the song. Why the heck wasn’t I old enough to understand their greatness when they were still touring? Anyone see one of their concerts live? I would be jealous but would love to hear about it!  

#12 “Reptile.” What can I say about you. Other than of course you are the epitome of an industrial rock song. If someone ever asks what industrial sounds like, play this. No other group has been able to reproduce this mechanical, deep, disturbing, but beautiful sound. And the lyrics! Yes, it is describing a prostitute so be careful where you listen (or sing) this. But the prositute (one that the main character goes to in a final attempt to connect with the world) is not the “impure” one in this song. She is portrayed as a “liar” and a fake, things she has been forced to do for her profession. The character though is impure. For hiring her and for the things he has done in his life. And Trent Reznor does a great job “showing” us this with the emotion in his voice. As he sings about the prostitute, there is almost a loving tone to his voice. But when he speaks of himself and the depths of this loneliness (“I now know the depth I read are limitless”), he only has contempt.

Just a note: the next post is the last one of the series. I will hopefully have internet so I can post it tomorrow but I might not. I am going to a cousin’s wedding in South Dakota and the hotel may or may not have internet. But it will be up no later that late Sunday. I am very excited to write about the last two songs, especially “Hurt.”


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Filed under Industrial, NIN, The Downward Spiral, Trent Reznor

The Downward Spiral #5- “I Do Not Want This,” “Big Man With A Gun,” and “A Warm Place”

This is the fifth post of The Downward Spiral Nine Inch Nails Series. If you need to catch up or review: First, Second, Third, Fourth posts.

#8 As discussed in previous posts, the character in the album is slowly spiraling down into isolation, depression, psychosis, and self-hatred. In “I Do Not Want This,” he tries to reach out to people for help (“and oh so sick I am… and maybe this is a cry for help”). However, this fails–perhaps in part because the people did not know how to help him but mostly because he was unwilling to accept the help. He states, “you don’t know just how I feel” and “don’t tell me that you care,” demonstrating that he doesn’t believe anything or anyone can help him. This is one of the worst feelings in the world: believing that no one can or wants to help you. You feel completely alone and hate your self for it. Trent, with his sudden transition from dulcetly singing to screaming in rage, does an amazing job portraying both the characters extreme sadness and anger. That is one thing that makes Trent in my mind an utter genius–his ability to create and perform songs in a way that makes the listener feel those emotions. Oh, and the music between 3-4:30 is incredible. I don’t even know how Trent made or came up with those sounds but they are novel, almost grating, but beautiful.

#9″Big Man With A Gun” is really the only song I do not like on this album so I won’t spend too much time on it. Basically how I interpret it is the character has gotten to the point where he decides to try to hurt someone, out of madness or to feel something. It is pure anger and insanity.

#10 Finally, after nine hard, industrial, and frensied songs, The Downward Spiral album includes the tranquil “A Warm Place.” This song is so hauntingly beautiful and serene that I have listened to in on repeat to fall asleep on many occasions. But how does it fit into the album? With ease. After “Big Man With A Gun,” probably the most loud, abrasive song on the album, comes “A Warm Place” not only to bring peace to troubled listeners but to demonstrate the human aspects of the character that is still intact. I always think about it like this:

You are battling some internal battle (depression, eating disorder, bipolar etc) and want a break from it all. It becomes too much. So you find a place where you are safe, a place where you can escape from the inside of your mind. This only lasts for a fleeing time until the internal voice again grabs hold of you. And Trent, knowing this, includes at the end of this song a whispering of the harsh industrial sounds that herald the ending of the serene and the return of the turbulent.

NB. The words spoken very softly at the beginning are “The best thing about life is knowing you put it together,” one of my favorite quotes.


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Filed under Industrial, NIN, The Downward Spiral, Trent Reznor

The Downward Spiral #4: “Ruiner” and “The Becoming”

This is part four my The Downward Spiral Series. Here is the first, second, and third parts if you missed any.

#6 Ruiner, the sixth song on The Downward Spiral Nine Inch Nails album, was also a harder one for me to interpret. Some people believe that it is about someone being betrayed by another person, a ruiner. But I think it is a more internal battle that is being portrayed in the song. Up until now on the album, the songs have not been as “industrial” sounding as this. You can really hear the change in tone of the instruments in the almost seamless transition between “Closer” and “Ruiner.” The use of the more harsh sounds demonstrates that the albums character is becoming less human and more “mechanical.” He loses his connection with people and his emotions, crucial aspects that defines humans. Drugs, mentioned cryptically through the song, help in the demise of his humanistic aspects. At the beginning of the song, he refers to the Ruiner (or the drugs) as something that has taken a part of him–his emotions. But by the end of the song, he states that the drugs gave him a “perfect ring of scars” and that “nothing can hurt me now” since he feels nothing.

#7 The seventh song, “The Becoming” continues to show the man’s transition from human to machine. He kills all the parts that he deems bad aka human/emotions. No one can recognize him any more since he is made up of “circuitry.” And with this metamorphosis, “all pain disappears.” There is still a part of him that is left. A conscious part that sees how the machine is taking over him, how he is losing his emotions, his relationships, his tie with life. But he cannot escape: “it won’t give up, it wants me dead/and goddamn this noise inside my head.” What I think is the most interesting line in the song though is “annie hold a little tighter/I might just slip away.” Who is this Annie?  Is it the same woman that caused him so much pain in “Piggy?” Any ideas? 

Although the character’s case in these two songs are an extreme, there are countless people that struggle with an inside voice in their head that ostracizes them from their family, friends, and potentially the whole world around them. They cannot break away from this voice for multitudes of reasons and gradually become only a fraction of themselves.

I would like to tell you that the songs get happier from this point on in the album but they don’t. Please stay with me though because in the next few days feature really amazing pieces of music. I will leave you with this video of Trent doing a piano rendition of “The Becoming.” I think this version is even better than the studio version.



Filed under Industrial, NIN, The Downward Spiral, Trent Reznor