Michael Trent Reznor (born May 17, 1965) is an American musician. Reznor is the founder and main creative force behind the industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails. He is also the only official member of the band, as he composes and plays all the instruments himself; however, different producers, engineers and musicians are assembled to assist him in writing and performing new material, and a backing band accompanies him on live shows. Reznor writes all of the lyrics himself and is in sole control of the group. Michael Trent Reznor was born in Mercer, Pennsylvania halfway between Pittsburgh and Cleveland to Michael J. Reznor and Nancy Clark. Reznor was called by his middle name to avoid confusion with his father. After his parents divorced, Trent lived with his grandparents and his sister Tera lived with their mother.
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.” His former piano teacher Rita Beglin said Reznor “always reminded me of Harry Connick, Jr.” when he played.
Reznor has repeatedly acknowledged that his sheltered life in Pennsylvania left him feeling somewhat isolated from the outside world. In a 1994 interview with Rolling Stone, he makes reference to his choices in the music industry, “I don’t know why I want to do these things,” Reznor says, “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.” However, Reznor later confesses, “I don’t want to give the impression it was a miserable childhood.”
At the Mercer Area Junior and Senior High Schools, Reznor learned to play the saxophone and tuba. He was a member of both the jazz and marching bands. Former Mercer High School band director Dr. Hendley Hoge remembered Reznor as “very upbeat and friendly.” Reznor also became involved in theatre 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 high school in 1983 and enrolled at Allegheny College, where he studied computer engineering, joined a local band named Option 30 and played three shows per week with them. After a year in college, Reznor decided to drop out to pursue a full-time career in music.
Reznor moved to Cleveland, Ohio. In 1985, he joined a band named The Innocent as a keyboardist. They released one album, Livin’ in the Street, but Reznor quit after just three months. In 1986, Reznor appeared as a member of the fictional band The Problems in the film Light of Day. He also joined a local Cleveland band called The Exotic Birds.
He got a job at Right Track Studio (now known as Midtown Recording) as a handyman. Studio owner Bart Koster commented how Reznor “is so focused in everything he does. When that guy waxed the floor, it looked great.” Koster allowed Reznor to use the studio during off hours, which he used to record demos for songs that ended up on Nine Inch Nails’ first album, Pretty Hate Machine. These demos were later released as a bootleg under the name Purest Feeling.
Reznor was the credited producer for Marilyn Manson’s albums Portrait Of An American Family, Smells Like Children, and Antichrist Superstar, 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. One other track, “The Perfect Drug” is credited to Nine Inch Nails instead.
Reznor likes video games, most notably Doom by id Software, which he has said he played on the Nine Inch Nails tour bus after doing shows. He also created the soundtrack for ID Software’s hit Quake. The NIN logo also appears on the nail gun ammo boxes in Quake and prior to this, embedded in both the floor and ceiling of a secret room in Ultimate Doom.
Trent returned to work with id Software in 2003 as the sound engineer for video game Doom 3. However, due to “time, money and bad management”, he had to abandon this project, and his audio work did not make it into the game’s release. The original audio files can be found on the Internet, although they are not officially endorsed by Reznor nor id Software. Chris Vrenna, former drummer for Nine Inch Nails, produced the music for Doom 3 with his partner Clint Walsh.
During the five years between his albums The Downward Spiral and The Fragile, Trent Reznor struggled with depression, social anxiety disorder, writer’s block, and the death of his grandmother. It has also been revealed by Reznor that he had been suffering from alcohol and drug addiction during the Fragile era. In a 2005 interview with Kerrang!, Reznor makes a note of 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.” In contrast with his former suicidal tendencies, the song artist admitted in a 2005 interview with Revolver that, “I’m pretty happy right now.” But added, “Wait! Don’t print that! You’ll ruin my reputation. At least lie and say that I’ve got a dead body in my closet or something.”
Reznor was involved in a feud with the band Limp Bizkit (specifically their frontman Fred Durst) in the late 1990s, around the height of their popularity, calling Durst a “moron” and saying in a 1999 interview in Rolling Stone magazine, “Let Fred Durst surf a piece of plywood up my ass.” It is noted, however, that Reznor is credited as a writer of the song “Hot Dog” on Bizkit’s album, Chocolate Starfish And The Hot Dog Flavored Water. This is due to this song’s use of lyrics from the NIN song “Closer,” in particular the phrase “I want to fuck you like an animal.” Reznor was put in the difficult position of having to give permission for his own lyrics to be used in a song mocking him but interviews at the time suggested that he thought it was best to allow permission rather than drag the issue out.”
Tapeworm, a collaboration with Danny Lohner, Maynard James Keenan of Tool, and Atticus Ross of 12 Rounds, was in production for almost ten years, but an update on the official Nine Inch Nails website declared that the project had been terminated. The only known performance of any Tapeworm material was when Keenan’s other band A Perfect Circle performed the song “Vacant” on tour in 2001. “Vacant” appears on A Perfect Circle’s third album eMOTIVe, reworked and retitled “Passive”.
Reznor made a guest appearance on rapper El-P’s album, I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead, on the track “Flyentology”. El-P remixed the NIN track “Only”, released with the single Every Day Is Exactly The Same. Reznor has also worked as co-producer of the album The Inevitable Rise and Liberation Of Niggy Tardust by Saul Williams, who toured with NIN in 2005 and 2006.
Reznor finished work on a new Nine Inch Nails album, entitled Year Zero, released in 2007. A DVD taken from two “Live: With Teeth” tour dates on March 28 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and March 30 in El Paso, Texas entitled Beside You In Time was also released in 2007.
In 2006, Trent played his first “solo” show(s) at Neil Young’s annual Bridge School Concerts. Backed by a four-piece string section, Trent performed stripped-down versions of many Nine Inch Nails classics.
Reznor has made many remixes for other artists, including:
- 12 rounds: Pleasant smell (2 remixes)
- Butthole surfers: Who was in my room last night?
- Curve: Missing link
- David Bowie: I’m afraid of Americans (5 mixes !!)
- Killing joke: Democracy
- KMFDM: Light
- Marilyn Manson: Mother inferior got her gunn (remix of the track ‘Get your gunn’)
- Megadeth: Symphony of destruction
- N.E.R.D.: Lapdance
- Peter Gabriël: Growing up
- Puff Daddy & family: Victory (2 remixes)
- Queen: Stone cold crazy
- U2: Vertigo
- Machines of loving grace: Burnt like brilliant trash
- Machines of loving grace: Burnt offering
Trent also did (backing) vocals for:
- Josh Wink: Black bomb (jerry in the bag) *lead
- 1000 homo DJ’s: Supernaut (cover of Black sabbath) *lead vocals
- Tori amos: Past the mission *backing in the chorus
- Queens of the stone age: You know what you did *backing vocals at the end, not officially released!
- El-P: Flyentology *backing
- Peter Murphy: Warm leatherette *distorted backing vocals
- Saul Williams: Break + WTF *both backing vocals
- Prick: No fair fights + Animal *distorted backing vocals, although it’s not clear if Trent did backing vocals on these two tracks!