Nine inch nails 88.
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As a child in rural Pennsylvania, Trent Reznor learned classical music on the piano. Soon he was playing keyboards in high-school garage bands, and when he moved to Cleveland, he found work as a janitor/assistant engineer at a local recording studio. The boss there agreed to allow him to tinker with the machinery during his off time, and in the late Eighties the resulting recordings marked the birth of Nine Inch Nails.
More of a sonic brand than anything else, NIN isn't really a band at all. To this day, as he did between mopping shifts, Reznor writes, sings, arranges and performs almost all the sounds heard on NIN recordings. While the mysterious visionary is known to recruit a band for touring, Reznor himself is the only member on board since the beginning.
Over the past two years or so, however, the lineup has remained relatively static, including guitarist Aaron North (Queens of the Stone Age), drummer Josh Freese, bassist Jeordie White (Marilyn Manson) and keyboardist Alessandro Cortini (Devo, Guns N' Roses, The Offspring) - all headed to Tel Aviv this Wednesday as part of the Year Zero tour.
The sound of Nine Inch Nails has evolved over the years, but what remains stable is an intense hybrid of punky industrial metal thrashing, gothic-leaning new wave and broodingly introspective techno-pop. As Reznor collaborator David Bowie put it in his essay justifying NIN's place in Rolling Stone's 2005 roundup of the top 100 rock artists of all time, "Trent's music, built as it is on the history of industrial and mechanical sound experiments, contains a beauty that attracts and repels in equal measure."
NIN has won two Grammy awards over the years and has sold nearly 11 million units in the US alone, largely due to underground music lovers' embracing Reznor's first three full-length studio albums. Co-produced by legendary knob-man Mark "Flood" Ellis (U2, Depeche Mode), 1989's throbbing debut, Pretty Hate Machine, spent two years on the charts, becoming one of the first indie releases to go platinum. The band toured the album extensively, eventually headlining Perry Farrell's first-ever Lollapalooza festival in 1991.
The second Nine Inch Nails disc, 1994's quadruple-platinum The Downward Spiral, is one of the most beloved alternative albums ever. Recorded in Los Angeles while Reznor was living at the home where Sharon Tate was slaughtered by the Manson Family in 1969, the dark concept album includes iconic NIN cuts like "Hurt" (which eight years later would be covered by Johnny Cash), "Closer" and "March of the Pigs."
As Reznor recently told the British Uncut magazine: "The record was exploring a narrative about someone who systematically examines every aspect of their life and then destroys it.... I'd started with that theme and fitted songs into the storyline dealing with religion, sex and drugs. The record ended with some sort of conclusion that could have been suicide, but certainly wasn't a positive place."
All Spiraled out, for the next nine years Reznor virtually disappeared from the music industry - with the exception of 1999's double-disc The Fragile - as he grappled with social anxiety disorder, writer's block, drug addictions and often severe depression. Then, shortly after the turn of the millennium, Reznor returned to his creative self. He reappeared with shorter hair and a thicker build and released With Teeth and this April's Year Zero within two years of each other.
Aside from Nine Inch Nails' iconic albums, the most noteworthy thing about Trent Reznor's public persona is his hate for the mainstream hit machine. As he recently told the Australian Herald Sun: "It's a very odd time to be a musician on a major label, because there's so much resentment toward the record industry that it's hard to position yourself in a place where you don't look like a greedy asshole. But at the same time, when our record came out, I was disappointed at the number of people that actually bought it.... I know it's on everybody's iPods, but people don't buy it because it's easier to steal it."
The Year Zero tour comes to Tel Aviv this week following appearances in Moscow, Scandinavia, Budapest, Slovakia, Prague, Belgium, all over the UK and Germany. From here, they head to Beijing, Seoul, Hong Kong and several Australian dates. The tour features 11.5 tons of traveling sound, lighting, video and pyrotechnical equipment, so it promises to be an intense production.
To sweeten the deal, the opening act here will be legendary progressive turntablist act UNKLE, coming off its first-ever headlining tour of the UK and headed for its first-ever headlining tour of the US in October, featuring a seven-piece band. UNKLE first came onto the scene with 1998's Psyence Fiction, a largely hip-hop-based mix-fest. Overseen by legendary DJs Shadow and James Lavelle, the disc sported contributions from all-stars such as Beastie Boy Mike D, Metallica's Jason Newsted, The Verve's Richard Ashcroft and Radiohead's Thom Yorke. Since then, Lavelle has continued the project without Shadow, releasing two more LPs with still more A-list guests (Massive Attack's Robert Del Naja, The Stone Roses' Mani, Queens of the Stone Age front man Josh Homme) and a slew of remixes for the likes of Beck, Oasis, Depeche Mode, Butthole Surfers and Garbage.
Nine Inch Nails and UNKLE play Tel Aviv's Ganei Hata'arukha this Wednesday at 8 p.m. Tickets at NIS 219 can be purchased by calling (03) 521-5200. Orange subscribers can purchase tickets at NIS 149 by calling *4020.