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You could easily be forgiven for thinking that Nine Inch Nails was more than a single person, especially if you’d never seen them in concert or weren’t a big fan, but the fact is that the “group” is actually a one-man industrial rock band. Trent Reznor is the group’s only member and he not only writes all of the songs but also arranges them, performs them and produces all of the material on every Nine Inch Nails album.
When he was a boy in the rural town of Mercer, Pennsylvania, Reznor actually studied classical piano but, as a teen, he switched to keyboards and started playing in several garage bands. After high school he went to Pennsylvania’s Meadville College but dropped out after his first year and moved to Cleveland, Ohio. It was there that he recorded his first self-made demo tape and caught the eye of an independent label called TVT, more known for their TV jingles then their hard rock.
Reznor’s modus operandi is to record, arrange and produce a new album and then, when it’s ready, he puts together a live band in order to perform it on stage. For this reason many of the bands that have toured with him over the years have had different lineups as well as the songs being arranged differently in order to fit whatever live setting where they were being played. Reznor is also a fan of putting visual elements into his live acts including light shows.
After breaking into the underground music scene, Nine Inch Nails found almost instant success and widespread popularity, something that has allowed them to sell 10 million certified sales in just the United States alone. Reznor has also won a Grammy award for that work and, in 1997, he was included in the year’s “most influential people” list in Time magazine. That same year he was also described as “the most vital artist in music” by Spin magazine. The group has actually been nominated for 13 Grammy awards and have won twice with Wish and Happiness in Slavery.
Nine Inch Nails has released nine major studio albums since 1989 and, after a brief hiatus from 2009 to 2013, they released an album through Columbia Records called Hesitation Marks. Interestingly, the group also released two albums that were offered to the public free of charge, including Ghosts I–IV and The Slip.
Both of these albums were actually released first only digitally and, while the latter was (and still is) free of charge, the former, Ghosts I–IV, was first for sale but today can be found legally on many file sharing platforms due to its Creative Commons license.