1. Two events are linked to the cultural image of Trent Reznor. The first occured at Woodstock '94, where he and his hired band-mates took the stage covered in mud, a move that was seen at the time to be a show of support for the rain-soaked and equally mud-drenched fans in the audience. Once onstage, Reznor kicked microphones and keyboards in every direction, tripped his guitarist, and (at several points) dove into the audience. The set, many said, was the highlight of an otherwise dreary festival. The second even occured in June of 1995, when recently declared Presidential candidate, Sen. Robert Dole, and former Drug-Czar William Bennett, among others, attacked Time-Warner Industries for selling and promoting "obscene" and "morally degrading" works by such artists as Ice-T, Tupac Shakur, Oliver Stone, and Nine Inch Nails. According to Time magazine (Richard Zoglin, "A Company Under Fire," June 12, 1995, 37-39), Bennett met with Time-Warner executives and asked them to read aloud the lyrics to Reznor's "Big Man with a Gun," at which time Time-Warner chair, Gerald Levin, left the room.[back]

2. A feat further heightened by the video for the song, where Reznor is tangled up in miles of recording tape, thrashing about and singing as if to escape the onslaught of the technology that (musically) surrounds him.[back]

3 This particular video is part of a larger concept video for the Broken EP. The narrative runs as so: A young man is shown being bound, gagged, strapped into a chair, and forced to watch Nine Inch Nails videos. After each video, the young man is shown, still watching, while another man systematically cuts off his ears, arms, legs, penis, and various internal organs. For innumerable reasons, Broken has never been released - and, according to Reznor, never will. [back]

4. The movie takes place in this self-enclosed environment, wholly controlled by the computers which surround the people, who take tranquilizing drugs to keep them numb and (hence) better able to perform the mindlessly repetitive jobs to which they are assigned. The scene in question occurs when the main character, THX 1138 (Robert Duvall) is channel surfing on a wall-sized television. Each channel plays a different program that is repeated over and over again. One of the channels shows a large black man beating a smaller white man with a whip. Both are naked, and the sound of the whip hitting the victim's flesh is the sound Reznor samples for "Self Destruct."[back]

5. In the video for this song, and when the song is played on the radio, the word "fuck" is replaced by a momentary silence in the music. This produces an uncanny reaction on the part of the listener, who (one would assume) knows what the censored word is, yet is prevented from hearing it because of moral or religious restrictions on particular language in the mass media. Rather than silencing the word "fuck," however, the silencing of the narrative at this point winds up drawing one's attention directly to this unspoken word, giving it more resonance than it would have if they had simply left the song alone.[back]

6. This is played out in the video in a shot of Reznor's body, hovering (seemingly) in mid-air, as he strokes the keys on a gothic-esque organ.[back]

7. Reznor's use of the guitar is significant. Before Pretty Hate Machine came out, few industrial groups bothered with the instrument, preferring to stick with the synthesizer and other computer-enhanced instruments. Reznor's use of the guitar on that album and the follow-up, Broken, effectively broke down the barrier that separated industrial from punk and metal - helping, in other words, to redefine the genres as they were seen by fans and critics alike. While the guitar is less important to The Downward Spiral, it does emerge significantly in songs like "March of the Pigs," "The Becoming," and especially "Reptile," although occupying a very different (and more ambiguous) position than that seen in NIN's previous albums.[back]

8. Weisbard adds: "Is there therapy for freeing the inner rock star?" (84)[back]

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