The Evolution of Trent Reznor

Throughout the years, the more abrasive and aggressive genres of music have undergone a significant evolution. Genres like heavy metal, noise, and industrial music have been revolutionized by innovators who aren’t afraid to be challenging and different. One of the most recognizable figures who contributed to this evolution is, of course, Trent Reznor of the Nine Inch Nails.

Reznor’s own evolution and rise to fame is fascinating. The janitor at a recording studio called Right Track Studio, Reznor asked his boss if he could use the studio when it was empty. His boss agreed, and Reznor set to recording. Famously unable to find a band that captured his unique sound, Reznor, in Prince fashion, played and recorded all the instruments for his demos. The result would become NIN’s debut: Pretty Hate Machine

With its catchy song-writing, vicious and metallic timbres, and confrontational screamed lyrics, Pretty Hate Machine was an instant success. It launched Reznor and NIN on a path of fame and notoriety, defined by constant friction with record labels that attempted to give it direction. Today, Reznor is considered one of the most important figures in the history of industrial music.

Despite his deafeningly loud and aggressive music, Reznor comes from a part of the country noted for its mild and quiet nature: Ohio. To some, this might come as a surprise. It probably seems more likely that somebody bursting with such intriguing talent and creativity be from a city like New York City, Nashville, or Austin.

But it’s not. Ohio has been a stomping ground for some of the most pioneering artists in music for decades. Daring innovators such as Nine Inch Nails and Devo, as well as more recent artists such as The Black Keys and Cloud Nothings, all got their start in Ohio.

Though we may never know why so many great musicians come from the cities and towns of Ohio, Garin Pirnia, author of the new book Rebels and Underdogs: The Story of Ohio Rock and Roll, suggests that the weather could have something to do with it. She explains, “winters in Ohio are harsh, and summers are uncomfortably hot and humid. The seasons make it rife for Ohioans to spend a lot of time indoors, in basements and garages, drubbing on instruments and creating art.”

If you’d like to learn more about Ohio’s rock history, about how artists like Devo and Nine Inch Nails got their start, check out Rebels and Underdogs. Featuring interviews with some of the most important figures in Ohio’s rock and roll scene, the book is a detailed and comprehensive guide to the biggest and best bands you didn’t realize were from Ohio.