Sunday, November 2, 2008

I am the silencing machine and I control you

I was introduced to Nine Inch Nails in 1990 or 91 by Andreas, who I went to school with. I was immersed in hair metal like Def Leppard then, but it didn't really move me. Nothing had managed to, then. Andreas on the other hand was serious about music. Depeche Mode, Front 242, New Model Army and The Cure populated his musical universe, and he had the black clothes, Doc Martens and haircut to match.

He played me Pretty Hate Machine, which at the time was some of the harshest music I had been exposed to. There was something there that spoke to me, but at the same time I was not ready to embrace it yet.

What you need to know is that I was a geek then. And not in a good way. My life basically consisted of school, homework and games of various kinds. Nothing else. Music didn't really matter then.

(I'm going to stop here and say, yes, it was probably in a good way, since it is the basis for who I am today, and I kinda like who I am today.)

That changed in 1992. Music videos on TV was a Big Deal then, with both MTV, ZTV and Swedish “standard” television filling the afternoons with music while I sat down with homework. One afternoon Alice In Chains' song “Would?” came on, and I was mesmerized. It grabbed hold of me, and opened up something inside me that I so far hadn't felt.

Alice In Chains at the height of their popularity. Layne Staley, second from the left, passed away in 2002 due to an overdose.

I can pinpoint the starting point of my interest in music to that afternoon. Sure, I grew up around music and still listen to some stuff my father played (Johnny Cash, The Beatles, etc), but the door to what has become a near obsession with music remained closed until 1992.

Not long after that, I went back to Pretty Hate Machine. And my oh my, how it spoke to me now.

Nine Inch Nails has remained one of the few constants in my own musical universe since then. Other bands that I listened to back then still get time on my iPod (which will be the subject of a whole 'nother post), but only NIN are still releasing new material and breaking new ground.

Nine Inch Nails, maybe post mud-slinging at Woodstock 1994.

The reason for this post is that I listened to The Downward Spiral today, for the first time since...I don't know how long. Of the full-length releases, it remains my favorite, though it's still topped by the EP Broken.

On the subject of “new ground”:
In 2007, NIN utilized the services of 42 Entertainment to create an elaborate ARG to promote their release Year Zero. It is the best promotional campaign I have ever seen, mostly because of the level of interactivity with fans and participants. It all began with USB sticks “left behind” in toilet stalls at NIN gigs, that contained fragments of new songs and references to websites, where the game itself began. Some demented fan even ran static found at the end of one of the songs through an oscilloscope and found more clues. Mindblowing.

For everything NIN, go here. And for a complete rundown of the Year Zero ARG, go here.

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