Mr. Self Destruct

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"Mr. Self Destruct"
Song by Nine Inch Nails
from the album The Downward Spiral
ReleasedMarch 8, 1994
Recorded 10050 Cielo Drive (Le Pig), Beverly Hills, California
Genre Industrial metal, noise rock
Songwriter(s) Trent Reznor

"Mr. Self Destruct" is a song by American industrial rock act Nine Inch Nails. Written by frontman Trent Reznor, co-produced by Flood and recorded at Le Pig in 1993, it is the opening track of The Downward Spiral (1994), and predicts the album's "ugly" aesthetic and mostly "angry" tone. The song also gives a lyrical background of the album's protagonist.

Industrial rock music genre

Industrial rock is an alternative rock genre that fuses industrial music and rock music.

Nine Inch Nails American industrial rock band

Nine Inch Nails, commonly abbreviated as NIN, is an American industrial rock band formed in 1988 in Cleveland, Ohio. Singer, producer and instrumentalist Trent Reznor was the only permanent member until the addition of English musician Atticus Ross in 2016.

Trent Reznor American musician

Michael Trent Reznor is an American singer, songwriter, musician, record producer, and film score composer. He is the founder, lead vocalist, and principal songwriter of the industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails, which he founded in 1988 and of which he was the sole official member until adding long-time collaborator Atticus Ross as a permanent member in 2016. His first release under the Nine Inch Nails name, the 1989 album Pretty Hate Machine, was a commercial and critical success. He has since released nine Nine Inch Nails studio albums. He left Interscope Records in 2007 and was an independent recording artist until signing with Columbia Records in 2012.


Receiving positive feedback from music critics, its title became used as the official name for a tour by the act. "Mr. Self Destruct" has been remixed multiple times, with five of them appearing in its accompanying remix album, Further Down the Spiral (1995), and in 1996 Reznor granted film director David Fincher (whom he later collaborated with along with Atticus Ross to create soundtracks to three of his films) the permission to use a remix of the song in a Levi's television advertisement.

Positive feedback Process that occurs in a feedback loop

Positive feedback is a process that occurs in a feedback loop in which the effects of a small disturbance on a system include an increase in the magnitude of the perturbation. That is, A produces more of B which in turn produces more of A. In contrast, a system in which the results of a change act to reduce or counteract it has negative feedback. Both concepts play an important role in science and engineering, including biology, chemistry, and cybernetics.

Self Destruct Tour

The Self Destruct Tour was a concert tour in support of industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails' album The Downward Spiral, which took place in early 1994, running until mid-1996, and was broken into eight legs.

A remix album is an album consisting of remixes or rerecorded versions of an artists' earlier released material. The first act who employed the format was American singer-songwriter Harry Nilsson. As of 2007, the best-selling remix album of all time was Michael Jackson's Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix (1997).

Writing and recording

The first ideas for the song were conceived after the act's role in the Lollapalooza 1991 festival. [1] Production began after the completion of Broken (1992), when Reznor wrote a short poem. This was transformed into a prototype of "Mr. Self Destruct", along with many other songs. [2] Flood was the co-producer of the song, as with the remainder of the then-upcoming album from Reznor's project. [3]

Lollapalooza Music festival in the United States

Lollapalooza (Lolla) is an annual four-day music festival based in Chicago, Illinois at Grant Park. Performances include but are not limited to alternative rock, heavy metal, punk rock, hip hop, and electronic music. Lollapalooza has also provided a platform for non-profit and political groups and various visual artists. The four-day music festival in Grant Park hosts an estimated 400,000 people each year and sells out annually. Lollapalooza is considered one of the largest and most iconic music festivals in the world and one of the longest running in the United States.

<i>Broken</i> (Nine Inch Nails EP) 1992 EP by Nine Inch Nails

Broken is the first extended play (EP) by American industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails. It was released on September 22, 1992, by Nothing, TVT, and Interscope Records. The EP was produced by frontman Trent Reznor and Flood.

Reznor was considering Adrian Belew (who played in several bands, including King Crimson and the live band for David Bowie) exhibited to Le Pig, so Flood made a welcoming phone call and invited him to the house surrounding the studio (10050 Cielo Drive). [4] Upon entering Le Pig he asked, "Hi, what do you want me to do?". The production team communicated back to Belew, who spoke about what tuning the song was played at. Reznor responded, "Um, I'm not sure. Probably E. See what happens. Don't worry about it. Here's the tape, [and] do whatever you want. Go!". Belew eventually recorded what became the odd ending of the song. [5] [6]

Adrian Belew American musician, songwriter, and record producer

Adrian Belew is an American musician, songwriter and record producer. A multi-instrumentalist primarily known as a guitarist and singer, Belew is noted for his unusual, impressionistic approach to guitar playing, which, rather than relying on standard instrumental tones, often resembles sound effects or noises made by animals and machines.

King Crimson British progressive rock band

King Crimson are an English progressive rock band formed in London in 1968. King Crimson have been influential both on the early 1970s progressive rock movement and many contemporary artists. Although the band has undergone numerous formations throughout its history, Robert Fripp is the only consistent member of the group and is considered the band's leader and driving force. The band has earned a large cult following. They were ranked No. 87 on VH1's 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock. Although considered to be a seminal progressive rock band, they have often distanced themselves from the genre: as well as influencing several generations of progressive and psychedelic rock bands, they have also been an influence on subsequent alternative metal, hardcore and experimental/noise musicians.

David Bowie British musician, actor, record producer and arranger

David Robert Jones, known professionally as David Bowie, was an English singer-songwriter and actor. He was a leading figure in the music industry and is considered one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century, acclaimed by critics and musicians, particularly for his innovative work during the 1970s. His career was marked by reinvention and visual presentation, with his music and stagecraft having a significant impact on popular music. During his lifetime, his record sales, estimated at 140 million albums worldwide, made him one of the world's best-selling music artists. In the UK, he was awarded ten platinum album certifications, eleven gold and eight silver, and released eleven number-one albums. In the US, he received five platinum and nine gold certifications. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.

Belew said of Reznor: "Trent has an astounding command of technology, old and new; he's such an intriguing person to work with, but that may have actually helped in some way. The music just lent itself to so many ideas that are in my realm." [7] He went on to collaborate on three more Nine Inch Nails records, including follow-up The Fragile (1999), the instrumental, independently released Ghosts I–IV (2008), and more recent Hesitation Marks (2013). [8]

<i>The Fragile</i> (Nine Inch Nails album) 1999 album by Nine Inch Nails

The Fragile is the third studio album by American industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails, released as a double album on September 21, 1999, by Nothing and Interscope Records. It was produced by Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor and longtime collaborator Alan Moulder. It was recorded throughout 1997 to 1999 in New Orleans.

<i>Ghosts I–IV</i> 2008 studio album by Nine Inch Nails

Ghosts I–IV is the sixth studio album by American industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails, released on March 2, 2008, by The Null Corporation. It was the band's first independent release, following their split from longtime label Interscope Records the prior year. The album's production team included Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor, studio collaborators Atticus Ross and Alan Moulder, and instrumental contributions from Alessandro Cortini, Adrian Belew, and Brian Viglione.

<i>Hesitation Marks</i> 2013 studio album by Nine Inch Nails

Hesitation Marks is the eighth studio album by American industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails, released on August 30, 2013, by Columbia Records. It was the band's first release in five years, following The Slip (2008), as well as their only release on Columbia. Like previous albums, the album was produced by frontman Trent Reznor alongside longtime collaborators Atticus Ross and Alan Moulder.

Music and lyrics

"Mr. Self Destruct" immediately foreshadows the aesthetic and tone of the rest of the album; [9] the opening of the song features a sample from the George Lucas-directed THX 1138 of a man being beaten by a prison guard while flanked inside a jail, [10] cutting immediately to Reznor's aggressive voice delivering the verses and choruses. [11] [12] These parts have a tempo of 200 BPM (like "Big Man with a Gun"). [13] Reznor's casual vocal delivery contrasting with the cacophonous sounds around it. [14]

George Lucas American film director and producer

George Walton Lucas Jr. is an American filmmaker and entrepreneur. Lucas is known for creating the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises and founding Lucasfilm, LucasArts and Industrial Light & Magic. He served as chairman of Lucasfilm before selling it to The Walt Disney Company in 2012.

<i>THX 1138</i> 1971 dystopian science fiction movie directed by George Lucas

THX 1138 is a 1971 American science fiction film directed by George Lucas in his feature film directorial debut. It is set in a dystopian future in which the populace is controlled through android police and mandatory use of drugs that suppress emotions. Produced by Francis Ford Coppola and written by Lucas and Walter Murch, it stars Robert Duvall and Donald Pleasence.

Security Degree of resistance to, or protection from, harm

Security is freedom from, or resilience against, potential harm caused by others. Beneficiaries of security may be of persons and social groups, objects and institutions, ecosystems or any other entity or phenomenon vulnerable to unwanted change.

The only section of the song to feature bass is the bridge, with Reznor's vocal providing the build. [6] [12] The remaining verse and chorus follow, concluding with pink noise gradually dominating the mix, before a three-second guitar loop, performed by Belew, is introduced; after repeating about fifteen times, a loop abruptly ends as the next track, "Piggy", begins. [15] [16] [17] The song is based on a D pentatonic scale. [13] [14] [18]

The lyrics of the song introduce the protagonist of The Downward Spiral; [19] [20] who ominously calls himself "the voice inside your head." [21] [22] He represents the urges of sexuality, powers of addiction, and inescapable feelings of guilt and fear. [21] [23] He appears to be violent, even sociopathic, at certain points ("I am the bullet in the gun"), but also claims to represent the purposes of religion, and the ultimate, unattainable goal of all human desire. [21] [24]

The lyrics employ consistent repetition; with every line in the verses taking the form "I am the ... and I control you." The chorus maintains the first-person voice as well, creating an aggressive, intimate, almost confessional tone which Reznor sustains throughout the record. [21]

Release and reception

Sputnikmusic said about the song in a review of The Downward Spiral, declaring that "'Mr. Self Destruct''s cryptic declarations of the many addictions we seem to openly enjoy are jarringly poetic, and its blistering chainsaw guitars and machine gun drum loops are an outstanding example of how aggressive yet tuneful industrial music can be." [25] Rolling Stone was also positive towards "Mr. Self Destruct", saying that "the soft passages are soft chiefly in the sense of not being loud, as if there were a really great party down the street that you were wimping out on, pumped guitars and cranking boom-thwack drum machines and what not. But almost as soon as you rush to your pre-amp and squeeze in more juice, the loud comes back in, but so unimaginably loud this time that you think your speaker coils might melt, and old man Reilly in the next apartment has already started to bang his broomstick on the wall." [11] "Mr. Self Destruct" was remixed five times for Further Down the Spiral (1995), including one remix produced by Reznor with the Nine Inch Nails live band, three remixes by JG Thirlwell, and a re-work partially produced by Aphex Twin. [26] [27]

Media usage

In 1996, a remix of "Mr. Self Destruct" ("The Art of Self Destruction, Part One") was used with permission from Reznor in a Levi's television advertisement, which was directed by David Fincher (noteworthy at the time of the advertisement's release date for directing his breakthrough movie Seven (1995)). [28] [29] Fincher later directed the music video for "Only" in June 2005, and along with Atticus Ross, Reznor later collaborated with him for the soundtracks to the films The Social Network (2010) (which won many awards) and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011). [30] [31] [32] [33] [34] In 2004, "Mr. Self Destruct" was featured in Man on Fire (2004), a film Reznor was involved with. [35]


All credits adapted from the liner notes of the main album. [21]

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  35. Man on Fire closing credits