Pretty Hate Machine

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Pretty Hate Machine
Nine Inch Nails - Pretty Hate Machine.png
Studio album by
ReleasedOctober 20, 1989 (1989-10-20)
RecordedMay–June 1989
Label TVT
Nine Inch Nails chronology
Pretty Hate Machine
Halo numbers chronology
Halo 1
Halo 2
Halo 3
Singles from Pretty Hate Machine
  1. "Down in It"
    Released: September 15, 1989
  2. "Head Like a Hole"
    Released: March 22, 1990
  3. "Sin"
    Released: October 10, 1990
Alternative cover
2010 remastered version cover

Pretty Hate Machine is the debut studio album by American industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails, released on October 20, 1989 by TVT Records. The album is compiled of reworked tracks from the Purest Feeling demo, as well as songs composed after its original recording. Production of the record was handled by Flood and Trent Reznor, among other contributors.

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.

TVT Records American record label

TVT Records was an American record label founded by Steve Gottlieb. Over the course of its 23-year history, the label released some 25 Gold, Platinum and Multi-platinum releases. Its roster included Nine Inch Nails, Ja Rule, Lil Jon, Underworld, KMFDM, Gravity Kills, The KLF, The Baldwin Brothers, Sevendust, Nothingface, the Wellwater Conspiracy, Brian Jonestown Massacre, The Holloways, The Cinematics, Buck-O-Nine, DJ Hurricane, Speech and Pitbull. Its biggest commercial successes were the triple platinum Nine Inch Nails's Pretty Hate Machine, two double platinum releases by Lil Jon, and platinum releases by Snoop Dogg and Tha Eastsidaz, Dashboard Confessional, Default and Ying Yang Twins as well as gold releases by Sevendust, Gravity Kills and The Black Crowes and Jimmy Page. Additionally, TVT also had success overseas, achieving a gold release in Germany and Sweden with The Connells and scored platinum and gold records in Canada with Default.


The album bears little in resemblance to NIN's succeeding work, featuring a more synth-driven electronic sound blended with industrial and rock elements. Lyrically, it contains themes of angst and betrayal, in addition to the recurring theme of lovesickness. The record was promoted with three singles: "Down in It", "Head Like A Hole", and "Sin", as well as an accompanying tour, the Pretty Hate Machine Tour Series. A remastered edition was also released in 2010.

Down in It single by Nine Inch Nails

"Down in It" is a song by American industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails, released in 1989. Released as the project's debut single, the song was the first to be written by Trent Reznor. It was released as a teaser single prior to the debut album, Pretty Hate Machine.

Head Like a Hole 1990 song by Nine Inch Nails

"Head Like a Hole" is a song by the American industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails, released as the second single from the group's debut album, Pretty Hate Machine.

Pretty Hate Machine Tour Series

Pretty Hate Machine Tour Series was a series of concert tours in support of Nine Inch Nails' debut album Pretty Hate Machine. The series took place over much of North America and Europe from 1989 to 1991. During this time, the band's line-up mainly consisted of Trent Reznor on vocals and guitars, Richard Patrick on back-up vocals and guitars, Chris Vrenna on drums, and a hired musician usually to play keyboards. The series consisted of eight tours, spanning Skinny Puppy's VIVIsectVI tour to a tour of Europe for the band.

Although the record was commercially successful, reaching number 75 in the US, and received highly favorable reviews from critics, Reznor, the band's only constant member at the time, feuded with TVT over promotion of the album, which later led him to sign with Interscope Records. Retrospectively, it is viewed unfavorably by Reznor, who is critical of its themes and production. Nevertheless, Pretty Hate Machine was later certified triple-platinum by RIAA, becoming one of the first independently released albums to do so, and was included on several lists of the best releases of the 1980s.

Interscope Records is an American record label owned by Universal Music Group through its Interscope Geffen A&M imprint. It was founded in late 1990 by Jimmy Iovine and Ted Field as a $20 million joint venture with Warner Music Group's Atlantic Records. At the time, it differed from most record companies by giving decision-making authority to its A&R staff and allowing artists and producers complete creative control. It had its first hit records less than a year after it was founded, and achieved profitability in 1993. Iovine served as chairman and CEO until May 2014, when he was succeeded by John Janick.

Recording Industry Association of America Trade organization representing the recording industry in the U.S.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is a trade organization that represents the recording industry in the United States. Its members consist of record labels and distributors, which the RIAA says "create, manufacture and/or distribute approximately 85% of all legally sold recorded music in the United States." The RIAA headquarters is in Washington, D.C.


During working nights as a handyman and janitor at the Right Track Studio in Cleveland, Ohio, Reznor used studio "down-time" to record and develop his own music. [1] Playing most of the keyboards, drum machines, guitars, and samplers himself, he recorded a demo. The sequencing was done on a Macintosh Plus. [2] Reznor mainly used a Prophet VS, Oberheim Xpander, and Minimoog as synthesizers. [3]

Handyman person who works in general building maintenance

A handyman, also known as a fixer, handyperson or handyworker, is a person skilled at a wide range of repairs, typically around the home. These tasks include trade skills, repair work, maintenance work, are both interior and exterior, and are sometimes described as "side work", "odd jobs" or "fix-up tasks". Specifically, these jobs could be light plumbing jobs such as fixing a leaky toilet or light electric jobs such as changing a light fixture.

Janitor Street sweeper, janitor, professional who takes care of buildings such as hospitals and schools

A janitor, custodian, porter, cleaner or caretaker is a person who cleans and maintains buildings such as hospitals, schools, and residential accommodation. Janitors' primary responsibility is as a cleaner. In some cases, they will also carry out maintenance and security duties. A similar position, but usually with more managerial duties and not including cleaning, is occupied by building superintendents in the United States and School Site Managers in schools in the United Kingdom. Cleaning is one of the most commonly outsourced services.

Cleveland City in Ohio

Cleveland is a city in the U.S. state of Ohio, and the county seat of Cuyahoga County. The city proper has a population of 383,793, making it the 52nd-largest city in the United States and the second-largest city in Ohio. Greater Cleveland is ranked as the 33rd-largest metropolitan area in the U.S., with 2,057,009 people in 2018. A Gamma + city, Cleveland anchors the Cleveland–Akron–Canton Combined Statistical Area, which had a population of 3,515,646 in 2010 and is ranked 15th in the United States.

With the help of manager John Malm, Jr., he sent the demo to various record labels. Reznor received contract offers from many of the labels, but eventually signed with TVT Records, who were known mainly for releasing novelty and television jingle records. Pretty Hate Machine was recorded in various studios with Reznor collaborating with some of his most idolized producers: Flood, Keith LeBlanc, Adrian Sherwood, and John Fryer. Much like his recorded demo, Reznor refused to record the album with a conventional band, recording Pretty Hate Machine mostly by himself.

A record label, or record company, is a brand or trademark associated with the marketing of music recordings and music videos. Sometimes, a record label is also a publishing company that manages such brands and trademarks, coordinates the production, manufacture, distribution, marketing, promotion, and enforcement of copyright for sound recordings and music videos, while also conducting talent scouting and development of new artists, and maintaining contracts with recording artists and their managers. The term "record label" derives from the circular label in the center of a vinyl record which prominently displays the manufacturer's name, along with other information. Within the mainstream music industry, recording artists have traditionally been reliant upon record labels to broaden their consumer base, market their albums, and be both promoted and heard on music streaming services, radio, and television. Record labels also provide publicists, who assist performers in gaining positive media coverage, and arrange for their merchandise to be available via stores and other media outlets.

A jingle is a short song or tune used in advertising and for other commercial uses. Jingles are a form of sound branding. A jingle contains one or more hooks and meaning that explicitly promote the product or service being advertised, usually through the use of one or more advertising slogans. Ad buyers use jingles in radio and television commercials; they can also be used in non-advertising contexts to establish or maintain a brand image. Many jingles are also created using snippets of popular songs, in which lyrics are modified to appropriately advertise the product or service.

Mark Ellis, known by his professional pseudonym Flood, is a British post-punk and alternative rock record producer and audio engineer. Flood's list of work includes projects with recording acts like New Order, U2, Nine Inch Nails, Marc and the Mambas, Depeche Mode, Gary Numan, Ministry, The Charlatans, Thirty Seconds to Mars, Erasure, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, PJ Harvey, Foals, a-ha, Orbital, Sigur Rós, The Smashing Pumpkins, The Killers, White Lies, Pop Will Eat Itself and Warpaint. His co-production collaborations have included projects with Brian Eno, Daniel Lanois, Steve Lillywhite, and longtime collaborator Alan Moulder, with whom he co-founded the Assault & Battery studio complex. In 2006, his work with U2 led to his sharing of the Grammy Award for Album of the Year for How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb.

"A lot of it sounds immature to me now," he stated in 1991 of the recordings that were then two years old. "At first it totally sucked. I became completely withdrawn. I couldn't function in society very well. And the LP became a product of that. It's quite small scale, introverted, claustrophobic – that's the feel I went for." [4]

Reznor discussed the recording and touring of Pretty Hate Machine in the April 1990 issue of Keyboard. He used an E-mu Emax because it produced a high-end buzzing noise when transposing down sounds. [3] Rough and first takes of vocals and guitar were used to contrast the quantized drums and bass. [3] Reznor hated the factory sounds of the Emax but had not transferred anything from his old Emulator, and used samples from his record collection for all the drum sounds. He initially expected to use real drum sounds when recording the album, but in the end he and the producers merely equalized his drum samples. [3]

After the album was released, a recording known as Purest Feeling surfaced. The bootleg album contains the original demo recordings of most of the tracks featured on Pretty Hate Machine, as well as a couple that were not used ("Purest Feeling", "Maybe Just Once" and an instrumental introduction to "Sanctified" called "Slate").[ citation needed ]

Music and lyrics

Unlike the industrial music of Nine Inch Nails' contemporaries, Pretty Hate Machine displays catchy riffs and verse-chorus song structures rather than repetitive electronic beats. [5] Reznor's lyrics express adolescent angst and feelings of betrayal by lovers, society, or God. [5] Themes of despair are collocated with lovesick sentiments. [6] Pitchfork 's Tom Breihan categorized it as a synth-pop album that was shaped by industrial music's "nascent new-wave period rather than its subsequent styles." [7] According to Breihan, the beats were muscular, but not in the vein of metal or post-punk, and that the most rock-inspired song on the album was "Head Like a Hole". [7]

"It's the all-purpose alternative album!" Reznor quipped. "If you want to stage dive to it, you can, but if you're a big Depeche Mode fan, you can get what you need out of it as well." [4]

Music journalist Jon Pareles described the album as "electro-rock or industrial rock, using drum machines, computerized synthesizer riffs and obviously processed sounds to detail, and usually denounce, an artificial world." [6] Tom Popson of the Chicago Tribune called it a dance album that is partly characterized by industrial dance's aggressive sound: "Reznor's electronics-plus-guitar LP also carries a brighter techno-pop element that might remind some of Depeche Mode. Things occasionally mellow out to moody atmospherics, while Reznor's vocals range from whispers to screams." [8] PopMatters' A.J. Ramirez regarded the album as "a synthesizer-dominated industrial dance record that on occasion slipped under the alternative rock banner." [9]

"I like electronic music, but I like it to have some aggression," Reznor observed. "That 'first wave' of electro music – Human League and Devo – that's the easiest way to use it. To be able to get some humanity and aggression into it in a cool way, that's the thing ... Pretty Hate Machine is a record you can listen to and get more out of each time. To me, something like Front 242 is the opposite: great at first but, after 10 listens, that's it." [4]


Prince, Jane's Addiction, and Public Enemy are listed in the liner notes as artists whose music was sampled on the album. Segments of Prince's "Alphabet St." and Jane's Addiction's "Had a Dad" can be heard in "Ringfinger", unlike the other samples which were edited or distorted in order to be unrecognizable, such as the introduction to "Kinda I Want To". "Something I Can Never Have" features unused backing tracks created by John Fryer for This Mortal Coil. [3] A speech from Midnight Express was sampled at low volume during the pause in "Sanctified". On the album's 2010 reissue, this sample is not present, most likely due to clearance issues.

Reznor stated, "I was tempted to lay in more of other people‘s stuff, but I thought that would lend a real dated quality to the record, seeing where that has gone the way it has in hip-hop." [3] Time constraints similarly prevented him from accumulating "good sounds" as he wanted. [3] He obtained "weird percussion tracks" by sampling loops from artists like Public Enemy, playing them backwards and modulating them in Macintosh Turbosynth with an oscillator tuned to the pitch of the song, obtaining "this weird flanging-type thing that‘s in key". [3] He said that "every drum fill on 'Terrible Lie' is lifted intact from somewhere. There are six other songs playing through that cut, recorded on tape, in and out, depending on where they worked." [3]


Reznor during the 1991 Lollapalooza festival Trent Reznor Lollapalooza 1991.jpg
Reznor during the 1991 Lollapalooza festival

In 1990, Reznor quickly formed a band, hiring guitarist and future Filter frontman Richard Patrick, and began the Pretty Hate Machine Tour Series , in which they toured North America as an opening act for alternative rock artists such as Peter Murphy and The Jesus and Mary Chain. [10] [11] Nine Inch Nails' live set at the time was known for louder, more aggressive versions of the studio songs. At some point, Reznor began smashing his equipment onstage (Reznor preferred using the heel of his boots to strip the keys from expensive keyboards, most notably the Yamaha DX7);[ citation needed ] Nine Inch Nails then embarked on a world tour that continued through the first Lollapalooza festival in 1991 and culminated in an opening slot to support Guns N' Roses on their poorly received European tour. [12]

Critical reception

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svg [5]
The A.V. Club B− [13]
Chicago Tribune Star full.svgStar full.svgStar empty.svgStar empty.svg [14]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar empty.svg [15]
Mojo Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar empty.svg [16]
Pitchfork 9.5/10 [7]
Q Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar empty.svg [17]
Rolling Stone Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar empty.svg [18]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar half.svg [19]
Select 4/5 [20]

In a contemporary review for Rolling Stone , Michael Azerrad called Pretty Hate Machine "industrial-strength noise over a pop framework" and "harrowing but catchy music"; [21] Reznor proclaimed this combination "a sincere statement" of "what was in [his] head at the time". [22] Robert Hilburn found Reznor's "dark obsession" compelling in the Los Angeles Times , [23] while Q said Reznor "scans the spectrum of modern dance" with a "panoramic vision" that is "both admirably adventurous and yet accessible." [17] Select critic Neil Perry said that record was "a flawed but listenable labour of loathing". [20] Sounds gave the album four stars out of five, noting that "Reznor has guts, and they make his Machine one to be treated with respect." and that the album was comparable to releases by Ministry and Foetus. [24]

Pareles was less impressed in his review for The New York Times , writing that Pretty Hate Machine "stays so close to the conventions established by Depeche Mode, Soft Cell and New Order that it could be a parody album". [6] Mark Jenkins of The Washington Post found the music "competent but undistinctive stuff" and believed the "angry denunciations" of songs such as "Terrible Lie" are overshadowed by the "nursery-rhyme" chants of "Down in It". [25] Tom Popson from the Chicago Tribune wrote that "the playing and production get points for introducing some variety to the industrial style, but the moments of soap-on-a-rope singing tend to cancel them out." [14]

In a retrospective review, AllMusic editor Steve Huey commended Reznor for giving "industrial music a human voice, a point of connection" with his "tortured confusion and self-obsession", and felt that "the greatest achievement of Pretty Hate Machine was that it brought emotional extravagance to a genre whose main theme had nearly always been dehumanization." [5] Upon its 2010 reissue, Will Hermes of Rolling Stone called it "the first industrial singer-songwriter album" and commended the sound produced by Flood and Keith LeBlanc, who he said "taught Reznor a lot." [18] Kyle Ryan of The A.V. Club felt that the album "remains the work of an artist just discovering his voice" and said that "20 years later, it doesn't warrant repeat listens like its successors." He found some of its synth and sampled sounds to still be dated after the album's remastering and Reznor's lyrics "mopey" and "silly". [13] In his review for Blender , journalist Chuck Palahniuk said that the album "seemed like the first honest piece of music I ever heard." [26]

Commercial performance

Released on October 20, 1989, Pretty Hate Machine was a commercial success and entered the Billboard 200 in February 1990. [27] Although it peaked at number 75 on the Billboard 200, the album gained popularity through word of mouth and developed an underground following. In March 1992, Pretty Hate Machine was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) on March 3, 1992, two years after the album's initial release, for shipping 500,000 units in the USA. [28] Three years later in 1995, it became one of the first independently released records to attain a Platinum certification. [28] It eventually garnered a triple Platinum certification on May 12, 2003, with three million copies sold in the United States. [28] Pretty Hate Machine spent a total of 115 weeks on the Billboard 200 chart; [29]

The album was also certified Silver by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) on November 1, 1995, [30] following its number 67 peak on the UK Albums Chart. [31]


Pretty Hate Machine went out of print through TVT, but was reissued by Rykodisc on November 22, 2005, with slightly modified packaging. Reznor had expressed interest in making a deluxe edition with surround sound remastering and new remixes, similar to the rerelease of The Downward Spiral . Rykodisc initially accepted the idea, but wanted Reznor to pay the production costs. [32]

On March 29, 2010, the recording rights to Pretty Hate Machine were acquired by the Bicycle Music Company and on October 22, 2010, Reznor announced that a remastered edition would be released the following month. The remaster included new cover art by Rob Sheridan and the bonus track "Get Down, Make Love", a Queen cover originally from the "Sin" single. [33] The 2010 reissue was mastered by Tom Baker at the Precision Mastering in Hollywood, California. [33]

"PHM 2.0 is far brighter and clearer than its original incarnation," observed Classic Rock , "but ultimately it's the strength of the songwriting… that shines through. Although that said, a super bass beef-up job on an already infamous cover of Queen's 'Get Down, Make Love' ups the sleaze 'n' grind quotient no end." [34]

Before the album's rerelease, a fan website was launched featuring touring information for Pretty Hate Machine, the videos for "Head Like a Hole" and "Down in It" (with remastered sound), the uncut video for "Sin" (a remix for the video was used) and two early live segments, one with interviews.

The album and its respective singles were included in a Record Store Day Black Friday exclusive box set, Halo I–IV in 2015. [35] [36]

Track listing

All tracks are written by Trent Reznor.

1."Head Like a Hole"5:00
2."Terrible Lie"
  • Flood
  • Reznor
3."Down in It"
5."Something I Can Never Have"
  • Reznor
  • Fryer
6."Kinda I Want To"
  • Reznor
  • Fryer
  • Reznor
  • Fryer
  • LeBlanc [b]
8."That's What I Get"Fryer4:30
9."The Only Time"
  • Reznor
  • LeBlanc
  • Fryer
  • Reznor
  • Fryer
Total length:48:42
2010 remastered edition bonus track [37]
11."Get Down Make Love" Freddie Mercury Hypo Luxa 4:19



Credits adapted from the liner notes of Pretty Hate Machine. [38] [39]


Chart (1991)Peak
UK Albums (OCC) [31] 67
US Billboard 200 [29] 75


RegionCertification Certified units/sales
Argentina (CAPIF) [40] Platinum60,000^
United Kingdom (BPI) [30] Silver60,000^
United States (RIAA) [28] 3× Platinum3,000,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone

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