In light of the 25th anniversary of Pretty Hate Machine, we we turn the clock back to 1989 when Trent Reznor, unbeknownst to him, was the focus of a nationwide FBI investigation. Note: This article was originally published in 2013 prior to the release of Hesitation Marks.
One month before Nine Inch Nails released their critically acclaimed 1989 debut album, Pretty Hate Machine, Trent Reznor and Co. made their way to Chicago to film a music video for its lead single, “Down In It”. The premise was simple enough; a man (played by Reznor) climbed to the top of a a tall building, only to slip and fall to his death. The video ends with NIN members Richard Patrick and Chris Vrenna discovering Reznor’s dead body days later. To create the illusion of decay, Reznor was covered in cornstarch and a cameras, tied to balloons, filmed overhead views. However, one of those cameras ended up breaking away during shooting and drifted all the way to Michigan, where it was discovered by a farmer. Upon seeing its gory contents, he called the police, who then called the FBI, who then launched a nationwide investigation under the assumption that the man featured in the video was actually dead, and what they were watching was a snuff film.
Nine Inch Nails diehards no doubt know this story by heart, and are likely familiar with the corresponding news report that aired on the tabloid news program Hard Copy. For those who haven’t seen it, however, prepare to chuckle. On television between 1989 and 1999, Hard Copy billed itself as a program that combined “the stories of 20/20 with the production techniques of MTV.” In the case of their segment on Reznor, said production techniques included cheesy-as-hell reenactments, an interview with Reznor where his name was misspelled in the lower third, and terribly awesome puns made by correspondent Rafael Abramovitz. Here’s my favorite: “I know, I know, it’s more like Nine Inch Noise.”
Here’s the original video for “Down In It”.