Mr. Self Destruct
"Mr. Self Destruct" is the first track on the 1994 release The Downward Spiral. Its loud and abrasive verses and choruses as well as the contrast in the quiet bridge and use of samples combine to make a comprehensive introduction to the sonic characteristics of the entire album.
The song's title seems to be one of several references to Soft Cell, a cited influence for NIN, as a song of the same name opens their 1994 album This Last Night in Sodom. Other references may include the reference to their album The Art of Falling Apart in the remixes titled "The Art of Self Destruction" and NIN covering "Memorabilia" and "Sex Dwarf," though the latter remains unreleased and/or incomplete.
Mr. Self Destruct
This is the original album version. It begins with a restructured sample from the film THX 1138, and immediately picks up with very fast and aggressive verses and choruses, Reznor's casual vocal delivery contrasting with the noisy cacophony around it. The bridge is in stark contrast: quiet, subdued and atmospheric, it is the only section of the song to feature bass. A return to cacophony for the final verse and choruses gives way to manipulated and looped guitar noises made by Adrian Belew, which cuts off suddenly and leads into "Piggy". Its call-and-response style verses are later recalled by those of "While I'm Still Here".
In the April 1994 issue of Guitar World, Reznor was asked about the circumstances behind the guest appearance of guitarist Belew:
Mr. Self Destruct (Instrumental)
Released by Reznor through his account at remix.nin.com, this unmastered instrumental version does not include the opening sample, and its ending guitar noise loops run several seconds longer.
The Art of Self Destruction, Part One
This remix appears on Further Down The Spiral. In contrast with the vocals prominent in the original, the only words used are quiet and whispered. In fact, most of its non-linear structure builds using elements of the quiet bridge.
Self Destruction, Part Two
Self Destruction, Part Three
This version is on the UK edition of Further Down The Spiral in place of Part Two, and follows the original structure of "Mr. Self Destruct" with only minor changes in the mix and the removal of the sample and concluding guitar scramble.
Self Destruction, Final
This is the last remix on the US edition of Further Down The Spiral. It also features the guitar by Adrian Belew and samples David Bowie, in particular the lyric "wanking" repeated many times, originally from Bowie's "Time."
The Beauty of Being Numb
The first part of this track is a version of "Mr. Self Destruct" played in reverse and remixed by NIN, Beavan and Pollack. The second part is an entirely new composition created by Aphex Twin, which eventually crossfades with the opening straw blowing sounds from "Eraser."
Often used to open shows during the later Self Destruct tours, its sample intro was used only long enough to count in the song, and the opening with the full band following it was extended by 16 instrumental bars while Reznor and stage crew pulled apart the scrim covering the front of the stage. During the 2006 Live: With_Teeth winter tour and the Year Zero Warm-Up Tour, Alessandro Cortini joined the rest of the band at the front of the stage playing guitar. The 2009 Wave Goodbye Tour arrangement saw a synthesized ambient introduction surround manipulations of the THX 1138 sample before jumping into the first verse.
I am the voice inside your head And I control you I am the lover in your bed And I control you I am the sex that you provide And I control you I am the hate you try to hide And I control you I take you where you want to go I give you all you need to know I drag you down I use you up Mr. Self Destruct I speak religion's message clear And I control you I am denial guilt and fear And I control you I am the prayers of the naïve And I control you I am the lie that you believe And I control you I take you where you want to go I give you all you need to know I drag you down I use you up Mr. Self Destruct I am the needle in your vein And I control you I am the high you can't sustain And I control you I am the pusher I'm a whore And I control you I am the need you have for more And I control you I am the bullet in the gun And I control you I am the truth from which you run And I control you I am the silencing machine And I control you I am the end of all your dreams And I control you I take you where you want to go I give you all you need to know I drag you down I use you up Mr. Self Destruct
The final line of the quiet third verse is altered on the recording:
I am the need in you for more And I control you
Extra lyrics can be heard in the breakdown:
You let me do this to you I am an exit