Broken (also known as Halo 5) is an EP released on September 22nd 1992. Although not technically so, Broken is usually considered Nine Inch Nails' second major release after Pretty Hate Machine since it consists entirely of new material. The EP was recorded in secret, in order to avoid interference from TVT Records.
It was followed later that year by Fixed, a companion EP of remixes of the songs on Broken. The typeface used on Broken (and Fixed) is Akzidenz-Grotesk Black, which was also used to create the Nothing Records logo.
- "Pinion" – 1:02
- "Wish" – 3:46
- "Last" – 4:44
- "Help Me I Am In Hell" – 1:56
- "Happiness In Slavery" – 5:21
- "Gave Up" – 4:08
- "Physical" – 5:29
- "Suck" – 5:07
On most CD copies of Broken, tracks 7 through 97 consist of silence and "Physical" and "Suck" are tracks 98 and 99. The initial pressing of the CD contained "Physical" and "Suck" on a second 3" mini CD in a separate sleeve. On certain CD versions, "Physical" is track 7 and "Suck" is track 8.
A1 "Pinion" - 1:02
A2 "Wish" - 3:46
A3 "Last" - 4:44
A4 "Help Me I Am In Hell" - 1:56
A5 "Happiness In Slavery" - 5:21
A6 "Gave Up" - 4:08
A "Physical" - 5:29
B "Suck" - 5:07
Prior to the 2017 Definitive Edition, there was no commercial vinyl released in the US. There was only a promo that did not include "Pinion" and "Help Me I Am In Hell". There is also a promo 12" from the UK with the bonus tracks on side B, and a 12" from Brazil with "Gave Up" and the bonus tracks on side B.
The cassette versions typically had all of the main tracks on side A and the bonus tracks on side B, though they were sometimes not listed on the cassette or the insert.
The last two tracks were leftovers from a 12" that should have been released when we did lollapalooza, but due to record labels.... ...so, i thought they were good enough to be released, but did not fit with 'broken', so, i wanted to give them away but keep them separate from the EP, so, i came up with the 3" CD idea, but, my record label informed me that it cost so much to manufacture that they could not break even EVER regardless of sales, so, i compromised and allowed the first 250,000 to have the 3" CD, and the rest to have them on tracks 98-99 (so nobody would be ripped off).
It was a way to distance them from the other music because it wasn't part of the same mind set. Unfortunately, the risk involved is, with radio being as conservative as it is, I knew they would jump on "Physical" or "Suck" because they're a bit more digestible than the other stuff, so I've tried to make them as obscure as possible.
For more information, see Broken Movie
Music videos were shot for each song with the exception of "Last," "Physical" and "Suck." These videos were included on the second part of the Closure VHS set. Peter Christopherson also compiled these videos along with an alternate version of "Gave Up" into a very violent and extreme long-form video known as the Broken Movie.
The release of Broken followed on from a major disagreement between Trent Reznor and his record label at the time, TVT Records, and the influence of the conflict is evident in multiple aspects of the record. After the credits in the packaging, a line reads "no thanks: you know who you fucking are" followed by "the slave thinks he is released from bondage only to find a stronger set of chains." This is most likely directed towards TVT Records' Steve Gottlieb, who refused to allow Reznor out of his contract, resulting in a legal battle between the two parties. A direct reference to Gottlieb appears in one of the music videos for "Gave Up", where the words "FUCK YOU STEVE" can be spotted on a computer screen.
Reznor has also stated that during the Pretty Hate Machine Tour the songs grew more aggressive when played by a live band compared to their studio counterparts. Violence on-stage also became a common feature at their shows as a result of the band venting pent-up frustration and anger on their instruments. Consequently, Broken sounds much more abrasive and harsher with the increased prominence of distorted guitars, amongst other things.
On this EP, there are louder mixes and more distortion on every instrument, including a classic Mellotron MKIV (originally owned by John Lennon), which can be heard most noticeably on the track "Gave Up". Reznor said he wanted the album to be "an abrasive, hard-to-listen-to thing...I wanted to make a record that the first time you hear it you don't like it, but you might want to hear it again, but by the third time it's pretty cool. By the fifth time, you really like it and possibly by the tenth time you're not sick of it and now it all makes sense."
In an interview with Keyboard Magazine in 1994, Reznor elaborated on the EP's unique guitar textures:
Broken, for example, had a lot of that super-thick chunk sound. Almost every guitar sound on that record was me playing through an old Zoom pedal, direct, and then going into Turbosynth. Then I used a couple of key ingredients to make it sound unlike any real sound in the world, and layered about four of them together. By then, it wasn't a guitar anymore. It's an awesome sound.
In an interview with Alternative Press in 1993, Reznor discussed the writing and instrumentation:
I tried doing an album that I actually just wrote on guitar rather than my tried-and-true method of a drum machine and keyboards. So with the exception of "Happiness in Slavery" all songs were written on guitar. I was gonna make it totally stripped down to guitar, bass and drums but as I started it I realized I could easily fall into another trap. What might sound interesting to me - because I'm not used to it - may sound like a garage band to the world. So we just took the three instruments and sampled 'em, fucked with 'em, processed them. It's kind of overboard, we did go crazy. It's kind of dense, too dense. It's over analyzed - every song has 20 different melodies that you won't hear the first five or ten times you listen, or maybe never.
All of these songs have been played live over the years. Some tracks were played as early as 1991 on the Lollapalooza Tour, though "Last" wasn't played until Performance 2007 tour. The EP was played live and sequentially in full (including "Physical" and "Suck") on the first date of the Cold And Black And Infinite Tour.
- Writing, performance and production: Trent Reznor
- (2,3 and 6) Production: Flood, Trent Reznor
Caution: Not for use with mono devices
- Management: John A. Malm, Jr. for Conservative
- Assistants: Brian Liesegang, Sean Beavan, Chris Vrenna
- Additional engineers, etc. along the way: Paul Kendall, the Bill Kennedy, Leo Herrera, John (Genghis) Aguto, Mike Baumgartner, Martin Brumbach, Trevor Bum-Cleaver Sadler
- Extra real drums on 2 and 6: Martin Atkins, Chris Vrenna
- Barks and roars: Maise
- Studios: Hell (New Orleans), Royal Recorders (Lake Geneva), South Beach Studios (Miami Beach), Village Recorder (Los Angeles), A&M (Los Angeles), Pig (Beverly Hills)
- Mastering: Tom Baker at Futuredisc
- Merchandise: Paul Steels, Jerry Long
- Legal: Michael S. Toorock
- Booking: Gerry Gerrard for Intertalent
- Publicity: Sioux Zimmerman
- Thank you: Jimmy Iovine, Ross Earls, Island UK, Eric Greenspan, Rick Rubin, Joe McEwen, Seymour Stein, Susie Tallman, Mark O'Shea, Ian Copeland, A&M Studios and Kevin Westenberg, Sheira Rees-Davies
- No thanks: You know who you fucking are
The slave thinks he is released from bondage only to find a stronger set of chains.
- Sleeve design and photography: Gary Talpas for Black Sun
- ©1992 Leaving Hope and ©1992 TT Music, Inc.
- 7 written by A. Ant ©1980 CBS Records, Inc.
- 8 written by T. Reznor/Pigface ©1991 Thumbless music, Leaving Hope and TVT Music, Inc.
"Caution: Not for use with mono devices"
A warning about mono devices appears in the liner notes. Trent Reznor gave the following explanation for this warning:
Regarding the warning for 'mono' devices... Without getting too far in detail, a scientific property of sound is its 'phase'. When recording music in stereo, you're supposed to be aware of its phase. If not, certain parts of the sound will disappear when it's played in mono. So, we discovered that by messing around with the phase, we could make elements of the music stand out rather oddly. (remember Q-sound? -it's based on the same type of principle) So...certain songs on 'broken' we mixed out of phase (because we felt like it) BUT... The songs don't sound right on mono devices (like some radios or TVs). Has anyone heard 'happiness in slavery' on the radio? I heard it on KROQ in LA and the snare drum was gone through most of the song. (and yes, it kind of destroys the groove!) So, basically, that's what that means.
An A4-sized press sheet included with the UK 12" vinyl promo includes the following passage from Reznor:
Broken was secretly recorded from march to august 1992 in a variety of locations without the permission of the record label to ensure it could fester without Divine intervention now They just leave me alone and let me do what I want
Broken was a hard recording to make Broken is an ugly record made during an ugly time in my life Broken marks phase three of nine inch nails: the becoming I am starting to realize what this is all about and I don't like it
Flood starting out producing but I ended up I'm not sure why
maybe I am what everybody seems to think I am
nine inch nails is still not a real band with real people playing real instruments there will be no touring for Broken
I am starting work on my new full-length recording - The Downward Spiral - which I hope will be finished the beginning of 1993
some will come along for the ride, some won't
Trent Reznor, 1992
A similar Letter-sized press sheet was released in the US, with the EP's lyrics included along with the message.
The re-release of The Downward Spiral (along with Trent's own words, shown below) started rumors that Broken/Fixed could eventually be re-released in high definition stereo and surround sound.
Definitive 2017 Edition Vinyl
A vinyl reissue was announced in December 2016 and began shipping in August 2017, with further vinyl reissues of the other major NIN releases to follow.
Trent Reznor and NIN art director John Crawford set out to make the “definitive editions” of all the main NIN releases on vinyl. Reznor: "We want to present the catalog as it was intended to be, with no compromises. That means a careful remastering of the audio from the original sources, a careful and painstaking recreation of the artwork, pristine materials, some surprises and an insane attention to detail that you probably won’t notice… but it matters to us. No extra bullshit and gimmicks – the “real” records in their truest form available at a reasonable price."
The B side of the vinyl is an etching with a cryptic message circling around the surface in a spiral fashion, reducing in size as it goes. It begins with lines from "Last" ("this isn't meant to last this is for right now") before descending into a rant, with some lines deliberately scratched out. This edition of the vinyl comes with a digital download card and a booklet containing photos and an essay about the album, written by Jason Pettigrew. It also retains the original vinyl's format of having the two bonus tracks on a separate 7" record.