Pretty Hate Machine
Pretty Hate Machine (also known as Halo 2) is the first studio album by Nine Inch Nails. It was released on October 20, 1989 by TVT Records in the US, and on October 12, 1991 in the UK, and was a huge success. The first single off of the album, Down In It, was released on September 27, 1989. It received radio airplay for the aforementioned single as well as subsequent singles Head Like A Hole and Sin. The former also serves as a companion remix album of sorts to Pretty Hate Machine.
- "Head Like A Hole" – 4:59
- "Terrible Lie" – 4:38
- "Down In It" – 3:46
- "Sanctified" – 5:48
- "Something I Can Never Have" – 5:54
- "Kinda I Want To" – 4:33
- "Sin" – 4:06
- "That's What I Get" – 4:30
- "The Only Time" – 4:47
- "Ringfinger" – 5:40
- The 2010 remastered edition adds "Get Down, Make Love," originally a B-side on Sin, on the end.
A1 "Head Like A Hole" – 4:59
A2 "Terrible Lie" – 4:38
A3 "Down In It" – 3:46
A4 "Sanctified" – 5:48
A5 "Something I Can Never Have" – 5:54
B1 "Kinda I Want To" – 4:33
B2 "Sin" – 4:06
B3 "That's What I Get" – 4:30
B4 "The Only Time" – 4:47
B5 "Ringfinger" – 5:40
- The 2010 remastered edition is split across three sides: side 1 has A1 through A4, side 2 has A5 through B3, and side 3 has B4 & B5 along with "Get Down, Make Love" on the end.
Recording and Purest Feeling
Working nights at Right Track Studio as a handyman and janitor, Trent Reznor used studio "down time" to record and develop his own music. Playing most of the keyboards, drum machines, guitars, and samplers himself, he recorded a demo. Teaming up with manager John A. Malm, Jr. they sent the demo to various record labels. Reznor received serious offers from many of them. He signed a deal with TVT Records who, until then, were known mainly for releasing novelty and television jingle records.
After the album was released, the aforementioned demo surfaced on a bootleg called Purest Feeling. It contains the original demo recordings of most of the tracks found on the album, as well as a couple that were not used ("Purest Feeling" and "Maybe Just Once").
Pretty Hate Machine was recorded in various studios around the world with Reznor collaborating with some of his most idolized producers - Flood, Keith LeBlanc, Adrian Sherwood, and John Fryer. Flood was originally supposed to produce the entire album, but couldn't because of his prior commitment with Depeche Mode. After the album was finished, TVT Records were not happy about the direction the album had taken from the original demos. This would lead to friction between Reznor and the label. John Fryer elaborated:
We were trying to make the hardest record we could make. It was very strange because we made it, we thought it sounded brilliant, we had it on the big speakers just blowing us away. Then someone from the record company came in — and because the demos were more synthy and not as industrial as the album, he listened to it and his mouth dropped open and he said "You've ruined this record." But of course it's gone on to be a classic. It was done in 20 days. I think it was a good thing that we made records so quickly back then because there's a lot of energy in there and mistakes are left in, so it sounds human and it's not blanded out over time.
Instrumentation and Samples
In a 1990 interview with Keyboard magazine, Reznor gave some details on what went into the album:
Where did you get the samples that you used on the album?
A couple of people helped me. I'd say, "if you hear anything cool in a movie or any place else, just throw it onto cassette, and I'll dump it into the sampler." Of course, they were all hot to do it for a couple of days, then their interest waned and their output stopped. But every drum sound on Pretty Hate Machine is off of somebody else‘s record. I'd just gotten the Emax but I hated the factory sounds, and I didn't have anything transferred over from the Emulator. So I got a couple of albums out - Front 242, Scritti Politti, a bunch of things - and nicked sounds from here and there. Then I sequenced the songs, and took them into the studio, thinking, "Okay, if I'm gonna do it for real with a producer, let's get some real drum sounds." But the ones I had were pretty cool. We just EQ-ed them, and that's it.
Did you take any original industrial noise samples?
Most of those sounds I got from other sources. Part of it was laziness. But another part was, "That's a cool sound". I'd Turbosynth it, or put it in Alchemy and EQ it until it came out as a weird new sound. 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. I didn't go out with a DAT machine and record any thing. That's something I want to do for the next album - maybe dedicate a month to accumulating good sounds. But I had so much work heaped on me that I didn't have time to do that sort of thing. When you're in the world of independent labels, you don't have four weeks to mix two tracks.
What are some of the more memorable samples on your album?
On the last chorus of "Sanctified," you'll hear a weird little beat; that's kind of an obvious one. At the end of the last song on the album, "Ringfinger," the idea was to get as many loops playing at the same time as possible. We got about 12 before we ran out of channels. For a lot of weird percussion things, I would cheat: I'd get a track up, and if I couldn't find something that would make a groove, I'd take, say, a Public Enemy two-bar loop, turn it backwards, modulate it through Turbosynth with an oscillator tuned to the pitch of the song, and get this weird flanging-type thing that's in key. No one would guess that‘s actually another song playing. Every drum fill on "Terrible Lie" is lifted intact from some where. There are six other songs playing through that cut, recorded on tape, in and out, depending on where they worked.
"Terrible Lie" also features a very provocative dissonant theme right after the false ending.
That sound has quite an interesting history. It started out as a woodblock. I ran it through a distortion pedal, sampled it, then did my Emax trick by dropping it down a couple of octaves. Then I chopped off the beginning of it. I might also have put an envelope on it with Turbosynth. That's probably my favorite sound on the record.
What was the source of the piano sound on "Something I Can Never Have"?
That‘s the one song I kind of backed away from. I did that in London, with John Fryer. He's done a lot of things on the 4 A.D. label, like Cocteau Twins, System Event, Xymox. There's a dreamy quality to a lot of the stuff that he produces, so that track lent itself to him. It ended up being some sample off an [Akai] S900 with the filter way, way down. He's the reverb master, so it was buried in the AMS reverb. All the weird stuff in the background is from a project he does called This Mortal Coil, which is a collaboration of 4 A.D. artists. He had a bunch of half-inch tapes that they had done for backing tracks, with bass guitars slowed down. I was listening to them while he was mixing other things on the tape, checking out what was there, and accidentally brought this up in the mix. We recorded it on a couple of tracks of 24- track. Somehow it worked perfectly.
"That's What I Get" followed an unusual arrangement pattern, with a really big intro, after which the tune gradually diminished to nothing.
Initially, I didn't intend that track to be on the album. It was supposed to be a b-side or something like that. Lyrically, it didn't fit the flow of the record. So I figured I'd approach it in a different way, rather than in the Nine Inch Nails formula of small, big, small, big, big, small-verse, chorus, etc. We had kind of run out of arrangement ideas, so we just threw up some loops and things. The percussion on it wasn't ten different parts; it was one loop that John had from something else, and it worked. He's got 600 disks of weird things I've never heard of.
There doesn't seem to be a lot of synth on the album.
Actually, there was. I used a Prophet-VS, an Oberheim Xpander, and a little bit of Minimoog, which was down more than up in the studio. I've had the Xpander since it came out. I've always considered it a great analog machine. It's the only thing I've ever owned that‘s never let me down. But I'd gotten to the point where it was cumbersome to program. I had the same ten sounds I always thought were great in it. Then, when I worked with Flood, he breathed new life into it for me. He's absolutely a master of programming the Xpander. We really got into the FM section, doing some weird modulation things I'd never attempted and coming up with very strange, non-analog sounds. That ended up being a big part of what we did for a lot of weird modulating sounds. "Terrible Lie" was all Oberheim.
For more information, see Pretty Hate Machine Tour
The album also gained popularity through word-of-mouth and developed an underground following. Reznor quickly hired a band for touring with Skinny Puppy, The Jesus and Mary Chain and Peter Murphy, including guitarist and future Filter/Army of Anyone frontman Richard Patrick. Nine Inch Nails' live set was notorious for louder, more aggressive versions of the studio songs, and also for destroying their instruments at the end of sets. Reznor preferred using the heel of his boots to strip the keys from keyboards. Taking inspiration from the photographer who did NIN's early press shots, the band would douse themselves in cornstarch before taking the stage. This practice would continue through the Fragility tour.
All Pretty Hate Machine era songs have been played live. Outtake song "Maybe Just Once" was played during the earliest dates with Skinny Puppy, but "Purest Feeling" has never been played.
The entire album was covered by a string quartet in 2005 as The String Quartet Tribute to Nine Inch Nails' Pretty Hate Machine, arranged by Eric Gorfain.  It was later re-arranged using retro computers and game consoles by Inverse Phase and released as Pretty Eight Machine. 
Pretty Hate Machine went out of print through TVT Records, but was reissued by Rykodisc Records on November 22, 2005 with slight changes in the packaging. Prudential owned TVT's Nine Inch Nails recordings, but Rykodisc leased the rights. Reznor had expressed an interest in creating a "deluxe edition" with surround sound remastering and new/rare remixes, similar to the re-release of The Downward Spiral. Rykodisc liked the idea, but not enough to pay Reznor to do so.
In April 2010, Bicycle Music bought the entirety of TVT's catalogue, including Pretty Hate Machine. They confirmed that they would be reissuing the album once more, and there was speculation that they would be willing to release the deluxe edition proposed by TVT in 2005.
The co-publishing rights to Trent Reznor’s Nine Inch Nails catalog include the songs from all album releases from Pretty Hate Machine through Year Zero. As well, in acquiring the master recording rights to NIN’s groundbreaking debut, Pretty Hate Machine, Bicycle will be responsible for re-releasing this album which has been out of print and unavailable through digital distribution outlets for several years. “It goes without saying how important these works are to the entire landscape of Alternative Rock. Our team sees incredible creative and business opportunities with this catalog and we look forward to working with our new partners and artists," said Steve Salm, Partner at Bicycle.
I'm happy to finally announce the re-issue of the first Nine Inch Nails record "Pretty Hate Machine", releasing worldwide 11/22. UMe and Bicycle Music Group managed to locate the original mixes, so I went in the studio with Tom Baker and remastered it for a greatly improved sonic experience. In addition, Rob reinterpreted Gary Talpas' original cover to make for a fresh new package.
It's been an interesting trip watching the fate of this record float from one set of hands to another (a long and depressing story) but it's finally wound up in friendly territory, allowing us to polish it up a bit and present it to you now. We had fun revisiting this old friend, hope you enjoy.
The nin.com subsite phm.nin.com was set up to promote the re-release.
In March 2011 an ETS user named wishtheend contacted Tom Baker at Precision Mastering with some questions about the mastering of the re-release:
- Vinyl was mastered from hi-res/24-bit source audio (i'm going to guess 96khz, but he didn't specify)
- The CDs had a separate production master, made from the same hires/24-bit source the Vinyl Production Master was made from)
- The Vinyl Production Master was about 4-6db RMS lower (maybe more) than the levels the CD Production Master was taken to
- When the actual vinyl discs were cut, an additional low-filter (hipass), desser and hyper-elliptical filter were put in place.
Halo I-IV is a limited edition vinyl box set released by Concord/Bicycle Music for Record Store Day in November 2015. It contains the original version of Pretty Hate Machine on 180 gram vinyl, as well as the domestic versions of all three 12" singles released from the album on 120 gram vinyl. None of the music in this set is remastered.
Reznor stated in one of his posts on the Prodigy internet service in the early 90s that "the cover of PHM is a photo of the blades of some sort of turbine stretched vertically so they would look somewhat like bones or a rib cage."
When we began the Pretty Hate Machine remaster project, Trent discussed with me the idea of tweaking the original artwork a bit to reflect that this was a different version of the album, updated from its original release. We talked about maybe just changing the color scheme a bit – Trent was keen on losing the distinctly 80′s hot pink color, for one. It seemed like a fairly straightforward project, as I certainly didn’t want to try and radically alter an album cover I’d been looking at since I was a teenager, and that some fans had known very well for more than two decades.
The first bump in the road was that no one had the original artwork. We left no stone unturned – we even reached out to the original designer, Gary Talpas, but he had given all his materials to Nothing Records long ago. Our best guess is that those materials were lost somewhere in Trent’s split with his old management. I tried scanning the old vinyl cover, but it was poorly printed and looked like an absolute mess when scanned. Even after cleaning it up a bit, attempting to separate the colors was fairly disastrous, and the resolution was terrible.
In 2004 I redesigned NIN’s The Downward Spiral for its 10th anniversary Deluxe Edition. In that case, Trent still had all of Russell Mills’ original art pieces that were used in the album, so I was able to re-photograph them and present the artwork in a new and interesting way. With this album, I didn’t have that luxury. It became clear to me that I was going to have to start from scratch.
I tried a number of different approaches – I even got some various mechanical parts from hardware stores and arranged them in a way that resembled the shape of the cover image (I’d remembered reading long ago that the original image was taken of some sort of factory machine, with spokes that looked like ribs), and photographed it in different ways, then attempted to push the contrast of the photos and pull shapes out of them. Nothing was working out very well though. It either looked too far away from the original cover, or like a weird, sad imitation of it.
Finally, I decided to painstakingly recreate the original cover as closely as possible. Using my scan of the original as a template, I digitally painted the image in extremely high resolution, the same way I’d approach an illustration. I used a meticulous set of masks to recreate the “interlaced” horizontal line effect of the original cover. After a lot of trial-and-error, I eventually finished with a new version of the original artwork, created in a very different way, but retaining the same spirit.
At this point I was free to play with the color scheme. I tried a wide variety of colors, ranging from darker, more muted versions of the original color scheme, to ones that looked nothing like the original. The favorite – both of Trent and myself – was the dark blue/blue/off-white combo used in the final image. It was a bit similar to a PHM t-shirt that’s been around for a while, so there was a sense of familiarity in the colors.
I then carefully recreated the title font from the original cover, and the black frames it sat in. The font, a stretched-out version of Helvetica, looked dated to me, but I wanted to be respectful of the original design and not mess with it too much. When Trent saw what I’d done though, he wanted to try a new approach to the title text, as he felt the font was just too dated and could use a more modern look for this remaster. So I went back to the original album and looked at the font that had been used for the credits and lyrics, which turned out to be a slight variation of a font Gary Talpas later used in The Downward Spiral. Putting the PHM title in that font was way too similar to The Downward Spiral, but when I put it in caps it created an odd mix of vintage NIN and modern NIN – perfect for a 2010 remaster of a 1989 album. Trent liked this approach much better, and we settled on the way we wanted the title set on the album cover. The image sitting behind it – my recreated artwork – still felt a bit flat, though.
To push the art a bit further, I got the idea of printing the image out at a very high DPI and photographing it with a narrow depth of field, allowing parts of it to fall out of focus. This gave a new depth to the previously flat artwork, and it turned out to be exactly what the image was missing. After quite a few experiments, I ended up with the image that is now the cover, and immediately felt I’d finally gotten this thing to where I’d wanted it to be. I sent it to Trent without any of the type or anything on it, and while he’d been somewhat lukewarm on the previous material, he was immediately excited about this one. “That looks fucking great,” he told me, “we’ve got it.” I put the black frame and our new type treatment over the new cover image, and everything clicked. The new cover, with the unmistakable shape of the “ribs” and the interlacing effect, remained respectful to the original and still recognizable, while adding a more modern feel and a “fresh coat of paint” on the colors. This is not meant to replace the original cover. This is the cover for this 2010 remastered edition of the album.
The original CD cover was oriented sideways, which had never felt right to me, as the vinyl cover had a distinct vertical orientation of the full image (something I preserved in the new vinyl edition). I’d always wondered if it was a byproduct of the way the insert needed to sit in the jewel case. Either way, I wanted to bring the vertical orientation over to the CD this time around, but I also wanted to preserve the way the whole image folded out from the cover in the original CD insert. We certainly didn’t want to put this in a jewel case, so to accomplish the vertical fold-out, I came up with a unique L-shaped digipak package, where a panel folds down from the cover to reveal a vertical extension of the artwork. I also decided to put the black frame and the title text on a transparent O-card that slides over the digipak (very similar to what we did on The Downward Spiral Deluxe Edition) – so when you slide the O-card off, the image underneath is bare. It turns the black “frame” around the image into an actual frame, adding a new layer of depth to the art.
For the remainder of the package, I was cautious not to add much extra artwork and overdo it. The original sleeve was extremely minimal, only using type on black amidst a few variations of the cover image here and there for the internal art, so I wanted to preserve that. Some might say it’s boring to have plain black pages with text on them for the lyrics, but I’d rather stay true to what had been done previously than add a bunch of art and risk having it feel like an altogether different album. The only other piece of art in the original insert was a photograph of Trent. Revisiting that, Trent wasn’t incredibly excited about including it in this version, and we didn’t have the original photograph anyway, so we left it out.
Throughout this process, I was very concerned with being respectful to the original artwork. This is not my album, and as a fan for many years, I have the same attachment to the original art that many other fans do. So my tendency was to play it safe, but it was Trent who felt a bit less precious about the original art, and he pushed me to do something that was visually further away from what I had originally intended. I think in the end we found a great middle ground, and we’re both really pleased with how it turned out. Recreating the art – somewhat by necessity – was a huge honor, and so far it seems fans are generally pretty pleased with what we’ve done…even if there’s no pink in it.
The only rejected ideas were my own ideas that I rejected before I showed them to anybody – mostly in the department of trying to recreate the artwork photographically. That was the only time I was tempted to do something dramatically different from the original art – for the most part my instinct was to not drift very far from the original, as it just didn’t feel right to me. Redesigning an album you listened to over and over again as a teenager is a pretty strange task, so I was understandably cautious.
I don’t know what Gary thinks of the new design, but he was very friendly when we reached out with him and said he really liked all the stuff we’ve been doing with NIN’s design in recent years. I hope he appreciates what we did with the new cover.
I thought it was going to be a simple job, but the fact that we didn’t have the source art made it actually quite a project. Between my various failed experiments at recreating the art photographically, the meticulous way I ended up doing it by hand, and the amount of finessing it took to find the right presentation, it was actually quite a bit of work, and we had a pretty abrupt deadline for it. All things considered I’m pleased with the way it turned out.
- Nine Inch Nails is Trent Reznor
- Exclusive representation: John A. Malm, Jr. for J Artist Management
- Invaluable assistance: Chris Vrenna
- Drone guitar at the end of "Sanctified": Richard Patrick
- Additional synth programming: Flood, Tim Niemi
- Digital editing and continuity: Trent Reznor, Chris Vrenna
- Mastering: Tony Dawsey at Masterdisk, NYC
- Sleeve: Gary Talpas for Föhn Design
- Portrait photography: Jeffrey Silverthorne
- Thank you: Bart Koster (The Right Track), Mike Shea, Michael S. Toorock, Roz Earls, Seb Shelton, Bryan Grant, Larry Bole, Alison Fryer, Michelle de Frasia, Gerry Gerard, Martin Horne, Sioux Zimmerman, Paul Conelly, Ron Musarra, Steve Woolard, Mark Jowett and all at Nettwek, Howie Klein, Preston Sullivan/Carlyle, Kevin Donoghue/Native, Frederic Wahleer/Sub Rosa
- Special thanks: All at TVT Records, James Dowdall and everybody at Island
- Kicking ass way beyond the call of duty: John A. Malm, Jr.
- Ideas and sounds (with all due respect): Clive Barker, Jane's Addiction, Prince, Public Enemy, This Mortal Coil, Success (Screaming Trees U.K.), various unknown others
- All songs written, arranged, programmed, and performed by Trent Reznor
- Studios: The Right Track (Cleveland), Blackwing (London), Unique (New York), Synchro Sound (Boston), Roundhouse (London)
It should be noted that the line "Kicking ass way beyond the call of duty: John A. Malm, Jr." is not present in the RYKO CD rerelease.
2010 Remaster Credits
- nine inch nails is trent reznor
- produced by trent reznor with flood, john fryer, keith leblanc, adrian sherwood
- mastered by. tom baker at precision mastering (hollywood)
- art direction. rob sheridan
- original sleeve. gary talpas
- remastering preparation. blumpy
- studios. the right track (cleveland), blackwing (london), unique (new york), synchro sound (boston), roundhouse (london)
- thank you. chris vrenna, bart koster, ross rosen, michael patterson, bicycle
- fuck you. steve gottlieb and tvt
- exclusive representation. rebel waltz, inc.
- all songs written, arranged, programmed, and performed by trent reznor.
- except as noted*
- ©1989-2010 ARLOVOL MUSIC/LEAVING HOPE MUSIC. ADMIN. BY PENNY FARTHING MUSIC (ASCAP)
- TVT Records TVT 2610-1 - 12" Vinyl
- TVT Records TVT 2610-2 - CD
- Rykodisc RLP 10836-1 - 12" Vinyl
- Rykodisc RCD 10836 - CD
- Bicycle B0015767-01 - 12" Vinyl
- Bicycle B0015099-02 - CD
- Bicycle Music press release confirming their purchase of Pretty Hate Machine
- Reissue press release
- Interview with Rob Sheridan about the cover redesign
- Official remaster website (archived at Portrait of Decay)
- Pretty Hate Machine EPK on YouTube
- Pretty Hate Machine at nincatalog.com
- Pretty Hate Machine at Amazon
- Pretty Hate Machine at eBay