"Ruiner" is the sixth track on The Downward Spiral. In 2004, a demo version was released with the 10th Anniversary 2-disc Deluxe Edition of The Downward Spiral.
Trent Reznor stated it was "the hardest song to write" for the record in a 1994 interview. "I still don't know if I got it right," he said. "I have such a bad vibe from that song now--from it sucking in so many different ways. That was actually two different songs stuck together."
- Production: Flood and Trent Reznor
- Mixing Engineer: Alan Moulder
- The Downward Spiral
- Further Down The Spiral
This is the original album version. Dominated through its verses and pre-choruses by a danceable drum loop and accompanying synthesizers, the verses are sung somewhat maliciously, only to become quite fast and layered in the pre-choruses. In contrast, the chorus uses much simpler instrumentation, relegated only to a simpler drum loop and loud, powerful synthesizer chords, with Reznor talking quietly yet intensely on top. The bridge of the song goes in a completely different direction, slowing it down with a panned bassline, manipulated live drum takes, and a fuzzy guitar solo. Returning to the chorus afterward, the song ends suddenly on the word "stop." The song's drum beat is sampled from "Beat Box" by Art of Noise. The bridge features a pitched-up sample of the elephant sounds from the opening scene of David Lynch's The Elephant Man, and a buried scream from the film Parents.
The bridge of this song features a rare guitar solo by Reznor. In the April 1994 issue of Guitar World, he was asked about it:
GW: I wanted to ask you about the solo in "Ruiner." How did you get that really nasty, ultra-quantized sound?
REZNOR: Ah yes, the great, Pink Floyd-esque, Seventies-sounding section of the song. That's just a preset on the Zoom. I think I accidentally called up the wrong patch. I'm not a soloist. I was just laughing when I was playing with this ridiculous sound, recording into the computer saying like, "This is so cheesy," you know? I later realized that I basically tried to play a "Comfortably Numb"-type solo with this sound. I played the song for Chris, our drummer, and I was thinking, "He's going to start laughing. It's silly." But he goes, "Man, that guitar section was fucking great."
Running Time: 5:35
This remix is only available on the international edition (i.e. V2) of Further Down The Spiral. Throughout, there are glitch effects splicing up Reznor's voice. The fast verses, switched in order, are louder and clearer than the studio version. As well, the synthesizer chorus is replaced by a more guitar-driven one.
- Remix: Charlie Clouser
Running Time: 4:51
This early version is available on The Downward Spiral deluxe edition. In it, the verses are almost whispered while the pre-choruses are sung in Reznor's lower-middle vocal range, and the chorus is whispered quieter.
"Ruiner" was performed live on the Self-Destruct Tour but would be retired until the Performance 2007 tour, when it was played again for the first time in almost 13 years.
You had all of them on your side, didn't you? You believed in all your lies, didn't you? The Ruiner's got a lot to prove he's got nothing to lose and now he made you believe The Ruiner's your only friend well he's the living end to the cattle he deceives The raping of the innocent you know the Ruiner ruins everything he sees Now the only pure thing left in my fucking world is wearing your disease How did you get so big? How did you get so strong? How did you get so hard? How did it get so long? You had to give them all a sign, didn't you? You had to covet what was mine, didn't you? The Ruiner's a collector he's an infector serving his shit to his flies Maybe there will come a day when those that you keep blind will suddenly realize Maybe it's a part of me you took to a place I hoped it would never go And maybe that fucked me up much more than you'll ever know How did you get so big? How did you get so strong? How did you get so hard? How did it get so long? What you gave to me My perfect ring of scars You know I can see What you really are You didn't hurt me nothing can hurt me You didn't hurt me nothing can stop me now
- Guitar World 4/94 interview transcript