There weren’t many bright spots for fans of hard rock and heavy metal in the 2020 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame class, since Judas Priest, Motörhead, and Soundgarden were all shut out. A big exception was the inclusion of Nine Inch Nails. Trent Reznor was more surprised by this than just about anyone.
“I’m quite in shock,” he told Rolling Stone shortly after learning the news. “When I look back at how Nine Inch Nails are received, it always seems like we fall between the cracks or we’re not in this category or ‘that thing.’ I don’t know if it’s a defense mechanism, but I just assumed we’d stay in that category, so I’m pleasantly surprised to see us acknowledged. It feels pretty good.”
Nine Inch Nails have an enormous cult audience and continue to headline festivals and pack arenas whenever they tour, but the mainstream culture hasn’t paid them much attention since the mid-Nineties when The Downward Spiral introduced teens all over America to industrial music and Trent Reznor became an unlikely MTV star.
Weeks after the release of the “March of the Pigs” single in February 1994, the video even showed up on Beavis and Butt-Head’s TV screen. They spent much of the video banging their heads, commenting on Reznor’s “shiny pants,” and complaining that the “doesn’t it make you feel better” part was too soft. “This part of the song sucks,” said Butt-Head. “These guys need to just concentrate on rocking.”
Reznor has come a long way since those days. He’s now the father to five children, an elder statesmen of rock and the creator of the some of the most acclaimed film scores in the past decade of cinema, even winning an Academy Award for his work on The Social Network. But at May’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony, the old Trent will come out when it’s time to play some of the classics. And Beavis and Butt-Head, wherever they are these days, will surely be delighted.