|Parent company||Universal Music Group|
John Malm Jr.|
|Genre||Industrial rock, electronic|
|Country of origin||U.S.|
|Location||Cleveland, Ohio, New Orleans, Louisiana, New York City, New York|
Nothing Records was an American record label specializing in industrial rock and electronic music, founded by John Malm Jr. and Trent Reznor in 1992. It is considered an example of a vanity label, where an artist is able to run a label with some degree of independence from within a larger parent company—in this case, Interscope Records was the parent company.
Nothing Records became largely defunct in 2004 due to a lawsuit by Reznor against John Malm. The label became inactive as a whole following several further releases—the Beside You in Time (February 2007) home video was the label's final release.
Still, the label gained semi-iconic status within the industrial rock scene, and even acquired its own online-fanzine in Sick Among the Pure, although this later became a more general industrial fanzine, and ceased to exist at all in 2005. The Nothing label would often reward its fanbase over the Internet — one form of this outreach was Radio Nothing: an exclusive collection of free MP3 music streams, compiled by Nothing label artists, producers and fans.
In September 2004, coinciding with Trent Reznor leaving New Orleans for the west coast, the Nine Inch Nails website announced "nothing studios: 1994-2004", suggesting that Nothing Studios was closed. This later proved to be the end of the associated record label as well. Speculation among listeners that the label could continue ceased when Reznor successfully sued co-founder John Malm for fraud and breach of fiduciary duty (amongst others), ensuring that the Nothing era was over.
In a May 5, 2005 post to nin.com, Trent wrote, "To be clear: my involvement with Nothing Records is over. Is Nothing Records alive or an entity? You'd have to ask John Malm (we're not really speaking that much these days)... Nothing studios is still in New Orleans and I'm not sure what I'll do with it. I'll figure that out when I finish touring."
Beside You In Time (February 2007) was the last release to carry the Nothing Records logo on its packaging. The logo also appears in the end credits.
In addition to Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson, the label also signed and released albums from 2wo, Pig, Pop Will Eat Itself, Prick, 12 Rounds, Einstürzende Neubauten, The The, and Meat Beat Manifesto. Additionally, Coil was under contract for a record but it was never delivered (though some of the songs from the slated Nothing album appeared in reworked form on The Ape of Naples and The New Backwards). John Bergin was also signed briefly under the name Trust Obey, but the album he recorded ("Hands of Ash") was instead released in 1996 on Fifth Colvmn Records with a sticker that quoted Reznor's reaction to the completed work: "Not a great commercial potential."
Nothing also distributed music from Warp Records, Sheffield, England's venerable electronic music label, under an exclusive license in the U.S., with albums by Autechre, Plaid, and Squarepusher (although Warp's Aphex Twin appeared on the Further Down the Spiral release, he was already under a contract with Sire Records in the U.S. at the time). This distribution deal ended when Warp expanded operations into the U.S. market in 2001. Nothing also managed to secure the U.S. release of two albums from England's Blue Planet Recordings. The two albums were slightly different than the UK releases. Plug's "Drum and Bass for Papa" included an extra disc of tracks from earlier EPs, and The Bowling Green's "One Pound Note" omitted one track from the UK release due to problems with sample clearance.
1992-94: Early years
Nothing Records was founded by Trent Reznor and his former manager John Malm Jr. in 1992. Amid pressure from Nine Inch Nails' then-label TVT to produce a follow-up to Pretty Hate Machine, Reznor began to feel the label was hindering his control of the band and requested to terminate their contract, to which they ignored his plea. In response, Reznor secretly began recording under various pseudonyms to avoid record company interference. TVT ultimately put together a deal with Interscope Records (then part of Atlantic Records), in which they would still retain some financial stake, while Reznor worked creatively under a new label. However, Interscope President Jimmy Iovine looked to allow him more creative freedom. Reznor stated:
We made it very clear we were not doing another record for TVT. But they made it pretty clear they weren't ready to sell. So I felt like, well, I've finally got this thing going but it's dead. Flood and I had to record Broken under a different band name, because if TVT found out we were recording, they could confiscate all our shit and release it. Jimmy Iovine got involved with Interscope, and we kind of got slave-traded. It wasn't my doing. I didn't know anything about Interscope. And I was real pissed off at him at first because it was going from one bad situation to potentially another one. But Interscope went into it like they really wanted to know what I wanted. It was good, after I put my raving lunatic act on.
Part of the deal included allowing Reznor the run his own boutique label under the Interscope umbrella, which became Nothing Records. Reznor and Malm began a series of signings to the label, which included the likes of Marilyn Manson, Coil, Prick, Trust Obey, Pop Will Eat Itself and Mondo Vanilli. Reznor stated of the label, "The whole thing I want to do right now is provide a shell to other bands where they can have the benefit of a major label without being fucked with creatively in any way. Let them do what they want to do, make them aware of the business side of things how the money is spent." The label would go on to set up offices in Cleveland, Ohio and New York City, New York, with a recording studio in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Nine Inch Nails
The first release bearing the label's name was Nine Inch Nails' Broken EP. Released September 22, 1992, the EP marked their major label debut and consisted entirely of new material, departing from the electronica and synthpop style of Pretty Hate Machine and instead presenting a considerably heavier sound, which would act as a precursor for Nine Inch Nails' acclaimed second studio album, The Downward Spiral.
The Broken film accompanied the EP, directed by Coil's Peter Christopherson. Five of the eight total tracks, edited down into music videos, were widely censored from television airplay, due to their disturbing content. The complete, uncensored film was never officially released, however it was leaked as a bootleg, which became heavily traded on VHS in the 1990s and later became widely available via the Internet. "Wish" won the 1993 Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance as did "Happiness in Slavery" (live performance at Woodstock '94) in 1996. Contributing to the band's growing mainstream success, Broken debuted to generally positive reactions and peaked at number 7 on the Billboard 200 chart. A companion remix EP, Fixed, was released in late 1992 and featured a remix from future Nothing label-mates Coil.
After Broken, Reznor began his full-length debut for the label, the seminal sophomore album, The Downward Spiral, released March 8, 1994. The album was promoted with the Self Destruct Tour, which included opening Nothing Records acts Marilyn Manson, Pop Will Eat Itself and Pig during various legs. Four songs from the album ("March of the Pigs", "Closer", "Piggy", and "Hurt") became singles. "March of the Pigs" and "Closer" were accompanied by music videos; the "March of the Pigs" video was shot twice (the final version being directed by Coil's Peter Christopherson) and "Closer" was heavily censored. "Piggy" and "Hurt" were released as promotional singles.
A major commercial success, The Downward Spiral established Nine Inch Nails as a reputable force in the 1990s music scene, with its sound being widely imitated and Reznor receiving media hype and multiple honors. The Downward Spiral has been regarded by music critics and audiences as one of the most important albums of the 1990s and was praised for its abrasive, eclectic nature and dark themes, although it was scrutinized by social conservatives for its lyrics. The hit single "Closer" was featured on the remix collection Closer To God, which included Nothing Records acts Coil and Meat Beat Manifesto, A companion remix album, Further Down the Spiral, was released in 1995, which once again included contributions from Nothing act Coil.
Marilyn Manson (Portrait Era)
In the months following the momentum ofThe Downward Spiral, the next release from the label came from Marilyn Manson. One of the earliest signings to the label, Marilyn Manson, real name Brian Warner, first met Reznor in 1990, while enrolled as a student at Broward Community College in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Warner was working towards a degree in journalism and gaining experience in the field by writing articles for a music magazine, 25th Parallel. One of his interviews for the magazine was with Reznor. Manson also performed as a local opener for Nine Inch Nails in July 1990 with his band, then known as Marilyn Manson and The Spooky Kids, at Club Nu in Ft. Lauderdale, FL (a show which also included future Nothing Records act Meat Beat Manifesto). Manson wound up giving Reznor a tape of his material.
Upon forming the Nothing Records imprint, Reznor called Manson and offered to sign him to the label, alongside an opening slot supporting Nine Inch Nails on their upcoming "Self Destruct Tour". At the time, Manson's band had been fielding offers from numerous record companies, including Madonna's Maverick label. Given the promise of total artistic freedom, the band opted to sign to Nothing Records.
Recording sessions for their debut studio album began in July 1993 with Swans producer Roli Mosimann at Criteria Studios in Miami, Florida. Recording a selection of new songs, along with material from their Spooky Kids repertoire, the first version of their debut, titled The Manson Family Album, was completed by the end of September. However, it was not well received. The band's members, along with Reznor, felt Mosimann's production was flat, lifeless and poorly representative of the band's live performances. Seeking a more raw sound, Reznor agreed to rework production of The Manson Family Album in October 1993 at Record Plant Studios in Los Angeles. After seven weeks of mixing and re-recording, the album, retitled Portrait of an American Family, was presented to Nothing's parent label Interscope. The song "Filth" was dropped from the revised album, while the songs "Prelude (The Family Trip)" and "Wrapped In Plastic" were added. The song "Citronella" was renamed "Dogma". Several other minor musical and lyrical differences exist throughout the two versions, such as fewer Charles Manson samples being included in the song "My Monkey".
Upon delivery of the album, Interscope was receiving a lot of negative press for the content of artists on another label they were housing at the time, Death Row Records, and expressed some reservations about releasing the album, which they anticipated could be controversial. Reznor threatened to take the album to another label if necessary, at which time Interscope agreed to release it, on the condition that the band remove some photos from the album sleeve. The album's original cover art featured no text, simply a painting of a clown by John Wayne Gacy (the Gacy painting was later used as album art by the band Acid Bath for the album When the Kite String Pops in 1994). The sleeve photography included Polaroid pictures (faked by Manson and friends) of a mutilated female body, and a photo of what Manson described as "one of those dolls from the 60s and you pull a string on the back of it and the eyes get really big and they change colors." Manson also intended to use a picture of himself as a child sitting nude on a couch in the album's interior artwork. Though no genitalia was shown in the picture and it was taken by his own parents with no vulgar intent, the record label feared it would be misunderstood as child pornography. The ideas of using the Gacy artwork and the nude photos were ultimately dropped and, after a few months delay, the album was released on Nothing Records on July 19, 1994 and peaked at number thirty-five on Billboard's Top Heatseekers album chart, establishing the band as rising stars and a commercial success.
Originally, their song "Snake Eyes And Sissies" from Mosimann's The Manson Family Album sessions was intended to be the band's first single, with a single edit having been created. However, after the Reznor sessions, the album was instead led by the single "Get Your Gunn", followed by "Lunchbox" and "Dope Hat". The album was certified Gold on May 29, 2003 by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in the United States.
Natural Born Killers Soundtrack
During this time, in addition to recording with Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson for the label, Reznor also worked on the soundtrack to Oliver Stone's controversial 1994 film, Natural Born Killers. Reznor oversaw the structure of the soundtrack, which included audio collages from the film and aimed to recreate the style the film itself. Reznor worked on the soundtrack using a portable Pro Tools in his hotel room. Reznor received a producer credit, but did not select the artists chosen for it (which was done by music supervisor Budd Carr). The soundtrack originally included the songs "A Warm Place" and "Something I Can Never Have" by Nine Inch Nails. A new composition from the band, "Burn", was recorded for the soundtrack, with a music video shot in the style of the film (although it was not directed by Stone). Reznor said of the experience:
I approached it with a bit of skepticism, because I'm not real keen on using my music in films. I went and saw this movie, an edit of it, and I was… It just blew me away. I said, "What would the soundtrack be?" I didn't know if he was just going to pick the best fifteen or the most appropriate fifteen [songs]. So, I suggested to Oliver to try to turn the soundtrack into a collage of sound, kind of the way the movie used the music. Make edits of things, and add dialogue; make it something that was interesting rather than just a bunch of previously released music. And he looked at me and goes, "That's good. Yeah, do it."
The resulting soundtrack blended both previously released and unreleased material, spanning the genres of rock, punk, world music, country, hip-hop and more. It was released on August 23, 1994 to commercial and critical success. To date, the soundtrack has sold over 500,000 copies in the United States, making it a gold record. It was also named third best compilation album of 1995 by New Musical Express (December 24, 1994). and one of the "90 Best Albums of the 1990s" by Q magazine (December 1, 1999).
Nine Inch Nails' video for "Burn" was later included on the home video release of the Natural Born Killers: Director's Cut on VHS and laserdisc, but omitted from subsequent editions, such as DVD and blu-ray. The bonus features on the home video editions of the director's cut also included a behind-the-scenes featurette, in which Oliver Stone recollects his experiences working with Reznor on the film.
Pop Will Eat Itself
Capping off a successful year in 1994 at Nothing Records was the arrival of Pop Will Eat Itself, who were licensed by the label for Stateside release. Already established in the UK by the late 1980s, the band (sometimes referred to as PWEI or The Poppies) had a growing fanbase, with albums such as Box Frenzy, This Is the Day...This Is the Hour...This Is This!, Cure for Sanity and The Looks or the Lifestyle?. The latter album peaked at UK No. 15 and featured the Top 30 hit singles "Karmadrome" and "Bulletproof!" Despite healthy sales and successful touring, by January 1993, a shake-up at their longtime label RCA would lead to the band's biggest supporters leaving the company. The remaining executives did not understand the band or their music, suggesting that EMF 'write a hit' for them at one meeting. The band was dropped from the label before their "Get the Girl! Kill the Baddies!" single was released. It went on to peak at number 9 in the UK Singles Chart, becoming the band's biggest hit to date, also making them, at that time, the highest charting act to ever appear on Top of The Pops without a record deal.
In the wake of the RCA shake-up, Pop Will Eat Itself moved to Infectious Records in the UK. A call between PWEI and Nine Inch Nails management would lead to Nothing Records picking up licensing rights for the band in the United States. Former frontman Clint Mansell (who shared songwriting and vocal duties with Graham Crabb) recalled:
Trent had been a fan from the first album for RCA, This Is The Day, This Is The Hour, and he'd seen us play on our first tour in America in Cleveland, and we'd got to know his manager and he'd come and see us play whenever we were in America. And when we got dropped by RCA, my then-manager asked Trent's manager if he knew of labels that were actively looking, and he said "Well, strangely enough we’ve just started our own label and we'd like to sign you," and it was simple as that really.
Dos Dedos Mis Amigos was released on September 19, 1994 on Nothing Records. It marked a change in direction for the band, which had, until that time, featured a sound that blended hip-hop, electronic and alternative influences. Dos Dedos Mis Amigos took on a heavier, industrial rock sound. It was led by the singles "Ich Bin Ein Auslander", "Everything's Cool", "R.S.V.P." and "Underbelly". "Ich Bin Ein Auslander" was accompanied by a music video, which received some airplay on MTV. Around this same time, the band had a high-profile collaboration with The Prodigy, on the track "Their Law" from the album Music for the Jilted Generation. Dos Dedos Mis Amigos peaked at No. 11 in the UK Albums Chart and their single "Everything's Cool" became their ninth Top 30 UK hit. A Japanese edition of Dos Dedos Mis Amigos was released on Midi Music, which included four bonus tracks, all of which have since been released elsewhere by the band.
The band followed up Dos Dedos Mis Amigos with the Amalgamation EP, featuring remixes and additional tracks from the album sessions. The EP was picked up for US release on Nothing, which also released a promo-only single for R.S.V.P., featuring alternate mixes. However, there were several releases tied in to the album in the UK that Nothing opted not to license for release in the States. Infectious Records released singles for "Ich Bin Ein Auslander", "R.S.V.P. / Familus Horribilus", "Everything's Cool" and "Underbelly", none of which received licensing from Nothing. Most notable of all was the remix album Two Fingers My Friends!, which featured acts such as The Orb, Feotus and Die Krupps remixing tracks from Dos Dedos Mis Amigmos. The remix collection was released in Infectious in 1995 in both a single disc set, as well as a limited edition two-disc edition, featuring additional remixes. Two Fingers My Friends! was not picked up for US release by Nothing.
PWEI toured to promote the album and enjoyed a raised profile in the States, but at the end of touring, the band found themselves struggling to continue as a creative force. Work did begin on an untitled follow-up to Dos Dedos Mis Amigos, with the band entering the studio in 1996. Their sixth studio album, which had been intended for Stateside release via Nothing, would not see release before the band broke up, however. Member Graham Crabb quit the band to focus on his ambient project Golden Claw Musics. Members Richard March and Robert "Fuzz" Townshend went on to form the big beat band Bentley Rhythm Ace. Townshend also released two solo albums, while Clint Mansell would end up signing onto Nothing Records as a solo artist. Mansell stated:
I got to the point where I didn’t really know what else we could do, but I don't think that was as much a factor as I just didn’t feel very comfortable in it any more. I was 33 at the time, and playing songs that were written 10 years before, and it just seemed like this wasn't what I wanted to do; I didn't really know what I wanted to do, but I was just becoming more and more aware that I didn't want to do that.
Only two songs from the sixth album's recording sessions were released at the time, both on compilations. A cover of Gary Numan's "Friends" was included on the Numan tribute album Random on the Beggars Banquet label, while the song "Zero Return (Instrumental Mix)" was included on Future Music Magazine's June 1996 sampler FMCD June 1996, which also featured Nothing Records label-mates Meat Beat Manifesto.
Clint Mansell's time as a solo artist for the label would be short-lived, as his career as a film composer blossomed. While Mansell would appear on numerous releases for the label as a remixer and collaborator, as well as an appearance in 1996 on the label's "Nights Of Nothing" label showcase, performing with Nine Inch Nails (which included performances of some Pop Will Eat Itself songs), his planned solo album for Nothing was ultimately scrapped. Only two demos from Mansell's solo album ever surfaced. The songs "Atlantic Crossing" and "The Mechanic" found their way online, by way of Clint Mansell and Nothing Records' official websites (both since defunct). Mansell also put together a streaming mix for "Radio Nothing" on the Nothing Records website, which included "The Mechanic", alongside other tracks from the label. After Mansell's successful work composing the film π, he went on to become a full-time film composer, on such films as Requiem for a Dream, Doom (the soundtrack to which featured an exclusive Mansell remix of Nine Inch Nails' track "You Know What You Are"), The Fountain, The Wrestler, Moon, and Black Swan.
In January 2005, Pop Will Eat Itself reunited for a brief series of shows in the UK, which produced a number of Instant Live albums, whereby ten minutes after the completion of each gig, double live albums of the performance could be purchased. The band also released a preview of newly recorded material (not to be confused with their then-unreleased 1996 material), under the working title of Sonic Noise Byte in November 2005, via their official website, pweination. However, an announcement on the official website in March 2006 confirmed that Mansell and March would no longer be involved in the reformation of the band, due to other work commitments, effectively ending that conception of the PWEI reformation. However, the remaining band members continued as Vileevils, performing live, releasing re-recorded versions of several tracks from the Sonic Noise Byte sessions and releasing two EPs; Demon / Axe Of Men 2010 and Demon / Axe Of Men 2010 Remixes, both of which were credited as featuring Clint Mansell and Pop Will Eat Itself.
Vileevils performed their final live date in December 2008, before recording an unreleased album, which was cancelled prior to release in 2010. Instead, Pop Will Eat Itself finally reformed in 2011, with Graham Crabb serving as the band's only original member, while having the blessing of all the former members. Songs from both the abandoned Vile Evils album, as well as the abandoned Sonic Noise Byte album, were reworked and re-recorded for alongside new material for Pop Will Eat Itself's return album New Noise Designed by a Sadist, released in 2011 on Cooking Vinyl in the UK and Metropolis Records in the US.
The revived PWEI also began a series of reissues of their back-catalog, via the Cherry Red label. On October 7, 2013, the band re-issued Dos Dedos Mis Amigos on Cherry Red, featuring five rare bonus tracks, as well as a second disc; the unreleased 1996 album, now titled A Lick Of The Old Cassette Box. A Lick Of The Old Cassette Box was also released as a limited edition, stand-alone vinyl pressing that same year. Pop Will Eat Itself continues as a full-time project to this day, under the direction of Graham Crabb.
One act to depart during the early era of the label was Mondo Vanilli. Mondo Vanilli (sometimes referred to as MV Inc. or The Artists Formerly Known As Mondo Vanilli) was the brainchild of R. U. Sirius, real name Ken Goffman, an American writer, editor, talk show host, musician and cyberculture personality. Sirius was editor-in-chief of Mondo 2000, a glossy cyberculture magazine published in California during the 1980s and 1990s. It covered cyberpunk topics such as virtual reality and smart drugs, serving as a more anarchic and subversive predecessor to the later-founded Wired magazine. Sirius described the band as "a virtual reality band that would proudly lip-synch, or maybe not, even pretend to play live music on stage - perhaps we would exist totally in virtuality - or else we would do other, more original types of performance to our music." Sirius was backed by members Scrappi DüChamp - real name Dave Fleminger, with whom he had collaborated on previous musical projects and would compose most of the music - and Simone Third Arm, a performance artist introduced to Sirius early into the project's inception.
Mondo Vanilli's involvement with Nothing Records came about through a chance meeting at Reznor's then-home at 10050 Cielo Drive, the site of the infamous Tate murders by members of the Manson Family in 1969. Sirius, a Northern California resident, had left Mondo 2000 three months prior and was visiting Los Angeles with some promotional Mondo Vanilli booklets and demo tapes, to shop them around the L.A. music scene. Sirius had been invited as a guest of Timothy Leary to a housewarming party at the grounds. It was there he met Reznor and gave him some of the Mondo Vanilli recordings, which included the songs "Love Is The Product", "Thanx!" and "Wraparound World." The day after the party, Reznor expressed interest in the band and discussed a deal singing them to Nothing Records. When the contract arrived, however, the band expressed some reservations. Sirius stated:
Well, the first thing that hit us in dealing with Nothing was the recording contract... We received this contract to record six albums for Nothing. I think it came on an Interscope Records letterhead. And we send it to Cara (Burns, then acting attorney for the band) and she freaked. She said it was a typically terrible record industry contract of the sort the big record companies usually gave to new artists, maybe it was even a little worse than average... Anyway, somehow we got word that Trent wanted us to find a producer and a studio and get ready to start recording and we'd all deal with the contract later. We would have $90k to record it. So we scheduled recording time with Jonathan Burnside at Razor's Edge studio. And then Malm got in touch and he didn't want to commit to the full album. He wanted us to go into the studio with $10k instead and record two songs and "see how it goes." So there was clearly this attitude with Reznor's management that we were sort of "Trent's folly" or maybe all of the Nothing artists were viewed that way, except probably Marilyn Manson, since he already had a pretty big following in Florida. So we recorded "Gimme Helter" and "Thanx!" Anyway, the two songs knocked everybody's socks off. So we were given the go ahead to record the whole album.
Recording commenced on the album at San Francisco's Razor's Edge Studios. The finished album, titled IOU Babe was completed in late 1993 and delivered to the label. However, the album was met with resistance from the label. Sirius recalled, "We finished the album right around the end of 1993. In fact, the timing was such that we went to a NIN show in Oakland and handed in the final product in person to his management. This time, we weren’t invited into the dressing room and Reznor never came out to speak to us. I think it was maybe a few weeks after that Tony Ciula from Nothing Records told us that Interscope was making Nothing drop all their artists except NIN and Marilyn Manson but that we could have the album gratis."
The band suddenly found themselves without a label, having been dropped by Nothing. The final recording contract between the two parties had never been signed. However, upon requesting a formal notice of their release from the label, the situation became further complicated and it seemed the band would be unable to shop the album elsewhere. Sirius stated, "When our lawyer asked for a formal notification of this (release from the label), the Interscope lawyer told us that they weren’t going to give us the rights to the music unless some other record company paid off their full bill... and I think they had some other demands as well. In our position, we would have had to have gone to small indie labels, so it was pretty much impossible."
In the wake of the fallout from the label, the band took to publicly criticizing Nothing and Reznor for a time, posting an article called “True Story of Brent Buzzkill and MV Inc,” using psudonyms and parody to recall their side of the story in their experiences with the label. They also recorded a new track for the IOU Babe album, "The Ballad of Brent Buzzkill", aimed at Reznor and the label. Sirious reflected, "Maybe he (Reznor) didn't really get the album, as a whole. We heard he liked some of it. He also went into a well-publicized… ahem… downward spiral around that time. And we did make merciless fun of him for a few years after it all happened... We were pretty mean!"
The band ended up posting the album online for free, originally via member Scrappi DüChamp's now-defunct website. It the years to follow, the album would disappear and reappear online, through numerous outlets, such as Bandcamp, SoundCloud, Internet Archive and The Pirate Bay, with slightly revised tracklists. In 2011, the band stated on their Bandcamp website that a CD edition of the album was forthcoming, though to date, it has never materialized. Trent Reznor was given an unfeigned special thanks in later editions of the IOU Babe album credits.
1995-96: Expansion of the label
1995 was kicked off by the arrival of Prick, led by Reznor's longtime friend and collaborator, Kevin McMahon. Prior to Nothing Records, the two musicians first crossed paths in the 1980s Cleveland music scene. McMahon, a Cleveland native, had spent much of the 70s and 80s fronting the rock band Lucky Pierre there, while in 1985, Reznor began performing with another local act called Exotic Birds . Exotic Birds was led by future Prick drummer Andy Kubiszewski (and even featured future Nine Inch Nails member Chris Vrenna for a short time). By 1988, Reznor had left Exotic Birds and joined Lucky Pierre. His time there would be likewise abbreviated, due to his desire to start his own project. However, he remained on long enough to appear on Lucky Pierre's 1988 Communiqué 12" EP, performing on the tracks "Communiqué" (an alternate version of which had been released as a 7" single four years prior in 1984, which did not feature Reznor) and "I Need To Get To Know". Lucky Pierre was also being managed at the time by John Malm. Reznor left the band shortly thereafter and went on to begin work on Nine Inch Nails' debut album, Pretty Hate Machine, hiring Malm as his manager in the process.
Meanwhile, McMahon also switched gears musically, moving to Los Angeles to begin what would become Prick. Rounding out the initial incarnation of the band was guitarist Chris Schleyer and former Exotic Birds member Andy Kubiszewski on drums, though the latter would intermittently drop in and out of the fold over the years to come, taking on duties with numerous other bands, including future Nothing Record act The The. By 1994, Prick's live band consisted of Kevin McMahon on vocals and guitar, Chris Schleyer on lead guitar, Sebastien Monney on bass, Brian Kehew on keyboards and Sean Furlong on drums, performing for a short time under the name Riverhead in clubs around Los Angeles.
By this time, Reznor himself had relocated to Los Angeles, where he was soon to begin work on The Downward Spiral. McMahon and Reznor agreed to spend some time in the studio together, revisiting some of the old Lucky Pierre material and recording new versions of "Communique", "Tough", "Other People" (previously known as "I Need To Get To Know") and "No Fair Fights". The songs were not yet intended for any specific project or label. "We were just doing it to do music," stated McMahon. Aware of the collaboration's resemblance in sound to Nine Inch Nails, McMahon opted to embrace Trent's contributions, rather than try to avoid common ground. McMahon stated, “Trent was the other part of the band on the songs that he produced. He and I were the band, so there’s going to be some kind of similarity there. I’m certainly not going to ask him to not do what he does best, so that I won’t have any indication of any sound like that.”
McMahon would go on to sign Prick to a contract with Interscope Records. He began work on a debut album, flying to London to record material with producer Warne Livesey. After completing recording, the album was shelved at Interscope for an extended period, to the degree that Andy Kubiszewski, who was back with the band at this time, performing drums on the album, opted to take an offer to tour with Stabbing Westward. McMahon began to feel he wasn't getting what he wanted out of Interscope, at which time he reconnected with Reznor and Malm and Prick was moved under the Nothing Records umbrella.
At least two of the Livesey produced tracks were ultimately cut from the album, although they would later surface of future McMahon projects. "Attitude" and "Johnny Goes To Paris" appeared on Lucky Pierre's 2004 ThinKing album, while drummer Andy Kubiszewski stated an early version of "Actress" was also recorded with Livesey during the original album sessions. It later appeared on Prick's The Wreckard album. In lieu of the cut songs, McMahon's recent material with Reznor was added. The album was finally on track for release, with a promo 7" for Communique / Crack surfacing in 1994, while the full-length, self-titled album followed on February 7, 1995. The album was led by the single "Animal", which received moderate airplay on MTV and alternative radio and was featured on the soundtrack to the film Showgirls. It went on to sell over 66,000 copies.
Prick toured the album, supporting such acts as Ned's Atomic Dustbin, Lords Of Acid and My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult. Garrett Hammond replaced Andy Kubiszewski on drums, while frequent Nine Inch Nails collaborator Dave Ogilvie was hired for live programming. Prick was then invited to their largest showcase yet, as openers for Nine Inch Nails' and David Bowie's 1995 co-headlining Outside Tour. In 1996, McMahon played guitar with Nine Inch Nails for three shows on "Nights of Nothing" showcase, which included two Prick songs ("Animal" and "Tough") as part of NIN's set.
As the promotional cycle for Prick's debut album winded down, McMahon began to feel discomfort with the increased spotlight, stating "I’m not comfortable with the fame thing, even just walking out after a show and having somebody recognize me or anything like that, because I kind of just am there on stage when I’m on stage or in the studio. That’s sort of when I do whatever I do. The other times I’m just kind of looking around like everybody else. I don’t want to have to be anything that somebody expects me to be. I just think that once that starts, it’s the beginning of deterioration of the person." Differences were also mounting with Nothing/Interscope, due in part to McMahon feeling they were putting a greater emphasis on their expanding roster, while diminishing their focus on Prick. McMahon recalled:
Interscope was a young enough company where they were saying, "We have only 12 artists, and it's not like we're going to be throwing out 15 a month and see what sticks. We're going to try to pay attention to you. As time passed, the record came out, they signed more and more people, and all of a sudden, the idea of me doing a record every year or every 18 months turned into, "Well, there's no commercial radio hit here anymore, you need to do a commercial radio kind of thing."
In spite of the growing differences, McMahon set about plans of recording a follow-up, double-album of Prick material for Nothing, under the working title of Numb. However, Nothing management pulled the plug at the last minute, requesting McMahon do additional work on the album to make it more radio friendly. McMahon stated, "The day before I was supposed to begin recording the second album, the label decided they didn't want to do it. They wanted more radio-friendly songs. And since I don't listen to the radio, I didn't know what they were talking about. I can't write songs that someone wants me to write."
With the two parties at an impasse, Prick would quietly part ways with the Nothing Records. In spite of this, McMahon left in good standing with both Reznor and Malm. "There was never any real blowout with Trent," McMahon stated. John Malm expressed his admiration for McMahon as well, but noted, “I think that he didn’t take well to the major label situation.”
In the subsequent years, McMahon quietly recorded on and off, while attempting to reacquire publishing rights to his material. After successfully doing so in 1999, McMahon surfaced online with an MP3 of a new track, “Wetcat,” in late 2000. Two more tracks, "I Know It's Gonna Hurt" and "Cloud", followed in 2001 (the latter ultimately surfacing on Lucky Pierre's ThinKing album). Opting not to shop his material to new labels, McMahon instead chose to self-release. In 2002, Prick finally announced their sophomore album, The Wreckard, to be released online via McMahon's own Lucky Pierre Music. The album featured two tracks produced by Warne Livesey, "Into My Arms" and "Tomorrow", both of which were recorded in 1997, as well as "Wetcat" and "I Know It's Gonna Hurt." McMahon assembled a live band to support the album, consisting of Greg Zydyk on guitar, (Lucky Pierre band mate) Tom Lash on bass and Andy Kubiszewski once again on drums. They performed a small run of regional shows around the Midwest and Eastern US, from late 2002 into 2003.
In 2004, McMahon returned to Lucky Pierre, with the album ThinKing, which included the two tracks originally cut from Prick's 1995 debut, as well as the track "Cloud", which had surfaced three years prior as an MP3. ThinKing marked Lucky Pierre's first full-length album ever, nearly 30 years after their formation.
After another period of silence, in 2009, McMahon returned with his largest wave of material to date. In addition to reissues of The Wreckard and ThinKing, both featuring upgraded packaging, Prick's first live album was released, Boston Live, as well as a self-titled compilation of the bulk of Lucky Pierre's back-catlog. Two additional McMahon projects also saw release at this time. Fear Of Blue was a more electronic-based project, recorded in 1990 by Kevin McMahon and Ray DiLeo, while ( sic ), a rock-based project, featured McMahon, Andy Kebiszewski, Greg Zydyk and Mark Gamiere. Released as an EP, ( sic )'s Standard Idiom Communiqué included the track "Runaway Brain," which had also previously surfaced online as an MP3.
In early 2010, the Lucky Pierre Music website closed down, with a message stating, "Hello Friends / Fans, While LPM is expanding it's content of new and vintage music and merch available to you at our store, and as we work to develop the best ways and means of reaching any and all those interested, we have decided to close the site for an indefinite amount of time to facilitate this effort." To date, Prick has not publicly surfaced since.
By 1995, Trust Obey completed their first album for Nothing Records, Hands Of Ash, though it would never see release though the label. Trust Obey is John Bergin, an illustrator, designer, writer, filmmaker and musician. Originally a Pennsylvania native, Bergin had been "drawing and painting for as long as I can remember." By 1984, while attending the University of the Arts in Philadelphia (from 1984 - 1988), Bergin began experimenting in music, citing such acts as Swans and future Nothing Records act Einstürzende Neubauten as influences. Trust Obey was founded in 1988 in Kansas City, Missouri, beginning as a one-man project with a series of self-released cassettes; Fucking The Wound (1989), Rip Saw (1989), Locust (1990), The Veil (1990), Room 101 (1991) and Exit Wound (1991). In 1993, Bergin added guitarist Brett Smith as a permanent member of the band, in order to accommodate live performances.
By 1994, Bergin had become heavily immersed in the graphic design and comic book worlds and Trust Obey was commissioned to compose music to accompany James O'Barr's graphic novel, The Crow. Timed to coincide with the release of the Alex Proyas directed motion picture starring Brandon Lee, the graphic novel was released in a special hardcover edition on Kitchen Sink Press and Graphitti Design and included Trust Obey's companion CD album, Fear And Bullets. At this time, O'Barr even claimed to have joined on as a member of Trust Obey, however, his only credited appearance on any Trust Obey release would be contributing some lyrics to the song "The Crow" on the Fear And Bullets album.
Trent Reznor would also have involvement with The Crow franchise, on the motion picture side of things, delivering a Nine Inch Nails cover of Joy Division's "Dead Souls" for the hit soundtrack. Reznor would hear the Fear And Bullets album and offer Trust Obey a five-album contract with Nothing Records, making them one of the earliest acts signed to the label. In an interview on the bootleg Nine Inch Nails disc, Disturbed, Reznor discussed singing Trust Obey, noting that the band was "not a great commercial potential."
Working on the film score to The Crow were composer Graeme Revell and Brian "Lustmord" Williams (as a "musical sound designer"), both of whom went on to become friends with John Bergin through their mutual association with the franchise (Bergin went on to design art for releases with both Revell and Lustmord). Nothing Records expressed interest in signing composer Graeme Revell to release his score to The Crow film, which would be paired with a reissue of Trust Obey's Fear And Bullets graphic novel compositions and released together as a double album. However, Brian Lustmord expressed reservations about such a partnership. Bergin explained:
"Nothing Records was interested in releasing my Trust Obey Crow soundtrack and Graeme (Revell)'s Crow film score as a double CD. At the time Graeme didn't have a label for this work, so he was into the idea. Back then Brian (Lustmord) had first said to me "oh...Nothing records...Nine Inch Nails... I'll say no more." He wasn't too excited about the notion of associating with Trent's label. He was right. The whole idea of the double CD fell apart."
With plans for the Graeme Revell/Trust Obey joint release scrapped, Revell's score was ultimately released instead on the Varèse Sarabande soundtrack label, while Trust Obey entered the studio in the spring of 1995 to begin recording an album of new material for Nothing Records. The resulting album, Hands Of Ash, was delivered to the label, where it was met with apprehension. The album remained shelved for an extended period, before Bergin became frustrated with the situation and the parties agreed to part ways in February 1996, with Bergin retaining the rights to the Hands Of Ash album.
In the wake of Trust Obey's departure from Nothing Records, Brian McNelis of Lakeshore Entertainment would put Bergin in touch with Jared Louche of the industrial rock band Chemlab. Bergin met with Louche in Chicago, while he was recording Chemlab's East Side Militia album. Louche at the time was serving as general manager for Fifth Colvmn Records and requested Bergin send him some material for release consideration.
Fifth Colvmn Records would opt to pick up Hands Of Ash, as well as another project of Bergin's, C17H19NO3 (the source of name being the chemical formula for morphine), for the Terra Damnata album. Hands Of Ash was released on August 2, 1996 on Fifth Colvmn Records, bearing a sticker on the CD jewel case, featuring Reznor's "Not a great commercial potential" quotation on the cover. The album's liner notes also included mention of Reznor and Nothing Records in the credits, stating, "Thanks to Trent and Nothing for something."
Bergin would go on to form numerous other music projects, such as Orifice, Blackmouth, Tertium Non Data, Lolo and Camouflaged Abominations. He also performed as a member of Paved In Skin and had a short stint as a member of the industrial rock supergroup Pigface. Pigface was led by musician Martin Atkins, who also ran Invisible Records. On October 28, 1999, Invisible Records reissued Trust Obey's Fear And Bullets album, with reworked versions of the original graphic novel tracks, as well as one song being added ("A Murder Of Crows") and one song removed ("Don't Look"). In 2001, Invisible also released C17H19NO3's Terra Null double album (the second disc of which was a reissue of the Terra Damnata album).
Bergin is currently the art director at Lakeshore Records, where he has been involved in creating the artwork for hundreds of releases. He has also created numerous comic book series, including Ashes, Golgothika and Wednesday. For his graphic novel work, Bergin was nominated for the Harvey Award for Best New Talent in 1991. Through the 1990s, Bergin created short comics and illustrated titles for Heavy Metal Magazine, Marvel, DC and Dark Horse Comics. In the mid-90s, Bergin collaborated with James O'Barr, working as creative talent for Tundra, where in addition to The Crow, they produced Bone Saw, IO and From Inside. In 2008, Bergin directed an animated feature-length film adaptation of From Inside, which won numerous awards and screened at over 50 international film festivals, including SITGES (Best Animated Feature), Fantasia Film Festival (Jury Prize), Utopiales (Grand Prix) and Future Film Festival of Italy. From Inside was released on home video in October 2014.
In 2015, Trust Obey reissued Hands Of Ash digitally, via Bergin's own Stompbox13 label. Missing from the release was the final track, "Larvatus," though it was included as a bonus track on Stompbox13's Bandcamp edition, as well as the previously unreleased song "Malice Buried," which serves as part two of the song "Hands Of Malice." Bergin continues to use Stompbox13 as the primary outlet for his musical output.
Meat Beat Manifesto
Meat Beat Manifesto would have many encounters with Trent Reznor in the years leading up to their arrival on Nothing Records. However, the partnership was born out of a dark period for the group, due to difficulties with their European label, Play It Again Sam. Meat Beat Manifesto, originally the duo of Jack Dangers and Johnny Stephens, struggled to find any labels willing to support them in the UK throughout their formative years in the late 1980s. This prompted the band to accept an unfavorable deal with Belgian label Play It Again Sam. Jack Dangers recalled, "I couldn’t get a label to sign me in the UK, and that’s why I ended up in a disastrous contract with Belgian label PIAS (Play It Again Sam)." In spite of this, the deal sparked interest from many labels in the US. Venerable imprints such as Wax Trax! Records and Mute Records would license the band's early material in the United States, such as Storm The Studio, Armed Audio Warfare, 99% and Satyricon, which gave MBM an increased Stateside following. Dangers reflected, "I remember going to see Mute Records in 1988 and they weren’t interested in the slightest in what I was doing. Two years later they were running all over the world to sign me for the American end of the deal because PIAS only had me signed for Europe. It’s funny how two years prior they wouldn’t even listen to my records."
Their early work would capture the attention of Trent Reznor, leading to an invitation in 1990 for Meat Beat Manifesto to perform as openers during Nine Inch Nails' Hate '90 tour (a tour which also included a guest appearance from one of the earliest incarnations of Marilyn Manson, who performed as local openers when the tour ran through Florida). Meat Beat Manifesto were also invited to remix Nine Inch Nails, first on the Closer To God remix disc in 1994, followed by The Perfect Drug in 1997 (the former also featured Nothing Records act Coil, while the latter also featured Nothing act Plug).
In 1993, Dangers relocated from England to San Francisco, California and began work on a follow-up to 1992's Satyricon. By this time, Dangers had become the sole, constant member of the band and recording of the subsequent album, Subliminal Sandwich, would mark a dark time in his life, due in part to the death of his father, as well as increasing tension with his label, PIAS. Dangers stated, "Subliminal Sandwich was done while I was in the middle of trying to get out of my label deal, which is always a bad thing, so I just made the best of a terrible thing and did a double album. I was just waiting to get out of that miserable, boring, heard-it-all-before stuff."
Throughout the recording of Subliminal Sandwich, the band faced uncertainty regarding their Stateside distribution. Mute Records was in the process of downsizing, while their licensing contract with Play It Again Sam was likewise nearing it's conclusion. A US 12" single for Nuclear Bomb from the Subliminal Sandwich sessions made it as far as the test pressing stage at Mute in late 1995, before plans for a commercial release were scrapped.
MBM's North American licensing via Mute soon lapsed and the band found themselves without U.S. distribution, paving the way for Nothing Records to begin licensing their work in the United States in 1996. Subliminal Sandwich was released as a double album on June 4, 1996 on Nothing Records. The album was led by a cover of the World Domination Enterprises song "Asbestos Lead Asbestos," which was released as commercial single in Europe on PIAS and as a promo only CD/12" single on Nothing in the US. A video for the song also received minor US airplay on MTV. Additionally, a single for Transmission was released in Europe on PIAS, though it was not picked up for US release by Nothing.
Meat Beat Manifesto would support Subliminal Sandwich with extensive touring across the United States and Europe, featuring a line-up of Jack Dangers, John Wilson on guitar, Lynn Farmer on drums and Mike Powell on samples and keys. In 1996, the band took part in the "Nights Of Nothing" label showcase, which featured label-mates Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails, with the latter's line-up including Clint Mansell of Pop Will Eat Itself and Kevin McMahon from Prick.
The band would go on to become one of the more prolific acts on Nothing, releasing many additional titles in the years to follow, as well as helping reshape the sound of the label. However, Dangers and Reznor maintained a mostly professional relationship throughout their tenure, with Dangers stating, "I was never really hanging out with Trent. I don’t know if that was the perception." Despite the fact the band was only ever licensed via Belgian label PIAS, Meat Beat Manifesto's relationship with Nothing Records was considered a positive one, with Dangers describing Nothing Records at the time as "the best label we've ever been a part of."
In 1994, Nine Inch Nails invited Pig to open a series of shows in London during the European leg of their Self Destruct Tour. By this time, Raymond Watts, founder of Pig, had firmly established himself in the industrial scene as a founding member of KMFDM (though he would come and go from the band's line-up, opting to focus on Pig), as well as a collaborator with such acts as Psychic TV, Foetus and future Nothing Records act Einstürzende Neubauten. Pig’s earliest work had seen release via the seminal Wax Trax! Records. However, much of his output, which included A Poke in the Eye... With a Sharp Stick!, Praise the Lard, A Stroll in the Pork and The Swining, was scattered across numerous labels around the world and often proved difficult to find. Much of his output by the mid-90s had become released exclusively in Japan, where Watts had garnered a respectable fanbase.
Reznor was familiar with most of Watts' scattered body of work and during their encounters Europe, Watts gave Reznor a copy of his latest album, Sinsation, which was released in 1995 on Japanese label Victor Entertainment. When Watts came to the United States to work with KMFDM on their Nihil album and tour, the band would meet up with Reznor in New Orleans (where then-KMFDM member En Esch was living at the time). Soon after, Trent would suggest to release Pig in the US on Nothing Records. Watts explained, "I met Trent very briefly in London and the next time he was back he asked me and my band (Pig) to open up for quite a few of their (Nine Inch Nails) European shows. He was aware that there had been sporadic Pig releases on different labels, because I moved about a bit. He was obviously aware of the Sinsation album, because I'd given him a copy of it somewhere along the line and then last year, when I was out with KMFDM, we met again and it was just a little bit after that that it was suggested that it might be possible to work together with regard to getting it out on Nothing."
Watts accepted a deal to license Sinsation to Nothing Records, where it was released on September 17, 1996. However, the album received only minor promotional support from Nothing/Interscope. One such instance of insufficient promotion involved a music video for the band's single, Paniac. The video, which had already been shot and received airplay in Japan, was delivered to MTV for airplay in the States. However, the video featured heavy use of fire, which was a sensitive issue for the network at the time, due to controversy over the Beavis and Butt-Head show, which had been accused of provoking a child to light fire to his home. The network requested the video be edited in order to receive airplay, which would have cost only a minor amount for Interscope. In spite of this, they declined to finance the edit. Watts stated, "We had a really good video for Painiac, the one with the flames and shit and MTV didn't want to show it unless we edited it. It would have cost $2,000 to edit it and Interscope, in their infinite wisdom, thought that it wasn't worth the investment. I think they wanted a couple of things taken out. And Interscope was running things for Nothing. It was really nice that Nothing wanted to put out our records, but they're busy dealing with this shit (focusing on the larger acts), and we had everyday Interscope people dealing with our shit."
While Pig had an open-ended agreement with Nothing, which included the possibility of more Pig material being licensed to the label, Watts began to feel that, in spite of being shepherded by a major label, Nothing was in fact a very small operation and was only able to focus most of their energy on their largest acts. Watts stated, "they were too busy with other artists and I expected a little bit more feedback from a label on which I was signed." Despite having a follow-up album, entitled Wrecked, already completed by the time Nothing released Sinsation in the United States, Watts felt the label showed minimal interest in it, explaining:
Trent had known about Pig for a long time and basically thought that it might be a good idea to raise the profile. And it seemed to be something that might be a good gesture, because we didn't get releases here and it raised the profile. But in fact, they were a small label, and they've got very big artists to work with, like Manson, which became a huge, huge act. They've got big artists to deal with. And being kind of small and obscure and stuff, we felt mutually that they had gotten the ball rolling for Pig in the States here and there was this other album (Wrecked) to release and this tour (with KMFDM) came up, and we mutually agreed that maybe other people could be more pro-active in the Pig situation. So we just went, "Well we did this one, that's great, thanks a lot, these people (at Wax Trax!) can probably put more into it.
Pig left Nothing Records in 1997 under amicable terms, returning to Wax Trax! Records to release Wrecked in the United States (which had likewise been licensed from Japanese label Victor Entertainment, who first released the album in 1996). Pig followed this with a national tour of the US, opening for KMFDM in late 1997. In the wake of the Wax Trax! label folding, Pig went on to release numerous albums via Metropolis Records in the US, such as Genuine American Monster, Pigmata and The Gospel.
Marilyn Manson (Antichrist Superstar Era)
Winding down promotion on their debut album, Portrait of an American Family, Marilyn Manson initially planned a remix single for the track "Dope Hat." However, various contributions by engineer and Skinny Puppy producer Dave Ogilvie and Nine Inch Nails then-live keyboardist Charlie Clouser, combined with new material by the band, resulted in an eclectic and unusual combination and it was decided to expand the release into an EP. Leading up to it in Spring of 1995, Marilyn Manson took an opening slot with the band Danzig. The tour was rife with drug binges and unusual backstage escapades, many of which were the genesis for ideas which became the Smells Like Children EP.
The band was once again produced by Trent Reznor. Smells Like Children was full of recordings from backstage on the Danzig tour, as well as samples from the films Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (the EP derives its title in reference to the latter), as well as distorted clips of the band's appearance on The Phil Donahue Show. An early version of the EP, which had not cleared the rights for its audio samples, was mistakenly pressed by Nothing/Interscope and distributed as a promo release. Upon realizing their mistaken, unauthorized film samples, as well as other sound bites considered too extreme, Interscope insisted the EP's track listing be revised for public release. The final, commercial release removed the original opening track, "Abuse, Part 1 (There is Pain Involved)," featuring the voices of Manson and Danzig/Pantera tour bus driver Tony F. Wiggins, as they attempted to calm down a masochistic girl, and "Abuse, Part 2 (Confessions)," featuring an interview with a teenage girl who confesses to molesting her seven year old male cousin. These tracks were replaced by "The Hands of Small Children" and "May Cause Discoloration of the Urine or Feces," respectively. Speaking about the promo edition, Manson stated in his autobiography:
The only solace was that through some unfortunate error someone at the record pressing plant made several thousand copies of our original version of the album, thinking it was the new one. Without even listening to them, the record company sent them out as promotional copies to radio stations and journalists before realizing their mistake. Now, they are available to anyone who wants to hear them on the Internet. Though someone at the label actually accused me of plotting it, I wish I was that resourceful. God, however irrelevant he may be to me, works in mysterious ways.
The final EP did still feature some backstage debauchery from the Danzig tour, for which Interscope demanded written affidavits from the participants in the sound bites, certifying their consent to be recorded. However, most notable on the EP was the band's cover version of Eurythmics' 1983 hit "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)", which was released as a single, despite Manson claiming Nothing Records was resistant to doing so. Despite this, the song became a major hit on radio and MTV, eventually being nominated at the MTV Video Music Awards for Best Rock Video and helping launch the band into mainstream success. Smells Like Children was certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
Marilyn Manson's success in the wake of their hit single "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" helped garner much anticipation for their follow-up, sophomore album, Antichrist Superstar. Trent Reznor once again came on board as producer, while Manson, Sean Beavan and Dave Ogilvie shared co-production duties. Members of both Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails also participated in production duties. The album was recorded at Reznor's Nothing Studios in New Orleans. The process of making the album was long and difficult, involving experiments in sleep deprivation and near-constant drug use, in an effort to create a violent and hostile environment suited to the album's content. During this time, antagonism between band members was high, which caused the departure of guitarist and co-founding member Daisy Berkowitz, with Twiggy Ramirez performing much of the album's guitar work as a result.
Antichrist Superstar, a rock opera concept album was released on October 8, 1996. It was led by the single The Beautiful People, which became a major hit on the alternative rock charts, being awarded gold record certification by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), reaching number twenty-six on the US Billboard and number eighteen in the UK. The music channel VH1 named it number twenty-eight of their 40 Greatest Metal Songs. Antichrist Superstar debuted at number three on the Billboard 200 with first-week sales of 132,000 copies. Manson also appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone, who awarded the band their "Best New Artist" accolade in 1997. The year long "Dead to the World Tour" followed, which was the band's longest and largest tour yet.
Meanwhile, the band was also reaching new heights of controversy, finding themselves the target of congressional hearings, led by Senator Joseph Lieberman, to determine the effects, if any, of violent lyrics on young listeners. Lieberman would famously go on to refer to Marilyn Manson as "perhaps the sickest group ever promoted by a mainstream record company." Nearly every performance of their Dead to the World tour was picketed by religious organizations.
The band, however, embraced the controversy and catapulted themselves into one of the top rock acts of the late 1990s. Antichrist Superstar has sold over 7 million copies worldwide, with 1.9 million of those sold in the United States alone. It spawned two commercial singles and music videos ("The Beautiful People" and "Tourniquet") and an additonal three music videos; "Cryptorchid", "Man That You Fear" and the title track, "Antichrist Superstar". The latter was screened at the 1997 San Francisco Film Festival, depicting Manson on a podium, bearing a lightning bolt symbol and, in one scene, tearing apart the Bible and dumping it on the public. Interscope Records refused to release the "Antichrist Superstar" music video for airplay. However, in 2010, the unedited video was leaked on YouTube.
The band followed the album with the Remix & Repent EP on November 25, 1997, as well as the Dead to the World VHS video on February 10, 1998, which documented their controversial tour. Three previously unreleased songs from the band were also included on high profile soundtracks to motion pictures. "Long Hard Road Out of Hell" appeared on the soundtrack to Todd McFarlane's Spawn, "Apple of Sodom" on the soundtrack to David Lynch's Lost Highway (also released on Nothing Records) and "The Suck for Your Solution" featured on the soundtrack to the Howard Stern biopic Private Parts. Antichrist Superstar remains a milestone in the band's career. In the years since its release, it has been heralded by numerous publications as a modern classic and essential listening.
1997-99: Nothing changes
The late 90s at Nothing Records featured many electronic acts arriving at the label, via licensing deals with UK labels Warp Records and Blue Planet. Nothing continued to sign rock based acts as well, such as 12 Rounds and Rob Halford's 2wo project. They would also release new albums from their highest selling acts, Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson, as well as another high profile film soundtrack, Lost Highway. This period of time would become the most prolific era for the label.
Lost Highway Soundtrack
In late 1995, filmmaker David Lynch began production on Lost Highway. The film score was created by long-time Lynch composer Angelo Badalamenti, with additional music provided by Barry Adamson. Supplementing their compositions, Lynch also sought to use unnerving soundscapes throughout the film and, at the suggestion of a mutual friend, reached out to Trent Reznor to achieve this. Over the years, Reznor had publicly praised Lynch's work, particularly the film Blue Velvet and the TV series Twin Peaks, the latter of which Reznor claimed to have even delayed Nine Inch Nails performances, in order to watch the latest episodes.
Although Reznor would accept Lynch’s offer, he initially found the experience to be a stressful one. "At first it was like the most high-pressure situation ever. He (Lynch) would describe a scene and say, 'Here's what I want. Now, there's a police car chasing Fred down the highway, and I want you to picture this: There's a box, okay? And in this box there's snakes coming out; snakes whizzing past your face. So, what I want is the sound of that – the snakes whizzing out of the box – but it's got to be like impending doom.' And he hadn't brought any footage with him. He says, 'Okay, okay, go ahead. Give me that sound.' He wasn't doing it to intimidate me. At the same time, I had to tell him, 'David, I'm not a film-effects guy, I don't have ad clients and I'm not used to being in this environment. I don't work that way, so respect that and understand that I just need a few moments to be alone, so that I know that when I suck, no one is knowing I'm sucking and then I'll give you the good stuff.'"
Reznor composed two instrumental pieces for the film under his own name, enlisting Coil's Peter Christopherson to assist on the songs. Reznor had lobbied for Coil to take on a greater role in composing music for Lynch’s films, but Lynch declined. Coil member John Balance recalled, “You know, with Lost Highway, Trent literally forced (us) down David Lynch's throat, saying ‘Look, please put this Coil stuff on.' You know, he really did help to get us on that soundtrack, but he (Lynch) wasn't interested. He wanted David Bowie, he wanted Marilyn Manson, he wanted whomever he could get. He just said, 'These people are really big. I want this film to be really big.' He didn't give a fuck about the integrity."
After completion of the score compositions, David Lynch would ask Reznor to handle the release of the soundtrack, which would also include major rock artists personally selected by Lynch, such as David Bowie, Marilyn Manson, The Smashing Pumpkins (who recorded an exclusive song for the soundtrack) and Rammstein, as well as a new song from Nine Inch Nails, entitled "The Perfect Drug." The soundtrack was subsequently slated for release on Nothing Records.
Marilyn Manson also recorded a new song for the soundtrack, “Apple Of Sodom,” even filming a music video for it, which went unreleased at the time, though it later found it’s way onto YouTube. Band members Marilyn Manson and Twiggy Ramirez also filmed cameo appearances in the Lost Highway film itself. Rammstein, who were largely then-unknown and also major fans of Lynch, had sent him their music from Germany. Lynch, in turn, played Rammstein on set throughout the filming of Lost Highway and selected two of their songs for the soundtrack. A music video for their song "Rammstein" heavily featured clips from the film. Nine Inch Nails also completed a music video for "The Perfect Drug," directed by Mark Romanek. Unlike the Rammstein music video, "The Perfect Drug" did not feature any film footage from the film.
The Lost Highway soundtrack was originally planned for release in late 1996 to coincide with the release of the film. However, the film release was delayed slightly, instead premiering on February 27, 1997. The soundtrack was likewise pushed back, with its official release date set just ahead of the film on February 18, 1997 on Nothing Records. Behind the momentum of the numerous, major rock acts involved, the soundtrack went on to become a commercial success, reaching No. 7 on the Billboard 200 and receiving Gold certification in the United States.
Nine Inch Nails released a single for The Perfect Drug on May 13, 1997, featuring remixes from Nothing Records act Meat Beat Manifesto and another recent addition to the label's roster; Luke Vibert's Plug project.
In 2014, David Lynch once again collaborated with Nine Inch Nails, directing their music video for “Came Back Haunted,” from the album Hesitation Marks. On November 7, 2016 the Lost Highway soundtrack was re-issued as a 180 gram double vinyl by Dutch label Music On Vinyl.
The studios, located at 4500 Magazine Street, were apparently not seriously damaged by Hurricane Katrina. On the Los Angeles radio station KROQ-FM, Reznor stated during an interview (Breakfast with Kevin and Bean) that the studio in New Orleans was not a studio anymore. He later put a collection of his photos on nin.com, detailing the aftermath of the hurricane on his former studios and the surrounding area, before his band played a scheduled concert (which had become a benefit for the survivors).
While writing The Downward Spiral, Reznor lived in the Tate mansion where the Manson family murders took place. After he moved out, it was demolished, he went back and took the door as a souvenir. It became the front door to Nothing Studios.
As of 2016, the former building that housed the studio has been renovated and is now home to a fashion boutique.
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