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Broken (Nine Inch Nails EP)

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Title: Broken (Nine Inch Nails EP)  
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Subject: Trent Reznor, 1992 in music, Kings of the Wild Frontier, Industrial metal, Optical disc packaging, Pigface, Cex, Richard Patrick, 10050 Cielo Drive (Los Angeles), Happiness in Slavery
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Broken (Nine Inch Nails EP)

Nine Inch Nails
Released September 22, 1992
Recorded March–August 1992 in various locations
Genre Industrial metal, industrial rock, alternative metal
Length 31:35 (8-track version)
33:09 (99-track version)
Label Nothing/TVT/Interscope
Producer Trent Reznor, Flood
Nine Inch Nails chronology

Pretty Hate Machine
Singles from Broken
  1. "Happiness in Slavery"
    Released: November 1992 (promotional)
  2. "Wish"
    Released: 1993 (promotional)
Halo numbers chronology
"Halo 4"
"Halo 5"
"Halo 6"

Broken is an extended play album and the major label debut by American industrial rock act Nine Inch Nails, released on September 22, 1992. Produced by Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor and Flood, the EP is considerably heavier and takes influence from industrial metal and noise rock, rather than the electronica style of Pretty Hate Machine, which was oriented towards synthpop.

Promotion of the EP was troubled. The music videos that accompanied 5 of the 8 total tracks were widely censored from television airplay due to their disturbing content. Nevertheless, "Wish" won the 1993 Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance and "Happiness in Slavery" in 1995. As part of the act's elevation to 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.


After the commercial and critical success of Pretty Hate Machine (1989), TVT Records, the first record label to sign the band, pressured Trent Reznor to record a similar album that had potential successful singles. Steve Gottlieb, the CEO of TVT Records, was insistent that he would not release anything other than an album much like Pretty Hate Machine. Reznor demanded his label terminate his contract, due to their hindering control over his creativity of the Nine Inch Nails project, but they ignored his plea.[1]

He then objected to the label's attempted interference with his intellectual property. This much-publicized feud with TVT led Reznor to use a variety of monikers for the production of his next studio release.[2] Reznor later said that he hated TVT, somewhat due to their classification of Nine Inch Nails as a synthpop band, and reached a deal with the record label that he'd sign to Interscope Records:

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.[3]


Reznor secretly made the then untitled recording under various pseudonyms to avoid record company interference.[4] English record producer Flood, who produced "Head Like a Hole" and "Terrible Lie", the first two tracks on Pretty Hate Machine (1989), returned to work in 1992 on the EP for "Wish," "Last," and "Gave Up."[5]

As Reznor explains in retrospect: "Broken [...] had a lot of the super-thick chunk sound, and almost every guitar sound on that record was [tapes consisting of] me playing through an old Zoom pedal and then going direct into Digidesign's TurboSynth [software in a Macintosh computer]. Then I used a couple of key ingredients to make it [be heard as being] unlike any 'real' sound."[6]

Reznor's dog, Maise, was invited to the production of the EP. Her barking was recorded, along with Sean Beavan's line, "Ow!...fucker!", after Maise bit him. After being owned by Reznor for over three years, she died after jumping onto a railing of a three-story balcony to leg injuries and a cancellation of a concert, during the Self Destruct Tour.[7]

Development on the record was done at seven studios, Hell at New Orleans, Louisiana, Royal Recorders at Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, South Beach Studios at Miami, Florida; Village Recorder and A&M Studios at Los Angeles, California, and Le Pig at Beverly Hills, California. The last two studios were later used during the production process for The Downward Spiral (1994). Tom Baker mastered the EP at Futuredisc. Following this step, Reznor presented the recording to Interscope Records on September 1992, and signed to the record label, making Broken Nine Inch Nails' major label debut.[3]

Music and lyrics

Heavier than Pretty Hate Machine, Broken takes influences from industrial metal bands such as Ministry and Godflesh.[3] There are louder mixes and more distortion on every instrument, including a classic Mellotron MKIV that was originally owned by The Beatles' deceased frontman John Lennon, heard most particularly on "Gave Up". Reznor said he wanted the album to be "an ultra-fast chunk of death" for the listener, something that would "make your ears a little scratchy".[8] In the liner notes, Reznor credited the 1991 Nine Inch Nails touring band as an influence on the EP's sound.[5]

The lyrics are a critique on society, the majority of its themes involve angst, control and dependency struggles.[3] For example, the lyrics for "Happiness in Slavery" involve a nameless criminal, referred to in the song as "slave,"[5] who vandalizes crime policies at the risk of submission, and destroys security equipment. The second single from the EP, "Wish", includes the expletive fuck thrice, used on the lines "Now there's nothing more fucked up I could do," "I'm the one without this soul/I'm the one with this big fucking hole" and "Gotta listen to your big time hard line bad luck fist fuck."[9]

Clocking at roughly 1 minute, "Pinion" is the shortest Nine Inch Nails song, in contrast to the longest song from the act, Further Down the Spiral (1995) track "Self Destruction, Final". "Pinion" also features a series of short, ascending, distorted guitar power chords and a collage of atmospheric loops, including a reversed sample of David Bowie's "It's No Game" (which is not credited in the artwork for Broken). A portion of this is used as one of the guitar riffs in "Wish", one of the two commercially released singles from the album. "Help Me I Am in Hell," another instrumental, ends with another uncredited sample, this time from The Empire Strikes Back (1980).

There are two bonus songs, which follow 91 silent, one-second tracks (numbered 7 through 97) on most CD copies, but were included as a separate 3" CD or 7" record with early pressings. "Physical" is a cover of the Adam and the Ants song "Physical (You're So)", originally released on the Kings of the Wild Frontier LP."[5] In 1995, Nine Inch Nails performed "Physical" live with Adam Ant for two nights in a row. After Reznor introduced Ant and Marco Pirroni on the second night, Ant proclaimed to the audience, "It's nice to be on stage with the best fucking band in the world." "Suck" was written by Pigface, whose ever-changing lineup once included Reznor.[5] The slower, sparser, radically different original version appeared a year earlier on Pigface's Gub album. In live performances, Pigface usually plays a version similar to Nine Inch Nails' cover, as evident by the super-group's various live recordings like "Welcome to Mexico, Asshole" and "Glitch". However, their interpretation emphasizes the bass, de-emphasizes keyboards and computer effects, and lacks Reznor's "I am so dirty on the inside" break down. Reznor's version also does include Pigface's shout of "Suck! Suck! Suck!" after "How does it feel?", except it is faintly whispered on the cover version.


Broken was originally packaged in a trifold-out digipak, containing the six tracks on a regular compact disc and an additional three-inch mini CD with the two remaining songs, covers of Adam Ant's "Physical" and Pigface's "Suck". Due to the high cost of producing a two-disc EP, only 250,000 copies were released with the mini CD, subsequently Broken was re-released as one CD on October 1992, having the bonus songs heard on tracks 98 and 99 respectively, without any visual notice except for the credits,[5][10] and tracks 7-97 each containing one second of silence.[11] The cassette release featured tracks 1-6 on side one, with "Physical" and "Suck" appearing at the tail end of side two, after approximately 15 minutes of silence. The United Kingdom vinyl release was pressed onto a one sided 12" which featured the six main tracks. The two bonus cuts were issued on a 7" single given away inside the EP in a white die-cut sleeve (this is an unusual method for packaging an album on the vinyl format).[10]

All copies include the logo of Nothing Records, a first for the works of Reznor, making the EP itself Nothing's first release. The vanity record label was founded by Reznor along with John Malm, Jr., who was his manager at the time, when he had involvement in a feud with TVT Records. It had a short lifespan (Nothing Records existed for nearly 15 years); the label was created in 1992, as Reznor signed to Interscope before TVT entered into a joint venture with that major record label, where he mailed parts culled from his publishing rights to TVT Music, in exchange for the freedom of having his own imprint.[12]

The influence of Reznor's conflict with his former label, TVT, is evident in multiple aspects of the EP. After a long list of credits, the packaging reads, "no thanks: you know who you fucking are" followed by "the slave thinks he is released from bondage only to find a stronger set of chains."[5][10] These comments are likely directed towards TVT Records' Steve Gottlieb, who refused to let Reznor out of his contract, sparking legal battles between the two parties.[12] The "no thanks" part may be a response to the liner notes of Ministry's Psalm 69: The Way to Succeed and the Way to Suck Eggs album, which featured a cryptic "no thanks, you know who you are."[13] Aurally, at the beginning of "Physical," Reznor whispers, "eat your heart out, Steve." Visually, in a music video for "Gave Up," the monitor of a Macintosh computer running Pro Tools reads "fuck you steve".[14]

Despite the addition of "no thanks: you know who you fucking are," there is a "Thank You" section. People listed in that portion include Jimmy Iovine, Ros Earles, Island Records, Eric Greenspan, Rick Rubin, Joe Mcewen, Seymour Stein, Susie Tallman, Mark O'Shea, Ian Copeland, Kevin Westenberg and Sheroa Rees-Davies.[5][10]

The writing credit for "Suck" caused a minor controversy. Whereas the Pigface albums list all contributors to each of the songs, in this case "Atkins/Rieflin/Barker/Reznor"[15] as listed on Gub, the credit on Broken states "written by t. reznor/pigface".[5][10] On the later Pigface release Truth Will Out, the writing credit for the song is "whatever trent says – really – no shit". Trent talked about his problem with Pigface in an unreleased 1992 Melody Maker Magazine interview, Reznor says he came in at the end of the recording session, when time was running out, he had the lyrics for Suck and sang it over the leftover drum snippets they had, they threw it together and said it done, he however doesn't like the recording. Later when Pigface were going to go on tour, he taught them the proper music he'd written for the song which is completely different than the music that he sang over on the Pigface studio recording (Note: the Original Pigface recording is abstract noise & occasional bass over drum beats, nothing like Trent's version) and they went out and toured with the song while he toured with NIN (Note: they did play the song with Trent a few times at least as seen in internet videos). Eventually Trent put out his version on Broken, he is a bit vague but he mentions that there was personality conflicts and people saying they deserve more than they have. Basically the point he makes is that he wrote the lyrics and the music (to the version of Suck that ended up on Broken).

Release and reception

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars[16]
The Baltimore Sun (favorable)[17]
Robert Christgau (neither)[18]
CMJ (favorable)[19]
Entertainment Weekly B[20]
Los Angeles Times 2.5/4 stars[21]
NME 7/10 stars[22]
Q 3/5 stars[23]
Piero Scaruffi 6/10 stars[24]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars[25][26]
Washington Post (favorable)[27]

The EP sold well upon release, and eventually went platinum[28] despite a complete absence of touring in support of Broken. The lead single "Happiness in Slavery" received moderate airplay, but its music video, which depicted Bob Flanagan being pleasured, tortured, and killed on a device led to MTV banning the video outright. This stunted the single's growth, but the single "Wish" was much more successful with an aggressive live performance on the music video, then later winning a Grammy for Best Metal Performance. Reznor commented about winning the Grammy that on his gravestone, he wanted it to read "Said Fist Fuck, Won a Grammy."

The companion EP Fixed included six remixes of material from Broken and was released three months later, in December 1992.

Music videos

Main article: Broken (1993 film)

Not long after the EP's release, a short horror musical film also named Broken was created during and after the production of the EP. It was rumored to be a snuff film with all of its songs with the exception of "Last," "Physical," and "Suck" playing to a scene. This movie was directed by Peter Christopherson of Throbbing Gristle and Coil fame. A music video for "Gave Up" would prove to be part of the film, as well as the videos for "Happiness in Slavery" and "Wish". Portions of Broken would, however, be released as part of the Closure VHS, which was released after The Downward Spiral. Due to the graphic substance of "Gave Up", an alternative version of the music video consisting of the song being performed at Le Pig studios by Reznor, a young Marilyn Manson and Richard Patrick was released to MTV. Much of the cast, aside from Bob Flanagan in "Happiness in Slavery", and the band itself in "Wish", is unknown. The film is generally credited to be directed by Peter Christopherson, although the music videos themselves were directed by various other people: "Pinion" and "Help Me I Am in Hell" is credited to Eric Goode and Serge Becker, while "Happiness in Slavery" is credited to Jon Reiss.[29]

A music video for "Happiness in Slavery" was universally banned, though a few attempts to air it were successful. An episode of Raw Time aired "Happiness in Slavery" at 3:00 AM to unanimously positive response from viewers. Another program, Music Link, broadcast the video at midnight.[30]

Broken has not been given an official commercial release (according to Reznor, because they wanted to avoid the film overshadowing the prominence of the music),[31] thus adding to its mythological status in alternative culture. The original hand-dubbed tapes were distributed by Reznor to various friends with dropouts at certain points so he could know who distributed any copies that might surface. Reznor, commenting in the "Access" section of the NIN website, implied that Gibby Haynes was responsible for the most prominent leak.[31] This copy was traded on VHS tapes for years (resulting in many poor-quality, high-generation copies), and was later encoded in MPEG and AVI formats and distributed extensively through peer-to-peer networks and Nine Inch Nails fan websites. These are generally not of the highest quality, as they are not first-generation copies.

On December 30, 2006, an unofficial version of the film was released on a DVD disc image and distributed via BitTorrent at The Pirate Bay by the same anonymous user called "seed0" who uploaded the leaked DVD version of Closure. The DVD image represents a significant upgrade in visual and audio quality from "Broken 2.0.", and includes the oft-missing video for "Help Me I Am in Hell." Fans have speculated that this version of the film has been sourced directly from the master tapes, and that Reznor himself may have been the source of this leak along with the Closure DVD leak, as implied by a post on his official blog: "12/21/06 : Happy Holidays! This one is a guilt-free download. (shhhh - I didn't say that out loud). If you know what I'm talking about, cool." [32]

Track listing

All songs written and composed by Trent Reznor, unless noted otherwise. 
No. TitleWriter(s) Length
1. "Pinion"    1:02
2. "Wish"    3:46
3. "Last"    4:44
4. "Help Me I Am in Hell"    1:56
5. "Happiness in Slavery"    5:21
6. "Gave Up"    4:08
7. "Physical (You're So)" (Adam and the Ants cover)Adam Ant 5:29
8. "Suck" (Pigface cover)Trent Reznor/Pigface 5:07
Total length:


Quite a few variations of Broken exist, mostly due to different tracklist arrangements:[33]

  • The very first U.S. CD pressings of the album had "Physical" and "Suck" included on a 2nd disc, a 3" mini CD. Many pressings outside the U.S. had no second disc and these songs were tracks 7 and 8 on the main disc. Later American pressings eliminated the second disc as well and included the songs on the main disc as tracks 98 and 99. On this version tracks 7-97 consist of 1 second of silence each resulting in a slightly longer total playtime (33:09 vs. 31:35).
  • On most pressings, U.S. and otherwise, tracks 7/98 and 8/99 are not listed in the track listing on the back of the case. Some pressings also omit track 6, "Gave Up" from the rear listing as well.
  • The only American 12" vinyl pressings released ("promotional" only) omit the two instrumental tracks, "Pinion" and "Help Me I Am in Hell".
  • Unlike the relatively large number of various CD versions, almost all cassette pressings across all regions include tracks 1-6 on side A and tracks 7-8 on side B.

Album personnel

Charts and awards



External links

  • Discogs
  • The Daily Collegian (Penn State)
  • Album Review at Entertainmentopia
  • at
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