Nine Inch Nails (NIИ, the second "N" is flipped horizontally on album and promotional art) is a critically and commercially successful American band formed in Cleveland, Ohio in 1988 by Trent Reznor.
Axcess magazine interviewed Reznor after the release of The Downward Spiral in 1994. They asked him how he came up with the name Nine Inch Nails and this was his reply:
"I don't know if you've ever tried to think of band names, but usually you think you have a great one and you look at it the next day and it's stupid. I had about 200 of those. Nine Inch Nails lasted the two week test, looked great in print, and could be abbreviated easily. It really doesn't have any literal meaning. It seemed kind of frightening. [In his best he-man voice] Tough and manly! It's a curse trying to come up with band names."
NIN's sound has variously been described as alternative, electronica, heavy metal, rock, synth pop, or, most commonly, industrial. Regarding his music being categorized as industrial, Reznor had this to say in a 1994 Axcess magazine interview:
"What was originally called industrial music was about 20 years ago Throbbing Gristle and Test Department. We have very little to do with it other than there is noise in my music and there is noise in theirs. I'm working in the context of a pop song structure whereas those bands didn't. And because someone didn't come up with a new name that separates those two somewhat unrelated genres, it tends to irritate all the old school fans waving their flags of alternativeness and obscurity. So, I'd say I've borrowed from certain styles and bands like that."
NIN's songs cover a range of genres; as a body of work, they cannot be pigeonholed. "The Perfect Drug" has the flavor of drum and bass, "Down in It" is essentially a rap, "Happiness in Slavery" is industrial, "The Frail" is a melancholy piano piece, and most of Pretty Hate Machine could be considered dark synth pop.
NIN's mud-soaked performance at Woodstock 1994 is one of their most famous moments. The band earned a Grammy for "Best Metal Performance" for their live performance of "Happiness in Slavery" when it was included on the 1996 Woodstock '94 double CD set.
NIN created the ambient music for id software's computer game Quake in 1996. As a tribute to this, the programmers of the game included a nail gun as a weapon, whose ammo boxes bore the NIN logo.
Trent Reznor is the only official member of the band. He assembles different producers, engineers and musicians to assist him in creating new songs, though Reznor writes all of the lyrics himself and is in sole control of the direction of the band. Similarly, Reznor assembles a live backing band for each NIN tour.