Trent Reznor's Behavior in "March of the Pigs"

Nine Inch Nails’ “March of the Pigs” (2002) industrial aesthetic, shot live in one take in a bare warehouse studio, embodies the band’s no nonsense disposition. Front man Trent Reznor, known for an abrasive facetiously tortured stage presence, delivers many of his trademark moves, examined herein.


0:25 — Acclimating to “fuck shit up”

Fueled by the uncompromising emotionless drum beat, we can see by the intense look on Reznor’s face that he’s mentally preparing himself to really fuck shit up.

1:09 — Disoriented

After an impressive conventionally performed first verse, Reznor quickly becomes more and more disoriented. Maybe he’s on drugs, or isn’t wearing his contact lenses. He wanders in between his band mates without any clear direction. If this is existential commentary, it is only vaguely compelling.

1:17 — Anger towards mic stand [first time]

Reznor “launches” the mic stand dangerously high towards the production crew without any regard for their safety. This is the problem with artists, especially tortured ones; their egotistical solipsism can only be negligently punctured with projectiles when the mood strikes them.

1:35 — Throws mic on ground

The mic, again launched into the air,  makes an atonal dry thud when it hits the ground, serving two purposes: (1) to “prove” or at least bring attention to the fact that this is being filmed live, and (2) as passive-aggressive nonchalance towards record industry.

1:56 — Belligerent towards guitarist

The guitarist is simply trying to keep up with the song, of rather neutral disposition, if not a pretty good attitude. He has only expressed goodwill towards his employer Reznor, who, perhaps with unresolved father and/or Freudian issues, comes over gets patriarchally all “?plha male” on his ass.

2:01 — Pounces around impulsively

Having exhausted many of his trademark moves, Reznor is reduced to having an aesthetic temper tantrum, jumping around impulsively as if head-butting air/generic space.

2:06 — Belligerent towards [other] guitarist

The other guitarist is around 7 ft. tall, thus Reznor shows more restraint; he merely pushes him with his hand, a kind of benign symbolic gesture. We know even Reznor is smart enough not to fuck with a 7 ft. tall goth monster.

2:14 — Emotionally leans into key synthesizer stand, almost tipping it over

Synthesizers are expensive, ranging from ~$599 – $3699 dollars. Reznor, generously compensated for his musical genius, doesn’t give a fiscal shit if he knocks over a $3,000 piece of equipment. Well, I care. Settle down!

2:17 — Pushes guitarist out of picture frame, then launches mic into “nowhere”

He really does not like this mic. Somewhat awkwardly, he viscerally “heaves” the mic away from his body like some strange flying abortion or projectile vomiting. It is as if, essentially, he is disgusted by this entire world.

2:25 — Randomly slaps keyboard, causing atonal disruption, possibly damaging it

He is also not through with the keyboard. Knowing that the song is almost over, he figures he’ll walk over to the keyboard and sort of “bitch slap” it, incurring a muffled note that doesn’t belong in the song. Again, he wants us to know this is live.

3:01 — Anger towards mic stand [final time]

With an absurdly sentimental final “fuck off,” Trent slaps the mic stand to the ground. One wonders if we, his audience and fanbase, are the intended recipients of this swan song slap; we, our dusty and severely scratched The Downward Spiral inside an unused laundry basket in our bedroom closet, once palm-reading the crack on the CD case looking for clues into a painful future, before downloads and streaming, before music genomes and pop-up ads, back when we were angry and somewhat artistic for no apparent reason, before punk died for the thousandth time, before it all went to shit.Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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