Pretty Hate Machine

Pretty Hate Machine
Nine Inch Nails - Pretty Hate Machine.png
Studio album by
ReleasedOctober 20, 1989 (1989-10-20)
RecordedMay–June 1989
Nine Inch Nails chronology
Pretty Hate Machine
Halo numbers chronology
Halo 1
Halo 2
Halo 3
Singles from Pretty Hate Machine
  1. "Down in It"
    Released: September 15, 1989
  2. "Head Like a Hole"
    Released: March 22, 1990
  3. "Sin"
    Released: October 10, 1990
Alternative cover
2010 remastered version cover
2010 remastered version cover

Pretty Hate Machine is the debut studio album by American industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails, released on October 20, 1989 by TVT Records. The album is compiled of reworked tracks from the Purest Feeling demo, as well as songs composed after its original recording. Production of the record was handled by Flood and Trent Reznor, among other contributors.

The album bears little in resemblance to NIN's succeeding work, featuring a more synth-driven electronic sound blended with industrial and rock elements. Lyrically, it contains themes of angst and betrayal, in addition to the recurring theme of lovesickness. The record was promoted with three singles: "Down in It", "Head Like A Hole", and "Sin", as well as an accompanying tour, the Pretty Hate Machine Tour Series. A remastered edition was also released in 2010.

Although the record was commercially successful, reaching number 75 in the US, and received highly favorable reviews from critics, Reznor, the band's only constant member at the time, feuded with TVT over promotion of the album, which later led him to sign with Interscope Records. Retrospectively, it is viewed unfavorably by Reznor, who is critical of its themes and production. Nevertheless, Pretty Hate Machine was later certified triple-platinum by RIAA, becoming one of the first independently released albums to do so, and was included on several lists of the best releases of the 1980s.


During working nights as a handyman and engineer at the Right Track Studio in Cleveland, Ohio, Reznor used studio "down-time" to record and develop his own music.[1] Playing most of the keyboards, drum machines, guitars, and samplers himself, he recorded a demo. The sequencing was done on a Macintosh Plus.[2] Reznor mainly used a Prophet VS, Oberheim Xpander, and Minimoog as synthesizers.[3]

With the help of manager John Malm, Jr., he sent the demo to various record labels. Reznor received contract offers from many of the labels, but eventually signed with TVT Records, who were known mainly for releasing novelty and television jingle records. Pretty Hate Machine was recorded in various studios with Reznor collaborating with some of his most idolized producers: Flood, Keith LeBlanc, Adrian Sherwood, and John Fryer. Much like his recorded demo, Reznor refused to record the album with a conventional band, recording Pretty Hate Machine mostly by himself.

"A lot of it sounds immature to me now," he stated in 1991 of the recordings that were then two years old. "At first it totally sucked. I became completely withdrawn. I couldn't function in society very well. And the LP became a product of that. It's quite small scale, introverted, claustrophobic – that's the feel I went for."[4]

Reznor discussed the recording and touring of Pretty Hate Machine in the April 1990 issue of Keyboard. He used an E-mu Emax because it produced a high-end buzzing noise when transposing down sounds.[3] Rough and first takes of vocals and guitar were used to contrast the quantized drums and bass.[3] Reznor hated the factory sounds of the Emax but had not transferred anything from his old Emulator, and used samples from his record collection for all the drum sounds. He initially expected to use real drum sounds when recording the album, but in the end he and the producers merely equalized his drum samples.[3]

After the album was released, a recording known as Purest Feeling surfaced. The bootleg album contains the original demo recordings of most of the tracks featured on Pretty Hate Machine, as well as a couple that were not used ("Purest Feeling", "Maybe Just Once" and an instrumental introduction to "Sanctified" called "Slate").[citation needed]