I could write a dozen different pieces about The Album That Changed My Life and each would be different, each would be a perfect cross-section of who I was, where I was, and how everything changed. Coil. Front Line Assembly. NWA. Tori Amos. The KLF. Haujobb.
This is about Fixed, by Nine Inch Nails.
I was young. Fourteen? I had a copy of Pretty Hate Machine, the Head Like A Hole single, Broken, and Sin. I loved Broken. It had all of the tearing guitar aggression of The Offspring’s Smash but with a kind of obsessive nihlist production that I had never heard anywhere else.
I remember borrowing Broken from a friend. Picking it up at her house. I remember her roommate’s performative dismissal when she learned what I was borrowing. “Nine Inch Nails? They’re shit now. Past their prime.” It was 1994.
When I heard about Fixed, I thought it would be like the Sin single. Or Head Like A Hole. A few clubby remixes, a few quiet remixes, maybe an extra track.
It wasn’t like that. It wasn’t like anything I had ever heard.
The remixers on Fixed include:
- Butch Vig (Garbage)
- J. G. Thirlwell (Foetus, frequent collaborator of Lydia Lunch and Marc Almond, currently the composer for The Venture Bros)
- Bob Flanagan (Subject of the documentary “SICK: The Life & Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist”)
- Peter Christopherson (Co-founder of Industrial Records, Psychic TV, and Coil)
I had heard albums before that changed the way I thought about music. Albums with sounds on it that I didn’t know it was possible to make. Songs about the personal, the occult, and the psychotic. What I hadn’t heard before was an album where I wasn’t sure that it was music at all. Vocals chopped up and syllables rearranged into a violent glossalia. Songs suddenly crashing in on themselves, reduced to a half-second of guitars and drums looping absurdly on a stuck needle you can’t reach. Walls of noise cutting out to cheery commercials and back in again before you’re sure what it is that’s happening.
I didn’t listen to anything else for at least four months. Likely longer. I played that tape until all of its sharpness was lost and my walkman had been closed so long the rubber seal had started to fuse.
From that album I discovered Coil. Foetus. Industrial Records. Can. Cabaret Voltaire. Swans. William Burroughs. JG Ballard. Godflesh. NEU!. Neubauten. Test Dept. Gary Numan. Ministry. Stockhausen. Killing Joke. Brian Eno.
Years later, Trent Reznor took some time between winning a Grammy and winning an Oscar to personally say “fuck you” on my Facebook after I said I missed the old Nine Inch Nails sound.
There’s no substitute for that kind of lifetime fan rapport, friends.