Follow the trail to Nine Inch Nails

By Kelly Hagen for Bismarck Tribune on March 30, 2007

I can still remember a time in the way, way back, when I was both younger and better looking. At the time that I am remembering, I had a multitude of band stickers plastered to the back window of my car, including one for the band Nine Inch Nails.

I also was working for a grease peddler in the lonely town of Fargo. It was there that a young lady who was my co-worker would, based solely on this one sticker on my car, decide that we two had the exact same taste in music and remember, these were my better-looking days decide that I was the world's most perfect man. So, despite the fact I'd never shown her any interest, she wrote me a note on my last day there, declaring that she was willing to leave her husband and two children to be with me.

I took that sticker off my car. That thing was obviously dangerous.

But that's how feverishly fans love Nine Inch Nails: They'll tear apart their families over the band. As well, they will follow a trail of crumbs across a bleak Orwellian landscape, where the government controls its citizens through chemicals and intimidation, and a small rebel force is all that's left to fight for individual rights, all to get a sneak peek into NIN's newest album, "Year Zero."

No, I'm not talking about "Star Wars." I'm referring to the marketing campaign being utilized to sell the new Nine Inch Nails album. Follow the rabbit.

Trent Reznor, the mastermind and only true member of NIN, is in his 40s, and, for close to 20 years, he's made a career out of songs that are angry at everything: record labels, people who aren't him, people who are him, postal carriers, farm animals, strip malls, paper cuts, etc.

A guy can only rage against the machine for a couple of decades before the act gets a tad stale, so a shakeup seems to be in order. And a shakeup is what's coming, as Reznor is on creative overload this year, not only by recording his newest album, "Year Zero,"which is scheduled for release April 17, but by hyping the release with one of the more fascinating "marketing"campaigns you'll ever see.

The game started this February, when fans noticed that random letters on a tour T-shirt spelled out the not-so-random message of "I am trying to believe." Were it me making that discovery, the trail would have stopped right there, as the phrase sounds like your standard Reznorism. Standard, "I am miserable, but I wish that I were not" proclamation.

However, fans smarter than I looked to see what happens when you take the phrase to the Web, and, sure enough, www.iamtryingtobelieve.com exists. The site describes a future world, where a chemical called "Parepin," a drug that the government is adding to the drinking water in the not-so-distant future that supposedly limits bioterrorism. However, the author of the site seems convinced that the drug is bioterrorism in itself, controlling the population.

Within the site is an e-mail address. Being enterprising, I sent the following message its way:

Dear you,

I like water. Yet I dislike bioterrorism. I am conflicted.

Love, peace ... chicken grease,

Kelly Hagen

The autoresponse I and everyone gets from this e-mail address says, "Thank you for your interest. It is now clear to me that Parepin is a completely safe and effective agent developed to protect us from bio-terrorism. The administration is acting purely in the best interests of its citizens; to suggest otherwise was irresponsible and I deeply regret it. I'm drinking the water. So should you."

The cyberbaddies must have got to him. Ihope they don't find me on the Google, too.

The trail has continued for enterprising NIN fans, as they have uncovered a long list of Web sites by Googling phrases contained in each site's fictional description of the U.S. as it is controlled by this authoritarian government, circa 2022.

I have yet to find any references to Al Gore on any of these sites, but I can only assume that he'll eventually show up in the story to right that which is wrong. He's a a bit of a folk hero.

Should you want to follow the trail, here are some of the sites that have been uncovered:






Tack together the story being told on this trail of sites and the one Reznor will detail in "Year Zero,"and you've got yourself a novel, basically, involving a lot of deep thought and planning. It's like a choose-your-adventure book for modern times, and I applaud everyone involved for their thinking outside the box. I hope that these efforts are applauded with huge album sales, as this whole game is really getting fans engaged in the process of music, for once.

I am officially back to being a Nine Inch Nails fan. Ladies, don't feel you need to leave your husbands for me.

Transcribed by Lt. Randazzo

View the NIN Hotline article index