When Martin shared this information, he said the tape was from November 1986. Now, look. I'm in my mid-40s, I'm giving a presentation on citizen archaeology in Colonial Williamsburg next year, and by day I eat, drink, and breathe something called "headless commerce" (don't ask!) - there are so many things I have filled my brain with throughout my life.
But I also know there's no way Trent Reznor was writing "Nine Inch Nails" on cassette tapes in 1986. I pushed back - are you sure you didn't mean 1988, and in return I was given very specific information: Trent played sax on stage with Brian Brain when Mr Atkins' tour stopped in Cleveland, and he had the day off the following day, and when they were hanging out at a BBQ with the owners of the Phantasy nightclub, Trent gave him a tape. I was initially impressed by this level of detail, and even though I still knew the date was wrong, the prospect of having Martin Atkins vouching that Down In It was written and recorded before Skinny Puppy had released Dig It in the US was enticing - all those snark-ass rivetheads who wrote NIN off 34 years ago, what if I could convince them they were wrong!
Armed with some keywords that I knew would help me chase this down, I stumbled across The Cleveland Public Library Digital Collection. I'm not sure how long this has been online, but someone made the effort to scan local publications such as East Side Daily News, Plain Press, and... Scene, a biweekly magazine covering the local music scene. And it's searchable!
That, friends, is how I came across a 1985 mention of "Pennsylvanian Trent Reznor" joining the lineup of a band called HOT RODNEY. I was slightly disappointed to learn that Hot Rodney very quickly was renamed to The Innocent. But as I continued through the search results, I discovered a nearly play-by-play documentation of Trent's career in Cleveland, joining a few bands, and then going solo with Nine Inch Nails. (so much fodder for the NIN Wiki)
Thank you, Cleveland Public Library! Upon discovering these things, fearing irrationally that they might vanish off the internet at any moment like so many other things I've archived, I transcribed a couple of interviews, as well as some of these career updates, and put them in our article archive. That archive still looks like butt, and isn't great to navigate, but click through to either Interviews or General News, and scroll all the way to the bottom.
It's just the text of the interviews here, and not nearly all of the band updates. You'll have to head to the library digital archives for that, and if this is your kind of thing, it's totally worth it. Especially for things like a grainy photo of the staff of The Right Track studio, where Pretty Hate Machine was recorded. More than that, it was a nice reminder that there used to be little print magazines left out at bars and venues, printed every month, or every two weeks, with interviews, articles, and gossip about who's in Exotic Birds this week - alongside ads for local recording studios, lists of upcoming shows at the local clubs, and more. I miss that kind of thing, and wonder if it could even exist on the same scale today.
Anyhow. Martin Atkins conceded in private that even though 1988 feels way too late, I was right about the date.