By then, (Michael) Trent Reznor, a classically trained pianist, had long since shed the anonymity of his small-town upbringing in Mercer, Pittsburgh ("Going to McDonald's was our big event," he joked). He went on to work as a studio-hand, making coffee and cleaning the toilets. Next, he changed the world, forging industrial music – by fusing pulsing electronica with scuzzy metal – via Nine Inch Nails on their 1989 debut, Pretty Hate Machine. He did it in a way that shocked the world, with the extreme S&M video to Happiness In Slavery finding itself banned on these shores.
But it was the album born in 10050 Cielo Drive that made Trent and Nine Inch Nails household names. Upon its release, it would storm to Number One in the American charts, going on to sell millions of copies. And this year, that album, The Downward Spiral, turns 20. Two decades on, this 14-track, purgatorial, harrowing barrage of industrial noise remains the most resolutely anti-commercial record to ever go mainstream. Not that it was easy, mind.
Ask Trent Reznor today if there will be any special Downward Spiral celebrations from his end and his answer is emphatically short.
"Um, no," he says.
Is that because you don't like to look back?
"Well, yeah. When you just said it was 20 years, I had to think. 'Is it 20 years?' I'm not saying that dismissively. It's just, I think it's because I'm fucking old. I don't like to think about it! Twenty fucking years ago? Really? It seems like about five years ago to me. I was high for several…" He stops short.
"I missed some time. No, I look back at that record fondly and certainly the time in my life."
Trent is focusing on looking ahead. As he should be: having revived Nine Inch Nails after their hiatus with 2013's spectacular 5/5-rated Hesitation Marks album, this year there's NIN's huge arena tour, and a lot more besides. But while Trent may not be celebrating the past, the music world most definitely should.
"I really like The Downward Spiral," remarked Trent, upon its completion. "It was hard to do and it beat the shit out of me, but I'm proud of it. There aren't any obvious radio and MTV songs."