Trent Reznor and Marilyn Manson: HBO’s ‘The Defiant Ones’ Spotlight

Every movement requires a hero. A beacon in the darkness, guiding the legions to the light.

2788313-jpgHBO’s The Defiant Ones tells the enthralling tale of Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine, two of the most innovative minds in the music industry, during a four-part documentary directed by Allen Hughes. The empires built upon their mastery are portrayed in enormously compelling blueprint form; Iovine’s golden touch propelling the success of Bruce Springsteen, U2 and eventually Interscope Records, alongside Dre’s honing of G-funk, nurturing the careers of Snoop Dogg, Eminem and the most beloved rapper of all time, Tupac Shakur. The potency was legendary, tectonic. Dre and Pac’s duality as trajectory-shifting mastermind and transcendent lyrical-flow flavor completely redefined the palette of hip hop culture.

Another dynamic musical duo appears in the third episode of the series, entirely separate from the rise of West Coast hip hop – one which dragged a taloned claw across the tired face of pre-millennium rock and redefined the boundaries of popular music: Trent Reznor and Marilyn Manson.

In June of 1990, a young writer and aspiring musician interviewed up-and-coming rockers Nine Inch Nails for a South Florida magazine called 25th Parallel. The interviewer was a young man named Brian Warner, openly fascinated by the trajectory of Nails’ explosive industrial theatrics, as well as the uncompromising vision of Reznor, the project’s nucleus.

With serendipitous velocity, that writer would be signed to Reznor’s label three years later, with his own band. The name: Marilyn Manson. Under Trent’s mentorship, Manson would deliver 1994’s demented-circus launchpad of Portrait of An American Family – the vehicle that would position him as the ferociously subversive antihero of rock along with its follow-ups, the ’95 EP Smells Like Children and the Reznor-helmed ’96 apocalyptic masterpiece Antichrist Superstar.

By the late ‘90s, each name would be synonymous with the genres they defined. Reznor slid the blade of industrial music into the mainstream hive through a pop-framed sonic magnetism and infectiously appealing aesthetic, while antihero Manson established a juggernaut of shock-rock impact that served as a pop-culture lightning rod. As the most feared figures in the history of rock ‘n’ roll, the duo established a pivotally powerful influence on the future of rock music, and brought the establishment’s most terrifying nightmares to reality: the large corporate strings of the ‘90s had been cut, and some of the puppets were dancing just fine, all on their own.

As Manson’s force became unstoppable, the eventual rise of tension between he and Reznor would only drive the creative force into deeper territories. The seething condemnation of 1999 Nails track “Starfuckers, inc.” was a direct hit at Manson, following an acrimonious period between the two. Yet despite this, Manson appears in the song’s video, and took the stage with NIN during a now-legendary Madison Square Garden show to perform the song in September of 2000.

Through each stage of Reznor’s career, his pioneering vision has been realized through a relentless DIY work ethic and insistence on integrity. Nine Inch Nails are masters of dark-dance bombast, a thread of subversive, introspectively agonized melancholy running through industrial armageddon. Manson has singlehandedly forced the evolution of rock’s sonic demons, eliminating boundaries through a Vantablack lens and kicking the bar of subversive darkness to previously unfathomable heights of potency.

Together, this duo has established a foundation from which countless bands have risen and shaped our modern rock landscape.

This fall, finally, they will share the same bill once again.

Aftershock 2017.