Down in It

"Down in It" is a song by American industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails, released in 1989. Released as the project's debut single, the song was the first to be written by Trent Reznor. It was released as a teaser single prior to the debut album, Pretty Hate Machine.


Reznor has stated that the song was influenced heavily by "Dig It", a song by Skinny Puppy from their 1986 album Mind: The Perpetual Intercourse. The song's outro lyrics reference the nursery rhyme Rain Rain Go Away.

Single release

"Down in It" was the first official Nine Inch Nails release and the first single from the album Pretty Hate Machine. Initially released only on vinyl, a CD version was later created after the success of the album.

The first track on the single, "Down in It (skin)", is the mix that is found on Pretty Hate Machine. The cover art is very similar to Joy Division's first album, Unknown Pleasures. Joy Division has always been cited as an influence by Reznor, and he later covered their song "Dead Souls" on the soundtrack to The Crow.


Around the time of the single's release, the band lip-synched a performance of the song on the dance music program Dance Party USA. The video was rediscovered in 2012 and went viral after being uploaded to YouTube. Trent Reznor responded to the video's re-discovery on his Twitter account stating that the band had decided to appear on the show after deciding it was "the most absurd choice they could come up with at the time" for a television program they would be interested in performing in, and were surprised when they were actually booked to appear on the program.


  • TVT Records TVT 2611 – 12" Vinyl
  • TVT Records TVT 2611-2 – CD

    The single was included in the 2015 Record Store DayBlack Friday exclusive box set, Halo I–IV.

    Music video

    A music video for "Down in It" directed by Eric Zimmerman and Benjamin Stokes, filmed on location in the Warehouse District of Chicago, was released in September 1989. It includes special effects applied to scenes such as a television set falling down forwards and backwards, light writing, and flashing. In the video, Trent Reznor runs to the top of the building, while Chris Vrenna and Richard Patrick follow him.

    The climax of the original version of the "Down in It" music video ended with the implication that Reznor's corn starch-covered character had fallen off a building and died in the street. MTV censored the scene, editing it from all airings. To film the ending of the video, Zimmerman and Stokes had used a video camera tied to a balloon, so ropes were attached preventing it from escaping the Warehouse District building. Minutes after they started filming using this technique, the ropes snapped and the balloons (and the camera) rose high into the atmosphere and – after traveling over 200 miles – landed on a farmer's field in Michigan. The Federal Bureau of Investigation received the footage from the farmer and investigated if it portrayed a person committing suicide. The FBI perceived the tape as a snuff film, and identified the person appearing at the ending to be Reznor. "Somebody at the FBI had been watching too much Hitchcock or David Lynch or something," Reznor remarked. The investigation ended when his manager demonstrated Reznor was not dead and the music video had nothing related to crime or satanism.

    This story was covered by the news magazine show Hard Copy on their March 3, 1991 episode. "Total junk gossip exploitative journalism…" Reznor concluded. "That was the icing on the cake: getting on the worst TV show in America."

    Critical reception

    The single release was largely panned by Allmusic, who described the two remixes included as inferior to the original. Since all three tracks were later released on the "Head Like a Hole" single, Allmusic labeled the "Down in It" single as "completely superfluous and useful only to NIN completists."

    Covers, soundtrack appearances and legacy

    "Down in It" has been covered by Eric Gorfain, The Meeks, Dead When I Found Her, Sasha and Tiga.

    A remix of "Down in It" was used in an early 1990s Gatorade television advertisement. Originally, "Steppin' Out by Joe Jackson was to be featured in the commercial, but Jackson declined the offer. Reznor unsuccessfully sued the production company who created the commercial for copyright infringement after he saw it in 1993, accusing them for illegal use of the song without permission.

    The song's lyrics share similarities with those of the 2005 Nine Inch Nails song "Only", from the album With Teeth. The opening verse of Down in It contains the lyric "Just then a tiny little dot caught my eye," while the second verse of Only opens with the lyric "Well, the tiniest little dot caught my eye." In "Only", Trent elaborates on what that dot was ("a scab trying to seal itself shut"), while both songs also include several references to personal growth and change: "fading away" from the kind of person the protagonist once assumed himself to be and an uncertainty as to who they will inevitably become.

    Track listing

    All tracks remixed by Adrian Sherwood and Keith LeBlanc.