Ex-Nine Inch Nails Drummer On Johnny Cash’s ‘Hurt’ Cover


Rockabilly icon Johnny Cash covered Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt” at producer Rick Rubin’s request is arguably one of the most bizarre covers ever. Cash’s cover is frequently regarded as the definitive version, partly due to its widespread release and the fact that it was one of the last recordings he made before his tragic death in 2003 at the age of 71. On a related note, Pearl Jam recently covered the song as well.

Former Nine Inch Nails drummer comments on the song

Nine Inch Nails drummer and programmer at the time was Chris Vrenna who recently joined in for an interview with 101 WRIF. He recalled the song’s original creation and added his thoughts about Cash’s famous cover:

“I was shocked when I first heard it ’cause I’ve been out of the band for quite some time when I first heard the Johnny Cash thing. It was weird, kind of, for me because it brought back a lot of memories. I remember when we did ‘Hurt,’ ‘Hurt’ was the last song added to the album [‘The Downward Spiral’]. Trent thought it needed one more thing, and he’d been playing with this piano idea. We were already out of the Tate house, we were living out of suitcases, getting ready for tour.”

“And we went into the studio that night. I remember singing it. And me and Sean [Beavan] who did a lot of our engineering, we were both in tears. We were like, ‘Yeah. That’s a song.’ So, it brought back all those memories, which were kind of melancholy and sad. And I just thought it was a beautiful version of it. I know he was doing a lot of those covers at that time. He did ‘Personal Jesus,’ ‘Rusty Cage,’ and ‘Hurt.'”

Vrenna, who left Nine Inch Nails in 1996 and is now a teacher at the University of Michigan, also added his thoughts about modern-day country music.

“I’m not a country music fan at all, don’t even get me started. Everything since Garth Brooks has been garbage. But Johnny, that’s country music. Him and Conway Twitty, Loretta Lynn, and Hank [Williams]. The original Hank, not Hank Jr. That kind of stuff. So, when I heard it, I was like, ‘Wow man, what a crazy idea to do that.'”

When the band released “Hurt,” they didn’t just release a song but offered a raw, emotional journey. Trent Reznor’s haunting vocals and the track’s minimalistic, yet powerful instrumentation, struck a chord that reverberated through the heart of fans. “Hurt” isn’t just a song but an experience. It delves deep into the themes of pain, despair, and self-reflection, presenting them in a way that is both intimate and universal. This emotional authenticity has solidified as a fan favorite, resonating with listeners who find solace in its melancholy beauty.