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The Iconic Video Game Soundtrack You Might Not Realize Nine Inch Nails Wrote

Well before being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Trent Reznor of the industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails wrote the soundtrack for Quake, an iconic first person shooter from id Software. Quake blazed a trail for future first-person shooters, largely in part to innovative PC game developer John Romero, who worked on other classic games like Doom and Wolfenstein, and co-founded id Software.


In an interview with Vice, Romero explains that fellow game developers John Carmack and American McGee were fans of Nine Inch Nails, and that Nine Inch Nails also happened to be avid Doom players, even going so far as to have computers on their tour bus for indulging in multiplayer matches. Of the soundtrack, Romero said that the designers wanted something completely different for Quake. Reznor wanted to match a certain aesthetic that he saw as being consistent with other id Software first-person shooters. 

"We don't want songs. We want feelings," Romero said of Reznor's work on Quake

Quake feels different from games that preceded it, in part, because of Reznor's gritty, dark soundtrack and ambient screams.


Romero wasn't completely satisfied with Trent

On Twitter, John Romero confirmed that in addition to creating the music for the game, Trent Reznor also voiced the player character as well. Each time the player jumps or gets shot, Reznor's voice is behind the signature groans.


There's some controversy to Reznor's soundtrack, though. John Romero told the now-defunct Quake Expo site, "Trent didn't spend much time on it and the only real standout track was the title song." It's unclear how Romero fully feels about Reznor's work on Quake, but the connection between video games and music remains an interesting piece of trivia.

Even though some Quake games work a little too hard to destroy players, there's a certain enjoyment in knowing about the collaborative spirit behind the initial entry in the series. Each time you replay Quake and hear a moan or a shout, know that it's the Oscar-winning Trent Reznor letting out those guttural cries.