Former Nine Inch Nails art director reveals tour prank that could have gone dangerously wrong

"He was SCREAMING."

Former Nine Inch Nails art director, Rob Sheridan has recalled the time a hilarious prank played on the band’s tour manager almost went dangerously wrong.

After learning that gadget company Think Geek was shutting down, Sheridan paid homage by recalling how a prank played upon a Nine Inch Nails tour manager using one of their products almost went a little too far.

“For those unaware, the Annoy-A-Tron was an absolutely insidious office prank device, a very tiny contraption with an adhesive back designed to be hidden and stuck in difficult-to-find places,” explained Sheridan on Twitter. “When activated the Annoy-A-Tron would emit a loud high-pitched electronic beep, not unlike the horrible beep smoke detectors make when low on batteries. The beep had an incredible way of piercing an entire room, but here’s the genius part, the part that made it truly evil. The beeps would emit at RANDOM INTERVALS.”

He added: “Not only is there something deeply psychologically irritating about a sound that has no understandable pattern, it also made the source of the device incredibly difficult to locate, because you couldn’t easily hone in on it.”

Saving the Nine Inch Nails tour manager the embarrassment of fans knowing the name of the victim of the prank, Sheridan referred to him only as ‘J’ and said that he was “the nicest guy, he was also a big man from Texas who didn’t take any shit,” but being that he was the only one in the crew with a desk, it made sense he was the obvious choice to prank.

The “team operation” saw J lured away from his office just long enough for the Annoy-A-Tron to be put in position. “We’d find reasons to go into J’s office to check in on him. At first it was funny: ‘Do you hear that? Something keeps fucking beeping! What IS that?’ I know, this is all very immature. But it WAS funny,” laughed Sheridan. “Well, it was funny until J started going so crazy from the horrible sound that he began unplugging every device in the room, trying to narrow down the source: Printers, phones, computers, smoke detectors, etc. Everything was unplugged yet the beep persisted. He was SCREAMING.”

He continued: “As J grew more furious and obsessed, we started to get concerned. This had gone too far. But we couldn’t get into his office to turn the device off without revealing our prank, which at this point would be a very dangerous thing to admit to. So we watched, nervously, as J proceeded to physically remove EVERYTHING from the office. Unplugging wasn’t good enough, he had to completely clear the office out to eliminate possible culprits of the terrible noise. He removed everything… except his desk. We were biting our nails watching this unfold … Sweating and filled with rage, J stands on the desk and starts ramming the ceiling tiles with a broom handle, knocking them down one by one, convinced there must be something in the ceiling. He’s a man possessed, and the joke has gone way too far at this point.”

According to Sheridan, a made up issue was staged in order to get J to leave his office so they could remove the Annoy-A-Tron. After realising the beeping had stopped upon his return, J began to rebuild his office, while those involved in the prank promised to never speak of it… that is until now.

“J pulled many pranks of his own, and normally we’d have told him, and reveled in how hard we ‘got’ him. But I’ve never seen someone driven so mad by a sound than I saw J on that day. There was fire in his eyes. He was ready to kill. We didn’t dare tell him,” Sheridan admitted.

You can read the entire Twitter thread here.

Meanwhile, Nine Inch Nails are selling their own Black Mirror t-shirt, after Miley Cyrus reimagined their tracks in a new episode of the show.

The hit dystopian sci-fi series returned to Netflix on June 5 for its fifth season. Episode 3 of the new run, titled Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too, sees Cyrus portray a teen pop idol who becomes the focus of her fans’ obsession.

During a press event, Charlie Brooker revealed that “every song that [Cyrus’ character] performs is a Nine Inch Nails song that we adapted into a pop standard”. The writer went on to explain that he had to seek permission from Trent Reznor to transform the tracks into “upbeat pop songs”.