Onofrio has filed suit in Los Angeles court, accusing Trent Reznor (who is Nine Inch Nails, and vice versa) of ripping off a total of six of his tunes.
In court documents, Onofrio claims the Reznor-credited songs "Closer," "Mr. Self-Destruct," "March of Pigs," "Hurt," "Burn" (from the Natural Born Killers soundtrack) and the title track from Downward Spiral sound uncannily like ditties he wrote, and let the musician listen to in 1993. "Burn" is singled out in the lawsuit as being "strikingly similar." NIN's label, Interscope Records, is also named in the suit, as are four other corporate defendants.
No comment from NIN. The New York-based spokeswoman for the one-man industrial-rock band said Wednesday that she hadn't seen the suit yet. Onofrio's lawyer, meanwhile, could not be reached for comment.
Onofrio and Reznor are email buddies from way back, or so the plaintiff says. The obscure L.A.-area musician claims he met the critically acclaimed performer, who made his first splash at the 1991 edition of Lollapalooza, in an on-line chat room.
In January 1993, Onofrio emailed Reznor that he was working on an album, the lawsuit says. The next day, Reznor emailed back his cyber-acquaintance and offered to listen to the recordings, even requesting that they be dispatched, via Federal Express, to his L.A. home, the court documents attest. (Intriguing aside: In 1993, the notoriously bleak Reznor leased the Benedict Canyon home where actress Sharon Tate and four others were killed by Charlie Mason's "family." It's not immediately clear if that's the home Onofrio claims he was asked to send his songs to.)
There was no word on Wednesday on what other (alleged) contact Onofrio had with Reznor.
In a 1994 newspaper interview, following the release of Downward Spiral, Reznor, now 32, spoke to the song-writing process. "I've felt everything you hear in those songs. It's real," he told the Los Angeles Times.
Reznor also noted that when he first started writing songs his M.O. was to mimic, unsuccessfully, his favorite artists. Said the Pennsylvania native: "At one point, I thought, 'I like the Clash. I'll write something like they would,' and I came up with this half-assed thing."