Recording Drums and Bass
Reznor sits down at an 88 weighted-key controller that is nestled between
Ross workstation and a rack of effects processors. As soon as the click track
starts, Reznor hammers out a few sequences of drums, with perfect
timing and precisionfills and all via the keyboard. All I can
think is Wow. Those childhood piano lessons really paid off.
Reznor finishes playing, he turns to Ross and states, Let me hear
those. Ross plays the drum tracks back and Reznor, deploying the quick
decision making expertise that is evident in most world leaders, states,
Okay, I want part 1 followed by part 3, followed by part 2. Ross
politely accepts his mission and starts a flurry of editing in Pro Tools, slicing
and dicing up the audio hes recorded out of the virtual Battery sampler hosted by Logic into Pro Tools, and then quickly moves the trimmed
bits of audio into a nice, clean arrangement.
|photo: rob sheridan
Meanwhile, Reznor turns, thinks and then speaks his next desire for
the song in progress. Next, Im going to do a bass track and I think
Im going to use these three pedals... Reznor speaks out loud the names of the pedals, and as
he turns to his rack full of basses, picks one up and tunes it, the pedals almost
magically appear before him, hooked up by his highly efficient studio assistant.
the time Reznor is satisfied with his tuning (less than a minute from the initial
contemplation of the bass part), Ross has the arrangement ready and the pedals
are ready to be played through. Reznor begins recording his next part. After yet
another stellar performance, I realize that the absence of studio musicians
isnt a control thing, its purely logistical. No studio musicians are required because Reznor is a
virtuoso when it comes to probably every instrument short of the physical drums. And even then, he
effortlessly masters drum programming and drum performance when triggering
samples in Battery through a keyboard controller.
Reznor turns to Ross and
says,I like that. Lets keep that order. Now Id like to do a
tambourine part. He gets up and walks into the next room. Ross turns
on the monitors to the live room where we can see Reznor slipping on some headphones and picking up a set
of tambourines. Ross then plays Reznor the sequence and records the tambourines into Pro Tools alongside the drum and bass
tracks. He quickly applies a little EQ and has a mix ready by the time Reznor walks back in
Recording Guitars and Vox
Reznor listens and states, Great. Now Id like to do a guitar part. For
this Id like to run a couple pedals through the Diezel and the Vetta.
He again speaks the names of his desired pedals aloud, not even directly asking
for them, but rather like he is merely contemplating his next step out loud.
Next Reznor walks to
the guitar rack, picks up an axe and then sits down to tune it. By the time hes ready to play, the
bass pedals have been whisked away and replaced with the guitar ones. Reznor leans down,
and within seconds tweaks the effects knobs, morphing the tone into that perfect Reznor sound that most effects
plug-in companies now spend hours trying to emulate in their presets. And again, with
perfect precision, Reznor plays a few guitar parts in and when satisfied, turns to Ross.
Id like to do some vocals now, he says. Can you bring
up that really cool Native Instruments Vokator thing? The studio assistant
quickly appears with a mic stand, Blue microphone and three sets of headphones so
we can all monitor the mix in real time. Reznor plays with a few different ideas and then finally turns
to us and says, Alright, thats enough for now. Lets get some dinner.
After having a bite to eat, Reznor, Ross and I sit down to
discuss their theories on the current state of technology, recording and what
they hoped to achieve with the new album. I usually take a while between records if anyone hasnt noticed,
says Reznor. And a lot of times that is because we usually end up touring for a lengthy amount of time and that takes a fair amount of effort on my part. After that,
theres usually a
period of decompressing and figuring out what makes sense to approach next musically.
When we did The Fragile, there were certain parameters that established
themselves as the way we were going to work, says Reznor. All of the
songs were going to be written in the studio. We knew it was going to be a long
process we probably spent over two years recording almost every day. So the last thing I wanted to do on this record was start where that left off and
just keep going. Theres a lot of left over stuff from The Fragile thats just not
inspiring to me right now. So it took me a while to kind of see what seemed
exciting to me.
Next page: Reznor on Recording and New Technology
Nine Inch Nails
Reaktor-driven Guitar Trax
There have been a lot of experiments that have happened, like when we
were working with Zach de la Rocha on some stuff, and on this record, says Reznor.
We were looking for a guitar tone so wed take some weird old guitar pedals and start
looking at the wave forms that come out of them when the guitar goes
through it. Then I would think, In Reaktor I could build some insane
guitar pedals. What if we were to use that as a preamp like its a guitar pedal send
that out to the Diezel, and see what it sounds like?
And there you go you can get a
crazy-sounding guitar, yet in an organic and weird kind of way because its
coming out of a guitar amp in the other room, adds Reznor. There have been lots of good things like that for this album.
Yet the recording process for With Teeth was still a lot more low tech
than the process Reznor used for earlier releases like The Fragile. Theres a lot of gear in this room, but its a lot less refined and
perfected. Were not really doing things right. A lot of it is trying
to get back to what we find inspiring.
Embracing The Minimalist Within
Reznor describes his prior release, The Fragile, as some sort of sick quest to
see how many tracks could fit into a single song. A lot of the songs
would just keep going and going and it was a different mindset
then, he says. But this time around mainly from a song-writing perspective
My brain also might be damaged enough not to understand
that many tracks, jokes Reznor. In the past, a part was usually double tracked. But theres none of that this time
around. Its much more of a case where whatevers in there needs to be there. Thats
the aesthetic of the whole thing.
Continued on next page