Nine Inch Nails “With Teeth”
Technology and Recording with Pro Tools

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Reznor Has Issues With Technology
Despite having a foundation based on using computers for recording, Reznor voices some active discontent about how high-end recording technology is so accessible these days. “I have found myself reacting against music made on computers and I’ve noticed that as technology and great programs have become more readily available to people, it’s easier to make perfect, polished music,” says Reznor. “I’ve seen a lot of programmers who assume they’re producers just because they can make things sound professional. They can cut some engineering corners and it’s really easy with some plug-ins to make things sound polished and great and perfect — and I think, ultimately boring.

“The spirit of music that inspires me or excites me is something that still has some sort of feeling behind it, or emotion or rawness or danger,” he adds. “And I think a lot of the time now — when everything is composed purely in a Pro Tools or sequenced environment — it’s so easy to perfect everything. So that’s the way you’re supposed to do it — which just seems flat to me.”

The Hand That Feeds
photo: rob sheridan

But Reznor does still swear by using computer technology for his own recording projects. “The idea of trying to work with tape is stupid to me, seems archaic and is not something I want to embrace,” he clarifies. “But I do think you can take the aesthetic of humanity and imperfection and spontenaity, and use it with computers. And that’s — in kind of a rough, raw way — one of the things we’ve stumbled into with this record.”

Macs, Pro Tools and Logic
“We have one main G4 running OS X with Pro Tools as our recorder,” explains Reznor. “The main problem is that there is no top quality software sampler available other than the EXS24 in Logic. I love using the EXS24, but I have to use it inside Logic and we don’t use Logic for very many things.”

So they run Logic on a second Power Mac. “We have a third G4 for running Reaktor primarily, and every other VST plug-in in the world, including Battery and all the Native Instruments plug-ins, which we run using Logic as a host,” he says. Two additional G4’s and a PC run digitally in and out to the main Pro Tools computer. “If there is a little bit of MIDI trickery that we need Logic’s MIDI engine for, then we can bounce it back and forth between the computers, ” says Reznor.

Processing: Avalons and Pro Tools HD
“We’ve got a couple of Avalon DI’s and mic pres,” explains Reznor. “But generally we’re using the converters in the new Pro Tools HD. It’s funny because we were like, ‘Let’s get the high definition Pro Tools and then have everything be as low-fi as possible.’ But if we do need to go 192k, we could.” They also deployed the use of a Pro Control 24 for the mixing of the tracks.

When working in the studio, Reznor and Ross struggle to not get sucked too far into certain directions. “I can come in here and get obsessed with noise levels, or I can get obsessed with a couple pieces of gear that sound really cool,” says Reznor. “I’ll want to spend time really learning to program and it is fun to do that, but the hobbyist in me gets carried away with that side of things.

“I can think ‘It would be great to go through all the samples and get them all organized so they’re perfect,” he says. “Yet that really is a lot of work invested in something that might be nice to have. But the real thing I’m trying to do here is make music that affects me, that matters to me and comes out of my heart and has something to it.

Next page: Synths: Soft and Hard deployed for “:With Teeth”

Nine Inch Nails

1. The End of Nothing
2. In the Studio with Trent
3. Technology and Recording
4. Synths: Soft and Hard
5. The New Face of NIN

On New Technology

Despite his protests about over-perfection of mainstream music, Reznor is generally happy that more people have access to computer-based recording these days. “I think it’s great that, for a very little amount of money, anyone has access to the tools to make good sounding music,” he says. “But I think often, it’s misconstrued that something that sounds good says something.

“I’m not saying in an elitist way that no one should be able to make good records, ” says Reznor. “I think it’s cool that you can make records in your bedroom now. But I think the danger inherently is that it’s real easy to make generic crap. And to that end, from what little time I’ve spent with Soundtrack, it seems to say exactly that: ‘Here’s a music construction kit. We’ve eliminated the musician!’”

TR Takes No Shortcuts
Unlike some of his former engineers and programmers who relied heavily on key commands, Reznor openly admits that he has no desire to use short cuts. “I like to take a second to think about what I’m doing instead of going, ‘Here’s the macro that does ten steps’ and then having the computer do it,” he says. “I like taking that extra minute of time to figure it out.”

He adds, “I think a lot of times with computers we overlook the importance of aesthetics and that making music still has something to do with what’s coming out of the soul and isn’t all about doing it in the most efficient, sensible, push-button operation sort of way.”

However, Ross clarifies, “It’s not like we don’t take advantage of everything. It’s just that most of the tracks aren’t like 120 tracks. They’re pretty sparse. And I think that’s an important thing on this record.

“It’s much harder to get a song to sound cool without adding,” he says. “It’s much easier to add. Because of everything that’s available, it’s easy to want to do that.”

Continued on next page

Useful Links

Past Reznor Interviews
TR: Alchemist of Melody

More NIN-related Interviews
Jerome Dillon Produces
Sound Design for NIN
Producer Alan Moulder
Remixer Chris Vrenna

Nine Inch Nails
Pretty Hate Machine
The Downward Spiral
The Fragile
With Teeth
Year Zero
Ghosts I—IV
The Slip

Power Mac

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GRM Tools
Native Instruments
Pro Tools
Waldorf Attack

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