Nine Inch Nails “With Teeth”
Synths: Soft and Hard

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Modular Analog Over The Digital Revolution
In 2002, Reznor became enamored with virtual and analog-modeled synths, but he rarely touches them now — with the exception of some Native Instruments (NI) apps. “I’ve gotten a lot more into real modular analog and just the kind of garage-y imperfection and the unpredictability of it and the inability to ever save a patch,” explains Reznor.

“These accidents happen where I’m not sure why some things sound the way they do,” he says. “And that has really inspired us to pretty much become the main focus of this album. Monophonic analog synths are the main instruments much more than the guitars this time, much more than the layered things. We tried to make a garage-y type album with a mix of software and analog stuff that still has some kind of freshness to it and has a spirit of what rock should be about, in my opinion.”

Ross adds, “It became more of that spirit of performance thing. It’s got to reflect a personality, rather than a quantized performance. Despite the technological revolution that’s been going on over the past few years, it’s not like we’re sitting around saying, ‘Wow... much better records are being made.’”

Synth City
photo: rob sheridan

Reznor agrees and then comments, “I’ve always kind of envied real bands with real people playing real things and I’ve tried to get that. But I’ve realized that I can stumble onto things working by myself and I’m not afraid to do that anymore. Yet that doesn’t mean that everything has to be assembled in a kind of cut and paste factory. I think a lot of composition software — whether it be Pro Tools, Logic or any sequencer — it can make you work a certain way that I think can sometimes suck the life out of tracks. And you can turn the radio on and find a million examples of that.”

Native Instruments Apps Have “Teeth”
“I think it is an excellent time right now — from a sound and sonic point of view — where the dark ages are past,” says Reznor. “There’s a limitless palate of interesting stuff coming out software-wise. I mean, Reaktor alone. It’s great to have additive and granular synthesis at your fingertips, and the spectral stuff. I’m excited because there are several new software apps that I’ve got and some hardware that I haven’t even scratched the surface of.

“I find that exciting from a sound design point of view —new ways to treat things, ways to evoke emotions out of certain things, ” he explains. “At the top of my list would be pretty much everything Native Instruments makes. From Reaktor to Vokator and Battery for drums. I’ve messed around with Kontakt a bit and Absynth is great.”

Aside from NI, Reznor attests to a few more plug-ins. “The Waldorf Attack is a good little thing to use a lot.” He also deployed the use of the previously PC-only Trash plug-in extensively for “With Teeth.” “But don’t even try using Trash on a Mac without saving your song first,” he cautions.

Back To Hardware
Reznor and Ross used a stockpile of analog subtractive synths for processing and sequencing. “The analog world has provided limitless amounts of inspiration and it’s fun because you have to have a lot of brain to signal path your way through it,” says Reznor.

“And rarely does it not yield some kind of unexpected kind of result,” he adds. “I would find myself in the world of software a lot of times randomizing or starting with patches and fucking with them until something cool comes out rather than starting from scratch and putting sounds together. It’s been surprisingly inspirational to the point where I can’t believe I haven’t stumbled into it earlier.”

Next page: The new face of Nine Inch Nails “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

Learning Live and Reaktor

“I don’t use Live that much, but when I have popped it up for a couple of things, I don’t think I’m using it the way they intend you to,” says Reznor. “I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but it is useful for certain things. There was a day, when on the first album, I had three pieces of gear and I knew every possible in and out. I could make an Emax sound like an orchestra if I wanted to, because that’s all I had.

“All the money in the world that I had was in an Emax,” he says “And now, I know less than 5 percent of all the gear in my studio because I don’t have time to master it all. Mastering Reaktor alone could take a whole lifetime. And I wish I could do that, but my job and my real thing I should be doing and want to do is be producing and writing music.”

“In fact, one of the most complicated drum tracks on the record started with me sending some stuff that Trent had programmed, through a Kaoss Pad — using the little sampler in it to capture and re trigger while it was playing,” attests Ross.

Reznor Tries Traktor
“If I work on something like Traktor DJ studio, it’s not the type of music I make, but it’s been something interesting to learn from a hobbyist point of view,” says Reznor. “I can think, ‘What if we tried using it in a way that it wasn’t intended to be used?’ It’s got a cool way to crossfade in and out of stuff, and you can automate.’ And then it’s like, ‘Wow, I’ve got a new tool to automate stuff with!’

“We were trying to work on a kind of more remix-oriented track where it’s just a linear thing with 50 different parts, and we were going ‘How are we going to cut in and out on this?’ and everything we tried was sounding thought out.

“The parts were cool but they didn’t add up to the right thing. So by messing around in Live and Traktor, things popped out,” adds Reznor. “We’d have never thought to work that way and that’s what I think is really great about what’s happening right now — there are so many great tools and things coming out. It’s a very inspiring time.”

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

Ableton Live
GRM Tools
Native Instruments
Pro Tools
Waldorf Attack

Audio Interfaces
Pro Tools


Korg Kaoss Pad

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