Folgender Artikel wurde auf der offiziellen Seite von "Apple"
veröffentlicht. Nun ja, im Grunde sehr interessant, weil man viel
über Vrenna's Arbeit erfährt und welche Geräte er benutzt.
Natürlich ist viel Werbung für Apple dabei, aber interessant ist
der Artikel auf alle Fälle. Leider habe ich ihn nur auf Englisch
Quelle, so lange es noch online ist: http://www.apple.com/hotnews/articles/2002/07/chrisvrenna/
producer, drummer, engineer, remixer, songwriter and programmer Chris Vrenna
has scored and remixed for film and video games, and has produced, engineered
and remixed for all sorts of artists including David Bowie, U2, the Smashing
Pumpkins, Marilyn Manson, Green Day, the Wallflowers and Nine Inch Nails (NIN)
— for whom he was the original drummer. Now he releases his own songs under the
band name Tweaker.
From the beat-driven early
years to Nine Inch Nails, the Smashing Pumpkins and Tweaker.
Into the Next Level
Remixing for soundtracks
and record labels, fighting against a predictable style and thoughts on
From StudioVision to
ProTools, tools for sound design and advice for recording at home.
Chris Vrenna first got into
music at the age of five. “I had a big thing for marching parades and marching
bands. My dad realized that, as the bands marched by, I’d always be marching
with them in time, and that I would beat on things in time, so he thought,
‘Well, that’s kind of unusual,’” says Vrenna.
“So he asked me, ‘Do you
want to learn drums?’ And I said, ‘Yeah!’ So he called around when I was about
six and tried to find someone to teach me drums,” he says. He found a jazz
teacher who said he would be willing to give a six-year-old a chance on the
Vrenna took lessons from
the teacher for 10 years before moving onto a rock drum teacher. And he
supplemented his training by playing in a marching band, a drum and bugle
corps, the BCI drum corps and the adult drum corps.
Bangs The Drums
“I was in the percussion
ensemble of the Erie Youth Orchestra—that was my very first European tour. We
did a two-week tour playing Copeland music, all American composers, when I was
16 or 17,” reflects Vrenna. “I was the pit drummer for two seasons of musicals
for Erie’s Playhouse Theater, so I
know how to read charts.”
When he was 15, he started
a punk rock band. “I’ve never played in a cover band. I played originals my
whole life. Even back then we were writing original stuff,” he says.
When he was a senior in
high school, Vrenna met Trent Reznor. “He was in an electronic synth band in
Cleveland, the Exotic Birds, that did fairly well, and I was in a synth band in
Pennsylvania,” says Vrenna.
“My keyboard player and he were good friends. Trent was selling his
Linn drum so he could get the Linn 9000, so I bought it.”
Vrenna and his friend
started going to Cleveland to see the
Exotic Birds play. Soon after high school, when Vrenna was going to college at Kent State in Cleveland, he got a phone
call from Trent, asking Vrenna to join the
band. Vrenna joined for 18 months, until the band broke up.
That’s when Trent started writing
his own music, which became the Nine Inch Nails’ “Pretty Hate Machine” album.
When that album took off, Vrenna joined the band for the live tour, and to help
with programming. He later received a Grammy for his work on NIN’s live version
of “Happiness In Slavery.”
Vrenna decided to leave
Nine Inch Nails in 1996, a year after NIN played a co-headlining tour with
David Bowie. “We did the Marilyn Manson ‘Antichrist Superstar’ project and the
summer after that, I felt it was time to move on,” says Vrenna. “I was
changing, and my tastes changed, and I didn’t like living in New Orleans.” So Vrenna
left the band and moved to Los Angeles.
“I got out here around
Christmas. I’d just finished unpacking the last of my boxes, was sitting down
making a list of all of the industry people I was gonna call on the day after
New Years break when I got a phone call,” says Vrenna.
“It was the tour manager for
the Smashing Pumpkins saying, ‘I got your name from so-and-so… Do you know how
to run StudioVision… ProTools… do you understand the MIDI beatclock? And
like drum machines?’ And I said, ‘Yeah…’ So he goes, ‘Great, because I’m trying
to find somebody who can be Billy’s programmer on tour.’”
Pumpkins to Roses
The tour manager asked
Vrenna if he could be in Portland the following
night. He agreed and started the job programming for the Smashing Pumpkins
right away. “I was Billy Corgan’s programmer for four months after that because
he was still on tour but had all these other commitments — for remixes and
productions,” explains Vrenna.
“We were carrying a mini
laptop StudioVision writing rig on tour, and while they were up on stage, my
job was to engineer, program and keep it all running,” he adds.
“We also had a VS880, an
MC-303 and a rackmount K2000. It was great… a totally different scene, but it
was weird to be on tour but not on stage,” he admits. “It was just what I
needed though, because it was an immediate — ‘Boom! You’re onto something
While he was on tour with
the Smashing Pumpkins, Vrenna got a call from Axl Rose, who invited Vrenna to
come down and hang out with the Guns and Roses for a while. “I did for a couple
weeks, but then decided I didn’t want to join the band,” says Vrenna.
Advent of Tweaker
Realizing he didn’t want to
join another band, he decided to move on and try writing his own music, which
led him into remixing. “I just started writing and eventually it all became the
Tweaker record, while the remixes I was doing slowly turned into productions
and other work,” he adds.
“I never intended to get my
own deal or anything like that,” says Vrenna. “I thought, ‘Yeah, it’d be pretty
cool to do a record, I guess. But then I got an offer from a label. They ended
up signing me and so I worked on the album for about 18 months, delivered it to
them and never heard anything from anyone.” It turned out that the label was
being sold, so Vrenna fought to get his album back, so his art wouldn’t get
stuck in the midst of a label merger.
Cursed Debut Album
“I got my record back,
started shopping it around again and got signed by Six Degrees,” he says. “Then
I went back in and reworked a lot of the record — further fulfilling the
vision, and finally got it done.” But the release date was 9/18, which meant it
was shipped out on 9/11 and so Vrenna’s Tweaker debut album got delayed on
trucks and planes. The result was that the release wasn’t in sync with its
Then, a couple of tours
that Vrenna’s Tweaker was lined up for were cancelled — as most major tours
were at the end of the year. “This started a downward spiral… a series of
unfortunate events,” says Vrenna. “My Tweaker album was cursed from day one.”
But Vrenna didn’t give up.
He’s continued hammering out remixes and programming work for film soundtracks
and record labels, and he has a concept already in mind for a second record.
“My goal is to record it and put it out by next year,” he says. “I wanna get
right back on the horse, get people to get the second record. Then maybe they
can then backtrack and get the first.”
“I like music in movies.
But I think so much of it is just too clichéd,” says Vrenna. So he decided to
score films his way. “I started by doing a couple scenes for a small movie,” he
says. “Then I got the chance to do some remixing for ‘She’s All That’ — a
Freddy Prinze Jr. movie. Then I got to do four scenes for ‘Rollerball’ — the
remake directed by John McTiernan. And now, I’ve just completed my first full
score — for a no-budget indie, gonna-go-to-the-festivals piece.
“I’d really wanted to go
through the process because I’d never done one from tip-to-tail like that,”
says Vrenna. “It’s called ‘AKA Birdseye’ and it is a kidnapping murder mystery
done to look like a documentary, with a pretty good cast.
“But the challenge was that
they wanted a blend of ‘Calexico’ and ‘Run Lola Run’ for the soundtrack,” says
Vrenna. “It was a hard stylistic blend but it was challenging and it was fun to
do.” The indie film — a 100-minute movie with 82 minutes to score — took him
about four months.
the Greats of Rock & Roll
When Vrenna was asked to
remix some music for the “Tomb Raider” soundtrack, he got to work on the remix
of U2’s “Elevation.” “They are the nicest guys ever,” he says. “They wanted to
play out the parts for my remix, so I was like, ‘You mean I get to record the
Edge?! Just tell me when and where!’ So they said, ‘Just tell us when and
where’ and I was like, ‘Alright!’”
Vrenna worked with the
entire band for two days — one day of recutting, and one day of mixing. “All
four of them would come in, and they all approve all of the mixes. They are
super nice guys. It’s weird, you meet some of these bands with new money and
they’re all about ego, but then you meet these gods, and they’re the sweetest
guys in the world,” says Vrenna.
Got No Style!
The title of his Tweaker
debut album is “The Attraction To All Things Uncertain” and that pretty much
sums up his style. “I purposefully don’t have a style,” he says. “I try to do
different stuff on everything I do.
“One of my favorite
producers ever was Flood, who I got to work with on ‘The Downward Spiral,’ and
I saw how Flood worked,” says Vrenna. “And when you go listen to the work he’s
done with the Smashing Pumpkins, PJ Harvey, Depeche Mode, Pop Will Eat Itself
or Nine Inch Nails, you’ll go, ‘None of those records sound like one guy.’
“I almost didn’t get the
Rasputina thing because somebody thought ‘Well all he’s gonna do is put
distortion on everything, you know, Industrial stuff.’ and I was like, ‘No,
it’s not. I mean, I listen to Dead Can Dance, This Mortal Coil, Aphex Twin and
ambient works when I go to sleep. It’s not all that I know, just because I
happened to be in a band that does that style of music,’” he says.
“So it took me a long time
to disprove and lose that typecasting stuff that I’m just going to put drum
programming all over everything,” he adds.
“The kind of remixing I’ve
been doing over the past year is taking bands that aren’t necessarily heavy,
and making them more heavy,” he says. “Like I did a remix for the Wallflowers
because their first album was huge, but by the time their second album rolled
out, the airwaves had changed. So in order to fit in with the playlist, they
needed to darken it and roughen it up.”
Four years after NIN did
work on Quake, Vrenna got a call from the former ID contact he’d known from
back when the Nothing family collective/NIN were working on the score for
Quake, asking him to work on scoring the game Alice. Vrenna took the gig and
worked on it for six months, creating 70 minutes of score.
Vrenna is now scoring
another video game — for a yet-to-be-announced title. “I can tell you that it’s
got totally scary ambient music in it,” he says. “And it’s going to be
absolutely arhythmic.” He plans to work on that game for the next few months
NIN visionary and former
collaborator Reznor, also a fantastic producer himself, says of Vrenna, “Chris
has always had good sensibilities, instincts and taste — all paramount
qualities of producing.”
And Vrenna has his own
comments on producing for those interested in getting into it. “It is something
that I think most people fall into naturally. If you are a musician, keep
making your music and being as creative as possible,” he says. “If you are an
engineer, again, keep working on a variety of projects in different styles,
with different gear, and just learn.”
When deciding what bands to
work with, he says it all comes down to whether it’s a good fit. “I must feel
like I can help them, and that we can do good work together,” he says. “And I
must like the music and people involved as well, of course. Producing is like
joining the band for two months, so we’d all better get along!”
Vrenna typically spends
anywhere from 8-12 hours a day in the studio. “I used to spend way more hours
in there,” he says. “But as I get older, I realize that people are only
mentally productive for that long. After that, it’s diminishing returns.”
Ice Age of Audio
Vrenna first learned
sequencing in Performer, on a Mac Plus, in 1986-88, while Trent was working on
“Pretty Hate Machine.” But then Opcode put out StudioVision with combined audio
and MIDI programming for the Mac. ProTools had two-channel
stereo audio recording, but StudioVision provided a way to combine the benefits
of ProTools audio with MIDI.
“So, Trent bought the
two-channel interface, the Pro I/O and the DAT I/O,” recalls Vrenna. “He had a
660MB hard drive in a two-space enclosure, and we were so stoked because it was
like a whole hour and we could get that whole record in there. And that drive
was three grand at the time. We kept it forever.
“So we moved to StudioVision
and used that program from 1991 all the way up until Gibson bought Opcode and
then summarily dismantled StudioVision,” says Vrenna. “The program started
getting pretty bad by the end—they needed to do some serious rewrites, like
they didn’t have crossfades yet. Some other programs were starting to overtake
it as far as speeds and stuff. And finally it just went away.”
Wins His Rig
But, the same week that
StudioVision died, Vrenna got a free ProTools CD in the mail. “It was pretty
featureless demo, but it functioned exactly like StudioVision did. So without
even opening the manual, in 10 minutes I went, ‘Oh… grabby hand, oh, piano roll
keyboard… Hmmmm I can’t do this, but I can do this… and by the end of the day I
forgot what program I was using, and years later, I’m still using ProTools,”
explains Vrenna. “I just never clicked with another program like I did with
“Plus, I do so much work
with other people, and every studio has a ProTools rig. So, I can easily
interact with those studios. When I bring a song in, or want to take files back
from a studio, I can burn them and they’ll load right up on my home computer,”
he says. “It’s just so interchangeable, where some other programs are not.
“You know, there are so
many choices out there and even at my own house, if someone says, ‘Can you put
some distortion on this?’ Okay, I’ve got 20 distortion pedals, I’ve got four
pieces of rack gear, I’ve got nine plug-ins, there are so many options,”
explains Vrenna. “If I need a synth bay sound, I’ve got a stack of hardware
synths, a stack of software synths… so it’s like, ‘What do we want to use?’ But
there becomes a point at which everybody is becoming just so engrossed with the
technology that sometimes they forget about the creative part.”
Mac Runs The Studio
Wanting to finally delve
into the countless software synths he’d collected but couldn’t quite get to
work on his old machine, Vrenna finally just retired his G3-upgraded 9600, and
got a Power Mac G4 933MHz. “I thought, ‘I got six years on one machine?’” says
Vrenna. “So then I said, ‘9600, you’re retiring with honors!’”
His current Power Mac G4
configuration includes a SuperDrive, 1.5GB RAM, an ATTO card, a Mix Cube, two
18.1-inch flat panel displays, ProTools, three 888s, the Virus, McVSP synth 1
demo, Stylus by Spectrasonics plus Propellerheads’ Reason.
“I really like the Native
Instruments guys,” says Vrenna. “I like their products and think they’re
really, really well done.
“I own a lot of ILIO and
Spectrasonics sample CDs, so when that Stylus came out — it just sounds
monstrous! And I just downloaded that demo of Amplitube… that thing is smokin’…
I can’t wait to buy that! It’s a really good plug-in, it really sounds good.
And SampleTank is coming out soon for ProTools — I can’t wait.”
After reviewing some sample
CDs for East West, Vrenna started thinking about putting out a sample CD
himself. “I’ve been talking with one company pretty seriously about it. I don’t
know how lucrative it would be, but from a creative standpoint, it seems like
it would be a fun thing to do,” he says.
Tricky Sound Design Software
Vrenna doesn’t use any
software outside of ProTools for sound design. Mostly, he just tweaks the
sounds brought in from his favorite synths with ProTools. “I have my favorite
outboard synths — the Nord 2, the original Virus and Andromeda A6, which is
just my new baby. God, that thing is good!” he exclaims. “It’s got 16-voice,
all real analog,” he says.
“I have a lot of outboard
weird stuff,“ says Vrenna. “But I admit that the Virus plug-in is much easier
to program because it’s just this screen full of big huge knobs instead of
‘shift-hold-parameter scroll… scroll… scroll…’ So it does make it easier for
programming. But sometimes I just want to beat on the thing!”
He’s still adding to the
palette and just got a copy of Ableton’s Live. “And I live and die by Pluggo,”
“One of the cool things
about computers is that no matter what software you’re using and whether you’re
using an Mbox or whatever, you can do cool interesting things at home and get
cool, professional sounding results,” says Vrenna.
“I started out using Macs
because they were the only computers that could run all of the music software I
needed back when I started doing music on computers. But even today, Macs are
still just more intuitive and easy to use,” he adds.
When asked whether advances
in audio software/hardware have made his job and life easier, he responds,
“Absolutely! The ability to make pro-quality records at home, or just about
anywhere a laptop can go, has changed the way records are made. I can deliver
records now much cheaper, and often faster than before, with no sacrifices.
Sing at Home
“I always record vocals at
home because — what? you need a good microphone, a good mic pre-amp, and you
need your software to record it to. So why would I want to spend a band’s money
sitting in a studio, at $500 a day or $1,000 a day to use one mic?” says
“And you just need a quiet
space to do it in, without air conditioning hums and such. So, no matter how
big the budget is, we do vocals at home, because you can and technology allows
us to do that,” he adds.