Trent Reznor, the driving force behind Nine
Inch Nails, has always leaned on the limits of computer-based recording. From
the initial Studio Vision tracks of NINís 1989 debut, Pretty Hate Machine, to
the full-scale Pro Tools production of The Fragile a decade later, Reznor has
constantly used the most advanced music software and hardware available as
brush, palette, and blunt instrument.
On his latest release, With Teeth, this
iconoclastic singer, songwriter, producer, engineer, programmer, and
multi-instrumentalist has once again taken technology to the edge. In addition
to massive Pro Tools|HD Accel systems in the studio, Reznor is currently using
twin Digidesign VENUE systems for his live shows. With the VENUE systems ó one
at front-of-house and one on monitors ó heís able to use his favorite Pro Tools
plug-ins to make NINís live performances as sonically satisfying as the
Recording With Teeth
Reznor recorded With Teeth using two Pro
Tools|HD 3 Accel systems stocked with three additional HD Accel cards, running
on duplicate Power Mac G5s, with six 192 I/O interfaces. The Pro Tools rig in
Reznorís New Orleans home studio was duplicated in Los Angeles, making for a totally seamless
For the new record, Reznor and crew recorded
everything at 24-bit/96 kHz. But moving to a higher sample rate wasnít the only
change. "The way weíve done every record in the past is to send the direct
outs from Pro Tools into a large-format console like the SSL," he
explains. "And we used hardware EQs."
On With Teeth, however, a lot more work took
place inside the box. But another transformation took place during the albumís
production: Reznor finally decided it was time to give up his large-format
console. Coming from a man who was upset when sonic mayhemist Richard Devine
teased him about the "huge archaic thing" in the center of Reznorís
Nothing Studios, this marks a serious moment in the artistís technological
"Although we did mix on a large-format
console, I saw Alan [mixing engineer Alan Moulder] going to the computer a lot
more for EQing and compression, as well as things that seemed impossible to do
in the real world," Reznor says. "And it made me think differently.
Now Iím selling my studio in New Orleans, including my old console."
Atticus Ross, programmer, sound designer, and
partner to Reznor in the creation of With Teeth, echoes this sentiment.
"Although we used a lot of outboard synths and gear, Trent and I did use a lot more effects
and instrument plug-ins," he says.
"Neither Atticus or I come from the
engineering world," says Reznor. "As far as recognizing perfect
emulations of Fairchild compressors, I donít even know what the original ones
sound like. So when we were working in the demoíing phase and up through the
time to mix, weíd use an EQ once in a while as an effect or a repair, but not
Reznor Takes Control
With Pro Tools
When operations for With Teeth shifted to Los Angeles, Reznor and Ross looked for the
perfect control surface for Reznorís home studio. "We wanted to take the
demos up a level and finesse them," says Reznor. "So we started
looking at control surfaces ó something that would feel real ó and the
Control|24 made it feel familiar. It was an inspiring-to-work-on setup. And it
was nice to be able to go from song to song without having to f#*% around with
patch cables or any of that crap."
Reznor has always been the type to download the
newest version of software. "But I never want the music to suffer because
itís done on a computer," he explains. "And I donít think that mixing
is as good with a mouse as it is when youíre holding faders in your hands. But
with the control surfaces, the plug-ins, and the quality of the sound these
days, it finally feels like a cohesive thing. Youíre not cutting corners by
doing anything that way. Itís actually a better way to work."
When it comes to music production, itís never
been about whatís easiest for Reznor. "Itís all about what sounds the
best," he says. "Up until now, it has been large-format consoles. But
with a nice balance of good mic pres complemented with Pro Tools, a computer,
and a control surface ó that is the way I work now."
Embracing Pro Tools and a control surface,
versus relying on a console for all mixing tasks, gave them greater flexibility
when working between New Orleans and Los Angeles. "We could be out working with
Alan, or back here in the home studio, and it didnít matter where we were
at," says Ross. "We could work just the same at either place."
Plug-ins With Teeth
Reznor and Ross took full advantage of Pro
Tools plug-ins while assembling With Teeth. "We used the Tom Erbe VST
Spectral Shaper stuff, wrapped to run as RTAS plug-ins in Pro Tools. And we
used the URS [Unique Recording Software] EQs a lot," says Reznor. Reznor
says they also used Bomb Factory plug-ins quite a bit on the album.
The AudioEase Nautilus Bundle also got a
workout on With Teeth. "Iíve found those to be really great sound design
tools," says Reznor. "With PeriScope, Iím not really sure how itís
doing it, but itís just a crazy-sounding and very resonant EQ. You can dial in
the frequency range. In addition, we used RiverRun ó which is a granular synth,
basically ó for sound design. Put any sound into that and you can make any
sound you want. It is really cool and a lot of fun."
The iZotope Trash plug-in was put to good use
as well. Reznor notes, "Trash has this really, really excellent
distortion. Plus itís got a ton of stuff built into it ó amp modeling,
everything. Itís more s#*t than you need. Itís got every kind of distortion
As for reverbs, Reznor says, "ReVibe I
like a lot. Iím not a big reverb guy. But if I want it to sound real and nice,
and not like a Lexicon fake reverb, that would always be what Iíd go for."
They also deployed IK Multimediaís T-RackS.
"I think the T-RackS stuff is excellent," says Reznor. "It
sounds f&#%ing great. Other than that, we used [Cycling Ď74] Pluggo quite a
bit. We used the one that basically is TurboSynth a lot." Ableton Live was
useful as well, for sound design and alternate arrangements.
Another application that Reznor and Ross got
into toward the end was Celemonyís Melodyne. "Itís got a weird interface,
but the results are stunning," says Reznor. "We used it mostly for
vocals. Melodyne did for us ó really quickly ó what any other application would
have taken forever to do. And it sounds really good."
There is a huge Native Instruments Reaktor presence
across the entire With Teeth album. "We put together pedal boards for Trent in Reaktor," says Ross.
"We would pull distortions out of ensembles and use them for formant EQs,
for delays, etc. And Trent had different controllers and foot pedals he could
access while he was playing, so he could move around different functions and
switch them on and off at any time. It was great."
Using various Reaktor effects created by
themselves and others, they assembled a master setup where they could ride the
effects into each other. "It worked really well," says Reznor.
"We basically used that as a pedal, going out of the computer and into an
amp. It ended up sounding like the worldís ultimate distortion pedal."
Most of the albumís guitar tracks were recorded
through Line 6 PODs or Native Instruments Guitar Rig software. They also used
various Marshall, Mesa, Line 6, Fender, and Diezel amps.
Reznor recorded vocals through a Blue microphone.
Control|24 and VENUE
By taking two VENUE live sound systems on the
Nine Inch Nails tour, Reznor can deploy many of his favorite Pro Tools plug-ins
outside of the studio. When rehearsals started for the NIN tour, he even
brought the Control|24 in to help map out which parts could be translated live,
and to figure out how the band could use the VENUE systems to play back other
elements as backing tracks.
As a result, the musical direction for the tour
was totally complemented by the use of Digidesign hardware. "At
rehearsals, with the Control|24 there, I could just cut out stuff and have the
band try things around the tracks to see what worked and what didnít,"
With Teeth is a definite switch from the
atmospheric and hyper-layered The Fragile. "We were united in our dislike
of a lot of modern rock ó that very perfect-sounding music, which doesnít sound
perfect to me at all," says Ross. "Itís so easy to do that. I mean,
anyone can do that now."
Reznor adds, "I just wanted to make
something that sounds vital and that has a spirit, feel, and humanity to it. So
my point ó even though we have all these tools ó was not to overuse them."
Pro Tools was at the heart of creating the Nine
Inch Nails new album With Teeth. And nowís your chance to get an inside look at
how they did it!
Digidesign and NIN have teamed up to bring you
the Pro Tools session of the single "Only" from With Teeth. Based on
the original Pro Tools session NIN used to record and mix the song, this
session provides a unique insight into NINís creative process while simultaneously
allowing you to see how a platinum-selling band like NIN uses Pro Tools to
develop their sound. While youíre at it, try remixing "Only" and
making it your own.
The Pro Tools session of "Only" can
be download for free from the NIN website, and is available to all Pro
Tools|HD, Pro Tools LE, and Pro Tools M-Powered system users.
For session details and to download, visit