Archive Trawl #1: Trent Reznor on the making of The Fragile

I’m sitting on thousands of files that I’ve cut and pasted from various websites and newsgroups over the years, and stumbled across a few gems this morning in the archive. It’s interesting for me at least with NIN returning as a live act at Fujirock in July (which I’m hoping to get to go to and review). It’s actually cobbled together from a few cut/pastes around 1998, a year before it was released, but I’ve rewritten parts of it where it sounded like a 5 year old had typed it up. While it doesn’t enlighten you to any rarities or odd stories about studio excess, it does at least feature a couple of Trent Reznor quotes. Enjoy, and comment below.

When Nine Inch Nails recorded Pretty Hate Machine in 1989, the audio tracks were not recorded digitally, but to analogue tapes. The album was later sequenced on a Mac Plus. Their second album The Downward Spiral was a different case. It was completely recorded digitally, just like Marilyn Manson’s Antichrist Superstar, which Reznor produced in 1995 in his New Orleans studio.

“Instead of recording to tapes, I played parts of the songs into my computer and after that I could make loops and stuff,” Reznor says. “If you want to write a song, just put a loop from a drum track, and then add bass and guitars into it. After that you can do whatever you like with the song: use samples, put on the vocals and so on. This way it’s easy to make remixes of a song when you have the basis of it saved in your computer.”

On his third album The Fragile, Reznor will be recording the tracks digitally as well, but he has something new in mind too. He’s going to use different background vocalists, guest musicians and many real and exotic instruments. “I’ve gathered pieces from many different music styles in these few years and I’m trying to find a way to mix them.” Trent didn’t feel he was breaking new ground writing merely on piano, which could explain why he’s drafted in a host of guest musicians to give the record a new flavour.

Trent talked about his upcoming album saying they’ve finished 20 songs, and recorded 25 more demos for what could possibly be a double album. Adrian Belew, Helmet’s Page Hamilton, Ministry drummer Bill Rieflin, Power Station drummer Tony Thompson, and David Bowie keyboardist Mike Garson all have contributed to the recordings. NIN veteran Charlie Clouser and Danny Lohner return as well.

As for the sound of the record, Trent says it’s like “Tom Waits on a bayou filtered through a funk blender and slowed down.” He also admitted that The Fragile is “not as knee-jerk muscle-flexingly angry” as his past work, but to “never fear, it doesn’t sound like a band playing. We went to incredible lengths pushing technology to do things it shouldn’t do.” The album is due out in June [NB: it was actually released in September 1999, over a year after this was written].

Trent was also approached by R&B singer Aaliyah to produce a track on her upcoming album. No word on if he’ll do it. Sister Soleil has collaborated with Trent in New Orleans on a song for the movie Stigmata, he’s also been asked to mix some material from The Good, The Bad And The Ugly, a project put together by producer Mike Simpson, Prince Paul and The Automator.

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