Trent Reznor Talks Synths: “I’m trying to stay 17 years old and part of me has never matured past that” – 2022 – INTERVIEW

Synth History:

New interview up with the legendary Trent Reznor. Had the chance to watch an amazing Nine Inch Nails performance at Primavera this past weekend.

You can read the entire feature @ this location. An excerpt from the interview has been provided below.


Synth History: Out of all the synths you’ve had throughout the years, do you have some all-time favorites?

Trent Reznor:

All-time favorites. It’s like when someone says, “What’s your favorite movie?” I love synths. I grew up in rural Pennsylvania, far away from anything cool. I was kind of trained to be a piano player, was being urged to be a classical pianist and drop out of school and study with a nun at about age 12. And then I got exposed to Kiss and I realized that I want to do that. You know? I want to be in a band. I also want to escape from this town somehow. My dad got me a Wurlitzer electric piano with a phase shifter, an MXR Phase 100 pedal. Started playing, got some friends, we played in basement bands and fucked around a little bit and I’m dying to get a synthesizer. It wasn’t until a few years later I got a Moog Prodigy, which we could afford, my grandpa got it for me. And that blew my mind. Pitch bend can’t do that on a Wurlitzer. And I just loved that thing. So there’s a soft spot for that and the sound of Moog.

Eventually, I got a Korg Mono/Poly… chords! And I don’t know, I just thought I’d throw that little bit of history in there. But I mean, I look at what’s available now. In terms of this kind of renaissance of analog synthesis and excellent recreations and reissues of some classic synths, the Prophet 5 and 10, the Moog Modular shit, I think they’ve done a great job. Even Korg with the Odyssey and 2600. You add that to the limitless amount of plug-ins that I think are also pretty excellent, Arturia’s shit and G-force. There‘s some great things out there. It makes me appreciate the scarcity of what I came up with, when you could afford one thing and you had to learn every possible trick and you’ve mastered it.

My first real sampler was an Emax. I started working at a keyboard store in Cleveland mainly just to get discounts on shit – and also to be punished eight hours a day showing assholes how synthesizers work and stuff. The Mirage was the big breakthrough at the time, sounds like an Emulator, you know, for a 10th of the price. Anyway, I got an Emax and that was Pretty Hate Machine. It was pretty much all Emax and just figuring out every way to milk every bit of interesting stuff out of the limitations you had. Jump ahead to now, I have the privilege of not only having a lot more stuff being available but being able to afford stuff and collect things and spend time with them.

My relationship with synths now, I was thinking about this, I still get excited about new video games that come out because I’m trying to stay 17 years old and part of me has never matured past that. And synths, apart from my kids and watching what they’re excited about, that’s what interests me more than anything, kind of just new stuff coming out. What I’ll do at the studio now is when something grabs my attention bring it in and there’s always a good song in everything, an interesting experience to be had. The good synths that make it, stay in the room after a while might become the thing that you really love.

What synths stay in the room and sound good no matter what?

Right now, what I don’t let leave the studio, I invested in a reissue Moog IIIc. A couple years earlier I got the Model 15 reissue, so I wanted to kind of expand it and see it with an older Moog oscillator approach. And that I find fun. I don’t end up using it that much, because what I struggle with in the studio is following a creative path. If I’m in there writing a piece or we’re scoring a film, I usually have this thing I hear in my head and I have to translate it to the computer. A lot of times with modular it’s leading me somewhere. I might go in with an idea, but it changes the path and I want to pursue that. But a lot of what I’m doing in the studio is – I have this thing I have to quickly get out before I forget it. I find that turning to something that’s too open ended can distract me down to something else…

You can read the entire feature @ this location.