Trent Reznor shares fifty-year love affair with Moog synthesizers in new book excerpt
Nine Inch Nails frontman, Trent Reznor, has been toying around with synthesizers for more than five decades. Receiving his first synthesizer, a Moog Prodigy, when he was around 14 years old was the first step in his hugely successful career as a singer, songwriter, composer, sound engineer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist—to name a few.
In addition to his extensive Nine Inch Nails catalog, Reznor and his writing partner, Atticus Ross, have earned themselves critical acclaim for their part in composing the score to films such as Gone Girl, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and, most notably, an Oscar win for scoring 2010’s The Social Network. Excitingly, on September 18, the two also won an Emmy for their gritty tonality and wispy synths in their composition for the award-winning television series Watchmen. Reznor’s central role in Nine Inch Nails, as well as the aforementioned visual projects, has set himself one Tony Award away from every artist’s holy grail that is an EGOT.
In fellow electronic legend Kim Bjørn’s new book Patch and Tweak with Moog—which delves into the history of Moog synthesizers as well as tips and tricks from sound engineers and musicians around the world—Reznor details how reliant his career as a musician has been on these revolutionary instruments. Throughout his more than 50 years in curating electronic sound (long before it was anywhere near mainstream acclaim), Reznor has attributed much of his success to his one permanent sound design staple—Moog synthesizers.
As described in an interview with Moog Music, Reznor notes that the capability to get to the bottom of the emotion in a soundscape is the factor that drives all of his productions forward. Says Reznor,
“I have pretty good working knowledge of how each piece makes me feel, and as that thing comes up, I kind of want to get this feeling out. I think it should feel this way, and should feel a little insecure, and a little warble-y, but it shouldn’t be happy, and it should be a little bit pissed off.”
The transition from lead vocalist to film composer was not a breezy one, but he was able to adapt his songwriting experience to the screen by finding the underlying feelings within the scenes; his overarching goal being to act as a conduit between the instruments and the emotion. Reznor recounts as his practice of getting familiar with the instruments, “How do I emotionally respond to something that fits that palate and not this palate?”
Reznor’s connection to the same small variety of instruments he’s been playing with since the late-70s is nothing short of inspiring. “I’ve been doing this for a long time, and every day I wake up and I’m excited.” Beyond raw, natural talent, its Reznor’s passion and fervor to communicate emotion that has landed him his seat atop modern music’s highest echelon. Beyond the depth of his musical sentiment, however, Reznor keeps it simple (and wildly relatable to many fans of electronic music) in saying, “a lot of it, though, isn’t the tech at all. I just love the way that stuff sounds.”
Featured image: Wired UK