Photo courtesy of Waxploitation
Chris Vrenna

Born: February 23, 1967 Williamsport, Pennsylvania
Kent State University (quit with one semester to go when NIN got signed)
Favorite Drink:
Iced Tea with lemon
Favorite Food:
Cheeseburgers and French fries)
Playing video games, seeing movies, hiking, shopping
Rush, Depeche Mode, Vivienne Westwood, Radiohead, Joe Sorren, vodka, Salvador Dali
Favorite Game(s): Doom, Zelda:Ocarina of time, Duke Nukem

Favorite Movies:
Too many to really pick just one, but I guess the original Star Wars (NOT
the special edition though!)

Studio Gear:

computer: Mac G4/900 with 1.5gig RAM, numerous firewire drives, ProTools
software and hardware, lots of plugins.
console: Yamaha O2R
monitors: Tannoy 800A, Genelec 1029A
software synths: Virus, Battery, Absynth, Pro-52, B4, Stylus, Atmosphere
hardware synths: E-mu E4 sampler, Nord Lead 2, Virus, Alesis Andromeda A6,
Roland V-Synth,Waldorf Microwave XT, Emu-Auddity 2000, Kurzweil K-2000,
Roland JP-8000.
outboard gear: Sherman filterbank, Electrix Filter Factory and Mo-FX,
Eventide H-3000, TC Fireworx, Line 6 Pod, Bass Pod, and Filter pro.

Credits Include

Web Sites:

RocketBaby: At what age did you become interested in music?

Chris Vrenna: I was always into music. My father noticed how I would march around the house
to the beat, and pound on things at age 5. He started me on drum lessons at
age 6. I always played in original bands, never cover bands. My first band
was a punk band called The Eye Lidz, so I guess that's the first music I
wrote. My biggest influence was Rush. I loved bands with really good and
complicated drummers. I also loved King Crimson and the Police. I actually
got into electronic drums when I saw Bill Bruford of King Crimson playing the
old Simmons drums.

RB: How did you get the job for American McGee's Alice?

CV: I met American back when NIN did the music to Quake. He was our contact at id
Software. He simply called me out of the blue about Alice after he had left id, and I had
left NIN.

RB: What were your initial impressions about the games idea and how long did it take you
to formulate your musical concept for the game?

CV: I flew up to see the game early on and was blown away by how awesome it
looked. I love American's dark take on the story of Alice in Wonderland. The
characters were great, and I really liked that he could completely
reinterpret everything but keep the original story and time accurate. It took
a few weeks to lock down the musical concept. We went through a few rewrites
of ideas until we hit upon the proper palette of sounds and musical

RB: What was the most difficult part creating the music for American McGee's Alice?

CV: Probably the limitation of the palette of sounds. Since the game takes place
in the 1800s, I had to use sounds that could have happened then. No synths,
no 808, no guitars. I had to reinvent myself in a way with these sounds.

RB: What was your process for creating American McGee's Alice's music?

CV: I would get levels to look at, and then build sounds to compliment that
specific level. If the level was all clocks, for example, I would build my
rhythms out of ticking clock samples. After that, we wanted nursery rhyme
type melodies for the levels, so I would come up with one that fit the mood
of the level, all while keeping within our palette of stings, female choir,
bells....very "Alice" type sounds.

RB: What is your favorite tune form American McGee's Alice?

CV: I really like all the music, and am especially proud of the soundtrack CD. I
put all the music in chronological order, and used the actual voice samples
from the game to retell American's vision. It became an aural version of the
game itself.

RB: Are you familiar with or do you listen to game music? If so any favorites?

CV: I always pay attention to the music in games, and never shut it off. There
are not many CDs of game scores, sadly. That is still catching on here in
America. But favs would include Halo, and any Mario game. I also loved the
"radio stations" in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.

RB: How did you get started with Nine Inch Nails?

CV: I met Trent while I was still in high school. I bought an old Linndrum drum
machine off of him. We hit it off right away, and then hooked up in Cleveland
a year or so later, when the band he was in needed a new drummer. After that
band broke up, he started writing songs that would become Pretty Hate Machine.

"Running our own studio, and getting to work with some of the best producers in the
world like Flood really taught me a lot."

-Chris Vrenna 2003

RB: What was your favorite or most interesting memory of Nine Inch Nails?

CV: I guess that will be our Woodstock performance in 1994. That was when we got
in a huge mud fight backstage and went out there in front of 400,000 muddy
kids (it had rained all day). That one show really propelled the band to
bigger levels than we ever thought we'd see. That was the largest show we
ever played and most special.

RB: How does you're your Nine Inch Nails experience help you now?

CV: We had a blast for a long time (almost 10 years!) but it was time for me to
move on and try new things. My experiences help me in that we learned
everything ourselves as we went along. Running our own studio, and getting to
work with some of the best producers in the world like Flood really taught me
a lot.

RB: What are your criteria for choosing songs to remix?

CV: Mostly whether I like the artist or the song. I view each remix as a new
challenge, so I never have too many ground rules going into any project.

RB: How closely do you work with the original artist on the remix?

CV: Usually not close at all. Often it is the record company that wants or needs a
remix for a particular purpose, and the artist may not even know it is
happening until after the mix is done. It is always nice though when the
artist likes what they hear after I am done. The one exception was U2, who
were all actually in the studio with me as I did the remix. They recut parts
I requested, and were there to help finalize the mix. That is rare, but is
just one small reason they are still the greatest band in the world.

RB: Which is your favorite remix that you have done?

CV: I just did a new remix for Cold's new single called "Stupid Girl" I hired a
string arranger and did a complete string section as a basis for the mix. It
was beautiful. I also love my U2 "Elevation" remix that was the featured
single for the Tomb Raider movie. It was truly an honor to work with U2.

RB: Tell us about your upcoming work? What kind sounds can we expect?

CV: I am writing the follow-up record of my Tweaker project. My first record,
called "The Attraction to All Things Uncertain" came out in late 2001. Where
that record was more crazy programming and noisy beats, the new one starts
with more organic sounds and then manipulated. I am also playing lots more
live drums than I have in a long time.

RB: Please share some thoughts on the following artists?

Cold: Great guys. We worked at my place through a very cold, very rainy
month. Scooter has a great voice, and I love the darkness in their songs.

Megadeth: They were an amazing band. I would just watch Jimmy DeGrasso
through the glass. What an amazing drummer. And Dave was awesome. We still
keep in touch.

Marilyn Manson: I've known Marilyn for years. He is one of the smartest, and
sharpest people I know. Very well read and well spoken. Antichrist Superstar
was one of my favorite projects I've worked on. I am constantly amazed at
what he does.

Smashing Pumpkins: Billy is an amazing songwriter. He always got up early
and we had to work early in the mornings. That is a practice I still do
today. I'm freshest and more creative in the morning.

Peter Himmelman: I worked with peter early on for me. We worked at his home
studio. I was shocked that someone with his background wanted to work with
someone of my background. We collaborated on a track, and it turned out

Metallica: I was asked to go help do ProTools during the making of Load. I
worked with Lars, and learned a lot about the software. This was way before
version 5.0 debuted, and they were really pushing its boundaries. It was an
incredible learning experience for me to be involved with such a huge

RB: How did he hook up with Dir en Grey?

CV: I was hooked up through their label and Yashiki. I never did meet them.

RB: Do you listen to any Japanese bands?

CV: Not too much. It's hard to discover Japanese music here in America. Any
suggestions for me?

RB: What do you think about the current trends in today's music?

CV: Things in general are moving too fast. Artists don't have the time to develop
anymore. It's either a huge hit single on the first try or the band is often
forgotten. The Internet has really quickened the pace of discovery, and also
of burnout on a band. It is up to each listener now to seek and find the
genres and bands they would enjoy. It won't come from radio much anymore.

RB: What advice would you give to those who want to create music?

CV: Just start playing and experimenting. I learned everything from hands on
experimenting. Get an internship or small job in a studio just to be around
all the gear and to watch, and then practice it yourself. Music is something
that you can read about or watch someone do, but only becomes clear with
experimentation. There are so many inexpensive software programs out there to
learn from. Even ProTools has a free version that you can download from to learn from.

RB: Any final thoughts about your music or career?

CV: I am just very lucky to have had the experiences that I've had. Each day is a
new adventure, and having the continued opportunity to produce, remix, score,
perform, and write for so many different things makes for an exciting
life. I am still writing my next Tweaker record, and also scoring a new videogame.
Who knows what tomorrow will bring!

A big thank you to Chris Vrenna for taking the time to chat. Thanks to Jeff @ Waxplotation.




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