Volume 95, Issue 34

Thursday, November 1, 2001
Search the Archives:
Tips for searching
Campus and Culture
Submit Letter
Contact Us
About the Gazette


Blue Ginger a monumental experience

Disc of the week

Chris Vrenna: from Nine Inch Nails to low-fi, ambient rock

This fight is definitely a winner

Chris Vrenna: from Nine Inch Nails to low-fi, ambient rock

By Megan O'Toole
Gazette Staff

Gazette File Photo
"I'D BE LIKE, 'MAN THAT'S WHAT I WANNA DO!'" Chris Vrenna, aka tweaker, discusses his childhood dream of being a rockstar.

When asked by U2's Edge if the guitar work for a remixed version of "Elevation" was heavy enough, Chris Vrenna sat in a state of disbelief.

"I was like, dude, you're the Edge, man," he recalls. "I mean, what can you say to that?"

Yet landmark events, like sharing the stage with David Bowie and instructing U2 in the studio, are just facets of Chris Vrenna's glittering career.

Best known for his eight-year run with Trent Reznor's brainchild, Nine Inch Nails, Vrenna is now coming into his own with his musical alter-ego, tweaker.

Vrenna attributes the name "tweaker" to his enthusiasm for "twiddling knobs, pushing buttons and flashing lights."

Vrenna's technological zeal is more than just a hobby, culminating this year with the completion of tweaker's debut album, The Attraction to All Things Uncertain.

Best described as low-fi, ambient rock with an electronic base, tweaker's mellow sound establishes a definite separation from NIN's heavier formula.

"We accomplished so much with that band," Vrenna says of his years with Nine Inch Nails, recalling the massive success of Woodstock '94, the Grammy victory and tour with David Bowie.

"It was a wild, crazy ride and we had a lot of fun doing it," he says.

Joe Sorren's painting of a distorted comic figure, replicated on the cover of Vrenna's album, became the conceptual basis for the album. "[The painting] really struck a chord with me," Vrenna explains.

Vrenna felt each song should convey a particular moment in that character's life – at times confused, at others ecstatic. Each track boasts a double-function: as a unique work in itself and as an element that contributes to the cohesion of the whole.

This release marks a milestone for Vrenna and it's one of his proudest achievements, even though the future of tweaker at one time looked uncertain.

Originally signed to Almo Records, tweaker became entangled in a legal mess when the label was swallowed up by Interscope.

"I was a pair of shoes and they had to decide if the new company wanted me or if they should let me go before they did the deal so that I didn't [end up as] just another pair of shoes in their factory," he explains.

Ultimately, tweaker was dropped, giving Vrenna free reign to join up with Six Degrees Records, a move he regards as wholly positive.

Working the production angle, Vrenna has joined forces with a number of other artists, including Marilyn Manson, Snoop Dogg and Green Day. He worked with U2 on the recent Tombraider soundtrack and the experience provided him with the opportunity to literally "produce [his] heroes."

Although it's his chosen career, music has been an intrinsic part of Vrenna's entire life. "When I was a little kid, I would see the tour buses parked outside of the arena and I'd be like, 'man, that's what I wanna do,'" he reminisces.

In addition to tweaker, Vrenna is also trying to get into the soundtrack business. He's already been contacted by producers of the upcoming feature Rollerball, who are interested in what they've deemed his "completely whacked" contributions.

Still, Vrenna's work is never finished – he's working on yet another release. In the meantime, tweaker is also planning a tour for the winter months, so stay tuned.

To Contact The Arts and Entertainment Department:

Copyright The Gazette 2001