So I rarely get excited to do interviews, and have gained a reputation for being jaded to the concept of being a “music journalist.” However, I was quite excited to get a call last week from Chris Vrenna, drummer/keyboardist from the golden years of Nine Inch Nails. However, he is far from, simply, “Trent’s former drummer.” He has also played with Stabbing Westward, KMFDM, and, most recently, Marilyn Manson, whom he was with from 2004 until late last year. He’s also produced, engineered, and remixed Pigface, Rasputina, Nelly Furtado, Hole, Megadeth, Smashing Pumpkins, Rob Zombie, Metallica, David Bowie, and U2, among many more. He’s also scored several video game soundtracks. However, he’s currently returning to tweaker, his “solo project” for the first time in nearly eight years. Their third LP, call the time eternity, (their first since 2004’s 2a.m. Wakeup Call) is due out next Tuesday, October 23rd on Metropolis.
Historially, Tweaker’s sound has embodied an amalgamation of electronic influences, from synth pop to industrial, and even a bit of electronica. And while their latest doesn’t necessarily stray from the band’s earlier aesthetic, it certainly incorporates new elements as well. When asked about its influences he tells me, “Musically, it’s hard to say. I listen to a lot of different stuff. For the past couple years I’ve been DJing, where you can just kind of test music out and see if crowds think it’s fun, or they just go take a piss.” “For this new work, I’ve been thinking more off the hip and less technically about it,” he tells me.
But in addition to call the time eternity’s musical influences, Chris tells me, “Since the last record there’s been a lot of loss in my life.” In recent years he’s lost his father and gone through a divorce, after nine intense years of a loving relationship, and lost a handful of prominent musical collaborators (both mortally and otherwise). He tells me that the experience of writing and recording the album provided, “A chance to actually process some of those emotional aspects of the things I’ve been through… things that I had previously kept at bay by being on tour and just being drunk.” He tells me that these experiences provided a “deep subject matter for the album.”
As for the sound of the album, Vrenna tells me, “This record is more electronic… You can expect it to be sad… like all of them.” He then goes on to explain, “It’s kind of a merger of the first two albums, but the songwriting is more reminiscent of the second album.” The biggest technical change in tweaker’s current identity is Clint Walsh’s lack of presence (after establishing himself as an official member on the band’s second release) and the addition of programmer/guitarist Jesse Hall, who is Vrenna’s current partner in crime: “I’ve known Jesse for a few years. We met at NAMM and began hanging out. We later realized he lived three blocks from me in Sherman Oaks.” “He’s a really good programmer,” he tells me: “He started working with me in the studio when I was with Manson.”
The biggest difference between 2a.m. wakeup call and call the time eternity Vrenna tells me is, “The last record I relied too much on the guest vocal thing.” [The album featured guest contributions from Robert Smith, Will Oldham/Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, and David Sylvain, among others (including Johnny Marr on guitar).] “To some people it confused, for them, the concept of what tweaker started out as,” Vrenna tells me, who says, “It’s now less focused on guest vocals.” However, the brilliant “Nothing at All” does feature Jessicka Addams of Jack Off Jill and Scarling. “Jessicka is like my little sister,” Vrenna tells me, going on to say that when he went through his recent losses, when it came to his support, “I wanted to keep it in the family.”