Danny Lohner enjoys an envious position in life. As guitarist, bassist, keyboardist and studio engineer for Trent Reznor's übersuccessful Nine Inch Nails, Lohner has toured the world, worked on numerous high-profile recordings and earned a solid reputation as both a remix artist and as a producer.
The lengthy respites between NIN albums afford Lohner a great deal of free time to indulge in other projects, such as producing the soundtrack to the stylish new horror film Underworld. Instead of simply picking a handful of songs and slapping his name on the finished product, Lohner expanded his work on the album to include collaborations with David Bowie, Maynard James Keenan (Tool, A Perfect Circle), Wes Borland (formerly of Limp Bizkit), Richard Patrick (Filter), Josh Freese (A Perfect Circle) and John Frusciante (Red Hot Chili Peppers). Lohner also penned a few instrumental compositions and fleshed out the soundtrack with selections from Skinny Puppy, Page Hamilton (formerly of Helmet), Trust Company, Johnette Napolitano (Concrete Blonde) and others.
“I had a mutual friend who was buddies with one of the producers [of the film],” Lohner explains. “I was playing him some of the stuff I'd worked on, and he said, ‘Do you want to do something for this Underworld movie?’ And he showed me the dailies, and I thought it was really cool and a good opportunity. It was going to be a small budget. The challenge was going to be if I could do it all basically on favors and in my bedroom.”
Lohner's home studio is centered around a Pro Tools Mix system running on a Mac G4/400MHz. Some of his outboard selections include an Avalon Vt-737sp preamp, an Avalon U5 preamp, a Tech 21 SansAmp, a Roland RE-501 Chorus Echo and a Clavia Nord Lead synth. Lohner admits, however, that most of the work these days happens almost exclusively within the Pro Tools TDM environment, with items such as the Access Virus Indigo plug-in wining favor over its hardware siblings.
One of the immediate standout tracks on the album is Lohner's retooling of A Perfect Circle's “Judith.” “The ‘Judith’ remix I actually did with my mix partner, Joshua Eustis of Telefon Tel Aviv, who is a really good, meticulous engineer,” Lohner says. “It was the typical thing where you take the vocals and try and make something else around it. And I didn't do that specifically for the soundtrack. I did that when we, Nine Inch Nails, were on tour with A Perfect Circle. We did it in a hotel room in Miami. I just had the old Magma Expansion chassis with a PowerBook and just did it all in Pro Tools and Reaktor.
“The strings on that are some samples from a sample library I had,” he continues. “And I just built a little string map in SampleCell and laid down the string part. And then I put it through different things like Pluggo and Fragulator to get it to break up in different sections. In terms of the beats, those are just samples. Those were in the piles of kick drums and snares. Those are probably something from The Neptunes because I was listening to a lot of Missy Elliott and Neptunes-related productions. So those were samples that I programmed as audio in Pro Tools.”
Of the album's many collaborations, Lohner's mix of the new Bowie track “Bring Me the Disco King” found him calling in some of his favorite artists to contribute, including Keenan and Frusciante. “I pulled out all my favors on that,” Lohner says. “I worked with a guy named Ed Shearmur who helped me with the string arrangement which kind of makes that remix. John Frusciante is definitely my favorite contemporary guitar player, and I asked him if he wanted to play on a David Bowie song, and he was like, ‘Fucking right.’
“We never got in the room with Bowie,” Lohner continues. “He just sent me some vocals of some stuff he was working on for his new album. I just took the vocals and built a song around it. We used one mono mic on the drums, and they don't sound great. I know these bedroom electronic guys who make the most amazing stuff, and I'm used to an environment where you can properly multitrack the drums. [But we] literally got an e-mail of a vocal and just did our thing. Then, we sent it back to [Bowie], and he said, ‘Sounds good.’”