I was lucky enough to catch this tweet by Rob Sheridan.
An interesting fact about Rob is that he was hired after Trent liked his fan site! Source

“I had the honor of reimagining the artwork of @nineinchnails’ classic “Pretty Hate Machine” for its upcoming re-issue: http://bit.ly/bzO9H7

I was less interested in the cover itself and the story behind the “reimagining”.

The original cover was designed by GARY TALPAS who is now a theme park designer! An interesting resume indeed.

The official press release for the album is as follows;

Fans can now revisit the conception of Nine Inch Nails. Trent Reznor’s Null Corporation has teamed with UMe/The Bicycle Music Company to release “Pretty Hate Machine: 2010 Remaster” on November 22, 2010. After completing the score for David Fincher’s The Social Network, Reznor oversaw the digital remastering of Pretty Hate Machine from the newly unearthed original tapes with engineer Tom Baker (whose NIN credits include “The Downward Spiral,” “Broken,” “The Fragile,” “With Teeth” and “Ghosts”).

This remastered version includes an eleventh track, a cover of Queen’s “Get Down Make Love,” originally the B-side to the “Sin” single and produced by Al Jourgensen. Rob Sheridan, NIN’s longtime art director, has also re-imagined the packaging of “Pretty Hate Machine” under Reznor’s supervision. As a young musician in Cleveland, Ohio, Reznor took a job at a local recording studio and employed unused studio time to develop his own material. The nascent album was later recorded with his favorite producers including Flood/Mark Ellis (U2, Depeche Mode, PJ Harvey), John Fryer (Cocteau Twins, This Mortal Coil), Adrian Sherwood (Ministry, Cabaret Voltaire) and Keith LeBlanc (Tackhead). The result was the first Nine Inch Nails album, 1989′s “Pretty Hate Machine.” All songs were written, arranged, programmed and performed by Reznor. The album featured the breakthrough singles “Sin,” “Down In It” and “Head Like A Hole,” and ultimately sold over 3 million copies, reaching Triple Platinum sales status.

In the wake of the album’s initial underground success, NIN soon developed a reputation as one of the best live acts in rock and joined the inaugural Lollapalooza tour in 1991. NIN have since sold more than 18 million albums, collected Grammy® Awards and headlined arenas, amphitheaters and festivals worldwide. The Bicycle Music Company acquired the rights to “Pretty Hate Machine” from a division of Prudential Securities in the spring of 2010.

It was Bicycle’s intention from the onset to enable Reznor to regain some control of this lost piece of NIN’s legacy, resulting in this artist approved 2010 reissue of one of music’s most groundbreaking and influential albums. Note: The previous CD version was reissued in 2005 but was not overseen by Reznor and is now out of print.

And Trent posted on the forum with another small insight into what it was like working on the album after 21 years.

I’m happy to finally announce the re-issue of the first Nine Inch Nails record “Pretty Hate Machine”, releasing worldwide 11/22. UMe and Bicycle Music Group managed to locate the original mixes, so I went in the studio with Tom Baker and remastered it for a greatly improved sonic experience. In addition, Rob reinterpreted Gary Talpas’ original cover to make for a fresh new package.

It’s been an interesting trip watching the fate of this record float from one set of hands to another (a long and depressing story) but it’s finally wound up in friendly territory, allowing us to polish it up a bit and present it to you now. We had fun revisiting this old friend, hope you enjoy.


So a new track, remastered audio and new artwork. NIN fans are excited. Or as this one fan on the forums said “BEST NEWS I’VE HAD SINCE THE DOCTOR CONFIRMED MY PENIS IS MADE OF CHOCOLATE” Um yes…..

I asked Rob about the cover job and if there was pressure to bring something new to the cover, why no more pink, if it was a small job or a big epic project. He was kind enough to give me one of the most detailed responses we have ever received. Thanks Rob.

Update: As some commentators have pointed out Rob’s writing is much more detailed, throughout and insightful than the text surrounding his words. I apologise for soiling your eyes with my dirty words :)

Rob S: When we began the Pretty Hate Machine remaster project, Trent discussed with me the idea of tweaking the original artwork a bit to reflect that this was a different version of the album, updated from its original release. We talked about maybe just changing the color scheme a bit – Trent was keen on losing the distinctly 80′s hot pink color, for one. It seemed like a fairly straightforward project, as I certainly didn’t want to try and radically alter an album cover I’d been looking at since I was a teenager, and that some fans had known very well for more than two decades.

The first bump in the road was that no one had the original artwork. We left no stone unturned – we even reached out to the original designer, Gary Talpas, but he had given all his materials to Nothing Records long ago. Our best guess is that those materials were lost somewhere in Trent’s split with his old management. I tried scanning the old vinyl cover, but it was poorly printed and looked like an absolute mess when scanned. Even after cleaning it up a bit, attempting to separate the colors was fairly disastrous, and the resolution was terrible.

In 2004 I redesigned NIN’s “The Downward Spiral” for its 10th anniversary Deluxe Edition. In that case, Trent still had all of Russell Mills’ original art pieces that were used in the album, so I was able to re-photograph them and present the artwork in a new and interesting way. With this album, I didn’t have that luxury. It became clear to me that I was going to have to start from scratch.

I tried a number of different approaches – I even got some various mechanical parts from hardware stores and arranged them in a way that resembled the shape of the cover image (I’d remembered reading long ago that the original image was taken of some sort of factory machine, with spokes that looked like ribs), and photographed it in different ways, then attempted to push the contrast of the photos and pull shapes out of them. Nothing was working out very well though. It either looked too far away from the original cover, or like a weird, sad imitation of it.

Finally, I decided to painstakingly recreate the original cover as closely as possible. Using my scan of the original as a template, I digitally painted the image in extremely high resolution, the same way I’d approach an illustration. I used a meticulous set of masks to recreate the “interlaced” horizontal line effect of the original cover. After a lot of trial-and-error, I eventually finished with a new version of the original artwork, created in a very different way, but retaining the same spirit.

At this point I was free to play with the color scheme. I tried a wide variety of colors, ranging from darker, more muted versions of the original color scheme, to ones that looked nothing like the original. The favorite – both of Trent and myself – was the dark blue/blue/off-white combo used in the final image. It was a bit similar to a PHM t-shirt that’s been around for a while, so there was a sense of familiarity in the colors.

I then carefully recreated the title font from the original cover, and the black frames it sat in. The font, a stretched-out version of Helvetica, looked dated to me, but I wanted to be respectful of the original design and not mess with it too much. When Trent saw what I’d done though, he wanted to try a new approach to the title text, as he felt the font was just too dated and could use a more modern look for this remaster. So I went back to the original album and looked at the font that had been used for the credits and lyrics, which turned out to be a slight variation of a font Gary Talpas later used in The Downward Spiral. Putting the PHM title in that font was way too similar to The Downward Spiral, but when I put it in caps it created an odd mix of vintage NIN and modern NIN – perfect for a 2010 remaster of a 1989 album. Trent liked this approach much better, and we settled on the way we wanted the title set on the album cover. The image sitting behind it – my recreated artwork – still felt a bit flat, though.

To push the art a bit further, I got the idea of printing the image out at a very high DPI and photographing it with a narrow depth of field, allowing parts of it to fall out of focus. This gave a new depth to the previously flat artwork, and it turned out to be exactly what the image was missing. After quite a few experiments, I ended up with the image that is now the cover, and immediately felt I’d finally gotten this thing to where I’d wanted it to be. I sent it to Trent without any of the type or anything on it, and while he’d been somewhat lukewarm on the previous material, he was immediately excited about this one. “That looks fucking great,” he told me, “we’ve got it.” I put the black frame and our new type treatment over the new cover image, and everything clicked. The new cover, with the unmistakable shape of the “ribs” and the interlacing effect, remained respectful to the original and still recognizable, while adding a more modern feel and a “fresh coat of paint” on the colors. This is not meant to replace the original cover. This is the cover for this 2010 remastered edition of the album.

The original CD cover was oriented sideways, which had never felt right to me, as the vinyl cover had a distinct vertical orientation of the full image (something I preserved in the new vinyl edition). I’d always wondered if it was a byproduct of the way the insert needed to sit in the jewel case. Either way, I wanted to bring the vertical orientation over to the CD this time around, but I also wanted to preserve the way the whole image folded out from the cover in the original CD insert. We certainly didn’t want to put this in a jewel case, so to accomplish the vertical fold-out, I came up with a unique L-shaped digipak package, where a panel folds down from the cover to reveal a vertical extension of the artwork. I also decided to put the black frame and the title text on a transparent O-card that slides over the digipak (very similar to what we did on The Downward Spiral Deluxe Edition) – so when you slide the O-card off, the image underneath is bare. It turns the black “frame” around the image into an actual frame, adding a new layer of depth to the art.

For the remainder of the package, I was cautious not to add much extra artwork and overdo it. The original sleeve was extremely minimal, only using type on black amidst a few variations of the cover image here and there for the internal art, so I wanted to preserve that. Some might say it’s boring to have plain black pages with text on them for the lyrics, but I’d rather stay true to what had been done previously than add a bunch of art and risk having it feel like an altogether different album. The only other piece of art in the original insert was a photograph of Trent. Revisiting that, Trent wasn’t incredibly excited about including it in this version, and we didn’t have the original photograph anyway, so we left it out.

Throughout this process, I was very concerned with being respectful to the original artwork. This is not my album, and as a fan for many years, I have the same attachment to the original art that many other fans do. So my tendency was to play it safe, but it was Trent who felt a bit less precious about the original art, and he pushed me to do something that was visually further away from what I had originally intended. I think in the end we found a great middle ground, and we’re both really pleased with how it turned out. Recreating the art – somewhat by necessity – was a huge honor, and so far it seems fans are generally pretty pleased with what we’ve done…even if there’s no pink in it.

Sleevage: Is there any rejected artwork or experiments?
Rob S: The only rejected ideas were my own ideas that I rejected before I showed them to anybody – mostly in the department of trying to recreate the artwork photographically. That was the only time I was tempted to do something dramatically different from the original art – for the most part my instinct was to not drift very far from the original, as it just didn’t feel right to me. Redesigning an album you listened to over and over again as a teenager is a pretty strange task, so I was understandably cautious.

Sleevage: Can we see the failed experiments?
Rob S: Ha, I think I’ll keep those failed experiments in the vault for now – they failed for good reason!

Sleevage: Has Gary seen the new artwork?
Rob S: I don’t know what Gary thinks of the new design, but he was very friendly when we reached out with him and said he really liked all the stuff we’ve been doing with NIN’s design in recent years. I hope he appreciates what we did with the new cover.

Sleevage: Was this planned to be a simple job. Just pump it out quickly or a labour of love?
Rob S: I thought it was going to be a simple job, but the fact that we didn’t have the source art made it actually quite a project. Between my various failed experiments at recreating the art photographically, the meticulous way I ended up doing it by hand, and the amount of finessing it took to find the right presentation, it was actually quite a bit of work, and we had a pretty abrupt deadline for it. All things considered I’m pleased with the way it turned out.

My favourite part of the cover is not knowing what it was on the cover! (This was before the internet can solve that with one search) I had always imagined it was an old microphone like below.

The vinyl cover is below which doesn’t feature the NIN name this time.

Interesting to note that the album is #1 on Amazon for Industrial.

What other classic albums could use a remaster for both audio and design?

Beck’s Deluxe edition of Odelay took the original and went to town on it. Are there any other good examples of remastered/deluxe covers?