English producer John Fryer has spent his career working mainly in two distinct styles of music: The industrial sound of bands like Nine Inch Nails and the ethereal, dreamy strum and dirge of 4AD groups like Lush and the Cocteau Twins. Beginning as an assistant engineer in the late '70s, Fryer quickly rose out of the lowly studio ranks due mainly to his lack of verbal self-restraint. Though an assistant is encouraged to never offer opinions beyond the technical kind, Fryer often offered creative suggestions to the bands he engineered for and when they returned to the studio for the next record the young upstart found himself co-producer instead of engineer. Outspokenness aside, another key factor in Fryer's success was his long-standing residency at Blackwing studios, where seminal bands like Depeche Mode and Scotland's Cocteau Twins often recorded. The latter band did some of their best work with Fryer at the helm and his burgeoning relationship with the reverb-drenched group and their label head, 4AD's Ivo Watts-Russell, led to the studio-only outfit This Mortal Coil. A supergroup consisting of members of the Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance, Wolfgang Press, Watts-Russell, and Fryer, the group's blissed-out covers and original material were influential to many late-'80s modern rock acts. In 1989 Fryer produced the album he is probably best known for, Nine Inch Nails' landmark debut Pretty Hate Machine. Both tuneful and raw, the album opened up new doors for the producer, and Fryer found himself working with a slew of bands such as Stabbing Westward and Gravity Kills, who fell in love with that industrial sound and hoped Fryer could capture it for them. In the late '90s Fryer continued to work with other TVT acts like Course of Empire.
by Steve Kurutz