Background and recording
Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor announced in 2007 that the band had completed its contractual obligations to its record label Interscope Records, and would no longer be working with the company. Reznor also revealed that Nine Inch Nails would likely distribute any future material independently. Following the announcement, Nine Inch Nails released the 36-track instrumental album Ghosts I–IV in March, 2008 on Reznor's independent label The Null Corporation.
Reznor returned to writing soon after the release of Ghosts, and after a month of work, The Slip was recorded in three weeks of studio time at Trent Reznor's in-home studio. The album was engineered by Atticus Ross and mixed by Alan Moulder, both of whom co-produced it with Reznor. Originally intended as an EP, in Reznor's own words "it just kept growing legs until it [became] what it is". Some instrumental performances were contributed by NIN live band members Josh Freese, Robin Finck and Alessandro Cortini, though they did not participate in the songwriting process; their contributions were limited to small parts rather than complete song recordings. During recording sessions, Reznor sent the album's first and only single, "Discipline", to radio stations before the remainder of the album was completed, and less than 24 hours after the track had been mastered. According to Reznor, the track listing and lyrics were finished on a Wednesday, the final mix and album sequencing on Thursday, the mastering on Friday, artwork on Saturday and the album was released on Sunday, May 5. Reznor reflected on the quick turnaround by saying "that was fun [...] you never could have done that before", referring to the slow and bureaucratic pace of record production, promotion and release he experienced with major record labels.