The inevitable comeback of Nine Inch Nails has finally become a reality. With a tour set to start in July, new album Hesitation Marks arriving in September, and first single Came Back Haunted already out, the band has a well-established presence in 2013 already. However, given the two lineup changes that happened before the upcoming tour even started, and considering NIN’s history of a revolving door of musicians, we decided to take a look back at the group’s former members.
In the spirit of revival, we’ve compiled a retrospective of all the people that were once part of the live band (even if for a very short period of time), why they left, and where they are now.
Some bands just seem to go through drummers more often than others. Nine Inch Nails is clearly one of those cases, with an almost Spinal Tap-ish number of people having sat behind the drum kit since 1988. Thankfully, most NIN drummers were quite excellent, and provide enough room for debate on who was the best. With current drummer Ilan Rubin returning after 2009’s Wave Goodbye tour, here are the ones that preceded him:
When Jerome Dillon suffered from health issues in 2005, Josh Freese was called in to rehearse with the band and remain on standby in case he had to fill in for Dillon – who later stated that Freese “could not have been any classier about it.” Initially, the drummer was only able to play two gigs in October, but returned in December that year to become an official member. Freese left at the end of the Lights In The Sky tour, citing the need to spend more time with his family – a joy only comparable to “an all night hotel coke session with some hookers,” in his own, mostly ironic words. Freese’s reputation for being damn-near everywhere was already well-known before joining NIN, and continued afterwards, performing with such acts as Devo, Weezer, and Paramore (where he was later replaced by current NIN drummer Ilan Rubin). Among other session work, he’s currently touring with Sublime With Rome, and recording drums for Stone Gossard‘s and Dwarves’ respective new albums.
Last seen: playing drums for Julian Casablancas’ solo band, The Voidz
With Josh Freese unable to play the remainder of NIN’s 2005 fall tour, Trent Reznor refused to cancel any more shows, so Alex Carapetis was brought in for rehearsals barely a day before his first gig. Carapetis stayed in the band throughout the rest of the US tour and a few South American concerts, but declined an offer to continue with NIN, as he was aware that Freese had far more interest in his position. The drummer then took part in projects such as Julian Casablancas’ solo tour, an episode of The New Adventures of Old Christine, Crash Hot, Vicky Cryer, and, more recently, The Dead Daisies.
Jerome Dillon took over as NIN’s drummer in 1999, when the band returned to the stage in support of the double-LP The Fragile. Dillon kept that position until late 2005, when he suffered from heart problems halfway through a gig in San Diego, an event that led to him being out of the band within a couple of weeks. The musician spoke to Antiquiet about the event in more detail – read our extensive interview with him here.
The same year he left NIN, Dillon kept working on his own project Nearly, and released its debut album Reminder. He’s composed a few film soundtracks, his most recent job being for No One Lives, released in May. The soundtrack actually contains two new tracks from Nearly, Gone and Gray, which feature current NIN guitarist Robin Finck, and can be downloaded over at the band’s official site. As Dillon told us, he’s currently recording more Nearly material with Sade guitarist Ryan Waters.
Active Years: 1988–1997
Notable for: being there since the beginning, yet only receiving credits on “assistance” and some drumming/programming
Where he is now: a project called Primitive Race
Though Chris Vrenna started off playing synths for NIN, he went on to become the band’s live drummer for the majority of the band’s first nine years – aka both the Pretty Hate Machine and The Downward Spiral eras, safe for a period in 1991 when he was fired from the group and replaced by Jeff Ward. After falling out with Trent and leaving the band in 1997, Vrenna kept himself pretty damn busy, working on a number of projects that’s just too big to mention in its entirety here.
His own band Tweaker released three studio albums, the latest being 2012’s Call the Time Eternity. Vrenna also played drums and keyboards for Marilyn Manson, a partnership that lasted until last year’s Born Villain, which Vrenna co-wrote and produced. More recently, he was featured on the debut album from a band called KingDoom (watch their video for Go Fuck Yourself, if you dare) and started the industrial project Primitive Race, of which there is no music to show yet. Since he congratulated Trent Reznor on his Grammy win in February, we’ll assume things are amicable between the two.
–Jeff Ward: when Chris Vrenna had a falling out with Trent Reznor and got fired in 1991, Jeff Ward was the one to step up and play drums. His short stint with the group is notable for being credited in the liner notes for Broken: “The sound on this recording was influenced by my live band in 1991 featuring: Richard Patrick, Jeff Ward, James Woolley.” His heroin addiction led him to commit suicide in 1993;
-Ron Musarra: NIN’s very first drummer, in 1988, back when the band was a mere three-piece. Musarra had previously played with Reznor on Slam Bamboo, footage of which we urge you to check out. He’s currently doing some engineering work for bands, it seems.
–Meg White: what?
Signing up to play bass for Nine Inch Nails means playing a few other instruments too, as some songs require a second (or third) guitar, more keyboards, or simply don’t have a bass line to be played on the instrument. In 2013, the position will be filled by Puscifer/Telefon Tel Aviv member Josh Eustis, after bassist Eric Avery left during rehearsals. The ones who left before are as follows:
Justin Meldal-Johnsen – aka JMJ – was a busy musician before joining NIN in 2008, and remained so after the gig was done in 2009. Other than playing bass for longtime collaborator Beck (be it on sporadic live shows or his upcoming record), JMJ also produced a few albums, such as M83’s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming and, more recently, Paramore’s self-titled LP – on which current NIN drummer Ilan Rubin played drums. Justin also signed on to produce Young The Giant’s forthcoming new album, and recently finished up the crowd-sourced LP from Digital Noise Academy, his project with Ken Andrews & others.
When asked why he wouldn’t be a part of NIN’s new live incarnation, he stated: “There was no ‘cut’. I didn’t even submit myself as being available or interested. Trent has had these plans afoot for a good long while.”
Jeordie White (aka Twiggy Ramirez) gained notoriety as the bass and guitar player for Marilyn Manson, having co-written pretty much every song on his two best albums, Antichrist Superstar and Mechanical Animals, but leaving that group in 2002. Since Trent Reznor produced and collaborated some material to Antichrist Superstar, getting White to play bass for NIN wasn’t a stretch by any means. After taking part in an era that made the band’s live sound considerably more organic and less dependent on tape loops, White left NIN and went back to Marilyn Manson in 2008, where he worked with Chris Vrenna on the pretty good LPs The High End of Low and Born Villain. He continues touring with Manson.
Danny Lohner joined NIN in 1994, making it a five-piece band for the first time, picking up bass, guitar and synth duties (as would later bassists). His stay is noteworthy for the rare occurrence of actually co-writing a few songs with Reznor – Somewhat Damaged and Even Deeper. Lohner’s last full gig with the group was in 2000, though he kept working on the Tapeworm project until 2002, after which point it was basically buried beyond recovery. He left amicably (later guest-performing on a gig in 2009), and went on to pursue other projects, producing and remixing a shit-ton of music, as well as some film scores. More recently, he worked on the documentary American Drug War 2: Cannabis Destiny, and is producing the debut album from Kat Von D, set to come out around July.
-Eric Avery: Well, that was fast. After joining NIN for a performance on their Wave Goodbye tour in 2009, the former Jane’s Addiction bassist was called up to play bass on the 2013 tour. During rehearsals, he got “overwhelmed” with the amount of tour dates ahead, and decided to pull out, preferring to focus on film work instead.
–Rich Fownes: Though you never actually heard him perform with NIN, he’s worth a mention for his short, almost unnoticeable stay in the band. Back in April 2008, soon after Robin Finck was welcomed back to the band, NIN’s YouTube page had a “lineup” section listing Rich Fownes as a member – presumably taking over bass duties. Two months later came the announcement that Justin Meldal-Johnsen was in the band, without a single mention of Fownes; however, if you have a copy of 2008’s The Slip at home, you can see his name thanked in the liner notes. Rich Fownes made for a cool subject of a Meathead Perspective cartoon or two, and is currently a member of Bad For Lazarus.