Although Trent Reznor wrote and recorded most of NIN’s guitar parts in the studio, the band’s live sound wouldn’t be quite the same if it weren’t for its guitarists – mainly, current member Robin Finck, who’s been in the group for some eight years by now. Though Finck left on a couple of occasions to join Guns N’ Roses (resulting in one co-writing credit, which is still one more than he ever got with NIN), Reznor has claimed that, without Finck, “it didn’t feel like NIN.” Regardless of that, the former six-string players can be found below:
[UPDATE – 09/03]: Spin posted a lengthy article where North discusses where he’s been since he left NIN, including statements from former bandmates and friends. It’s certainly worth reading, but it seems that the guitarist has basically given up on music.
Aaron North originally replaced longtime guitarist Robin Finck, and received mixed reactions for changing a few guitar parts. Even before Finck was back in the fold for a 2008 tour, North announced he was starting a new band called Jubilee, and didn’t say much regarding his leave from NIN. A few Jubilee songs were released, one of our writers suffered through their cringe-worthy acoustic set, and, in the end, the band basically disappeared. Their official site currently shows a message promising the release of their “members only” series of records, and nothing after that. The message is from 2010.
Aaron North’s Wikipedia page states (with no citation given) that he quit his involvement with music due to mental and health issues. A lengthy post from Stuff N Such has pretty much all the Jubilee you could want, and claims that North was involved in a motorcycle accident, which may or may not have had something to do with his disappearance. We’re not giving either source too much credibility, but that’s the information currently out there.
Having joined the band in its early years, Richard Patrick was NIN’s first proper guitarist, though he had little input in the music. The story goes that Patrick was writing guitar-oriented material for the follow-up to 1992’s Broken EP, but Reznor ultimately decided to go in a completely different direction and record The Downward Spiral. Patrick left, and used the material he was writing to start Filter – the project he’s been with ever since. Filter released their sixth LP The Sun Comes Out Tonight in 2013, proof that it’s the most long-lasting NIN “offspring” out there. There’s even a sticker on the album’s cover containing a quote from Reznor.
-Adrian Belew: When NIN announced their 2013 comeback tour, a key point to the whole event was the involvement of Adrian Belew in the “re-thinking” of what NIN could be. Belew, who had previously recorded a few unique guitar tracks for the albums The Downward Spiral, The Fragile and Ghosts I-IV, dropped out of the tour during rehearsals, claiming that “it didn’t work.” Robin Finck was brought back in, while Belew goes back to work on FLUX: Music That Is Never The Same Twice;
–Kevin McMahon: with Robin Finck temporarily out of the band in 1996, the three concerts of the Nights of Nothing tour featured Prick frontman Kevin McMahon on guitar. The most recent developments we found on him were the pretty good track Fire on the Red Line, and his production credit on Laura Stevenson’s Wheel.
Despite the fact that much of Nine Inch Nails’ music is heavily focused on synthesizers, most of the early contributors in the field didn’t have much of an impact on the band’s sound, nor went on to noteworthy projects afterwards. The current team of knob-turners – Trent’s co-Oscar winner Atticus Ross and live member Alessandro Cortini – joined the fold during the With Teeth era in 2005, and haven’t been replaced since. Here are the ones that came before them:
Charlie Clouser took over synth duties from James Woolley in 1994, halfway through NIN’s Further Down The Spiral tour, and stayed in the band until the end of the Fragility touring cycle. If you want to read Clouser’s own, entertaining retelling of his leave from the band, search for the words “dumpster” and “Tapeworm” on this lengthy compilation of forum posts of his. The short version of the story: like others before, he seemed to realize his creative input (and financial opportunities) in the band weren’t increasing, so he went off to do soundtrack and producing work.
Most notably, he scored every single one of the Saw movies – in this 2004 NPR profile, Clouser states that he wouldn’t mind scoring “five of these in a row,” not knowing he’d go on to score seven. In recent years, he also scored the film The Collection and wrote the the theme for TV show American Horror Story. If you want to know more about his past work, this lengthy interview has pretty much all you need.
James Woolley stands as the first live synth player to actually remain in Nine Inch Nails for a fairly long period of time. After performing on some of the band’s most noteworthy shows (Lollapalooza ’91 and Woodstock ’94), Woolley allegedly left for “family reasons.” The last we heard about him, he started a band called V.O.I.D. in 2006, with their debut album Mass Distraction set for a 2013 release, but delayed due to health issues. Heading over to their straight-outta-1998 official site, and clicking on the James Woolley section, his solo track called Nothing Remains starts auto-playing. Unfortunately, all links to material from V.O.I.D. were found dead as of publishing time.
–Gary Talpas: the one NIN member who didn’t really know how to play an instrument, Talpas was the band’s art director from the start, having created the iconic NIN logo that’s used to this day. In order to make the band look a little bigger onstage, he basically sat there behind the keyboards throughout a handful of gigs in 1989. If you’re curious about his totally non-musical projects, check out his LinkedIn profile.
–Nick Rushe, David Haymes, Lee Mars: these guys all went through the band in a less than two years, and didn’t exactly go on to form remarkable acts afterwards. The little information available is that Rushe is working on a musical called Twoface; Haymes is not involved with music anymore; and Mars is doing a fair amount of mixing work.
What we have is the fact that one of them was certainly featured in NIN’s lip-synced performance for Dance Party USA, and there’s this great Reznor quote to go along with it: “At the time, we had this keyboard player who was a fucking idiot. When we were talking about what to wear on the show, he said, ‘I’m thinking about a sword.’ I’m thinking, ‘Is that some sort of cumberbund?’ He meant a real sword. He’s probably dead by now. There’s no way someone hasn’t taken him out.”