JEORDIE WHITE | BASE TENDENCIES
Jeordie White has settled into a tamer, saner role as bassist for Nine Inch Nails, the standard-bearer for industrial-metal rage that plays tonight at Wells Fargo Arena.
Seem odd that White's life is so serene as right-hand man to Trent Reznor, one of our noisiest and most darkly disturbing metal icons?
Consider that the first time yours truly witnessed White in concert was in November 1994, when he was clad in a tattered dress and ghoulish makeup. His stage name was Twiggy Ramirez — an homage to both the waifish female model from the 1960s and to California serial killer Richard Ramirez. He stood alongside Marilyn Manson, that infamous shock-rock frontman who took the stage in Iowa City (as the opening band for Nine Inch Nails) by slicing his chest with a shard of glass while growling unprintable lyrics (from the song "Cake and Sodomy") about being the god of a certain four-letter word.
White, 34, admits that he careened through the '90s as a belligerent rock star, abusing hard drugs, while the Marilyn Manson band he helped to create weathered "crazy press and protests" in cities across America.
His current stint with NIN is "definitely more coherent," White said earlier this month from his home in Los Angeles, as well as "the most challenging band I've ever been in, for sure."
White moved to L.A. eight years ago from Florida, where he still lives with his girlfriend and two cats (Sadie and Jack, no serial killer names). A stint with atmospheric metal band A Perfect Circle served as a "bridge" between his Manson and NIN years.
"My days with Manson were such a roller coaster, kind of a coming-of-age thing, that it almost seems like a dream," he said. "I don't remember much of it to be honest."
Nonetheless, I pressed him for some detail and perspective:
Q: You've served with Manson, Maynard James Keenan (A Perfect Circle) and Trent Reznor, three of the most extreme and demanding singers/bandleaders of metal. How do you do it?
A: I do play with probably three of the best people at what they do in that genre, but these are just people I know, they're just friends that I've met through the business. . . . I think now as everyone's getting older it's a lot easier, and people's egos are at rest. . . . It's pretty relaxed, actually.
Q: How bad a boy were you in the '90s?
A: You just forget about taking care of yourself and just being a good person and being nice to people around you. One's ego can get so inflated and get so crazy and full of this power that you think that you have, you just do stupid things. At the time I didn't think I was doing anything wrong. I don't have any regrets, really. But I wouldn't act the way I acted then, now. Never in a million years. I see people in other bands — this makes me feel old, kind of — I see people in other bands coming up, looking and behaving only a tiny, tiny percentage of the way I did. I was way more ridiculous. Much, much bigger of an (bleep). These guys are idiots. I think I can say that 'cause I was worse.
Q: So these days you're sober and . . . ?
A: I'm not sober. I'm clean. I just got off tour and I decided not to drink for a couple of months. It's definitely a cleansing thing. I understand the sober lifestyle. I understand why people could get sober. I'm not totally sober now, but in comparison to how things used to be I would say I'm pretty sober.
Q: Do you ever miss the days of Twiggy, the dresses, the shock, the theatricality?
A: I miss it sometimes. There's a lot of parts of my life that I like so much better now. One of the reasons I'm not in (Marilyn Manson) anymore is that I started to feel a little ridiculous. . . . The time period I was in that band I meant it, all the theatrics onstage, all the characters, so to speak, without sounding too stupid or pretentious. The Twiggy Ramirez character was real. And then it began to start to feel like Gene Simmons or something. 'Oh, I gotta put my dress on to go play.' If I were to do that again I probably wouldn't be that same person. I wouldn't just do the Kiss reunion and throw the dress on and smear my makeup and start doing a bunch of drugs.
Q: What's your plan post-Nails?
A: If the opportunity arose to do a record with Manson, I'd do it, under the right circumstances. With APC I'd like to. I'd like to do my own record, which I've been working on over the last couple years. . . . It just seems like every plan that I've had in the past usually changes to another outside opportunity that was unexpected. I didn't ask or look for A Perfect Circle or Nine Inch Nails. . . . It's just something that knocked at my door: OK, sure.