JEORDIE WHITE | BASE TENDENCIES
Nine Inch Nails has always come down to the mastermind of one man Ė Trent Reznor. Since 1988, Reznor has played the role of a mad scientist who works feverishly in his lab to create mind-blowing experiments [read: sounds]. Alone in his dark tower, he labors and toils until his noise projects are absolutely perfect. But even when his studio work comes to fruition, there is a slight catch. Reznor can never have that moment for which all crazy madmen must yearn Ė the moment when they can run out of the lab and shout, ďItís alive!Ē Nope. To do this, Reznor must drag in several lovely assistants (musicians) to bring his concepts to life, er, tour.
This method has worked quite nicely for NIN. But, hey, it can be lonely at the top. And even geniuses love company from time to time. On rare occasions a few artists have been privy to get inside Reznorís studio process. For example, Dave Navarro lent guitars to a remix EP Further Down the Spiral (2004), and Dave Grohl did some drumming for With Teeth (2005). And though his touring sidekicks have changed frequently over the years, Reznor has now developed, what he says, is the best band heís ever had for the With Teeth excursion. The current With Teeth Tour musicians joining Reznor are: Alessandro Cortini (synthesizer, guitar, bass), Josh Freese (drums) [The tourís initial drummer, Jerome Dillon, had heart trouble and had to be replaced early on.], Aaron North (guitar) and Jeordie White (bass, guitar).
NIN is certainly an elite club to join for those who dare. The pressure is on, and only the strongest, most dedicated musicians make the cut. And Reznor isnít exactly hosting American Idol-style auditions. (Ew, thank God. Canít you just imagine one million preteens and 40-somethings donning Hot Topic gear and crying backstage for the camera?)
So what does it take to be in NIN Ė to live up to the expectations of a meticulous perfectionist and still keep an all-important level of cool? Being in NIN seems like the wet-dream job for any hardcore musician.
Jeordie White, formally Twiggy Ramirez of Marilyn Manson, A Perfect Circle bassist, and collaborator with several notables like Josh Homme (The Desert Sessions), Chris Goss (Goon Moon) and Oasis, shared some insights with RAG Magazine about being in NIN and why he has been chosen to share stages with the most significant players in industrial rock and metal music. Though he was sitting in the studio lobby playing video games while Reznor mastered With Teeth, White hopes that maybe next time around he will be one of the lucky musicians to join Reznor on the other side of the studio door.
Today, NIN is in Des Moines, Iowa. White tells me that in addition to New Jersey and South Florida, he also lived in Des Moines. It seems that his most pressing memory of the place involves a pet goat. ďI grew up for a few years on a farm here. I had a pet goat and my uncle shot it, and my cousins and I kept it alive underneath the house,Ē he says in a quiet, raspy voice. Hmmm, I wasnít sure if I should sympathize or share a chuckle with him about such a conversation starter as this. Now I know that this strange tone seems to fit White well. Heís the kind of man who blurs the line between darkness and comedy Ė darkness, simply by default of the bands in which he has partaken, and well, the comedy aspect youíre just going to have to take my word for at this point, since this needs a little explaining.
White says that irony plays a big role in his life. Right now I am finding it ironic that his voice sounds identical to Tall Goth from the South Park episode, ďYou Got Fíed in the A,Ē when the kids ďget served.Ē (Tall Goth: ďThe only cool way to dance is to keep your hands at your sides and your eyes looking at the ground. Then every three seconds you take a drag from your cigarette.Ē) The resemblance just seems too clichť. Whether heís being ironic or not, White breaks the goth kid mold by doing really conventional things like eating at Chiliís and working out at the gym. But then again, when youíre in NIN, you can probably do anything you please, even stupid things, and get away with it. White certainly proves this theory true.
RAG: How has the NIN tour been? I know at one point in your
career you said you werenít sure if youíd want to tour again,
and now this NIN tour seems to be never-ending.
Itís been great actually. Iím around a bunch of healthy, happy people, so itís fun. But I mean, basically touring is just: there are a couple of shows here and there, and you just go to like Chiliís and Red Robin, and see a bunch of crappy movies, and go to some really crappy malls in the middle of nowhere and buy an bunch of stuff you donít need, buy a bunch of video games* that you play once and throw out. Then you play a show. Then you go to your hotel, find another mall. Go to Chickfil-A. And Repeat.
RAG: So, would you say that compared to your earlier touring
days, things now are less crazy and excessive?
I would say so, yeah. I mean I did a tour with Nine Inch Nails in 1994, and I donít really remember much of it. I know I was there because it was caught on film. But, uh, yeah, itís nice to remember whatís going on.
RAG: Do you think that the change in your tour lifestyle is just
due to your growing older, or do you think Trent has played a
role in that mindset?
I think [Trent] has a lot to do with it. You know, him setting the tone for everything. But also, it comes with age. You know, I know that if I touch that stove, itís gonna burn my hand. So, you donít touch the stove anymore. In other words, if you donít do this, everything has a consequence. Then you just start to feel better about yourself Ė about just, you know, like I said, instead of staying up all night and doing crazy stuff, going to the mall and getting some Chick-fil-A.
RAG: Whatís it like knowing that you were once in a band
(Marilyn Manson) that was produced by Trent Reznor ďThe
godfather of industrial musicĒ and to now be in the band of
I think it has more to do with our friendship overall more than my talent or anything. So, itís not like, ĎOh, Iím so talented, Iím in Nine Inch Nails,í sort of thing. It has more to do with just we get along together and had shared a lot of experiences together. And, you know, I think it has more to do with that, and [the fact] that I am easy to get along with. Rather than, ĎOkay, Iíve had this history of touring as a musician and blah, blah, blah.í [Itís] kind of just, you know, if youíre a plumber, you work with other plumbers. You meet other plumbers and go and do jobs with them. Itís the same thing with musicians. You meet other musicians and when they are looking for other people to play with, they go, ĎOh what about that guy? Heís nice.í
RAG: You must get along with a lot of people. Youíve
worked with so many different artists.
Yeah. Eh, itís all bullshit. Iím tricking everybody.
RAG: Most of your opportunities have not come from
auditions, but rather run-ins at a party or something.
Considering this, do you think of yourself as a fatalist?
It seems that way. I mean, I have done, and been involved with a lot of hard work to get where I am today. But, you know, it all just came really natural to me. I never put my mind to anything or set goals to do anything. It all kind of just followed me around. And I think thatís because of the hard work I put into it, which, you know, maybe Iím good at what I do and people want to surround themselves with people like that. I think that has a lot to do with it, but I think, you know, as far as it goes itís not like I sat down and went, ĎOkay, I want to be in Marilyn Manson. What do I have to do to make that happen?í You know, it just happened. Or, ĎI want to be in A Perfect Circle. Iím gonna call them and try to figure it out.í With all the bands that Iíve been in, the knock has just come on my door Ė and Iíve gratefully opened it.
RAG: Tell me about your current environment with NIN.
You said youíd like to continue with NIN as long as you
could handle it. What did you mean by that?
Well, as long as I can handle playing music. I keep on thinking I can get out of [music] and do something else, but I get pulled back in, and here I am again, on tour. But, you know, I do enjoy it. I complain about it, but I complain about almost anything. You know, right now Iím complaining that the catering on our tour is too good, and itís too fancy. I want something more traditional like macaroni and cheese. I just find you know, that you can grow. Itís a good argument though. If youíre paying for something, Iíd rather have normal food. But you find yourself complaining about a lot of stupid stuff. Itís kind of silly.
RAG: Anyone can get that way at times. You have to
remind yourself of where you are and what you are
And, you know, you do have moments of perspective. You know, okay, Iím thankful to be here and to be healthy and working.
RAG: NIN fans are a unique group of people. And now
there is a new generation of fans who even refer to you
as Mr. White. Whatís that like?
The whole name thing was really kind of funny because, I donít know if this is going to answer your question or not, but when we created Marilyn Manson and I went under the name Twiggy Ramirez, you know, everyone wanted to call me Jeordie. You know, everyone said, ĎI canít call you Twiggy. I canít do that.í You know, people close to [me]. But now, all these people come up to me and are like, ĎI just canít call you Jeordie. Thatís just too weird.í People always want what they canít have, or want the opposite of everything. So, you know, whatever. It doesnít matter to me. They can call me whatever they want. They can call me asshole, or shithead or something. [laughs]
RAG: Even though you have been in a lot of seriously
intense bands, I know humor plays a big part in your
life. How do you keep things light when working so hard?
I surround myself with as much fun as possible. One of my greatest points and my worst points is that I donít take anything too seriously, which leads you to not freak out about stuff when it happens. But also, it gives you a hard time of achieving goals that you set. I donít take anything seriously. Comedy plays a very important role in my life, for sure.
RAG: What is funny to you? Do you watch Comedy Central or what? No, like Iíll watch movies and find a chapter of a movie thatís not funny and put it on chapter repeat and watch it for like three hours, the same five-minute scene for three hours, just to drive everyone nuts. Repetitive stuff. Stuff thatís not funny starts to become funny, like someone opening a door. And then when it happens again, it starts becoming funny. I know it sounds ridiculous. Or, listening to the music of bands when they were in really weird eras. Like, only listening to Sammy Hagar, Van Halen or just Ė I canít explain it. Itís really funny. Itís really stupid.
RAG: You find humor in random stuff then.
Yeah, in just random stuff.
RAG: You were in the recording studio lobby playing video
games when Trent Reznor was mastering With Teeth.
Do you think youíll be more involved in any future albums
Would I like to? Yeah. As far as that happening Ė thatís all a mystery right now. Iím sure Iíll be touring with them again.
RAG: How does working with Trent work? Is there a lot
of pressure to mimic the sounds he makes exactly?
How much flex room does he give you musically?
No, I mean, he pretty much lets us go with it. You know, ĎMake the part yours.í Sometimes there will be a certain feel, or heíll hear something different than I hear it. Then itís just a matter of getting used to it in this live way. But [the working relationship] is pretty casual, I would say. I mean, we set standards between ourselves to make things perfect because thatís how we want the show to be Ė great. But itís not that strict.
RAG: You used to work in a used record store. Where
do you go these days to uncover new music?
The Internet basically.
RAG: Any Web sites in particular?
No, I just search around and start hearing stuff that people are talking about. Sometimes youíll like it and sometimes you wonít. I tend to try to find older music that Iíve never heard before. And again, irony is a big part of my life, so I listen to a lot of music for ironic reasons, too. Just stuff thatís kind of actually not good, but it bothers other people when I listen to it, so Iíll just listen to it. In theory, in the end, you are listening to music for entertainment. And thatís whatís entertaining me Ė playing musical terrorism to other people.
RAG: What are some of your ironic bands right now?
Gosh, what am I listening to right now? The other day I was listening to Van Halen with Gary Cherone. You know, but in the end, Iíll start liking stuff. Or the ďSuper Bowl ShuffleĒ by the Chicago Bears [football team]. Itís like a rap song by the Chicago Bears in the Ď80s. Itís about the Super Bowl. Itís really stupid. The Fat Boys. [laughs] Christopher Cross Ė whatever it takes.
RAG: A lot of fans want to know if youíll do any more
Goon Moon projects.
Yeah, you know. I plan on putting out some more projects. Itís just when time allows for it to happen. I think that will happen pretty soon.
RAG: Are you able to do any creative work on the road?
I mean I go day to day. But I bring a studio with me on the road so I donít get distracted. I try to make music, but you know, itís hard to set it all up in a hotel room, and by that point you have to break it all down and go to the next city. But Iím trying.
RAG: What the longest period of time youíve gone
without touching a guitar?
Well, I was just home for two months and I didnít touch it. Well, I take that back, I did touch it at the end. But yeah, probably a couple of months I didnít. I can go months without touching a guitar. The only time I really ever touch a bass is if Iím onstage or in the studio. I donít practice at all.
Yeah, I never really practiced when I was a kid either. I mean, I suppose being in a band is practicing. But I never sat in my room and tried to be a good musician.
RAG: Of all your professional experiences with different
bands, was there one in particular when you realized
that you had made major progress?
As a musician Ė not in the creative department because most of my creative work came out with Marilyn Manson Ė I think [I grew most] as a musician when I joined A Perfect Circle. I had to take the bar up a little bit, and actually kind of pay attention to what was going on. Obviously, that was a bridge to this band, Nine Inch Nails, with which I had to raise the bar even higher.
RAG: You grew up in South Florida. Do you still have ties in
Florida? Will you do anything special while you are here?
Yeah, I have some family that Iíll see and some restaurants that Iíll go to, stuff like that.
RAG: So, you were probably more of a music-video game kid, rather than a surfer beach dude when you lived in Florida? Yeah, I donít think Iíve ever been to the beach once in Florida Ė uh, not my thing.
* Note to gamer-NIN fans, check garbage bins around NIN tour buses and hotel for discarded crappy video games.