Nine Inch Nails: Beside Vader In Time

Floored By Star Wars

Though known for playing bass for such heavy-hitters as Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, and A Perfect Circle, Jeordie White's music endeavors actually began with a band whose main muse was Star Wars. Around the late '80s in Florida, White and his friends formed the thrash metal band Amboog-a-Lard. Their only album, aptly named A New Hope, focused entirely on the themes and characters of the original trilogy. "That band was a blatant tribute to Star Wars," White says. "Amboog-a-Lard had members that were hardcore Star Wars fans. We had watched Star Wars literally every day and then wrote songs about Darth Vader and stuff because we were crazy. It sounds very metal like Metallica or Queensryche."

Shortly after Amboog-A-Lard released A New Hope, White left the band to join Marilyn Manson where he took on the stage persona of Twiggy Ramirez. While with Manson, White found like-minded Star Wars fans in the band, often opening live shows with a rendition of the Imperial March. Eventually, White left Manson and played with the bands Mondo Generator and A Perfect Circle before landing in the current line up of Nine Inch Nails.

White can be heard on Nine Inch Nails' release With Teeth and the upcoming release Year Zero. Fans can watch White in action in the Nine Inch Nails live concert DVD, Beside You In Time.

"Star Wars sparked my imagination as a child, it made me want to be creative," White says. "It gave me this whole fantasy world to identify with. As a child it was almost kind of a belief system or a religion. Plus, it was cool toys to play with and a whole entire universe to identify with. I haven't seen anything modern that has that much effect on culture, or kids in general. Something is a fad for six months and then it's gone. I don't see someone hold onto something that came out today as much as when people held on to Star Wars."

White's first introduction to Star Wars floored him, literally. "My first Star Wars memory was going to see A New Hope when I was six, and not being able to sit down in a theater because it was so crowded. But they let us lay down in the front of the first row. I watched the whole thing lying down. It was 1977; there were still some hippies left over, so it wasn't unheard of to watch the movie lying down with some blankets, eating popcorn. I was blown away, like everyone else was."

Not only was he hooked on the films, but he soon became an avid collector. "My first was the Early Bird package that came with a little stand and had Luke, Leia, Chewbacca and R2-D2. The second was when I sent away for the cantina play set. Back then it wasn't like it is nowadays when the market is so flooded with different types of action figures. So I was trying to collect each and every one. I remember being really confused when I was a kid because my Snaggletooth figure was tall and blue. I was bummed out that he was different than the regular one; only later I realized I did have the cool one."

As White grew older, he began to add more impressive items to his collection. "I have a storage unit full of stuff that I haven't touched in awhile. I've kind of slowed down collecting Star Wars stuff because it was taking over my life a little bit. There's just so much out there. Every time I go into a store I see the new stuff and it looks cooler than it was before."

Of his entire collection, White says it's difficult to pinpoint his pride and joy items, otherwise known as "items I'd save if my storage unit was on fire."

"The die-cast TIE bomber would be one of them just because it's expensive and rare," White says. "I wish I would have kept my original Star Wars stuff nicer. I've lost items throughout the years and had to buy them again. The only stuff I have that's original is my Millennium Falcon which is yellow with age now."

"I also really like the autographs that I've collected like Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Dave Prowse, and Jeremy Bulloch; and an Episode I poster signed by George Lucas," White adds.

Getting his collectibles autographed also produced a few lasting memories. "My funniest Star Wars moment would be meeting Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill when I was 19 at the opening of Star Tours at MGM in Orlando, Florida. I had brought my Princess Leia slave outfit Return of the Jedi action figure in the box and I had her sign it. She said that I was 'sick.'"

White also recalls many a childhood Halloween spent dressing as a Sith Lord or a droid, or in one case, both. "I remember being Darth Vader and C-3PO a couple of times," White smiles. "When I was C-3PO I had the mask and I covered myself in aluminum foil and then someone showed up to my Halloween party dressed exactly the same. I also had a Darth Vader mask, so I ran and put that on -- becoming Darth 3PO. Just like the LEGO Star Wars video game."

Storytelling... and Sebulba

White's appreciation for Star Wars is more than apparent when he starts explaining why the films continue to not only influence and entertain him, but also strike such a chord for multiple generations of movie goers. "It's the same story we all know but told in a different way," White says. "It's really by-the-book storytelling. It's both basic and complex too. A lot of its success had to do with Joe Johnston and the people behind the scenes who designed all the vehicles, as well as Ralph McQuarrie who brought George Lucas' characters to life. I don't think they get as much credit either. Those are the images that stuck out in my childhood."

"The characters are all interesting too," White adds. "I could identify with Han Solo. I know that's a popular answer, but he seems the most human to me. However, I'm probably most like Luke Skywalker. I think anybody, male or female, can identify with what he went through with the feeling of trying to find oneself and seeing what's out there. Being introduced to a whole other world can be relatable -- like for a kid going to high school for the first time, or getting your first job. I think that's why everyone really likes these movies -- it pretty much mirrors real life except instead of regular people there's giant Wookiees and green aliens."

When the Special Editions were released, White eagerly sat in the theater for new take of his favorite films. "The idea of the Special Editions was great because I could see a different version of the movie," White says. "As a fan, I'm not offended by that at all. I think it's cool, but the originals are better. I love seeing the rougher effects. It's almost like listening to a Beatles record and someone puts new guitar effects on it, or a brand new synth sound comes in on the song. It doesn't sound quite right because they didn't have that back then."

When Episode I debuted White was invited to see the film in style. "I got to see Episode I at a crew screening, because I made friends with some people at Industrial Light & Magic when I was coming through on tour playing for Marilyn Manson," White says. "So when it came time for the ILM digital crew premiere a friend invited me to the screening. There was some big rule about how no one is allowed to say hi to George Lucas. But I defied all of that and walked up to him and shook his hand. I had been up all night because I was really excited to see it and I had to say something."

Even with the rare chance to say hello to Lucas, White quickly discovered during the screening that he had a love-hate relationship with the story. "The first time I saw Episode I, I loved it, then I hated it, now I like it again," White laughs. "Watching it now, it seems the most like a Star Wars movie to me. Of course, there's a lot of Jar Jar Binks, but there's a sense of nostalgia to it now so it's like the other Star Wars movies. Something about it seems classic to me."

"However, out of the new trilogy I really think they should have developed Sebulba more as a character because he was the coolest looking one," White continues. "He was like the new Greedo or Boba Fett. He was the most interesting-looking villain with a cool outfit on. I also wish they would have gone off on Aurra Sing a little more mainly because I wanted to know more about the bounty hunters than just Jango Fett."

Avid Gaming

While on tour with Nine Inch Nails in 2005, White made sure he was at the first showing of Revenge of the Sith. "We saw it on tour opening night at a 12-theater complex," White recalls. "I don't remember where it was exactly, but they let us have the theater to ourselves which was great." "My first reaction to Episode III was that I didn't like it," White laughs. "Like Episode I, I go back and forth. So I love Revenge of the Sith now. The whole beginning of Revenge of the Sith seemed like a classic Star Wars movie. And having the villain of General Grievous reminded me of the first movie seeing Darth Vader. It was just set up to be so great. Grievous is such a great character. And obviously the whole changing of Anakin into Darth Vader before he wore the suit was cool. Of course, we all wanted to see more of Darth Vader."

White wouldn't mind seeing more of Chewbacca either, especially if the real world and Star Wars just so happened to collide. "Out of everyone in Nine Inch Nails, I would probably fit best in the Star Wars galaxy, because I'm so obsessed with it," White laughs. "As far as which character would fit in best as a member of Nine Inch Nails, it would have to be someone who could take a lot of abuse; someone really tough. Chewbacca would be great to just have around as a bodyguard. He'd be a great guy to hang out with because he can probably get into places I couldn't."

The films aren't the only Star Wars medium White appreciates. As an avid gamer, who frequently dominates the video game console on the Nine Inch Nails tour bus, White admits his current favorite games include LEGO Star Wars and Knights of the Old Republic.

"KOTOR is just a fun adventure game," White says. "I'm bored with the first-person shooter games they have like Doom and Quake, but I love the LEGO Star Wars games because they're fun. It's a video game and it's not trying to look real. I love playing Qui-Gon in the LEGO game. He's probably one of the most underrated characters in the films as well. He's definitely a classic Star Wars character."

As White continues to show off his Star Wars cred by chatting about LucasArts video games, displaying his collection, or reviewing the films, he's quick to point out that at the center of his fandom is the gratitude he has to Lucas and his team for sparking his imagination and giving his childhood another galaxy to daydream about.

"Anything to inspire kids and adults to be creative in their own sense is important," White says. "I definitely drew a lot from Star Wars. Fantasy and escape is important. Star Wars touched me a certain way in my childhood that I'm glad to say never really wore off."

To find out more about White, listen to music and watch video clips, visit the official Nine Inch Nails site here. Also check out Nine Inch Nails on MySpace to listen to new music tracks.

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