Former Nine Inch Nails Keyboardist James Woolley Dead at 49
James Woolley, a keyboardist who spent four years as part of Nine Inch Nails‘ touring unit, including at the band’s legendary Woodstock ’94 set, died Monday at the age of 49, Woolley’s ex-wife wrote on Facebook. Woolley died from neck-related injuries after falling off a ladder while retrieving music equipment in his studio.
“James passed away this weekend,” Kate Van Buren wrote (via Loudwire). “James worked hard and played hard with NIN. He brought coolness to playing keyboards, which isn’t as easy to do as playing guitar or drums.”
After a stint with Chicago industrial band Die Warzau, Woolley’s tenure with Nine Inch Nails began in 1991 when he replaced Lee Mars for the band’s Lollapalooza Tour. The keyboardist remained with Trent Reznor’s group through the recording of 1992’s Broken EP and 1994’s The Downward Spiral, and while Woolley isn’t credited on either album, he appeared in the videos for “Wish” and “March of the Pigs.”
“Terrible news regarding James. I hadn’t crossed paths with him for some time, but always thought of him fondly,” Reznor tells Rolling Stone. “He was a fun character to be around, a solid musician and a genuinely good guy. Those of us from that era of the band have been sharing ‘James’ stories … lots of laughs and love and sadness. Wishing his family the very best.”
Woolley also appeared in Nine Inch Nails’ 1997 concert film Closure, a document of the 1994/95 Downward Spiral Tour; by December 1994, midway through the group’s Self-Destruct tour, Woolley was replaced on keyboards by Charlie Clouser. However, soon after Woolley’s exit, he won a Best Metal Performance Grammy for Nine Inch Nails’ “Happiness in Slavery” off the Woodstock ’94 compilation.
Following Nine Inch Nails. Woolley worked with Rob Halford’s 2wo project as well as Woolley’s own VOID.
Filter’s Richard Patrick, whose tenure in Nine Inch Nails briefly overlapped with Woolley’s, shared a photo he had taken with the keyboardist. “I miss my buddy,” the Filter singer wrote.