R.I.P. James Wooley of Nine Inch Nails 1966-2016 - Noise11.com
James Wooley

James Wooley

R.I.P. James Wooley of Nine Inch Nails 1966-2016

by Roger Wink, VVN Music on August 18, 2016

in News

James Wooley, who played keyboards with Nine Inch Nails during the first half of the 90’s, died last weekend at the age of 50. No cause of death has been released.

The announcement came on Monday afternoon via his ex-wife, Kate Van Buren’s, Facebook page:

I met James Woolley in late 1991 at the Sunset Social Club in Los Angeles. I was with my friend Tatiana enjoying the live band, then stood in the long line for the ladies’ room. James was sitting on a chair nearby. We started talking and it was love at first sight. I did not know he played keyboards in Nine Inch Nails until weeks later. He was staying in Sharon Tate’s house where the band was recording The Downward Spiral. I had a small apartment on Ocean Front Walk in Venice beach. We tried to make it to the beach every evening to watch the sunset. 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. Those years were truly magical and quite an adventure. After his time with NIN came to a close, we moved into a house in Topanga Canyon, got married and started a family. James played briefly in Rob Halford’s band Two, produced music for a wide array of groups, worked on sound design for The Simpsons (those fart sounds are authentic), and worked on his own tunes for his band VOID in our home studio.

Though our marriage ended, James always stayed close to his children. He loved being a father. Because of significant neck and spine injuries, he wasn’t capable of doing a lot of physical activities with them, but he loved sitting down to paint, or teach piano, or just look at nature. He passed his amazing musical and artistic talents to all three children.

James passed away this weekend. I wanted our friends to know so you can please keep Brendan, Mary and Anne, the Woolley family and all his loved ones in your prayers.

Feel free to share photos and memories of James Woolley here or on his FB page.

RIP James Joseph Woolley 1966-2016 We will miss you.

Wolley played in the band Die Warzau with former Nine Inch Nails drummer Chris Vrenna before playing keyboard with NIN starting with the 1991 Lollapalooza tour. He continued with them through the start of the 1994 Self Destruct Tour and, although he did not appear on any of the band’s studio recordings, he does appear in the videos for Wish and March of the Pigs along with 1997’s Closure video in the Self Destruct Tour footage. He also won a Grammy for the NIN song Wish, the remixed version of the song from the band’s Fixed EP.

Post-NIN, he returned to working with Die Warzau and toured with Rob Halford’s band 2wo. He later did studio work and relocated to Chicago where he was in the band V.O.I.D.

Neil Portnow, president/CEO of the Recording Academy, released a statement saying:

We are saddened to learn of the death of former Nine Inch Nails keyboardist James Woolley. A Best Metal Performance GRAMMY® winner with NIN for his work on the live performance track “Happiness In Slavery” for 1995, James was an active creative collaborator, having worked with other bands such as Die Warzau, Sister Machine Gun, 2wo, and V.O.I.D. We offer our deepest condolences to James’ family, friends, and all those who had the privilege and honor of working with him.


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