James Woolley dies at 49; former Nine Inch Nails keyboardist

Former Nine Inch Nails keyboardist James Woolley
James Woolley, former keyboardist for Nine Inch Nails, died Sunday at 49. No cause of death has been given.
(Kate Van Buren)

Former Nine Inch Nails keyboardist James Woolley, who played with the industrial rock band from 1991 to 1994, died Sunday, his ex-wife Kate Van Buren, announced in a Facebook post. No cause of death was given.

Woolley, 49, was part of the band in 1991 when the group recorded its album “The Downward Spiral.”

Van Buren said that she and Woolley met at the Sunset Social Club in Los Angeles and that “it was love at first sight. I did not know he played keyboards in Nine Inch Nails until weeks later.”

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Nine Inch Nails front man Trent Reznor said in a statement: “Terrible news regarding James. I hadn’t crossed paths with him for some time, but always thought of him fondly. 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.”

He came to NIN from another industrial band, Chicago’s Die Warzau, and after leaving, played briefly in 2wo with Judas Priest lead singer Rob Halford, according to Billboard.

He also worked as a producer for other groups and did sound design on “The Simpsons,” Van Buren wrote.

“James worked hard and played hard with NIN,” Van Buren wrote. “He brought coolness to playing keyboards, which isn’t as easy to do as playing guitar or drums.”


Woolley is survived by his three children, Brendan, Mary and Anne, his parents, John and Nancy Woolley, and his brother John. A funeral service is scheduled for Saturday at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Niles, Ill.

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