The North-West photo in the below collage was going to be the cover of Inger Lorre’s autobiography when it was announced in the first half of the previous decade. I don’t know if she will still go through with the title being Notes from Ingerland, but there is something intriguing about the subtitle – stories and memoirs from rock’s first lady. The key word being lady, as opposed to the usual tomboys as seen in bands like Bikini Kill, L7, Babes in Toyland, Lunachicks and Betty Blowtorch. Don’t let the choice of pronoun and visage fool you, Inger doesn’t like to be called a star – she would rather be perceived as an artist. This perception is the Western and female equivalent to Bruce Lee wanting to be seen as a super actor instead of a superstar. As for what Inger meant by stories in the book project’s subtitle, they weren’t going to be fictional short stories (à la Marilyn Manson’s The Long Hard Road Out of Hell) but, rather, anecdotes from fans that would be interwoven with her own accounts.
The effect being comparable to the numerous acquaintances who offer their worthwhile outside-looking-in takes on the subject’s travails (e.g. Mötley Crüe’s The Dirt, Stephen Pearcy’s Sex, Drugs, Ratt & Roll and Rex Brown’s Official Truth, 101 Proof: The Inside Story of Pantera). Inger’s band, Nymphs, is the best New Jersey band – even though Bon Jovi are the most famous to emerge from there. Musically, Nymphs have often been lumped in with the Seattle bands who were part of the grunge era. However, I’ve always thought that their sound is best described as a darker version of Guns ‘n’ Roses. To specify this, I describe G’N’R’ as blunk i.e. blues mixed with punk – a style of music that I associate with Skid Row during their Slave to the Grind era. What makes Nymphs so dark, besides esoteric choices in how the instruments are played to sound haunting, is that the lyrics tend to gravitate towards darker themes which not even Hole’s Courtney Love would dare to dwell on.
Just One Happy Day is written from the viewpoint of a 5-year-old who cannot articulate her despair, while The River is about a neglected 8-year-old who drowns when trying to reach the Heaven that he believes lies at the bottom of the river. If G’N’R’ are like an action movie (suited for the likes of Terminator 2) then Nymphs are like a horror movie. All too fitting, then, that they’ve had a song (Revolt) which was placed on the soundtrack of Pet Sematary Two (a strange choice of titling that makes me think of Sammo Hung’s 1978 non-sequel titled Warriors Two). Another song (The Highway) was put on the soundtrack of a 1989 psychological thriller (released in 1990) that was the forerunner to Fight Club (1999), except without a twist ending. Bad Influence owes a debt to The Hitcher – another `80s movie that gets less recognition than Ferris Bueller’s Day Off in terms of having the titular character secretly be the fictional alter ego of another character.
Getting back on track like an 8-track or 16-track, Nymphs were signed to Geffen Records like G’N’R’ were. This is where I have to dig and delve deep into another irony. In 1986, Geffen won a bidding war when they signed G’N’R’ for 75,000 dollars. The total budget for their début album (Appetite for Destruction) was 370,000 dollars. The LP came out in 1987 before becoming hugely profitable in 1988. In September of 1989, the same record label had won a bidding war by signing Nymphs for 900,000 dollars. The début LP cost a million dollars to make. However, it came out two years later and with little of the fanfare afforded to G’N’R’. The tiny snag in the potential equation for success was that their producer, Bill Price, was working as the mixer of G’N’R’ for their split double LP (Use your Illusion) which influenced Metallica to do the same thing with Load and Reload. Usually, a producer working as a mixer for another band can be seen as a source of intel for the other band to exploit. Even without resorting to plagiarism and sabotage, you can still participate in conquer by divide such as diverting attention with drugs and fast rides.
What actually happened was that Bill would end up being so busy with G’N’R’ that Nymphs became a side project. Nymphs should really have enlisted the other Sex Pistols producer – Chris Thomas. It’s sad because the Nymphs LP should’ve been their Appetite for Destruction. Just like that album, it has 12 songs, it’s more down-to-earth than Use Your Illusion and it doesn’t outstay its welcome. More to the point, it’s got enough classics to have more singles than your average album (usually 3). To understand how profitable that Nymphs should’ve been, I have to focus on why G’N’R’ should’ve failed. What made G’N’R’ come off as silly during the early nineties is that releasing two long albums came off as pretentious, so it’s too easy to dismiss either half as having filler – especially since G’N’R followed their first LP with an EP. It didn’t help that they got a bit too carried away with the overblown music videos.
Releasing 30 songs (3 albums to most people) on a Tuesday (September 17) which would be overshadowed by Nirvana releasing Nevermind on the following Tuesday (September 24) meant that Nymphs were left in the shade in 1991. Their ignored album was released on October 29. They would’ve received more acclaim if they came from Seattle. The writing should’ve been on the wall for the Geffen label. Compounding things further is that not only did Soundgarden have their Badmotorfinger album released on the very same Tuesday as Nevermind, but Red Hot Chili Peppers did, too, with Blood Sugar Sex Magik (sic). Alternative rock was the in-thing. By January, Nymphs had sold only 40,000 copies. In the March 21, 1992 issue of NME (New Musical Express), the Nymphs EP (The Practical Guide to Astral Projection) had still yet to be released (despite the familiar photos which accompanied the article). Also, the EP was only released after Inger was no longer in the band circa late June. The band had split up some time later, which can’t be easy when you sign a contract that stipulates how many records that you have to record.
While she was still in the band circa April (when L7’s Bricks Are Heavy was released), they were touring the West Coast. During this time, she was interviewed for The Aquarian Weekly. There were no signs of acrimonious feelings within the band. The only ill will that she had was to other singers, although I can’t blame her. Her thoughts on singing are similar to how a guitarist will criticize others for not playing with feeling. Her take on Mariah Carey is that she should lock herself up in a room so that she can use her voice to break glasses all day, because her vocal sensibility is entirely to do with exercising her vocal cords. I would love to know Inger’s thoughts on televised singing competitions. She had a wish that a singer like Michael Bolton should be shot. She thought the same way about Bryan Adams. She thinks of them as corrupting the world with most heinous stuff in order to make money. She accused Chesney Hawks of being completely calculated with his one hit (The One and Only). She claimed that music video director Tim Pope wanted to work with Nymphs because of something that doesn’t bear repeating here given how it’s, by now, renowned Lorre folklore.
The most alarming thing in the interview conducted by Al Muzer is that Inger revealed this: her 15-year-old self would write letters to a 30-year-old guy in jail who turned out to be the vocalist of Genocide – Bobby Ebbs. She became his girlfriend for four years, and she probably would’ve gone to art school if it wasn’t for him. Ironically, she did just that after when Nymphs came to an end. In the NME article, she disclosed that she was already a fan of his music when she was 14. According to her, he was a total drug addict. Come to think of it, James Brown’s article is second only to the one in the October 5, 1991 issue of Kerrang (also British). It’s ironic since Kerrang is so juvenile. Other worthwhile mentions from NME – Inger used to be Perry Farrell’s best friend (this is why Nymphs toured with Jane’s Addiction), she detests Bruce Springsteen, the video for Sad and Damned (a parody of The Perils of Pauline) was banned on MTV, and L7 agreed that Inger knows how to cause a reaction.
Much has been made of the gothic sensibility that Nymphs had. The director for the aforementioned video was known for directing The Cure. It was Inger’s idea for the snow in the video to symbolize cocaine opposite the poppies symbolizing opium. She said: “I loved The Cure’s Pornography – I really like heavy, dark, depressing music. If Edgar Allan Poe had been in a band, Pornography would have been it. I was going through a drug withdrawal at the time. I still do acid and ecstasy once in a while. Pot’s great too. It puts people in another consciousness. I wanted to show a nightmarish quality without being so straightforward as to show a guy going out and copping drugs. It ends with an overdose but a 5-year-old would say Oh, look, mommy – there’s a girl in a white dress and pretty flowers falling asleep in the snow. I wanted it to be completely innocent, but MTV knew. In America, you can watch Bon Jovi and Paula Abdul five times an hour. I believe that MTV is a total government plot.”
The final time (circa 1992) that Kerrang did a feature on Nymphs, Inger said something that might as well have been an obituary: “We’re banned at certain clubs. Studios won’t book us, bands won’t let us open for them. Sometimes I get out of hand. I think reality sucks, and that’s the reason I’m in this band. I can make my own world and live in it. I speak my real nature. We mean what we sing. When I get depressed, instead of putting on some beautiful music, I play the most depressing thing that I can find. It’s comforting to know that others are in as much pain as you. We get solace through our music and want to make other people feel good, like having a good cry. The music is very passionate, but it’s not f#ck the world. Every band that I’d been in before said I couldn’t do this. They wanted girls doing flowery songs; I wanted powerful music – music with balls. I looked around for guys cool enough to take me as a partner, not as a cute girl singer. I’m not a girl! I’ve never worn a dress on stage. I never will.”
Such a sad ending can only be leavened by telling the story in a non-linear order like how John Travolta’s death in a Quentin Tarantino film is not made all the more sadder when we still get to see him in the film’s final two chapters. As for my peculiar narrative structure, I will take you back to Kerrang’s first Nymphs article where the writing staff decided that the only woman who could be named the female Axl Rose was Inger (Lorre has the legacy to back it up). Mike Gitter’s article is fascinating in its timing. It was published in the same month as when the album came out, but the article’s main thrust (an interview with the anti-diva) was conducted in February of that year – the significance being that her fiancé (Chris Schlosshardt from Sea Hags) had died on the night before. When being asked to reflect on what had just happened, she said: “This is Hollywood, the land of broken dreams. When the dream doesn’t work out, some people would rather die – I guess.”
Reminiscent of a 1985 Exodus album called Bonded by Blood, Inger had allegedly signed her record deal in blood. I say allegedly because I got this information from a 1992 British magazine news item by Scott Brodeur. To wrap your head around the timing of that publication, the band was going to play at the Marquee Club in London on April 29. Scott’s piece, about Sam Merrick (the dreadlocked guitarist), was titled Stream of Consciousness. Reportedly, Nymphs were ejected from a Hollywood studio when U2’s Bono (who was working next door) walked in just as Sam was mooning the rest of his bandmates. In the textual equivalent to a sound bite (radio or MTV), Sam said: “The tension works for us. We fight over every part of every song, but everyone’s usually happy in the end. It is a strange situation, though, because we’re not really friends outside of the band. It’s impossible to describe our sound. We don’t want to do anything that’s been done before.”
Kerrang’s Mike Gitter described Nymphs as Black Sabbath jamming with Siouxie Sioux and the Banshees. Inger’s answer to being signed had preceded a revelation where she confronted an A&R executive about the former manager of G’n’R’: “I was surprised that a band like the Nymphs got signed to a major label. It was hilarious considering that all of our songs have one or two chords and were all about drugs and suicide. At first, Tom Zutaut expected me to fire my whole band. Now, he’s apologizing. I want this to be a band, not me and a bunch of session players as was suggested so many times at the beginning. I went into his office and accused him of giving a tape to Alan Niven. Tom tried to worm out of it and told me that he just played a few songs to hopefully get us on that tour. That’s bullsh!t because I knew, through a friend, that Axl and Slash had tapes. My band doesn’t have tapes of their own record, and Guns ‘n’ Roses do. The same friend told me that Axl and Slash wanted to take me out to dinner.”
Here is the legendary tale involving Tom – who is also known for discovering Mötley Crüe and helping them sign with Elektra Records (who Metallica were also signed to as far back as 1984 before the recording of Ride the Lightning): “When I found out about the lies that Tom Zutaut had told me, I drank a six-pack before going into his office with Bryn and David from our management company, then I said – Tom, can I show you an analogy? He said – Yeah. I made him sit 10 feet away from his desk. I took five poppies and put them on his desk. I said – This is my band. I crushed them all together and I said You see this? People are flesh and bone just like flowers are made up of atoms, but you can just crush them. I took all the flowers and put them in a pile. I just lifted up my dress, and I was wearing these crotchless fishnet stockings. I said – Tom, you’re f#cking us in the back and p!ssing on our souls. So I p!ssed on the flowers, which ran off the desk into this big puddle. You wouldn’t believe it.”
In the next few months, Inger found things growing steadily worse. For starters, her phone at her new Geffen-rented Beverly Hills apartment was tapped. She said: “I didn’t know who was doing it – the F.B.I. or Geffen Records. I’m not paranoid, this is true. I don’t care; what can they gain from it? What are they gonna do – throw me in jail? Kill me like Malcolm X or John F. Kennedy?”
The drug problems had only worsened. The project was put on hold while she went from detox to somewhere else – let’s just say that she wasn’t seeking asylum. She snickered as she said: “I wound up in the loony bin. People there were talking to the TV set. One guy kept repeating – Tell me we’re not in Saigon. I hadn’t been there for five minutes when it was time for musical therapy and someone said – Do you know how to play anything? I was like – Yeah, actually, I’m in Rolling Stone this month. Everyone kept going – Sure you are, sure you are. – just like in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. I immediately called up my manager and had him sent a copy. Funny how they wouldn’t let me sing The Velvet Underground’s I’m Waiting for the Man in musical therapy after that.”
For all of her glamour, the album is actually a pained postcard from the ugly underside of L.A. as can be heard in one instance with a song about the L.A. Night Stalker: “All the songs are real, some of them are too real for me – stuff like The Highway, which is about a friend of mine who’s in love with Richard Ramirez. She’s 16 and totally in love with him. She visits him in jail all the time. Remember how he looked when the police first caught him? Well, the state fixed his teeth and, in all the pictures that you see of him now, he looks like Mick Jagger! The media pumps that up so all these little girls are falling in love with criminals! …and you think I’M crazy.”
Speaking of corporate scum, she said: “What I’ve gone through, just trying to get my music out, is like a scar – something that’s always there to remind me of the time that I was f#cked over by corporate male oppression.”
For her, it’s more personal than her own personal experiences – the band of her deceased fiancé being undermined as they were overruled by the main producer of Axl’s band of bombast: “Remember how the Sea Hags were the biggest and most outrageous band from San Francisco? Mike Clink came in and fired the drummer because he wasn’t good-looking enough. He fired one of the guitarists for the same reason. It never did happen for them, did it?”
Inger redirects the emphasis while still bringing the point home: “It’s a man’s world and, every day, I get reminded of the fact. I’ve had to fight the record company every step of the way. I’ve had to constantly remind them that I’m an artist, not a blow-up doll. They’re always handing me this crap that we could sell a million right off the bat if we had done this and if I posed like that or if I had worn that.”
She shows strength of character in a way that comes full circle with one of the bands which Nymphs has been compared to: “I’ve had to become a banshee. I’ve had to become threatening. I’ve had to become the first woman that these men have ever not had kiss their asses like their wives and secretaries have done for so long. I’ve had to learn how to cut their balls off.”
As much as she hates the true dark side of the music industry (i.e. not drugs), she hates another world even more. She was working for a while at an infamous punk fashion boutique called Poseur before she landed a lucrative modelling gig with the Elite agency. Inger recalled: “When this woman from the agency came into the store and asked me if I was interested, I laughed at her. I never thought of myself as especially pretty – I always thought of myself as a boy trapped in a girl’s body anyway. I made a lot of money, travelled a lot, worked in Japan and Milan, but just hated most of the other girls who were so uptight, so competitive, always going on about f#cking this photographer to get that job. Modelling’s just like prostitution. It’s a classy name for prostitution. You’re selling your body. It’s a really gross and degrading business. I ended up in a mental hospital for a while because of it.”
Ironically, she lost her virginity to a man who was committing statutory rape i.e. the aforementioned frontman of Genocide (Bobby Ebbs a.ka. Ebz): “He turned me onto a lot of great punk bands – The Stooges, The Velvet Underground, The Adverts. He was obsessed with Nazism. He was also a total transvestite! The first time that I ever had sex with a guy, it was Bobby – dressed up like a girl! He was such a freak. He made me get dressed up in an SS uniform then made believe that I was the guy and he was the girl. He made me beat him up and I didn’t understand why. I was just 14 and really loved the guy. I don’t know why, though; probably because he was the wildest, most creative thing in New Jersey. He was also the one who got me into shooting up.”
Life has been more tragic for her than has been exposed thus far: “I had four of the most important people in my life kill themselves before I moved from there. One gassed herself. Another overdosed. My boyfriend Brian killed himself. My uncle, the person who turned me onto The Who, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, killed himself. I thought that the world was completely f#cked. All this anger – thank God that I’m in a band which allows me to release it or else…I’d end up becoming a mass murderer.”
Another relative was also responsible for cultivating her music taste but only because Inger’s parents tended to send her away a lot – most notably in one particular summer: “They sent me away to spend some time with my aunt. I was about ten at the time when she took me to see Alice Cooper – I think it was the Welcome to my Nightmare tour. He had all the chickens, the ballerinas, he guillotined himself. It was sooo cool. When he did The Black Widow, it was such a heavy song. I was like – Whatever that guy’s doing, I want to do it too!“
How Inger intends to stem the tide of white, male, corporate oppression: “Tell as much as I know of truth and corruption as much as I know of how the world runs. Just expose everything that I know to the kids who are too busy playing their Nintendos and watching MTV.”