On a late March afternoon in 1991, Inger Lorre of the Nymphs rose to be seated at the right hand of blessed revenge. It’s a holy day for many in music, an event scoring Old Testament–style vindication for every hair turned gray on the head of a distraught musician. Lorre had had enough: She felt her A&R man, Tom Zutaut, had been playing mind games for months, he’d put her first album on hold and hadn’t allowed her to play for two years, and she was spiraling down in a depression that was both soothed and seduced by drugs. “So one day, I got really really drunk,” she recounts, “and I said to Jeff, our guitar player, ‘You know, he’s such a fucker. I should just walk in there and piss on his desk.’ Jeff laughed — and I hadn’t seen him laugh in months, we were so depressed. He said, ‘You’d be my hero if you did.’ So I drank a lot of beer and got totally inebriated so I would have the guts and a lot of pee in me.”
In the publicist’s office at Geffen Records, the secretaries sat around her feeding her coffee. “It’s so sick when they’re treating you like a rock star and you haven’t done anything, you’re from New Jersey and have a featherback haircut and are a total geek. I knew nothing, nothing. I was the most naive person in the world. So when Zutaut said, ‘OK, send her in,’ I was just like, fuck this, and I jumped up on his desk and was like, ‘You fucked me over, you fucked my band, you’re a fucker, how dare you keep me on hold,’ and I pissed on his Rolodex, his phone, the photo of his wife, everything. But instead of screaming at me, he started to cry.”
Over the next eight rebellious months, she struggled to get Geffen to release her. The tabloids ran features mocking the golden A&R boy for getting a golden shower. Rolling Stone quipped, “Talk about being pissed at your record label,” and her grandma was calling her daily with new unsavory news reports. In part, this is why Inger walked away: “The press all made these cute little remarks about it, and it was sad because it wasn’t cute. It was heartbreaking. It so made me have a distaste for everything that I was naturally supposed to do that I just quit, moved back home.”
Three thousand miles from L.A., she assumed she had burned all the bridges linking her to music, and so she shored up in her Garden State home, taking the brave small steps back to sobriety. She exercised the Ninth Step by making amends to Tom Zutaut, she got a job as an illustrator at The New York Press. But perhaps the greatest shock in Lorre’s shocking 29 years came when she ventured warily back into the New York club scene: “People treated me like the patron saint of fucked-over musicians,” she stammers. “They were all, ‘You pissed on the desk, that’s what I want to do. You did that for every musician that has ever been screwed over.’”
A whole new pack of friends and sympathetic musicians grew up around her, and suddenly Inger Lorre was not just the wild child champing maggots in a video, but a woman who had stood up — on a desk even — to injustice. She felt the strength to write again, started taking guitar classes and turned a new page in the canon of rock recovery.
Now, six years later, Inger has a record soon to be released on Triple X and a few clean and sober reflections on an industry that almost swallowed her. “I certainly understand where Kurt Cobain was when he died. It was too much pressure. He didn’t want to do music anymore, that’s for sure. I think his letter was just a quitting letter, not a suicide letter. And you know, it’s the same label, Geffen Records. It was all just big business to them.”
For the virgin L.A. musician, her advice is oracular: “You should do your homework, look into the label. If I had, I would never have signed with Geffen.” Inger wonders why kids research the college they’re going to attend, but belly up in disbelief when courted by music’s Ivy League: “When there’s a major label interested in you, everybody just jumps like I did. Like wow, this validates me! Now I’m a real musician, because I’m on Virgin, Capitol, Warner. That’s how it felt — like I was a kid and now I’m all grown up on a big label. And it was just dumb.”
Today, back in L.A., Inger is intent on protecting her newfound balance with smarts. Several major labels want to pick up her new record on Triple X, but, as she explains, once you’ve reclaimed it, why once again hock the dream? “I’m happy now,” she says, somewhat bewildered. “And if I ever went back, there would be a list of conditions a mile long.”