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A TOOL-Related Article

Publication: Los Angeles Times

Date: April 22, 1993

Transcribed by Steve Reed (punchy@u.washington.edu)



 title: Giving In to Lure of the Undertow, Tool Suffers Gladly
author: Mike Boehm.


"I don't want to be hostile. I don't want to be dismal," goes the opening 
line of Tool's new album, "Undertow."

But the Warholian 15-minute ticker hasn't run out yet on hard rock's 
anger-and-grunge formula, so what the heck. The Los Angeles band spends 
virtually the entire album milking the most hostile, dismal feeling it 
can muster.

Unmodulated, unmitigated balefulness and rage are growing awfully 
familiar in the wake of Nine Inch Nails, Ministry, Alice in Chains, 
Soundgarden and numerous others. What keeps Tool's first full-length 
album interesting is its ability to mix things up, even if all the songs 
are about feeling down.

Instead of a steady diet of dense noise, guitarist Adam Jones, bassist 
Paul D'Amour and drummer Danny Carey play with definition, discipline and 
range of dynamics that gives Tool more dexterity than most straight 
grunge bands, without sacrificing impact.

The singer and lyricist, Maynard James Keenan, knows that if you want to 
go for dramatic effect, it helps to do some murmuring and whispering 
before you let go a scream.

On "Sober," a song of self-disgust whose lamenting chorus wouldn't sound 
out of place coming from Richard Thompson, Keenan achieves a sense of 
yearning-for-better before he succumbs to the worst. That introduces an 
element of poignancy to go with the customary grunge-rock dread.

When a song does call for screaming, such as the swaggering, 
chip-on-his-shoulder "Swamp Song," Keenan's feats of character 
assassination match the best efforts of such bilious champions as Trent 
Reznor of Nine Inch Nails and Ministry's Alain Jourgensen.
____

Speaking over the phone Tuesday before a concert in San Francisco, 
Keenan, 29, said that Tool has therapeutic reasons for accentuating the 
negative.

"What we've decided to do for our release is play music, so all the ugly 
stuff is gonna come out there. It's kind of like going to an A.A. meeting 
and hearing a guy give a speech about all the horrible things that 
happened to him when he was drunk. It's not as if the rest of our life is 
that way."

He can even imagine writing a song based on more pleasant feeling. So 
far, Tool, which plays Sunday at California Dreams in Anaheim, has 
permitted itself one track of black-comic relief on each of its two 
releases (the band debuted last year with a seven-song EP, "Opiate").

"If things turn into good experience, maybe our approach will change," 
Keenan said. "Maybe [songs will be] more attentive to arrangements, 
ethereal stuff to take you into a dreamlike state. The same way we were 
trying to get out the bad seed [on the first two releases], there might 
be a seed we want to grow."

Meanwhile, there is a career to grow.

Tool's slot on this summer's Lollapalooza '93 tour could be a chance at 
rapid advancement for a band that thus far hasn't had an impact on the 
charts. Tool will start out as second-stage headliner, then switch to the 
main stage about halfway through the two-month itinerary.

The tour will mark a high-school reunion of sorts for guitarist Jones. 
Tool's founder hails from the Chicago suburb of Libertyville, Ill., where 
his schoolmates included two other Lollapalooza musicians; Tom Morello, 
now the guitarist of Rage Against the Machine, and Maureen Herman, who 
plays bass in Babes in Toyland.

"Maureen and Tom and I made films together in high school," noted Jones, 
28, whose enthusiasm in a separate interview contrasted with Keenan's 
civil but guarded tone. "Tom and I are good friends. It's a coincidence. 
Can you imagine it?"

(article is cut off on right side here, I'll try my best  --Steve)

As Jones tells it, Tool's [???] as a band-with-prospects [???] was a 
matter of coincidence. A[???] art studies and a stop in San Francisco, he 
came to Los Angeles about seven years ago and found a job in Hollywood 
doing sculptures and makeup for film special effects.

Keenan's route was a little more circuitous. After high school in 
Scottville, Mich., he says he served a three-year hitch in the Army. 
Keenan said he had done well in an officers' prepar[ation] program and 
was about to enroll in West Point when he decided he would rather be an 
artist.

He wound up studying art [???] design in Grand Rapids, Mich., which led 
eventually to a job in Los Angeles applying the spatial concepts he had 
learned to remodel pet stores. After that, he worked in set design in the 
film industry.

Jones and Keenan met through a mutual friend. After hearing a[???] by a 
band Keenan had front[???] his Michigan art-school [???] Jones persuaded 
the initially reluctant singer to start a band with him.

(article is much better now, easier to read  --Steve)

"I'd seen the ugly part of the film industry, and I didn't want to get 
involved in the music business," Keenan said. "I decided if we did what 
we were doing and enjoyed it, [record companies] wouldn't look at us," 
which, at the time, would have been fine with him.

According to Jones, getting ahead wasn't the point when Tool began in 1991.

"I've always played in bands for fun, and I wanted to put a band together 
just for fun. It was never to the point where I wanted to be signed and 
do this for a living. I was successful with what I was doing. But the 
band took off."

Carey, who had played drums for Green Jello and Pygmy Love Circus, was 
coaxed to sit in with Tool when the band's previous drummer skipped a 
rehearsal, and he wound up joining. D'Amour, from Spokane, Wash., was 
recommended by an art-world friend of Jones.

After a demo tape and a few live shows, Tool was courted by record 
companies that were becoming savvy, in the wake of Jane's Addiction, and 
the first Lollapalooza tour, to the increasing commercial possibilities 
of alternative hard-rock music. The band signed with Zoo Entertainment. 

"When we did our first [record], we picked our heaviest songs. People 
went, 'Oh, you're a metal band,' and I thought that was kind of lame," 
Jones said. "We try to branch off into different directions. We try to 
touch base with all our influences."

Those include the Swans, Tom Waits, Judas Priest, AC/DC and Joni Mitchell 
on Keenan's side, and surf rock, Metallica, Parliament, Kansas and Dwight 
Yoakam on Jones'.

Keenan said he doesn't mind if Tool, which sounds like a less-plodding 
version of Soundgarden, gets lumped in with the Seattle/grunge contingent 
-- a scene he respects and feels will outlive its current trend-appeal.

"When the wind blows over and all is said and done, those albums will be 
able to stand on their own," he said, citing releases by Soundgarden and 
Nirvana. "Angry or not, they're good musicians, and they're all [playing] 
heartfelt stuff. It's all going to come down to writing good songs. I'm 
hoping we can maintain the focus on the music and have a career, whatever 
they want to call [our style]."

Actually, Tool doesn't put its focus solely on the music. With his art 
background, Jones has designed album covers and CD booklets that make a 
shocking statement of their own. A collage on the Opiate" inner booklet 
includes a photograph of what one hopes is one of Jones' film illusions, 
but appears to be a man having intercourse with a skinned corpse.

"We're not supposed to talk about the Polaroid," he said. "I'm not trying 
to be rude, but our lawyer said not to."

The images on "Undertow" include a pig with the word "undertow" shaved 
into its hide, a photo of a naked, obese woman engulfing a frontally nude 
man in a loving embrace, and an X-ray of a medical curiosity best left 
unspecified.

"I like a picture that makes you uncomfortable on one [hand] and it's 
beautiful on the other," Jones said. "Something kind of gross, but you 
look anyway. Something you'd never want to see, but it's kind of beautiful."


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