Date: April, 1997
Steve Thacker (Toolshed@bigfoot.com)
Steve Thacker (Toolshed@bigfoot.com)
page: 36 title: Tool: Swimming in the Gene Pool author: Nick Terry TOOL:Swimming in the Gene Pool Terrorizer April 1997 Their record company may not think TOOL are relevant to anything that's going on in this country, but for bassplayer Justin Chancellor, that's exactly the point. And without fanfare, without hype, people ape agreeing with him. Nick Terry hails the rise of the LA fourpiece and finds out what the seventy-seven-minute-long masterpiece that is 'AEnima' has to do with chaos, chromosomes, change and psychedelia. Relevant and r-evolutionary? Damn right. "I've been told that it's not appropriate here," says Justin Chancellor. "Our music. By the record company. Well, that's what they told me when they came over to do some interview with some English magazine, the person from the record company was like, I don't think they quite know what to do with it and they don't think it's really relevant at the moment. And I was like, well, surely by virtue of that, that means that's totally relevant!" Relevant enough, it seems, to sell out London's Astoria without huge fanfare, without more than a handful of interviews and certainly very little exposure for Tool's claustrophobic, thought-provoking videos. So if Tool are - as large swathes of the press would have you believe - just too hard to get a handle on, how come two thousand people are here on a Sunday night, picking up on the band and picking the band up, hefting their weight for balance? So what, you might say? This is a band onto their third major label release. Of course they're gonna sell out the Astoria. But last year's 'AEnima' was nothing short of a monkeywrench aimed at the innards of the corporate marketing machine, one of those rare records that simply defies the laws of commercial gravity. Like, they're making seventy-seven minute CDs and getting paid for this? Where do we all sign up? "Everyone's honest about the fact that we're part of all of this, and earning a living," the English-born Justin begins, taking a drag on a cigarette he's bummed off me, safely round the corner from the clearly designated no smoking area backstage. (Americans, eh?) "Like the song 'Hooker With a Penis', don't bother even bringing up the idea of selling out because we're all participants and slaves. It's just how you choose to deal with it, whether you try to jump into it and win, and take it to another level, or whether you just wanna run away and live in a tree. Let's get over that idea and stop dwelling on that because it's so unimportant. We're all trying to cope with the system we've been born into, it's important to try and change it, but don't dwell on the fact that that's the way it is." It's like that old Punk and Hippie thing, but now it's fifteenth-hand, isn't it? "You're right," Justin agrees. I think that with the last record ['Undertow', 1993] doing really well, it sold over a million in America and pretty much the same around the rest of the world combined, I think some bands get to that point and step back and look at it and think, wow, we sold a million, so we could sell five million if we tailor it the way it seems to be going, but I think the difference with Tool was we took that as an opportunity for some more freedom, you've already got that platform, so at least probably half those people are gonna buy the new record anyway because they're interested and pretty loyal or whatever, so you take that opportunity to go even further and like just go off on a limb, 'cos you know you're still gonna be able to share that with people, it's still going to get out there, and then you have to see how that goes. If it's too bizarre for anyone, they might not get it, but if they do, they might just stretch their imagination a little bit. "On-stage tonight, stretch the imagination is quite literally what Tool do. The shaven-headed and diminutive Maynard, painted from head to toe in blue, writhes like he's demonstrating yoga for everyone, looking for all the world like Morph from the 70s children's program Take Hart. Justin, meanwhile, has turned into a leper messiah, his cute devil's- horns hairstyle complemented by circular spots all over his torso and arms. Guitarist Adam Jones's face is largely hidden by his hair, and Danny Carey by his grand battery of percussion equipment (double bass drums, natch), but everything is bathed in blue light and complemented by cleverly synched backdrop projections.They begin not at the beginning, but at the end, with the 'AEnima'-closing 'Third Eye'. All fourteen-fifteen blissfully freeform sounding (but oh-so carefully crafted) minutes of it. Is this ensemble of movement, light and sound a f**k-you to the good ship Astoria and all who sail in her after tonight's sunset? I really don't think so. Do you? And diving into the deep end of the stream of the unconscious is definitely kinda cool. After all, it was only two months into the album for me, after literally weeks of listening, that I suddenly realised what 'Third Eye' and, by extension, much of 'AEnima' reminded me of: a gigantic join-the-dots puzzle linking Black Flag to The Doors. That's just to mention bands from Tool's native Los Angeles. Ironic, too, given that 'Forty Six & 2' is about evolution (adding two more chromosomes to our current forty-four), because it's almost as if Tool have progressed by regression, back through Heavy Metal, past Psyche Rock,and then added a syllable to arrive at Psychedelia. We're not talking Kula Shaker here, either, in case you were wondering.No, we're talking the genuine artefact, made harsh and confrontational by the past two decades of musical destruction. Extreme psychedelia, then: akin, maybe, in approach, to the Swans of 'The Great Annihilator', the Neurosis of' Through Silver In Blood', or Tiamat's 'Wildhoney'. But unique in end result. "Yeah, I'd say it was psychedelic, definitely ." Justin agrees. "Everything I did before had some element of that in it, because I've always been attracted to that aspect of any band, the chaotic soundscape... it's not necessarily lust that because you can be organised as well, but a feeling... The word weird comes to mind. or unexplainable, whatever. It reminds yow of The Doors" Oh really? As a listener I think you kinda get that the band is feeling its way through some kind of dilemma, which I'm sure the Doors were doing. Obviously. I love loads of that stuff, who wouldn't? Hendrix and the Doors and Pink Floyd. As the old adage goes. "if you remember the Sixties, you weren't there". Justin. being both my age and from England, remembers all too well what maybe five years back, we were partially forced to remember. For every valid rediscovery of the Sixties, there were a dozen cliched psychedelic pastiches, reprising the Reprise back catalogue but minus the feeling of exploration and heading off into the unknown that marks out so many records of that era. Only rarely could a band like Jane`s Addiction utter lines like "they say those were the days. but hey, maybe for us, these are the days" and sound like they meant it. How can you revive and repeat something that happened for the very first time without running the risk of diminishing returns? But equally, how can you not at least try to regain that former expansiveness? "Because there's not as much of that at the moment." Justin says. "things are getting so much more compartmentalised. it's a safer option. It`s the difference between being honest with yourself or using music or art to just earn a buck. When you could actually take part in society. You`re just kind of running along with it under the pretence that you're actually an artist, that you`re expanding people`s horizons, you're actually restricting your own. "I think the 60s through to the 90s." he elaborates, "it's actually a very small window of time. As far as the ideas that were around then, the idea of revolution is one part of the 6O's that was very exciting, it got confused because people didn't communicate properly about what an acid trip was or what you got out of it, or all the beautiful things you saw. It was like so many other things, it was abused and so the initial sentiment got confused and it lost its point, but the way I think it's still... like I said, we're not that far away from the 60s in the big picture, and I think those elements are still there, and some people choose to take elements and carry them through, because they think it's appropriate to now." Then again. talking of elements. it doesn't seem as if you all drop acid before heading into the rehearsal room. "Not at all, no. Our drug experiences are very more to do with our personal lives, our personal growths, but all of us have in common that when we've had a drug experience itůs been for the purpose of drawing something out of it. Tool isn't a band that will become trapped by heroin or anything like that, it's not like that, its not a habit, they're just tools that are here on the planet. They`re there. so why not explore them? It`s like the way with 'believe nothing, believe everything' on the album sleeve. All you can do is search, and certain drugs, or any drugs, kind of enable you to be in a different mind, to see things from another reality, another perspective. I've definitely got a lot out of different things. "Psychedelics are a good way of exploring the unknown," he continues, because everyone is essentially confused about what we are doing here, and psychedelics and psychedelic art or music, has always been freeflowing or stream of consciousness and it`s a good way of exploring the chaos aesthetically." For Justin - and it should be apparent by now that Tool as a band work four ways, whether it's with Adam's animations and video direction, Maynard's lyric, Danny`s drumming, or the hefty amount of songwriting Justin himself contributed to a record that was half finished when he joined the band - hooking up with Tool was most definitely a form of chaos. A long-time friend of the band, he beat out bassplayer's from Kyuss and Filter ("they were fair. they tried everybody out") for the position opened up by the departure of Paul D`Amour to pursue his new band Luze (to give them their correct name), and landed in Los Angeles separated from everything and everyone, save for a bag of clothes and a lot of hard work ahead of him. Three years back. interviewing - ironically enough - Paul and Maynard for another magazine. it seemed relevant to talk about the extreme disorientation that the city of quartz inflicts on its denizens, in the claustrophobic context of Tool`s debut 'Undertow'. With LA afflicted by real-life riots and earthquakes in the past five years, it was only too apt that Tool colonically irrigated its sprawl in`AEnima (even if I'm reminded bizarrely of a cheesy horror novel by Robert McCammon called 'They Thirst', where LA is overrun by non-metaphoric vampires and the ghost-town has to be destroyed by a seawater flood in order to save it). So what does Justin make of La-La- and after a year and a bit? Is 1992's tension still there? "Yeah, I think it is there. For sure. it could blow again, but also people have learned a little bit about it, so maybe next time it blows, it'll reach another point and actually go further. Those misguided ideas, we're being oppressed so we're going to smash up the town, they're right to say that, but perhaps it's the wrong way to go about it just by destroying shit or killing people. So maybe each little incident like that is helpful in itself and I don't think it goes away, I think it makes everyone more aware of it. Obviously for me to start with, it was very difficult to understand it, and it was hard to see the positive side of it, because there's so much f**ked up stuff in America, but then I've started to formulate this idea that actually, it's really pretty exciting, because there are all these possibilities and it is a melting pot. "In a way, it's like America to me is an adolescent country," he goes on, "it's right in the middle of chaos, right now, it is chaotic. It's got all the best things, it's got all the worst things. It hasn't quite been organised like certain European countries have or other older countries, and there's an exciting element in that because if something is chaos, it still has a chance to sort itself out into a more positive reality. It's desperately always trying to organise itself and look so pristine and sorted and high-tech and modern and showing the rest of the world the way ahead, whereas that's all a sheen to protect the fact that they're not really in control. The government aren't really in control, and that's exciting." Unity, change, evolution are words Tool have used with which to describe 'AEnima', but chaos is just as good as these. Because on a global scale, the world is in chaos, its social metabolic system writhing and rising and falling in constant turmoil. Marx may now be treated like "a dead duck", but his vision is now more true than ever before: it's all about creative destruction and destructive creation. And it is the chaos of the market that Justin is ultimately talking about. "It is," he agrees. " It's hailed as the important thing in your life is to make loads of money and get ahead, and it's a very selfish thing to breed in people, but maybe it takes that to bring out confrontation and it becomes more apparent that it's such a ridiculous thing to live for, and if it's that intense, the reaction to it is going to be that intense as well. There's that much dark, that much light, it's looking for its own balance as well. When I say chaos, I mean more like an unorganised... looking on the big picture, more from the people who want to organise it and their point of view, but for me that's an exciting thing. It poses the question, why is it human beings' natural initiative to ask those questions and create that chaos? It makes us confront that whole issue. It's painful, you know, if there was to be any huge evolution of mankind, there's going to be a lot of pain involved, it's like when a solid turns into a liquid or a gas, there's a lot of energy involved." Okay, so this is just one aspect of Tool, one facet of what the fourpiece have created with 'AEnima'. And one aspect if about all we have space to address properly in the length of a story like this. But for me, music has always been at its most interesting when the personal resonates across as wide a screen as possible. And resonate is exactly what 'AEnima' does. Tool could easily have degenerated into Korn, and allowed Maynard to whine his way to multi-platinum success. But the fact that the singer was abused as a kid and wrote about it on 'Prison Sex' (and inspired a video now used by psychotherapists) is just one tiny element of the (w)hole. You'd have to talk about androgyny, Jung, friendship, rituals, beliefs and lack of them, violence, homoeroticism and much more to get a complete picture. You'd need about a 20,000 word article to do more than scratch the surface and name the parts. So go write it yourself and don't let me spoonfeed you. Yep, it's that thinking feeling... "I think to a certain extent a lot of bands struggle against that preconceived idea that you've gotta be part of something, a group of thing," Justin says. "I've noticed more and more that on a massive scale, the history of humanity is, it just tries to organise itself into little clubs, whether it's religion or armies or politics or anything, and that tends to stifle the individual's potential to think of something or go somewhere which other people haven't done before, which is a good thing, that's movement. Everyone benefits from that, too." It's a bit like that old irony from Punk, "be an individual look like me!" "Somehow, it's some kind of security for people to do that, but I dunno, it's more restricting than anything else, I'm realising. Being part of something, safe and secure and having a crutch to lean on, like I believe in God or the Devil or whatever. It takes the edge off anything you're doing, people supposedly understand 'cos you can explain it to them quicker and in a more basic way. Like, we're this, you can think of us as this, and you don't have to bother thinking about it anymore. "People don't like that because it implies some kind of anarchy or chaos, but that's what I like about it," Justin concludes. "It should be more really f**king get away from that being part of a fashion thing, if you see something that catches your eye, or hear something, just like ask yourself why, and be honest about it rather than look over your shoulder at the next guy and see if he's nodding his head as well.'Cos that just brings every thing to a grinding halt every time." Tool have now been confirmed for the Dynamo open air festival, May 16-18.
page: 24 title: Review London Astoria Feb '97 author: Andrew Carter Tool Londan Astoria Tool take great pleasure in challenging their listeners through supremely intelligent music that is purposely obtuse, leaving the material open to all kinds of conjecture regarding what Tool are really on about. Nothing is done by the book, and neither are their live shows. Tool's intro tape, a loop of white noise and various crackles, runs for several minutes, accompanied by two simultaneous images of the white burst on the cover of 'Aenima', the frayed ends swaying back and forth like seaweed. This does much to quiet down the 'Dude, Tool, yeaahhhh!' contingent, even more so when the band finally emerge and open with the fourteen minute 'Third Eye', one of their most inaccessible songs. Singer Maynard Keenan has covered himself from head to toe with blue body paint for the occasion because, as later inquiries revealed, Krishna is a blue god. (Well, duh. I mean, ANYBODY would've known that.) By the song's conclusion a sizeable portion of the crowd is standing around scratching their heads. But then,'Stinkfist' and '46+2' bring everyone into the fold, and the remaining three Tools, guitarist Adam ]ones, bassist Justin Chancellor ("from the underprivileged area of the underprivjleged area of Birmingham, otherwise known as London", cracks Maynard) and drummer Danny Carey pound out 'Eulogy', 'Undertow' and 'H' with astounding precision. The evening's visual highlight aside from Maynard [hey, blue people are cool to watch) was provided by the idiot who saw fit to climb onto the stage at the beginning of 'Pvshit'. Maynard floored the guy with a jujitsu throw while not missing a note, then wrapped him vp and sat on top of him for no less than the remaining seven minutes of the song, turning the guy into an embarrassing and quite useless lump of flesh. Eventually Maynard let him go. By the time set closer 'Opiate' and encore 'Aenema' moved in and out of conscious- ness, two hours were gone, It felt like 30 minutes. If you could freeze a band in time, tonight would have been a good night to do it. However unintentionally, Tool are head and shoulders above everyone else who aspires to this sort of thing with the current album and tour. Highbrow material like this has never been so unpretentious and devoid of self-congratulation, even with long, com- plex arrangements that would do Yes proud. Somehow, Tool have climbed to the top of the heap without making any sort of compromise or concession to anyone. Righteous. Andrew Carter.
Posted to t.d.n: 12/07/97 12:28:47