the tool page

toolshed.down.net

this changes everything

This site is now an archive; it is no longer being updated. See here and here for details.

ARTICLES

select a year

The Tool Page: An Article

Publication: Terrorizer

Date: April, 1997

Transcribed by
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