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A TOOL-Related Article

Publication: Metal Hammer

Date: August 1994

Transcribed by Vidar Iversen (vidarhi@hedda.uio.no)



 title: TOOL: The art of rebellion


TOOL like to do things their own way, wanting to "suck people into a 
world with images whether they be grotesque or beautiful". Andy Stout 
joins the band in Berlin and discovers four men trying to keep their 
'art' at the highest level whilst concentrating on painting the big 
picture.


Paul D'Amour and Danny Carry, bassist and drummer respectively with 
Tool, have unwillingly entered a war zone. Admittedly, compared to 
some conflicts that have raged across in the past half-century, from 
the overthrow of Nazism to the building and eventually crumbbling of 
the Berlin Wall, it's not much one. It doesn't have anything sexy 
like a body count for instance. But the participants take it very 
serously indeed.

     This battle is between the Cafe Swing and the Pizzeria, two 
cafes next to each other opposite tonight's venue. A waiter comes 
over to the tables that litter the pavement on the Cafe Swing side 
and notices Pizzeria plates. This is apparantly unforgivable. "Hey" 
he sneers. "Why do you buy food from that fucking Italian?" It's a 
bit hard to take him serous though - he's a dead ringer for Spinal 
Tap's Nigel Tuffnel.

     "We played with them the other night," says Paul laconally of 
Ver Tap. "Only they called themselves the Ozric Tentacles."

     Tool have arrived in a Berlin that's sweating in the vice-like 
grip of a heatwave. It's hot and obscenely humid, to the extent that 
a gentle amble round the block can leech the the energy out of your
body. 

     Berlin's one of the first stops on a short European tour 
designed to raise Tool's profile over here somewhat. As yet, they are 
relatively unknown, filed away in a lot of people's memories under 
'Oh yeah heard the name.' In the states though, we're talking serious 
amounts of units flogged and major bums on seats.

    Last year's  'Undertow' established Tool as front runners in the 
race to find the next big thang. One million copies have been lifted 
out of the CD racks so far, and most of that is due to two videos.

    Musically, Tool are good if nothing stunningly original. There 
are strong echoes of the whole Seattle axis threaded throughout their 
music, though in general it is a lot more coherent, and a hell of a 
lot darker, and with some art-rock perceptions like Jane's Addiction 
thrown in for good measure. The videos for the singles 'Sober' and 
'Prison Sex' though, were somewhat else.

    Featuring stop-go animation by guitarist Adam Jones, they're 
claustrophobic, unsetting and spooky affairs. Add that dimension to 
Tool's music, and the you have something special. That's why Tool 
have been a success.

    "Every other band in America either seem [seems?] such complete 
idiots or they're just underestimating people," explains Danny. "You 
put something with a little bit of intelligence out there and a lot 
of people are going to buy it. I guess that's kind of crowd we pull 
in. We pull a lot of metalhead idiots too, we've got a certain 
percentage of those, and that helped to launch us. But the videos 
were the biggest thing, because MTV is so powerful"

    "Which isn't a very good state of affairs is it chaps?"

    "Well we didn't chose it that way" says Paul. "But that is the 
way it is. It is a pretty powerful meduim, even over here. So many 
people watch TV. And what do young kids watch? They watch MTV,
 they watch..." He pauses, tries to think of something else and fails. "That's
 about it. That's their thing."

    "Thats the reason we made sure when we signed our record deal 
that we had complete control over doing our own videos, doing our own 
album covers, all that stuff," says Danny. "All that stuff is all us. 
We dont farm anything out ot production companies like all these 
other bands do, cos either they just dont have the desire to do it or 
they cant do it."

    But the results are worth the effort. Looking at the videos and 
the album artwork, it all comes together to make Tool greater than 
the sum of their components. Okay, so the naked bloke on the inner 
sleeve was apparently mightily upset to find they'd shrunk his penis 
on the computer, but thats the price you pay ofr art.

    "I never thought about closing people in and making them 
claustrophobic," says Danny. "We wanted to suck them into a world 
with images that make people want to look, whether they be grotesque 
or beautiful or whatever. Its the reason we put a fat lady on the 
album cover; its like pulling people in with things that are 
repulsive. They'll say: 'Oh, thats so gross,' or whatever, but 
they're looking through their fingers. I like that."

    Desired it might be, but they're not going to get "time" yet. 
Tool play a club called The Loft later that night, a dingy medium-
sized venue that reeks of stale sweat after about 10 minutes. Being a 
German gig, it has the obligatory pissed-up American GIl smacking 
people in the face with their elbows down the front, but as gigs go 
its not too bad.

    It does lack something though. Tool are all about intensity (lead 
singer Maynard is both intense and monosyllabic), and visually its 
verging on the dull. Paul throws his bass around with a certain 
infectious glee, but Tool need spectacle to transcend the normal , 
run-of-the-mill gig experience. Maybe the lorry-loads of dry ice and 
white lights that used to make Nephilim gigs so memorable might do it 
(but we'll do without the flour this time around - getting the stuff 
out of your hair was a real pain in the arse). 

    Highlight? Strangely enough a tempestuous cover of Led Zep's 'No 
Quarter'. Its the intensity that sticks in your mind though, from 
either the live show or the album.

    "Theres just a lot of introspection, you know," comments Danny 
about 'Undertow'. "Every song has its own little character to it. All 
of them come from personal issues or something that we're all 
inspired by. Its personal things rather than like a band like Rage 
Againts The Machine, who are inspired more by political issues and 
stuff like that. We just try and do our art at the highest level we 
can and keep things moving forward. Thats the point of view I always 
try to take rather than a song meaning one specific thing - trying 
to keep the big picture in mind." 

    It's odd that he says that. Earlier, amongst the snarling waiters, 
the conversations had veered round to Americans having a tendency to 
be sucked in by the media, to believe exactly what theyre told. From 
that, it seemed like a bit of politicising from atop a soapbox might 
be right up Tool's street.

    "You can get knocked off boxes," says Paul and leaves it at that.

    Danny expands a bit: "I'm not into that sort of thing. You limit 
yourself so much by doing that. It makes you definitely set in time 
instead of transcending it and becoming something timeless and really 
artistic."

    Thats a shame in a lot of ways because theres no denying Tool's 
intelligence, and having another coherent political voice out there 
(especially in the States) can only be a good thing. Rage Againts The 
Machine have supposedly already politicised the MTV generation, but 
that really depends on whether  you think a couple of hundred people 
down a club chanting 'Fuck you I wont do what you tell me' counts as 
intelligent discourse or not.

    Where Tool are actually going is revealed more in Danny and Pauls 
love of "horrible art-rock bands"; meaning King Crimson, Yes, Jethro 
Tull, ELP et al. Fortunately for all concerned, they're not really 
referring to the musical aspect. Tool are not about to draft in a 
keyborard player to do 15-munute solos based on his meditations on 
the subject of Tantric sex.

    No, Danny's rationalisation of the whole thing harks back to the 
subjects of coherence and visuals. 

    "All those bands were totally unique and inspiring," he says. "I 
remember when I was a kid, they'd like create their own whole world. 
The atmosphere around their records and stuff was just so cool. They 
had a bigger vision than a lot of the bands around now who just come 
out with an album and it seems like a bunch of unconnected songs;L it 
just doesnt have a tight, cohesive thing going on. The bands now dont 
have vision that can transcend putting a bunch of songs out to get 
played on the radio. Its just so fucking boring."

    Have Tool managed to break through that barrier then with 
'Undertow'? Managed to create a world in microcosm?

    "At least our album is something thats looks like it fits 
together and our videos are a little heavier. At least its about art.

    "I'd like to see our next album being even more of a cohesive  
package, maybe more of a concept that runs throughout the whole 
thing."

    "Yeah, like 'The Wall' or something," adds Paul with incredible 
adroitness considering we're sitting not too far from where Roger 
Waters restaged that venerabled concept album a handful of years back.

    So where on earth is all this leading to? It sounds like Danny 
and Paul, sitting round a table in Berlin cafe, are mapping out 
Tool's career as a progressive rock band for the '90s. Danny, 
mercifully, shoots this thought down and puts it out of its misery 
immediately.

    "I hope we're progressing somewhere, you know, but I dont think 
its going to be like progressive music. Thats got such a weird stigma 
about it. Everyone hated it so much. Thats what inspired punk rock. 

    "But for what those progressive bands did, its a hell of a lot 
better than anything Pearl Jam or Soundgarden have done. At least 
they had something artistic in mijnd or where trying to get to a 
higher place than just do shit."

    "Anyway," adds Paul, "its not going to be stepping into pods or 
anything like that."

    Which brings us back to the Tufnell doppleganger, who's still 
wailing round casting suspicious glances at the Italian mob. After the 
gig, Tool pose for photos (being remarkably cooperative, apparently, 
simply being all in the same room at the same time) before boarding 
the tour bus and heading off to another venue.

    It'll probably be another medium-sized one too; Tool have yet to 
achieve their American status this side of the Atlantic and they won't 
manage it with either the album, the videos or the live shows. Put 
them all together though, put them in Danny's 'cohesive package' and 
the've got a better chance than most.


kabir/akhtar | kabir@t.d.n