Publication: Metal Hammer
Date: August 1994
Transcribed by Vidar Iversen (email@example.com)
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.