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The Tool Page: An Article

Publication: L.A. Times - Calendar

Date: August, 1997

Transcribed by
Monica Hoffman (Monty22@aol.com)


  page: 60
 title: A Tool for a Change
author: Sandy Masuo



Sunday, August 3, 1997 
Home Edition 
Section: Calendar 
Page: 60 


POP MUSIC; 


A Tool for Change; 
Forget labels, the Lollapalooza band says of its own work --and the 
festival in general. The idea is to help listeners expand their 
horizons.; 

By: Sandy Masuo 
Sandy Masuo writes about pop music for Calendar
 
Unlike the slew of music festivals that have cropped up in its wake,
Lollapalooza isn't based on a cut-and-dried theme. Dedicated to music
outside the mainstream, the annual summer tour has morphed as much as
alternative music since the festival began in 1991.  Criticisms of
Lollapalooza, which makes its Los Angeles-area stop Friday at Glen Helen
Blockbuster Pavilion in Devore, have followed suit. Last year the
hard-rock content of the bill, which featured Metallica and Soundgarden,
disgruntled many supporters. This year an air of skepticism wafts around
an almost recklessly eclectic lineup that includes Tool, Prodigy and Snoop
Doggy Dogg. It is perhaps the least commercial Lollapalooza to date, a
fact reflected in sluggish ticket sales in many cities. "It really does
stick to the definition of what alternative is," says Maynard James
Keenan, the singer for L.A.-based Tool, which also played Lollapalooza
'93. 

"This year takes it to a whole new level," he says. "There's not the two
or three bands on the bill that everybody likes. There's completely
different flavors, and that's a little unfortunate in some instances
because the kids--their hearts aren't open enough to allow the music to
move them, because they're kind of putting labels on things. Like the
Marley brothers: 'They're reggae, and I'm not into reggae, so I'm not
going to listen.' When in actuality they're a solid band, and who better
to play Bob [Marley's] tunes but his kids?" 

Yet the need for labels has increased as the alternative scene has grown
and diversified. Such tags as drum-and-bass, trip-hop and grindcore are
necessary to make subtle distinctions in subgenres that seem to crop up
daily. The idea behind Lollapalooza, h owever, is to celebrate the
spectrum of music outside the mainstream, not the labels. 

"This Lollapalooza demands that you get involved," Keenan says. "If you
sit down and get into that head space where you're there to really listen
and feel and experience what's going on, you're going to enjoy this tour.
If you're there because it's a hip thing to do and you're there to mosh or
whatever--go to the Ozzfest." 

That challenge has even proved true behind the scenes. Between-band
bonding is commonplace on package tours, and Lollapalooza is no exception. 
Tool drummer Danny Carey wanted to join Orbital onstage for the English
duo's last night on the tour in Detroit, but Orbital's sound system,
geared toward techno-style electronics, was incompatible with the rock
configuration of Carey's drum setup. The collaboration didn't happen. 

"It was an awkward thing," Keenan says. "The desire is there, but we're
trying to do the math. It's not as easy as it would seem." 

Tool has never done things the easy way. When the quartet formed in 1991,
competition in the hard-rock world was fierce, spurred by an onslaught of
such grungy Northwesterners as Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains and the
cresting careers of such established a cts as Metallica, Ministry and the
Red Hot Chili Peppers. 

Yet Tool established its presence with an obstinately distinctive sound
that has sustained the band through an EP and two albums: sinewy, dynamic
rhythms, Adam Jones' searing, incisive guitar work and Keenan's vocals,
brimming with nuances not normally fo und in the realm of hard rock. 

Coursing through the volatile compositions are dark themes of sex,
violence and alienation as well as a certain oblique yearning for
redemption, though Keenan scrupulously avoids overt statements that could
be construed as any kind of political manifesto. 
 It's music that is as elusive as it is impassioned. 

In Tool's view, making music easy to digest lessens its effect, and the
group has always maintained close control of its output. The musicians
have turned down high-profile television appearances and soundtrack
opportunities. They are leery of the press a nd unwilling to explain their
songs and videos. Rather than being a display of rock star egotism, it's a
strategy to keep the music in sync with Tool's objective, which is to
provoke ideas--not necessarily plant them--in the minds of their fans. 

"I think of [our music] in terms of, like, a river," Keenan says. "If you
just want to look at the turbulence on the top of the water and stop
there, [you can]--or you can go down in there and start to see that
there's layers of silt, and you can go down deeper, and the deeper you go
the more you discover, like layers of paint. A lot of the lyrics don't
have anything to do with the song. They're a distraction. They're meant to
be a distraction." 

Such ambiguity complements the intense, concrete execution of the music.
Tool draws heavily on metallic stylings, and when the band plays live the
synergy between the musicians crackles. The group could probably out-jam
half the bands on H.O.R.D.E. and ro ck as hard as the mightiest Ozzfest
constituents. Yet Keenan says the only other festival bill he would have
liked to share is Sarah McLachlan's all-female Lilith Fair. 

"Absolutely," he says. "That's the hugest thing missing from this
Lollapalooza: feminine energy, and it's disappointing. But it's not for
lack of trying. I had my wish list: Meshell Ndegeocello, Ani DiFranco,
Tori Amos, PJ Harvey, Luscious Jackson." (ALol lapalooza spokeswoman says
that DiFranco and Luscious Jackson were both approached this year but had
prior commitments.) 

As provocative as a Tool appearance at Lilith Fair might have been,
Lollapalooza will serve its purpose just fine. The group had the option of
playing its own headlining tour this summer but joined Lollapalooza to
reach people who might not know about the
 band. Though he remains committed to the idea of broadening people's
musical horizons, Keenan is circumspect when it comes to the question of
how great an effect Tool and Lollapalooza have had. 

"I think there's a whole group of people who have expanded their tastes
and interests, but at the same time there's a huge group of people who
have narrowed it," he says. 

"We're trying our best to present the opportunity for [people] to have
that experience for themselves, where they really are opened up. For
example, when I was talking about the Marleys--I'm not a fan of reggae,
but it doesn't mean that if I open my heart the music isn't going to move
me. It's music--a higher form of language." 

 

Posted to t.d.n: 10/06/97 16:04:24