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The Tool Page: An Article

Publication: Blunt

Date: August, 2001

Transcribed by
K[elly] (spiral.out@deadohiosky.net)


  page: 25
 title: Visions of Darkness
author: Dan Lander

For years Tool have managed to underline every pre-
conception about hard rock music, and as Dan Lander found 
out, today this is more important than ever for today’s 
thinking man’s metal band.


It’s 6:30pm Wednesday 25 July. I’m sitting in the staff 
cafeteria buried somewhere in the bowels of the Sydney 
Entertainment Centre. From above, I can hear the massive 
rumblings of Tool’s Justin Chancellor as he runs his bass 
through sound check, shaking the walls and rattling the 
cutlery on the table in front of me. In the other corner of the 
dining room, a group of serious official looking guys have 
gathered around the head of Tool’s security, a tall American 
dressed in black and sporting a mohawk. He speaks quickly 
and clearly: "If the kids come over the barrier, out them on 
their feet, pat ‘em on the back and say, ‘That was a nice one, 
man.’ And send ‘em on their way. Remember, let’s all have 
fun here." Five minutes later, I’m being lead along the hall to 
speak to Maynard James Keenan and Danny Carey.


I’d seen tool play in Melbourne a few days ago, and the 
mosh definitely had a nice vibe – people were having fun. In 
Sydney later that night, it was the same feeling – the Sydney 
Entertainment Centre has seldom had as much atmosphere, 
packed to the rafters with people totally amped to be there, 
buzzing with the excitement of thousands of fans about to 
see a band that'’ been MIA for years. And yet, despite people 
moshing in their seats, despite a pit that moved with the 
energy of a hurricane-whipped ocean, despite the fact the 
crowd consisted mostly of black-clad heavyweights your 
mother would cross the street to avoid, it never felt like 
trouble. The big guy next to you who is normally stomping on 
your head in some sort of semi-psychotic frenzy, stands at a 
Tool concert and actually pays attention to what is happening 
onstage. An the security guards can afford to be nice, 
because no one is running amok – there’s a band to watch 
damn it.


Danny and Maynard don’t want to talk much. It’s no surprise 
to anyone. Sitting in their little dressing room, it is clear that 
they would rather be doing just about anything other then an 
interview. It’s awkward, a bit uncomfortable, but their 
reasoning has always been consistent – let the music do the 
talking. The cynics – myself among them – have liked to 
suggest this standoffishness us part of some massive ego 
trip. But maybe it’s not.


"This wasn’t an easy record to make," says Maynard of 
Lateralus, the band’s first new material in four years, an 
album that has garnered ten out of ten reviews 
worldwide. "And any kind of master plan we may have in 
mind, well I don’t know about it, because we’ve just been so 
caught up in trying to get the damn record down."


As we talk, it becomes clear that the only ego-tripping going 
on here is artistic – all Maynard and Danny care about is their 
art, and they realize that in a lot of ways the media circus 
and celebrity circuit aren’t really geared towards that. For 
instance, the band’s current habit of playing the film clip and 
recorded version of "Schism" during an intermission break in 
their set has been labeled everything from a complete wank 
to a bizarre mockery of the music industry’s obsession 
with ‘the hit single.’ The truth, however, is a lot simpler.


"We can’t really rely on MTV to play our video," says 
Maynard, "But we still want out fans to be able to see it. And 
rather than try and sync ourselves up to it, we just thought it 
would be good to play it there in the middle of the set. It 
also gives us a break. Like, because we’re not really into 
doing encores – we’re not going to go like ‘Goodnight’ and 
then come back out and play three more songs which seems 
very Barbara Striesand to me – so the film clip gives us a 
chance for a break in the show."


Given the intensity of their show, a break is well warranted. As 
performers, Tool is without a doubt one of the most intense 
bands of all time. The current stage formation – which sees 
guitarist Adam Jones and Justin out in front, with Maynard 
and Danny on risers behind them, flanked by two projection-
screens – is designed to give the whole performance 
maximum impact. There is no main focal point, no centre of 
attention, forcing the crowd to absorb everything 
simultaneously. "That’s the idea, explains Danny. "We want 
to have it so the crowd doesn’t know where to look, so that 
they focus on the music, on the feelings and general 
atmosphere of the thing."


"Don’t look at the clown," adds Maynard, mocking the 
standard frontman role. "Just enjoy the music, because a 
band is not a person, it is a collision of a group of people." 
By abandoning the standard stage line up, Tool have created 
a show that is intensely visual, a sort of dark, extravagant 
theatre, where the band blend into a background, like twisted 
puppets writhing at the mercy of some bizarre showman. Tool 
has long been intensely visual, but it has always been in the 
sense of a dark expression, not self-indulgent exhibitionism. 
That band’s film clips have never featured any member of 
the group, and the same philosophy has been applied to the 
problem of performing at arena style shows. Tool is simply 
looking for a way to protect their artistic vision in a world 
where mass marketing is all too ready to twist things around.


"Like when we brought out that DVD thing," laughs Danny, "I 
heard people saying like, oh we were selling out by putting 
out a DVD with film clips on it. And it’s like ‘Fuck man, so 
what you think aural art is the only thing that is genuine or 
worthy?’ The visual aspect of it is just another element of 
what we do, and we want that seen.


And whether or no Tool is in danger of letting their artistic 
impulses swallow them, they aren’t about to apologise for it, 
or run from the truth of what they want to do. As Maynard 
explains, the band is in this alone, and no matter what they 
do, some people just aren’t going to understand.


Posted to t.d.n: 12/06/01 18:52:32