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The Tool Page: An Article

Publication: JUICE

Date: August, 2001

Transcribed by
Erica (toolist@hotmail.com)


  page: 52
 title: Between Rock & A Hard Place
author: Dan Lander and Danny Keenan
When Tool's third studio album, Lateralus, debuted at #1 in the US and Australia in May, it marked the 
triumphant return of one of the most respected hard-rock acts of all time. Unperturbed by the destabilizing 
effects of side projects and legal wrangling, the enigmatic quartet delivered their finest artistic effort to date, 
without cracking a sweat. 

"Thereís that stupid show on MTV called Cribs," spits a pissed-off Danny Carey, the tall, lean drummer from 
Tool, "where the viewer sees where you live, what you live like and what you eat, Its gets to the poin where itís 
so ridiculous and everybody is asking ĎWho?í instead of ĎWhat?í - and I donít support it. I want to hear what they 
are saying, artistically, musically. The face behind it doesnít really make any difference. But thatís what gets 
exploited all the time and I think thatís kind of grim."
   Perched on a couch in an LA recording studio, Careyís thoughts on the modern media circus are a sure 
reminder that Tool might have been MIA for the last few years, but none of their philosophy has changed, 
Ostentatiously indecipherable and painfully ambiguous about their art, the band have played devilís advocate 
for the growing media hype of the music industry for years. In fact, you might say itís a role they have made 
their own, with a long-projected public presence that swings from shy to enigmatic to downright antisocial, 
depending on the day.
   This attitude is, of course, personified thought Maynard James Keenan. Short, softly spoken and notoriously 
difficult, Keenan is far from your standard heavy metal frontman. His wry, intelligent insights - lyrically and 
publicly - have been central in ensuring Tool grew to be recognized as more than big, dumb, American rock. 
And, although Keenan is the first to admit that his holier-than0thou attitude to rock & roll has created its share 
of problems, the singer has never shown any intention of conforming to industry conventions in his nine-year 
career.
   "Itís difficult to tread that line between having your finger on the pulse of whatís going on in the world - as far 
as where we are in our development - and maintaining the integrity and the purity of whatís going to come out 
of your work," says Keenan. "Focusing on what other people are saying about it, or what they want to know, in a 
way, that might shift your focus if you listen to that. Just donít read your press, Let it go and donít even worry 
about it. We have a vision; we have the four people in a room trying to come together and create this baby in 
the centre, and if we start listening to other peopleís ideas about what the baby should be, itís gonna be born 
with flippers."
   This breed of single-mindedness is undoubtedly the major factor in Toolís enduring credibility: they exercise a 
level of control over their destiny very few artists today can hope to emulate. However, the bandís unrelenting 
sense of purpose has also been largely responsible for their auspicious absence over recent years. Sure, the 
problems have been business related, but Toolís way of handling them - under cover of darkness - created 
grave doubts about the groupís future, Doubts which, until recently, Tool made no great effort to lay to rest. 
   It was almost 10 years ago when Keenan, Carey, then-bassist Paul DíAmour (replaced by Justin Chancellor in 
1995) and guitarist Adam Jones wandered onto an unsuspecting rock scene. The niche they chose was an odd 
one: the shadowy realm between punk and metal, where they hoped art could touch the artless, and intelligence 
could earn itself a place in heavy music. Initially, Tool walke into this black place with self-conscious restraint - 
their Opiate EP in 1992, and debut album a year later, Undertow, showed dark potential, but were never going to 
rewrite history. However, by the time 1996 rolled around, the LA quartet had decided it was time to show the 
world how good heavy music could be. Their follow-up that year, Aenima, took the concept of art rock to a new 
level, delivering a blistering hybrid of musical influences - from Gothic grandeur to Eastern eccentricity. 
   Aenima was a glimpse of the dim existence most people only encounter in the deepest recesses of a troubled 
dream; an aural interpretation of twisted, HR Giger-esque images Tool aligned themselves with. Finally, metalís 
flirtations with exaggerated emotion and  indistinct intellectualism had produced something of value for an 
audience beyond a handful of black-clad teenagers.  Aenima presented a style intended to provoke thought, 
and not just incite people to band their head in time.
  "I would hope that what we do would open a bunch of doors for people to see music a different way and maybe 
start writing a different way," explains Keenan. "Thatís all you can hope; youíre a stepping stone for a higher 
consciousness, or something. That people be really conscious with what theyíre doing with music, rather than just 
be a series of one commercial after another."
   With this attitude at its genesis, Aenima crossed some boundaries, obliterated others and sold over two 
million copies worldwide - unprecedented for a hard-rock act. 
   Then, at the height of their success, the new Messiahs of metal vanishedÖ
   The story of Toolís last few years is classically muddled music-industry garbage, and a quick glance at the 
details suggests the band should forget about Cribs and start thinking about Judge Judy. Shortly after touring 
Aenima, Toolís record company, Zoo, folded - an unbelievable feat for an organization that had just released an 
album spawning a sold-out world tour. This fallout was a corporate lawyerís wet dream. According to the band, 
Zooís successor, Freeworld Entertainment, couldnít get organized in time to finalize details for the next Tool 
record.
   "They failed to exercise their option, and therefore we are out of the deal." Started then-manager Ted 
Gardner, in September 1997. Gardner, who represented the band from 1992 until last year, claimed the bandís 
unique contract with Zoo stipulated Freeworld had seven months from the delivery of Aenima to decide if they 
wanted to release another record. When this didnít happen, Gardner said the band had essentially become free 
agents.
   Escape would not be so simple: Freeworld sued the band, Tool counter-sued, and the group postponed 
production on the third album while the legal proceeding were resolved. The case was settled out of court in late 
1998, and Tool entered into what is affectionately termed a Ďjoin ventureí with Freeworldís successor - yes, the 
new label had also folded - Volcano II.
   "I think they just gave up," laughs Keenan, reflecting on the debacle. "At one point they probably were trying 
to gain complete control, but they just went, ĎOh, fuck it, we canít. We canít fuck with these guys, Ďcos theyíll stop 
doing things until we go away.í "
   Although the terms vary, a joint venture between a label and a band generally means proceeds are split 
50/50 between the parties. The deals are far from the industry norm, but not unheard of; Metallica have had 
such an arrangement with Elektra since 1995, a fact that adds a new dimension to Lars Ulrichís crusade against 
Napster.
   Unfortunately, Toolís business problems didnít end there. Garnder was dismissed as manager in early 2000, 
and is suing the band for breach of contract and fraud, seeking at least US$5 million in compensatory damages. 
Neither party has been forthcoming with details of the split, but itís obvious there is no love lost. The humorous 
side of the situation was revealed when porn king Ron Jeremy - spotted in intense conversation with Keenan in 
LA earlier this year - was being pegged as a possible management replacement. Of course, the legendary Ďtoolí 
manager never got the chance to prove his credentials with the band, but the rumors offered some 
much-needed comic relief.
   As they re-emerge, Tool should be happy just to be together still. They will admit to weathering in the storm, 
but it would have been all too easy to follow the fatal path of Nirvana, Soundgarden, and the plethora of early 
Ď90s bands Tool started with.
   "It is satisfying to see that we had the strength and the courage to maintain a relationship with each other," 
says guitarist Adam Jones, "but itís tough. Itís tough to stay married with a person for 10 years, let alone stay 
married to three people for 10 years; itís hard. Weíve had one change along the way [bassist Justin Chancellor 
replacing Paul DíArmour], but itís all worked out."
   Five years in any game is a long time. In the music, industry, itís a generation. Fans who are now 15 - the 
prime hard-rock audience in sales terms - were just 10 years old the last time Tool released an album.
   Itís the over-exposure thing that is milked in every facet of the music [industry] now," explains Carey, of the 
groupís decision to keep quiet. "Everybody want to know how the movie ends before they see it, or they want to 
hear the punch line before they hear the joke; they donít want to be in that vulnerable state. Itís just a 
conditioning thing. But itís OK to be surprised, or be shocked, or whatever. Just wait, the reward is much better 
and you learn something about yourself that way."
   With Lateralus, Carey was telling to tales. Itís hard to believe Tool could make a darker, more perfectly 
perverted album than Aenima. But they have. Built on the same distinctive tone, Lateralus takes things to at 
least the next level. The sweeping grandeur of tunes like "Parabol", or the suite of "Disposition" and 
"Reflection", is currently unmatched in the hard-rock world. Anywhere. When this imaginative scope is coupled 
with the distinctive power of tunes like the radio single, "Schism", it is clear where Maynard James Keenanís faith 
in Tool stems from.
   "You have to figure: if people like us werenít doing it, who would be?" he asks. "You have to at least stay here 
to represent your ideas, other-wise the mediocre stuff will just march in and take your place. There are so many 
magazine covers, so many spots on MTV, so many spots on the rack at Wal-Mart, and theyíre going to fill a 
hole. So if nobody is representing some higher ideals, or is trying to push the art to a new level, then somebody 
else is going to fill in the space and itíll be mediocre. Somebodyís 

Posted to t.d.n: 08/07/01 08:42:42