Publication: The Tribune
Date: August, 2002
page: title: Tools of the Trade author: Paul Kix It is the most experimental band on the radio, with songs venturing - as far as corporate airwaves are concerned - into opus-like length. Its music videos are provocative and strange and disgusting and seldom seen. It is Tool, the heavy metal band whose latest album, "Lateralus," debuted at No. 1 in 2001 on the Billboard charts and is expected by some to outsell the previous, multi-platinum release, "AEnema" from 1996. "AEnema" sold over two million copies worldwide. It is Maynard James Keenan, the lead singer, on the phone from the latest Tool tour stop, New Orleans. On Sept. 6, Tool plays with opener Tomahawk at Hilton Coliseum in Ames. It is Maynard who hates to be interviewed. Yet it is Maynard who answers the questions in his low, flat voice. The Tribune: How's the tour going? Maynard James Keenan: Well. TT: All right. Considering the length of some of your songs - and the inherent "radio unfriendliness" accompanying them - why has Tool become as commercially successful as it has? MJK: Substance. TT: Could you expand on that? MJK: I mean, it's like "Apocalypse Now." It's a smash but it's continued to draw people to it because it's got substance. TT: Is "Lateralus" your best album to date? MJK: It's our recent one. TT: It's your most recent. Do you judge it at all like that? MJK: No. That's where we are today. TT: Are you pleased with it, though? MJK: We wouldn't put it out if we weren't pleased with it. TT: Court battles aside (there have been problems with labels), you guys said you wanted to take some time with Lateralus. Get it right. Is this what Tool is capable of when given freedom to explore? MJK: Yeah. I mean probably more - if we - yeah. More focus. More time. TT: Is there a certain theme running through "Lateralus"? MJK: Communication. TT: Again, could you care to expand on that? MJK: It's kind of covered on the album. It's - I don't know. It's kind of hard to put into words. It's all about the music. TT: I know this question's been asked before, but was there pressure when recording this to live up to "AEnema," especially, you know, the time in between releases? MJK: The only pressure we really have is the pressure we put on ourselves to grow and expand our knowledge base and to learn more about each other and communicate better. TT: The cover art. The videos. With each new release, with each album, fans are starting to expect ... would it be fair to say something on a grand scale artistically - both in the videos and the album covers? Are you guys ... paying attention to this, with each new single, with each album? MJK: Well, that's hard to say. We all kind of meet in the middle on everything. So, it depends on where we all are. We're paying attention to where we've been so that we don't end up, you know, trying to repeat ourselves. TT: All right. Now on to the tour itself. Will this be your first trip to Ames that you know of? MJK: That I'm aware of, yeah. TT: Hilton Coliseum in Ames recently switched to general admission, open floor. Did this influence you guys to play here? MJK: I have no idea. TT: Is it safe to say though - because this is a recent change, there have been some acts in the past that said they wouldn't come to Hilton unless it had an open floor, bands like Korn and such ... MJK: We don't make decisions based on just retarded (laughing) - No. I don't know that the band would even be aware of the general admission. It's probably just all bull--. TT: Is it safe to say that your live shows - all this open floor stuff aside - won't include the sort of constant head-banging seen at, say, a Limp Bizkit concert? MJK: (Pause.) Wow. Let's avoid that word. TT: O.K. We'll avoid that word. TT: Will there be variations, additional solos at the show to the already lengthy songs? Lateralus (the title track) comes to mind. MJK: Now why would I give all our secrets away? TT: O.K. All right. I had a couple more questions about the show, in particular, but I don't want to - MJK: It's just best to come and experience this moment with us. Share the moment. TT: O.K. There have been some critics however who say that your live shows - I was reading some previous reviews - they need less artistic expression and more rough, hard rock. How do you respond to something like that? MJK: I don't. We do what we do what we do. And there it is. It's what's comfortable for us. TT: Why do I get the feeling though that you don't pay much attention to what the media thinks anyway? MJK: Because it's irrelevant. If the media were to - if the media's opinions mattered they would be doing this rather than talking about it. TT: Uh-huh. MJK: This is what we do. And we got here based on our decisions and our communications with each other. And for us to listen to other people's opinions it would be like a fifth member or another five million members. We don't need to do that. I wouldn't even begin to tell Scorsese or Coppola how to make a film. Or like a different ending or someone with a different name or a different actor in the film. I, you know, that's none of my business. It's their film. If I don't like their films or the way that they make their films, I will watch other films. TT: The band's name's significance: Is it using music as a tool to a greater understanding of the world? Is that somewhat what it is? Could you explain it if it isn't? MJK: Well, your best bet would be just to go to a thesaurus and look up the word "tool." And it's all those things. TT: You have some scathing - rather scathing - opinions about Christianity. Is your music your sort of religion? Is it fair to say that? MJK: Aah, I just have a problem with middle-men who try to make profit on spirituality. TT: Did you come to these conclusions by yourself? Did you read some literature, possibly Nietzche, anything like that? MJK: It's just clear. It's very simple. When anyone's ever had anything simple to say about spirituality or our true nature, it's strung up in some way and then some middle man profits on the story by manipulating the facts. TT: Uh-huh. I also was reading that you think information is very pure. What are you trying to portray and such as far as your lyrics are concerned? MJK: It's just pure process. Looking at something, how does it make you feel. And how do you react when it makes you feel that way. If your heart is in the right place and your intentions are good, you'll move through those processes in a positive way that helps everyone. TT: Your music - you said that it's something that's therapeutic for (the band). If you're getting something out of it, great. But you said you're not trying to preach any sort of agenda or anything like that to your audience ... MJK: You know the old story. You have a friend that's going out with a pretty person, you can't tell him not to go out with her, you can't tell her not to go out with him. They have to go through it themselves. If they aren't ready to hear what you're saying; they're not ready to learn from your experiences, they're not going to. All we can really do is work through our own experiences and hope that someone else benefits from them who's ready to hear it.
Posted to t.d.n: 01/24/03 05:28:46