Publication: Strobe (Southern California)
Date: December, 1996
Mr Tony J Constantino (NGRU11B@prodigy.com)
Mr Tony J Constantino (NGRU11B@prodigy.com)
page: title: Work With Me author: Carrie Borzillo Tool singer Maynard James Keenan is a hard guy to get to know. Carrie Borzillo gives it her best shot Maynard James Keenan, the quiet, introspective lead singer of Tool, is a difficult person to have a conversation with. He doesn't smile. He doesn't laugh. Makes no effort to even be remotely friendly. He hides behind his oakleys, making eye contact impossible. He's simply not happy to be here, and he obviously wants his interviewer to know that. However, there's a lot of demystifying that just needs to be done regarding Tool's hardcore masterpiece, Aenima, which surprised many non-believers when it debuted at No. 2, just under Nirvana's From The Muddy Banks Of The Wishkah, on the nation's album chart in Billboard in October. Aenima, like the band's Opiate and Undertow, is full of cryptic lyrics, messages, and mysterious liner notes. From a curious answering machine message on the album dubbed "Message To Harry Manback" to the last three words on the album's liner notes,"see you auntie," Tool fans are frantically searching for the answers. Over a lobster lunch at one of Los Angeles' finest, yet most pretentious, restaurants, the Ivy, Keenan tries wholeheartedly to not let this demystifying process-the interview-go too smoothly. He reluctantly answers nearly every question that comes his way.... and he has a pretty good reason for it. Keenan wants fans to figure out the meanings on their own. He views this article-any article-as a Cliff's Note to Aenima. He has a point. But, the interview must go on, and Keenan painstakingly sits through it like a gentleman. The obvious starting point is what exactly does Aenima mean? "The word anima is a Jungian term (from noted psychologist Carl Gustav Jung) meaning soul, while an enema is an anal douche." So, Aenima represents a cleansing of the soul of sorts? Well, not really. Keenan explains,"It's more of a contemporary version of that. It's about change, cleaning out the house to refurbish or redecorate and start over." Keenan goes back to the subject of what Aenima is all about when asked about Bill Hicks, the recently deceased comedian that Tool adores and uses excerpts from on Aenima (on the album's closing track, "Third Eye") Both Hicks and Tool share similar philosophies of life. "It's all about growth, unity, evolution," explains Keenan slowly, meticulously, with utmost seriousness. "All of that stuff is a common thread throughout his comedy, and the same thread in what we're doing. Choosing compassion over fear. It's buried under (Hick's) porno jokes and backwoods mentality jokes, but what it really comes down to is talking about all those things. The title track from the album, "Aenema," with a slightly different spelling than the album title, is obviously about Los Angeles falling into the ocean, but what does it mean in relation to the entire album? "It's certainly a metaphor for change...on several levels. It's about actual physical changes in the earth which will result in spiritual growth, depending how you look at it. You can choose to see it as an apocalyptic scenario, or look at it like global awareness and realize changes in the earth are inevitable. The refrain of the song is kind of a joke. 'Learn to swim' is rather than just 'shit's hitting the fan, better learn how to swim,' but it can also be looked at as involving the whole collective environment and how all of us as individuals need to learn how to go into the deep dark waters." "Stinkfist" could be taken literally, but what is the hidden meaning behind it? "A person like Alistair Crowley can be seen as this negative, ugly, sick person, but the true essence of his quest was to go so far into this ugliness that you come out the other side with no judgment on anything. You accept all action as one gesture and one movement. It's like breaking through the cocoon and embryonic layer between a bipolar existence and a more unified one. It's a long process and eventually the goal is to go finger first, then knuckle, then body deep through the barrier to a place where there's full acceptance. "Hooker With A Penis" is about selling out. Do you think Tool has sold out? "'Selling out' is a silly term. That's the point of the song. It's a silly, empty set of words because we are all the driving force, all of us, of the economy. We are part of that, every one of us. You can't sell out because you have sold out...To make a judgment on how someone has decided to walk their path is kind of condescending. So, that's where I'm coming at with that term. It doesn't mean anything, so when a little kid clips off about Tool selling out, this song is a way to remind him, in a subtle way, that we're all in this together. This is a song about unity, not cutting myself down. It's about me already being down and bringing this kid back down to where we all are. He's not above it, he's down here with us." Who is "Eulogy" about? My guesses are Jesus Christ, Paul D'Amour (Tool's ex-bassist), or Kurt Cobain. "There are no songs on the album about Paul. People might think that, but it's not the case." Is it about Kurt Cobain? I wouldn't think you'd be a fan of his. "I appreciate what he did. I'm not really happy with his professional widow. The song's about tendencies, not about a specific individual. It's about tendencies of people wanting to stand on a soap box and sacrifice themselves in some way. We don't need that process anymore. You're on your own now." "Message to Harry Manback"-Is this a real phone message? It's about Gary Helsinger, Hotsy Menshot in Green Jello. A guy that was mad at him left him that message on his answering machine. What's up with "Forty-Six & 2"? "It has to do with chromosomes. Let's just leave it at that." Who or what is "H."? (Keenan begins to get really annoyed with this line of questioning.) My son's name is Devo H. That's all I'll say." It says "see you auntie" in the liner notes. Your Web page said to say it one syllable at a time, slowly, and you'll get it, which would sound like this, C-U-N-T. Is that it? (Long pause from Keenan) "Why do you want to give away all these cool things?" Because the fans want to know. "Let them figure it out for themselves. I'd rather have them seek out the information, then they've made some effort, then they deserve to find out what the songs are about. If they just pick up a magazine and it's all spelled out for them, they're not discovering anything. I'd rather they do some research..." Ok, this is my cue to talk about something else: How do you feel about debuting at No. 2 on the Billboard 200? "I'm just happy we beat Kenny G." (Kenny G. came in at No. 4) (I laugh, then realize he's not laughing with me.) He deadpans, "He's huge." All right, enough of that.
Posted to t.d.n: 05/27/97 23:02:38