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The Tool Page: An Article

Publication: Hit Parader

Date: December, 2001

Transcribed by
Jess (

  page: 32
 title: Tool: A Step Above
author: Todd Johnson

     Maynard James Keenan has a unique way of dealing with 
the world around him.  To a somewhat innocent observer, it 
might very well appear as if Tool's charismatic vocalist 
remains unruffled and unfazed by just about everything that 
comes his way.  No matter how intense a musical situation 
may get, how riled and rowdy a concert crowd may appear, 
the ever-cool Mr. Keenan always manages to keep the 
proceedings in order through the sheer strength of his will.
     If truth be known, however, there were moments 
throughout the last four years that severely tested Keenan's 
mettle.  There were the lengthy legal fights with Tool's record 
label-- which ended only when that company essentially went 
out of business.  There were the interminable recording 
delays as the band battled against their label's sagging 
commercial fortunes and sought a release from the firm's 
restrictive grasp.  And there were the headaches associated 
with knowing that some of the best years of Tool's musical 
life were slipping right through the fingers of Keenan and 
bandmates Adam Jones (guitar), Danny Carey (drums) and 
Justin Chancellor (bass).  But now with the success of the 
band's long-awaited new album, "Lateralus," and the 
incredible demand for tickets to the group's eagerly-
anticipated concert tour, it seems as if Keenan can begin to 
put his super-cool facade firmly back into place.
     "We've proven that we're survivors," Keenan said.  "We've 
had to face a great deal over the last four years, but we've 
come through all of it in a very positive manner.  In fact, a 
lot of the emotional turmoil that was caused by what went on 
around us proved to be of some benefit--that emotion was 
what was behind the writing of a lot of the new material.  It 
really helped give shape to this whole album."
     It would be hard to miss the emotive impact that fuels 
each and every song on "Lateralus."  While such past band 
efforts as "Undertow" and "Anema" (sic) were only too 
content to delve into a dark, disturbing world filled with 
creepy-crawly lyrical images, Tool's latest outing often comes 
across as a primal cry of anger, pain and frustration.  
Perhaps only this decidedly off-center West Coast band could 
have used such an intense emotional palate as the 
foundation for the hauntingly beautiful and immensely 
powerful songs that fill this magnum opus.  Tunes like "The 
Grudge" and "Schism" are, quite simply, unlike anything else 
one can hear anywhere else on the contemporary music 
landscape.  In both design and execution, these are songs 
that loudly and proudly delve into the deepest recesses of 
the human soul, and then revel in what they reveal about 
mankind's often sordid and sorry condition.  
     "One of our big goals on this album was to expand the 
audience that might hear it,"  Keenan said.  "It's not that 
we've gone out of way to change what we do to try to acquire 
a wider audience, but I think that there's no way we can be 
viewed as one of the metal bands that's out there today.  
We'll always be a four-piece rock band, but we haven't been 
afraid to throw a few things in there this time to shake things 
up a little."
     Clearly Tool has been shaking things up ever since they 
first hit the rock world nearly a decade ago.  While initially 
this L.A.-based unit was lumped in with the majority of that 
era's other heavy metal bands, as soon as fans began to 
delve under the surface, and notice both the ugly images and 
beautiful harmonics that lurked within the Tool realm, it 
became clear that this unit was much more than a "mere" 
metal attraction.  Indeed, throughout their stop-and-start 
career (where the band has released albums at alarmingly 
intermittent intervals...with no apparent negative impact on 
either their commercial status or their artistic elan), Tool has 
managed to create a legacy quite unlike that of any other 
contemporary band.  By equally mixing together fundamental 
elements of Pink Floyd's ethereal nature and Metallica's sonic 
bombast, this quartet has carved out a very special niche for 
themselves within the upper crust of hard rock society.
     "The success we've had has been very rewarding," Keenan 
said.  "Since we don't release an album every year, we know 
there is the chance of losing some people with short attention 
spans.  But I think we'd all agree that having people 
recognize what we do for its artistic quality is even more 
important than any commercial recognition we may get.  
That's why we all admire bands like Pink Floyd. Their old 
albums are still selling today, but those sales are not the first 
thing you think about with them.  You think about the quality 
of the music.  That's what we want too."
     It would seem that with the success of "Laterlaus"-- which 
has now emerged as the group's third consecutive multi-
million-selling disc-- Tool's legacy as both a commercial and 
artistic force within the rock and roll world is now more secure 
than ever.  Undeniably, their unique ability to present the 
most compelling, uncompromising brand of hard rock without 
sacrificing one iota of their sales appeal places them among 
the most significant bands of their era.  At a time when the 
likes of Limp Bizkit are producing instantly disposable music 
designed expressly to satisfy the watered-down tastes of the 
masses, the role a group like Tool must play within the 
contemporary music hierarchy becomes even more 
important.  Clearly, in 2001 Tool has emerged as leaders of 
the hard rock realm, a band capable of walking the fine line 
between New Metal ideals and "classic" metal appeal.  They 
are a group that seemingly everyone, everywhere can relate 
to on a most visceral and compelling level.
     "Making great music isn't about running around in limos 
and having your face plastered all over 'Entertainment 
Tonight',"  Keenan said.  "I think there was something of a 
void created in music at a certain point in the late '90's when 
a lot of interesting, challenging bands seemed to take some 
time off.  Because of that other bands managed to get 
noticed-- for good or for bad.  Most of that stuff wasn't very 
good, and it became popular mainly because there was a 
demand out there that needed to be fed.  Hopefully, with our 
help, bands that have a somewhat different way of doing 
things-- and a different perspective on the world-- can start 
making an impact again.  I think that's important."

Posted to t.d.n: 11/06/01 01:28:29