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A TOOL-Related Article

Publication: Modern Drummer

Date: February 1997

Transcribed by Jennifer (jenng@telerama.lm.com)




 title:  The Metaphysics of Drumming
author:  Matt Peiken

	Danny Carey lives in a part of Hollywood you don't see on
postcards or television.  Indeed, it's a chore merely finding his home
among the camouflage of seedy storefronts and streetwalkers.  Even after
entering the dark alley that serves as his driveway, the only clue you're
at the right place is the basketball hoop outside--a dead giveaway to
anyone who knows about Carey's longtime affection for the game.  Don't
bother ringing the doorbell (it doesn't work) or peering in the windows
(there are none).  But if the double- wide industrial swing door isn't
padlocked, odds are that Danny's home. 

	Most musicians in bands with less commercial success would have
moved out long ago, if for no other reason than aesthetics.  But it's a
statement not just about Carey, but about his band, Tool, that he still
lives and works in the same converted warehouse he moved into shortly
after coming to Los Angeles in the mid-'80's. 

	Some of today's most intoxicatingly sick, twisted, heavy,
beautiful music is born in Carey's entry room, where Tool has rehearsed
ever since the drummer heard Maynard James Keenan yelling at neighbors
behind his alley and thought he'd make a good singer. 

	For clues to the bizarre imagery embedded in Tool's music, check
out the giant Enochian magic board behind Carey's kit, or step into the
next room, where Carey has layered his cream-colored walls with slanted
crosses, demonic figurines, colorful paintings of geometric shapes, and
what he calls "symbolic passageways into a fourth dimension." They, along
with a shelf full of books on magic and spiritual awareness, are all
products of Carey's enduring fascination with metaphysics. 

	It only takes an earful of Tool's music, though, to clear any
mysteries about Carey's skills as a drummer.  Énima, Tool's new record of
detuned depravity, is peppered with intricate fills, double-kick blasts,
tempo-teasing beats, jazz-influenced ride patterns, and four-limbed
polyrhythms--enough to dot an instructional manual. 

	Carey, who studied music for over three years at the University of
Missouri, still finds time to plant himself in front of a music stand and
practice patterns from the stained, fragile pages of John Pratt's Modern
Contest Solos for Snare Drum.  Indeed, you don't have to understand
Carey's personal and artistic motivations to appreciate what he does
behind the kit. 

	Tool's 1992 debut, the Opiate EP, had sold only 13,000 copies by
the time the group broke big in 1994 with Undertow.  Undertow's rise to
platinum qualifies as the decade's quietest climb to that plateau, a trip
fueled more by club-level touring than any consistent radio support.  It's
no less stunning, then, that more people grabbed up Énima than they did
Nirvana's newly released live collection when the albums simultaneously
hit stores this past October. 

	No longer a secret or a mystery, Danny Carey recently dissolved a
few other secrets and mysteries in a conversation about music, magic,
myth, and motivation, just before Tool embarked on its first nationwide
headlining tour. 

	MP:  One of the things you guys have going for you is that people
can't attribute Tool's popularity to any particular trend or wave.  I
can't remember an album going platinum with as little media attention as
Undertow. 
	DC:  Yeah, the whole thing sort of snuck up on us, too, because it
was such a slow buildup.  We didn't feel like we had any surefire singles
or hits.  The video for "Sober" really helped out, probably because it was
so cool.  But more than that, I think touring opened things up for us,
especially Lollapalooza.  We just seemed to play to more and more people
every time we passed through a city.  So I think you're right about that
being a plus, We didn't feel like we had to write another "Sober" or do
anything other than what our imaginations and creativity led us to.  It's
really a liberating feeling, and the best thing about success is about not
having to have a day job and just being able to concentrate on music.

	MP:  Until Tool's success, were you serious about music in a long
term career sense?  I know you were serious about basketball at one point. 
	DC:  Yeah, I always did have a love of basketball.  I even had a
couple of offers to play at small colleges.  But I know I wasn't good
enough to play major college basketball or to go pro.  I also didn't have
the desire to go that far with it.  I still play about two or three times
a week.  But music was always my main interest.  The coach at my school
asked me to play, but I didn't want to sacrifice what I had going on with
music in bands and at the conservatory just to play ball. 
	The thing about music was I never really had to work very hard at
it.  I took lessons and I practiced, but things just sort of happened for
me.  I'm a person who really just goes with the flow and doesn't try to
force anything.  I think most Americans have a hard work ethic and they
just want to achieve things for the sake of money, power, and ego. 
There's nothing wrong with goals and ambition, but it's the motivation
behind those goals that that I don't quite understand.  I think people
would be much happier if they just did what they enjoyed doing.  The money
will come. 

	MP:  It is a lot easier to say that when you're in a great band,
making lots of money.  Have you always been so carefree about your life? 
	DC:  [laughs] Yeah, I've spent my entire life avoiding jobs and
work.  I never bought into that way of life because it didn't seem to make
people very happy.  What's funny is the rest of my family isn't that way
at all. 
	I grew up in a very typical, middle-class American house. My dad
was manager for a large insurance company and my mom was a school teacher. 
I have one older brother and one younger brother, and we were raised to
value education.  My dad is really into music, though, and my earliest
musical memory was when he took me into the music library at the
University of Kansas and played The Planets by Gustov Holst.  That just
blew my mind.  I was only a little kid at the time, but it made such an
impression on me that, from then on, I think I was musically aware.
	My dad also played saxophone a little bit, but he wasn't at all
into playing like I was into drumming, and I think it took my parents
aback a little when I started getting into drums, They came from an era of
that hardcore work ethic, and they didn't necessarily see music and
drumming as the most responsible way to go through life.  But they really
didn't do anything to discourage me, either.  They never had any
disrespect for musicians, and they paid my way through college.

	MP:  Despite your anti-work ethic, were you very disciplined in
the way of practicing or in developing any particular aspects of your
playing? 
	DC:  Strangely enough, yes, I've always been disciplined about the
drums.  When I say that music came easily to me, I meant that in terms of
opportunities and about certain skills you need as a player.  I've always
been able to pick up things really quickly, but I still needed to
practice--and still do--if I want to make anything sound natural and
consistent. 
	I started taking lessons when I was ten or eleven, just on the
snare drum in school band, and then again when I got my first kit when I
was thirteen.  I was lucky to have some really good teachers who had open
minds and were passionate about music without being strict disciplinarians
about doing things in certain ways. 
	I spent years working on my rudiments and doing the drum corps
thing.  At some point, that got so weird and military-like that I just
rejected it.  But what drum corps can do for your chops is just amazing. 
I always appreciated guys like Billy Cobham and Buddy Rich so much because
no matter how fast they played, you could always hear every note.  That's
the kind of articulation that rudiments and corps work can bring to your
playing. 
	Then when I was in college I got a lot of classical training, just
doing recitals and things like that for three and a half years.  I could
have earned a degree if I stuck it out a while longer, but I just wanted
to play the drumset a little more, so I bailed on school when an
opportunity came to go on the road with a band.

	MP:  It's funny you bring up Billy Cobham, because I can hear his
influence so much in your playing, especially in the tom fills.  Even in
your busier fills, your strokes are very crisp and clear
	DC:  The trick about that is making sure there's space between
your notes.  Even on the really fast tom fills or quads, I try to leave
some air in there by getting as precise as I can with the notes.  And you
know as a drummer whether you're being tight with that or not. 
	When your playing is labored or lazy, like if you're cheating your
strokes or you're dragging your doubles, you might get by in a show, but
you can definitely hear it on tape.  You can tell that by feel, also--how
the sticks feel bouncing off the heads and how sharp you are with your
control. 

	MP:  You told me earlier that you were really into electronic
drums at one point. 
	DC:  Yeah, when I moved out here I was heavily into the electronic
thing.  The first few gigs I did here with a band were on Simmons drums
and pads that I built from these cheap transducers and pieced of
Plexiglas.  It was all sort of a product of the '80's, when the music
scene was just so grim for me.  All those rock bands did nothing for me,
and I was always leaning toward the more techno stuff, anyway, so I got
more into Yellow Magic Orchestra and Kraftwerk and other people who were
using machines in all those creative ways. 
	I was playing an electronic kit with real cymbals, and we did the
club thing for awhile--Madame Wong's, The Troubadour. Then I got more into
real drums, and I think that was just a matter of finally finding a
quality set that sounded good.  Before that, I guess I didn't really have
that much respect for the sound of wood drums.  I'd just never owned a
killer kit before, and I liked what you could do with electronic kits. 
Learning how to record with acoustic drums was also part of my growth
process. 
	But I really liked the creativity that came with electronic drums,
and I was kind of sorry to see the whole machine thing get a bad name in
the 90's.  It had everything to do with image and nothing to do with what
electronic music could or couldn't do in the music.  But you could say
that about the music industry as a whole, I suppose. 
	That's one of the reasons I love the Simmons SDX.  They were
really expensive when they came out, and Simmons almost lost their ass on
them, but I got two of them used and they're better than anything else
I've seen on the market.  The zone intelligence on those pads is amazing,
with just a multitude of options and parameters, and there's no limit with
whatever I want to do in terms of dynamics or blending sounds. 
	MP:  Something else you're known for is your strong double-bass
playing.  What got you into it? 
	DC:  I've been playing double bass since I was a kid, but it had
nothing to do with or any of those other guys in glam bands.  In fact, if
anything, those guys turned me away from acoustic drums to begin with. I
was really into the jazz and fusion thing, and I got into guys like Cobham
and Louie Bellson, especially in high school.  That's where my double bass
influences came from. 
	I still love playing jazz when I get the chance, but I don't know
if it's something I'd like to do on a full time basis.  I really get into
jazz when it's real electric, but I'm not of the age yet where jazz
thoroughly satisfies me.  I like to play things with a little more power
to them--while I still have the strength to play it! One of the great
things about Tool is that I feel like I can use a lot of my chops and
apply enough of my training to keep me satisfied on a technical level, yet
the music also has enough emotional power for me to busy myself in.

	MP:  I think your jazz influences come across most in your knack
for pushing and pulling a song.  Especially on the new record, it seems
like you're feeding directly off a guitar riff or bass run at some points
and directly off Maynard at others.  And it doesn't sound random.  It
seems like you're very intentional about your parts. 
	DC:  I think about those things a lot as we put the songs
together, and I'll got back to the tapes to pick up nuances in a song and
see if anything jumps out at me.  But my parts shift a lot, all the way up
to the time we put them on the record.
	Sometimes I'll try to bring a foundation to what I feel is the
pulse, or maybe I'll want to add some texture by playing off something
that's more in the background.  In fact, there are some parts, like the
bridge of "Forty Six & 2" where I'm trying to give as much air as I can to
the guitar bass, which have this really neat, interacting thing going, and
I'm just accenting the end of each bar.  Then in "Pushit" there's this
part near the end of the song that's almost like heavy swing.  It starts
with guitar, bass, and drums, and then the guitars cut out for a couple of
bars and I just slam into it heavier and Maynard is singing on top of it.
Then the guitars come back in and the whole thing just rocks. 
	One of the things I do a lot is listen to where the highs and lows
are in the guitar parts, where the riffs or phrases rise or fall, and I'll
shape my parts around that. I might keep the ride pattern constant and
move my kick and snare hits around to connect with those highs and lows. 
It can make for a lot bigger, meatier impact. 

	MP:  Some of the songs and segments on Énima seem to stem directly
from the given drum part. 
	DC:  Yeah, there are certainly parts of songs that came from
something that I started up.  There's this extended triplet pattern in
"Énema" that grew out of a pattern where I'm riding with my right hand,
playing two kick drums, and using my left hand to accent on the toms.  In
that case, the bass and guitar are strictly enhancing what I'm doing. 
There were a couple of things on Undertow that were constructed the same
way. 
	But that's how this band works.  Maynard will sometimes come into
practice with a little melody or phrase in his head, and we'll just start
jamming to that.  Adam [Jones, guitar] is good for coming up with riffs
that will just mushroom into entire songs during a jam.  I've done the
same thing with my drum beats sometimes, and it just snowballs from there. 
	It's real organic and it all pretty much happens right here, just
from going nuts in this room.  There are very few parts, if any, that are
written outside rehearsal.  We were never good at writing on the road,
which is one of the main reasons it took us so long to come out with this
record.  We tried, but it was strange and very difficult to come up with a
comfortable environment to create in.  There are always people around and
it's very distracting. 

	MP:  More so than on Undertow, the songs on Énima seem to shift a
lot in mood, tempo, time signature...Do you compose all these parts
intentionally as parts of the same song, or do you come up with them at
different times and piece them together later on?
	DC:  It's kind of a combination of both.  Take a song like
"Eulogy", which has this passage near the end where I'm riding 16ths on
the hi-hat and opening it every third stroke, sort of a polyrhythm over
what I'm doing with the kick and snare.  That's something I might have
woodshedded without any idea of putting it into a song.  Sometimes I'll
have an idea for a strange pattern and try to flesh it out on my own,
almost like an exercise
	I can't tell you why I chose that particular pattern to go into
"Eulogy"- -it probably just came out while we were jamming--but it seemed
to create a neat transition at that point in the song.  The triplet
pattern in "Énema" is another part that came out of something I'd
developed on my own.  And it's that sort of woodshedding that really pays
off when you're writing songs, because it gives you some tools to draw
from.  But most of this record didn't come from anything labored or
practiced.  It was more just a matter of finding a good groove and having
everyone fall into that. 
	Something I did on this record that I'd never really done before
was incorporate electronics into the general beat.  On "Third Eye" I had
some loops I'd created on my Simmons sampler, and I synched them up with
the drum machine and played along with them.  I just got into the Simmons
thing at the end of doing Undertow, and I used them on "Disgustipated",
but I've been getting a lot more into the electronics again since then. 
It's not so much for loops, but just to have access to samples and more
sounds. 

	MP:  How did getting a new bass player affect you and your
approach to rhythm for this album? 
	DC:  We were about four songs into the writing when Paul (D'Amour) 
left.  He'd had a shift in his musical taste away from the heavy, powerful
riffs, and he wanted to do something more experimental.  He's a guitarist
at heart, anyway, and he's doing more of that in his new band. 
	Justin Chancellor, our new bass player, is more of a low-end
player, where Paul almost played bass like a guitar, which is what helped
give us such an interesting sound, he had that high-end cut.  Justin goes
more for a low-end punch, which has us sounding kind of fatter on this
record.  Justin wrote most of the riffs on "Forty Six & 2", which is a
really cool song. 
	It's a little strange for me because Justin feels time a little
differently than Paul does, I don't know if that's because Justin's from
England or what, but we're still trying to find each other and find common
ground when it comes to locking in.  By the time this article comes out
things will be a lot different. But at this point, we haven't played
together all that much.  We wrote these songs, but we've only played four
shows together.  I guess we have yet to take the true test of locking in. 

	MP:  One of the more interesting things you said about Undertow
was that you actually tuned your drums to match particular pitches coming
from the guitars.  Did you do the same thing for Énima? 
	DC:  Somewhat.  The whole thing behind that is about making things
more powerful.  It's not that you can really hear the difference if you
don't tune to specific pitches, but when you do, it makes the drums sound
bigger and fuller.  With some kits, I think it would be impossible to do
that, and you'd drive yourself crazy trying to make your drums match the
tones of the guitars.  I mean, it's hard enough just keeping drums in
time.  But most of our songs are in D, and I've been lucky enough to have
drums that tune easily to the triads in the key of D. 
	My set was kind of a hodgepodge for this record.  The kick drums
were actually old Sonor Phonic Pluses, 18x24s.  I just got a Sonor
Designer Series kit that I used on some of the record, and I took more
time in picking and choosing which drums to use for particular songs. 
That kind of slows things down a bit, because every time you change drums,
you have to move mic's.  and it just takes away from the creative harmony. 
But I was lucky to have a great tech working with me, and it went pretty
smoothly. 

	MP:  When you're laying down your drum tracks, are you fairly
loose and easygoing about the whole thing, or do you focus and concentrate
really intently, psyching yourself up? 
	DC:  It's not like a psyching-up thing, it's more of a meditation,
where I try to remove myself from the room and bring things in that will
help bring out as much of the subconscious as possible.  That's why we
brought in the huge, old Enochian magic board that sits behind my kit,
just so we could try to set up the proper mental and spiritual environment
to record and create in. So the music ends up just being a postcard, a
picture of what happened in that room on that day. 
	It's not that I need things like that to play music.  But we'll do
whatever we believe we need to do to put ourselves in the proper frame of
mind, whether its objects or fragrances to strike our subconscious,
high-tech computer art--whatever.  It's not a crutch;  it's a choice. 
	It only took me four or five days to put down all my drum tracks
this time, which was a lot quicker than we expected.  And it wouldn't have
even taken that long except that I hit pretty hard and I like using thin
heads in the studio, so we were changing heads between every two or three
takes-- and always between songs--and it's just another chore you have to
go through.  But to get the live, bright sound I like, that's just
something I have to do. 

	MP:  I imagine you cut your tracks first, so I'm wondering whether
you had any preference about the order of songs for recording. 
	DC:  Yeah, and it all had to do with stamina.  We'd rehearsed a
lot in the process of writing over the past few months, but it wasn't like
touring, so my chops weren't all that strong.  But you have to rise to
that level when you're tracking, because that's when the drums should
sound the best.  I've always been of the belief that you have to hit a
drum hard to make it sound good, especially in louder sections.  That sets
the whole shell into vibration instead of just the head, and the sound is
just so much more complete and satisfying.  But when you hit hard and play
the kind of music we do, it can really wear you out, especially when
you're not in touring shape, and you can hear the difference between the
first take and the third take. 
	So what I did was get my feet wet with some of the easier songs
before going into the songs I knew would be more involved and demanding
and take more time to get right.  But a lot of it depended on the mood of
the day, too, and all of that played a role in what ended up on the
record.  Like I said, I don't etch my parts in stone, and if you were to
go back to the raw tape to hear the takes of a song like "Forty Six & 2" ,
you could tell there's a lot of spontaneous energy there. 

	MP:  How do you thing you've changed or grown as a drummer since
cutting Undertow? 
	DC:  Some of the changes happened when I got hooked up with Blair
Blake, who's another really good drum tech who also happens to be a strong
mathematician.  He helped me set up my kit in different ways and make it
more harmonic, not only with my physical proportions, but in a
mathematical sense as far as setting up my stands in the right ratio of
the "golden section" [a geometric equation]. 
	When you sit behind a kit, there are optimum points of drum,
cymbal, and stand placement depending on your physical proportions, and it
even has to do with a spiritual plane.  I'm 6' 5", and people who sit
behind my drums always say that they can't play them, probably because of
how high the drums are.  But I think I sit pretty low compared to most
people, and Blair helped me set up the kit, not just for my height, but
also to take advantage of my energy. 
	My toms are set up in a harmonic fashion, to where all my energy
flows uninterrupted.  There's a symmetry to the way my toms are set up,
and it's significant that I have five toms, a number that represents
masculinity.  Then I've got six six-sided drums [Simmons pads], which
represents the female side.  It just has to do with balance. 
	I've studied some ancient geometry, and I feel this doesn't make
as big a difference musically as it does for me personally.  But that's
why I try to bring a lot of these ideas into my natural environment, with
all the geometric shapes and paintings on the walls and ceiling.  It's all
about setting my drums up so that I don't get in the way of the music, so
I'm just a channel for the music. 

	MP:  Tell me about the psychological side of this band.  Adam's
into scientology, and just by looking around your place, I know you're
personally intrigued with magic and certain dark elements.  I was just
wondering how those influences affect your music. 
	DC:  There's definitely an intensity and power there that has a
lot more to do with a mood or scene we're trying to create than just with
being sonically heavy.  I think we like to dig into people's minds a
little more, strike a nerve and make people think.  There are bands that
are maybe louder and faster and play in a deeper register than we do, but
to me, that's almost more comical and stupid than it is heavy.  We're just
lucky enough that we're four people with similar visions and goals as far
as the music is concerned.

	MP:  Do you see yourself branching into other projects or groups
in addition to what you have going with Tool? 
	DC:  I'm actually working on a side project called ZAUM, which
deals more in an electronic medium.  It's electronic as far as the
instruments and the sounds being pumped to the speakers, but it has more
of a human interface controlling it all.  The term "ZAUM" comes from a
group of artists from the early nineteenth century who felt that by doing
their art, they were going to spark evolution.  And along with that, new
emotions would be created, and ZAUM was going to be there transcendental
language of the future. 
	We've done a little recording and played a couple of shows, but
it's still in it's infancy.  We're very improv-based, and it's all about
textures and spaces and aural planes.  We have tapes and loops running,
and we're playing on top of them.  Tool is kind of getting more into the
electronic thing, and you can hear it on the new record.  But ZAUM is that
way to the extreme, and it really satisfies my need to explore this area
of music more. 
	So much of the electronic music I hear is computer-controlled, and
that can be a beautiful thing, too.  I've always been a huge fan of
Kraftwerk and Skinny Puppy.  Some of those programmers are just geniuses. 
But I like to hear more of a human element triggering the samples and
beats, pushing and pulling the tempos a bit. 
	I'm pretty excited about what we've started with ZAUM, but with
the Tool tour coming up, I'm not going to be able to dedicate any time to
it for awhile.  But Tool is a really special thing that's hard to
describe.. I think we gravitated toward each other because we think a lot
alike as far as art and life go.  When we first found each other, it was
all about personal artistic desire, not about being a certain kind of
band, and I think that has a lot to do with our success. 
	We didn't have any ideals about "making it" or jumping on some
sort of fashion game.  It's just a matter of making art first, and that's
never changed.  We just make music for ourselves, and I think because of
how genuine we are with that, people are able to get more out of it.  I
think we've grown a lot artistically, in terms of being able to express
ourselves, and that's why I'm so proud of the new record. 
	We're not the kind of band that thinks too far ahead about how
many more records we'll make together or things like that, but we think
similarly, and we're all in such a zone right now that as long as we keep
growing and developing and inspiring ourselves, we'll continue this
beautiful thing we have and see how it evolves.


kabir/akhtar | kabir@t.d.n