Date: February 5, 1997
Transcribed by Scott Rowan (Rowan@mailbox.uq.oz.au)
title: ALL THE PISTONS FIRING author: MURRAY ENGLEHEART In his book, I Need More with Anne Wehrer, Iggy Pop reckons that the constant assault of amplifiers over the last few decades has altered his body chemistry in some significant way. Los Angeles-based earth-shakers and psychic stirrers Tool are apparently set on the same gut- and DNA-altering course. "I definitely believe that," says Tool's totally humourless vocalist and general shaman, Maynard James Keenan (who, incredible as it now seems, was a Kiss maniac when he was about twelve). "That's a proven thing. The magnets and electricity that goes through all that stuff on stage definitely alters the energy field around your body, just like children are dying of weird cancers that have their schools set up next to major power lines. That's documented stuff. I don't know if it's a healthy thing. I just know that it does affect you." Right now, with the release of their second album, the long-awaited Aenima, Tool's music is creating a magnetic field of its own that many are clearly finding highly attractive. In the U.S., where Toolmania hit a belated but very high tide mark with their last album, Undertow, Guitar Player magazine, with its massive monthly circulation, was unable to secure an interview with the band for its January 1997 issue. They decided to go to plan B, which involved featuring the cartoon character that appeared in the animated video for 'Sober' from the Undertow album. In Australia, their song 'Stinkfist' came perilously close to topping "the world's biggest music poll" - the JJJ Hot 100. Tickets for their just-announced Australia tour are selling faster their albums - which are selling pretty fast. Tool are currently big business. The wave that Tool are riding has been building out the back for several years. Intensity and heaviness are not the issues they once were. We have returned to a time where music is the key. Back in Led Zeppelin's early-seventies heyday there was virtually no difference between the sort of audience The Stones and Zeppelin pulled. We've gone full circle. "Thank goodness," Keenan murmurs. The central epic piece of the Undertow album was 'Sister Ray'-ish beast called 'Disgustipated' that grew from a crazed night at Palladium in Los Angeles, during an anti-vivisection show which Tool found themselves part of - though they aren't anti-vivisection. It was supposed to be an acoustic show with Alice In Chains, Rage Against The Machine and Porno For Pyros. Tool, shall we say, departed from that agenda smashing a multitude of guitars while Keenan discharged a shotgun. After the smoke and plaster dust settled they went and somehow did a studio version of it. The material on Aenima was birthed under relatively more conservative circumstances. "'Disgustipated' was kind of an experimental thing.. With this album we did a lot of experimenting but it was more of a deliberate process." The recording time frame for Aenima was "pretty short, not too long" and was -produced by David Bottrill, a choice made at least in part because of his pro rata relationship with Robert Fripp, the genius behind Tool heroes King Crimson. "We saw his name on a project with David Sylvian and Fripp that I really liked and decided to check him out." It's an association that's in keeping with Keenan's take on where the band are coming from. "I would relate us more to Soundgarden or Robert Fripp King Crimson sort of stuff than I would the Rollins Band," he says. "Though there's definitely a lot of similar things going on." Keenan is not sure of everything that's been going on in the Tool camp, however. For example, he had no idea about the origins of the passage about the mind on the CD slick for Aenima. "I'm not sure who wrote that. I haven't really gone over that too much. Danny (Carey, drums) and Adam (Jones guitar) are the ones that put it in there. I'm not sure where it's from." Have you ever been approached to do any acting? "A little bit yeah. Just some comedy stuff, like sketch comedy." Is it true you don't blink? "I don't know. I don't pay attention." And what has to be in place for a great Tool show? "I don't know. I guess all the pistons firing at the same time. You don't need to have too much of a spiritual mind set. Once you kick in and the sounds kick in, they take you where they're going to take you."