Publication: Alternative Press
Date: January, 2001
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page: 36 title: "2001: an odyssey of new music: TOOL" author: Sara Scribner This moment has been a long time coming. Finally, the members of Tool are slouched in a Los Angeles record studio's nosh-stocked antechamber, waiting to record their third album. It will be the long-awaited follow-up to their 1996 opus of underground frustration, źnima, an ambitious shock to the senses even for those stunned into submission by the band's 1993 debut full-length, Undertow. This October afternoon marks the band's first session for the album (due in stores April 17, 2000), and it feels hard won. After the group toured behind źnima, selling in excess of two-million albums, their label, Zoo, folded. The subsequent fallout forced the band to navigate some typically dirty-dealing record-company shenanigans before negotiating a new deal with Volcano. "Everyone keeps coming up to us and asking why we're working four years on this album," guitarist Adam Jones says with exasperation. "It's not four years; it's one year." While waiting to extricate themselves from Zoo, Tool kept themselves busy with a stint on Ozzfest '98 as well as with various side projects. Singer Maynard James Keenan made a high-profile spin with A Perfect Circle. Jones, who conjures the band's eerie visual presentation, including album covers and videos, worked on his art. Danny Carey, a former drummer for Green Jelly, played with Pygmy Love Circus. And British-born bassist Justin Chancellor's previous band Peach recently had their debut album issued in America (Jones contributed the cover art). Collectively, the quartet recently mastered live and unreleased studio tracks and a video collection for a box set to be released in time for Christmas. As they've grown into their distinct sound, a combination of art-rock envelope-crushing and low-down street-metal crunch and grind, the band have survived to witness their compatriots--Nine Inch Nails, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Rage Against the Machine--stumble or fall. They've also lived to see the hard-rock world taken over by the likes of Limp Bizkit and Korn, a development that has only added fuel to their fire and impatience today. And as wrong as it might seem to hold them back from recording any longer by conducting an interview, they've been quiet for too long. AP: So, what do you have planned for this new album? Maynard James Keenan: This is the first time that we've gone into the studio with 80-percent ideas. Normally we walk into the studio and just record; I know every little thing I'm going to do because we've worked through it a zillion times. This time in, it's a little rough around the edges as far as knowing what it's going to sound like when it's done, which is exciting. Adam Jones: It's good and it's scary; there's the insecurity of "What's to come, and are we going to pull it off?" That's what art is all about to me, knowing that it's not all going to be planned, but that it's going to be good. AP: Any recent obsessions that will come out on this record? Keenan: No, I've just been flying on emotion for the last four years rather than intellectualizing anything, or trying to write from reference material. I've been trying to make emotional maps. AP: How do you feel, then, coming back to the studio? Keenan: Personally, I feel triumphant because we've come through so much and there's still a lot more for us to go through. We're a lot older. We survived that period where everybody else is not doing that well. I think that's because we're good friends. AP: So you feel like survivors at this point? Jones: We've been through the wringer. I could go through tapes and tapes talking about how fucked this industry is, but we've really made it work our way. We're better businessmen and better people. We sleep better at night and can do cool things with our music. I'm ecstatic right now. I'm ready to go. Justin Chancellor: I'm just happy to have made it full circle and to have the chance to make some kind of imprint like we did last time, which was a shock to me. I was new to the whole thing. I feel a lot more confident coming into the same situation again. AP: Ideally, what kind of album would you like to make? When you walk out of the studio and you're all finished, you'll say, "I made an album like..." Keenan: Foghat. [laughs] I'm hoping that this one picks up where the last one left off, so that you can look at the work we've done as progression. For this record, the music writing is going to be more of a challenge. Chancellor: I hope it will have opened more doors for us, that there are fewer boundaries than there were before. AP: Have you been frustrated with the way you've been perceived? Danny Carey: It actually got a lot better after the last record. Up until that point, I think we were perceived as just a metal band. I was happy with the barriers the last record broke down. If we can pull that off again, I'll be content. Jones: There are so many different influences in the band. There's a lot going on and just to categorize us as one thing.... I went on Yahoo and it said "See what other bands are like Tool," and I clicked on it and was completely horrified. [Note: Pantera are one.] Keenan: Hopefully this will open doors for people to listen to other styles of music, too--having some kind of world-beat sound to one song, an electronic sound, or something other than what they're used to hearing from us. Just enough that it's in their language enough to where they go, "Oh, I'm going to check this out." Of course, this is four guys playing guitar, bass and drums, so it's always going to be from a rock background, it's always going to have that anchor. But hopefully there will be spice and variety beyond that. Jones: It's a good chemistry. I walk out of rehearsal every day going, "How'd we get there?" AP: You got off the ground when so many great bands were coming up-- Nirvana, Nine Inch Nails, Rage Against the Machine. How do you view the music world now. Keenan: Back when Nirvana opened a door, a lot of the bands got popular that had a more idealistic view of the way things should be for music. "No, you don't have to do this, and you don't have to do that." And they stuck to their guns about it. Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Nine Inch Nails, Rage and Tool--all did things their way. The only downside to that was that they didn't fill in the space-- "No, you don't need to do a record every year." Well, Limp Bizkit and those kinds of bands are willing to do that, so they've filled up the space; and because we weren't around and because people's attention spans are short, they kind of took over. It's all mediocre and they're all willing to do things that have nothing to do with art- -all posturing and shaking hands and hanging out at the Playboy Mansion. It has nothing to do with art or music or anything, but it doesn't matter because they are filling up space. There are so many slots on a radio station for a song; there are so many magazine covers per year. And they need somebody on the cover, so if they're willing to do the goofy poses and flip off the camera and wear funny hats--do all that kind of stuff to get on the cover--they'll fill up the space and sell magazines. Jones: To me, it's like animals wearing clothing. The entertainment value is always gonna be there, but it's going to wear off really quick. Carey: Each one of those bands is stupid enough to do that; they just sign away their credibility and they instantly become disposable. From the very beginning, we didn't want to be disposable, so we kept everything really under control because we wanted to do this for the long haul. Jones: We're at a Sex Pistols moment right now. Everything's aimed at kids right now, the 8- to 13-year-olds, and that's where the money is right now. Those teens are going to grow up and they're never going to admit that they were listening to Britney Spears. It's like Leif Garret in the '70s. Keenan: We're going to attach lollipops to our CD. AP: What are you listening to now that might influence the album? Carey: I still listen to acoustic jazz sometimes. I still listen to a lot of techno, electronic stuff, too. From a drummer's point of view it has a lot more interesting textures going on that rock music. I like all the stuff that Skinny Puppy's Cevin Key does with Download. Aphex Twin. The Orbital guys. Keenan: I've been listening to a lot of Massive Attack. I broke out my old Cocteau Twins records. PJ Harvey. The new Radiohead [Kid A]. That last Nine Inch Nails record [The Fragile]--I just don't understand why that didn't do better. I think if anyone's going for a long drive, they should take that record. In the end, I think that's going to be their big undiscovered record. AP: What happened with your old record company? Carey: They got bought out and they forgot to renew our option, which was the greatest thing that could ever happen. We became free agents at the peak of our career. That was a blessing. Of course, they weren't going to let us go without a fight, so we dealt with that for quite a while. I guess this is sort of a millennium thing, getting a fresh start on everything. We kind of cleaned house. AP: Do you think about the way people will react to your lyrics? Keenan: To me the lyrics are just translation, the music itself is the real magic. I always think of myself as a kind of translator. Listening to the emotion of the sound, things will just come into my head, like situations from my childhood, relationships--and I just write those down. The thing that's important to me is to be honest about those initial responses. AP: Are you ever worried about the effect of the anger in your music? Keenan: We're not responsible. There are kids all around the globe who do ridiculous, crazy things. Whether Rob Halford's the trigger, or whether it's George Clooney, it was going to happen. Carey: Our responsibility as artists is to be true to the chemistry that happens between us in the room. When you start second-guessing things, you're just cutting everybody short. It's going to be watered down. AP: What do you do to get into the right mood for recording? Keenan: Crack. Candles. Carey: Lots of occult symbols so we can summon the right demons. AP: Looking back, how do you perceive the band's early days? Keenan: There's a lot of innocence that's lost. We're a little less na‘ve. AP: How would you like to be remembered when all of this is over? Keenan: In the end, I would love to be put in the same category as Pink Floyd and King Crimson. As far as artists, focusing on the art rather than the other crap that comes with it. AP: In the press you did for źnima, you talked a lot about big changes happening.... Keenan: They're still happening. When you first start reading old prophets, they can't dictate exactly what's going to happen in detail, they don't know what the technology's going to be. But one of the biggest indications of a rise in the collective unconscious is the Internet. It's the perfect example of something that would be indescribable 1000 years ago--and here it is. AP: Sounds like you're more positive about it than you were back then. Keenan: I was positive then. But birth is a difficult, painful process with a beautiful result, so you need to embrace that pain, that dark minute.
Posted to t.d.n: 12/02/00 23:50:22