Publication: Guitar One
Date: January, 2002
page: 84 title: Images and Words author: Bob Gulla As I sit in an upper floor of an office building in New York City, Tool is soundchecking directly underneath me, on the building's street-level stage and the noise is unsettling. So great the rumble that it quite literally makes my molars rattle, and I check the ceiling to see if the already crumbling plaster is in danger of breaking completely loose. When the noise stops momentarily, the only sound I hear is the scratching of my pen. The contrast is dizzying. But there lies the essence and vitality of Tool. Monstrous peals of luminous noise buffeted by deafening quiet, waves of motion followed by the hush of stillness, and the cycle repeats -- but never in the same pattern or color as before. As the clangor starts up again below me, again the floor and ceiling feel unsafe. I can't elucidate the effect it has many flights up, but I do know it's the same unsettling feeling that makes Tool at eye-level such a brilliant and unpredictable band. Certainly guitarist Adam Jones can explain it better. BG: Do you consider yourself primarily a guitarist and songwriter? I know there are many facets to what you are. AJ: Music has always been part of my life, since I was a little kid. But I think whatever I do, it will be art standing in the shadow music, or music standing in the shadow of art – that kind of realm. As long as I get to express myself with visually and with audio, I’ll be really happy. It has really opened doors for us now because now I’m directing out videos, and doing our album artwork, and so I’m getting the release I need. Tool is my life. A lot of people get wrapped up in their bands, but want to do something else, or they want to get away from music. I love this because there are so many different things we can do. BG: Some guitarists think in terms of colors when they write. When you sit down to write, so you think in terms of images? AJ: Definitely. The songs become little moments, and to me, that’s what I like in a song. If I let it flow, where does it take me? And when I listen to it again, does it take me to a different place? The song “The Patient” was called “Red” for a long time because that’s what everyone was really identifying with, and really felt. For “Parabola,” Maynard was talking about how hard it is to walk up a sand dunce, but once you get to the top… and I was like, “Yeah! That’s exactly what I was thinking!” It’s art and poetry and it’s a weird thing. Sometimes I don’t see anything but a cool riff, and it’s really fun to play. Most of the time, though, it’s a visually stimulating thing that works both sides of your brain. BG: Your fans are so accepting, and so eager for both the visual and aural aspects of the band. That must be fulfilling. But does it put pressure on you in terms of creating? AJ: No, because it’s more about what we like. It’s that old saying: The guide to happiness is making yourself happy. It’s when you listen to something and love it and want to hear it again. And I love our music. It’s not about business. It’s not like, “Okay, it needs this and this to get on the radio, and then I can have this much money and I’ll buy a house and a car.” It’s about letting it flow. There are different levels of expression, and if I just keep doing what I like to do, it’s going to be successful because I believe in it. BG: How quickly did Lateralus come together? It sounds organic, almost like you did it live. AJ: This album was the total crucible for us. It’s really intimate and vulnerable. This album is totally about us. It came together in stages. It makes me mad when people say, “This album is five years in the making.” No, it’s not! It’s like a year in the making. We had a lot of problems and we’re still having a lot of problems. We had to change record companies, and there was a potential lawsuit, and we tried to improve our business. We lost our manager, and lost out old Tool ways, which meant trusting people based on ignorance. So, it’s a whole new process of healing and moving on, and becoming better businessmen and artists. We’re a brotherhood and we have to watch out for each other. BG: It sounds like a brotherhood, too. Danny and Justin are huge on the record. Those guys are the energy behind what’s going on. AJ: Well, we can talk about the clarity – that’s what we went for. A lot of times the bass and drums get lost with each other. We tried to make it so you could hear everyone. The first time we recorded it was like, “Turn up the guitar.” And then a guy would go, “Turn up the bass.” And then another guy, “Turn up the drums!” and then “Turn up the vocals.” The last time, it was a little more sensitive, but people were pushing for their parts. This album, I was really amazed, because even I said, “I think my guitar needs to come back during this part.” If you turn something up or turn something down, then it upsets the whole balance of what you’re trying to do. We were all starting to hear that clarity, and whose part was more important, based on the emotion taking place. BG: It’s a revelation, though, for you to be able to hear each other. You’ve reached an important understanding. AJ: It’s growing and we’re just becoming better musicians. We’re learning you have to sacrifice some things to make the whole sound better. It’s not just about one person. Maynard’s that way. He sings – and what he says is very important – but he also knows that his voice is an instrument, and sometimes needs to be pulled back a little. Or you need to sit a little closer to the speaker to experience it. BG: Maynard’s voice as an instrument is similar to yours as a guitarist. You know when to step forward and when to move back, and he uses that same dynamic. AJ: Tool is heavy that way. We want the emotion. There are so many different ways to go, and we always try to make things three-dimensional, instead of two-dimensional or formulaic. We just break the rules and do what seems right. As far as the writing process goes, we have a place where we’re very comfortable jamming. We bring riffs in, and jam the shit out of them. We take them down every possible path, and then we choose the paths that went well, and start arranging them into a song. That’s why it’s not like “We’ve got the chorus, now let’s get the verse.” It’s just how the song went, and maybe one part that felt like a chorus never gets played again. BG: Do certain points in a jam ever fit into parts of a previous jam, so that you can mix and match? AJ: If you’re going down those paths and something you really like isn’t working, then you take that and go to this other thing you had jammed on before. It’s all like building with Legos – I have this red one and you have these three white ones – let’s see how they fit together. BG: Do you ever feel inadequate as a player? AJ: Yeah, absolutely. I am not a technical guy. I mean, you see these guys from GIT, or wherever, and they know 50 different chord progressions in C(min)maj7. I’m not there. I like Frank Zappa, and Ry Cooder and Stevie Ray Vaughn and Jimi Hendrix and all those guys, but after a while the lead guitar thing started boring me. So I never really went there, and it wasn’t important to me to practice scales. So in that respect, I feel really inadequate. If there’s some really good guitarist in the audience, and I know he’s watching me, I just go, “God, he must think I suck!” I play from my gut, and play as passionately as I can, but I’m not a very good guitar player, comparatively. I’m really just into what we do, and I love writing riffs, and I love challenging myself to play in a different time than Danny’s playing on drums, and trying to figure out something over the top of it that sounds really cool. But as far as being able to fluidly solo over something, I’m not into it. That’s why on some solos I’ll pick up an Epilady, one of those things ladies use to rip out their hair. It has this revolving, figure8, guitar-like string one it; I keep my on it to stop the motor, and it goes, “rrrrr,” and then I can let it go “reeeh” [gradually increases pitch]. Using delay, and other kinds of effects, it can be really powerful. BG: What gave you the Epilady idea? AJ: To be honest, I saw Dave Navarro do a solo with a vibrator once, and it was kind of cool. I didn’t have a vibrator around – I’m sure Dave has several! Just kidding. [laughs]. But I started putting electrical things up to the guitar and getting really cool results. I got one of those old hand massagers, and I could hold the motor and control it. Buzz from the Melvins showed me you could take a remote from your TV, hold it to your pickup, and make your guitar go “beep, boop, beep” – you get different tone right from the pickup. Then you put some flange and delay on, and it sounds great. BG: What kind of advice would you give to young guitarists? AJ: It’s hard because I’ve had kids ask me, “Should I go to GIT?” And I say, “Well, what do you want to do?” If you want to develop your skills to the point where you can call out every note, and know whether it’s sharp or flat, and play all these scales, and know about all these different tunings, and the history of the guitar and how to set it up – if you want to go to school for all that, that’s great. You just have to ask yourself what you want. I learned violin and stand-up bass as a kid, but I never took guitar lessons. It's just knowing what you want, and if you don't know what you want, dabble. Just as long as what you’re doing is for the right reasons, and is what makes you happy. If you want to be a rock star, there’s plenty of was to do that, and if you want to be in a band and make music, then do it. If you want to be really technical, and know more about the guitar than anyone, then go to a school and study. I don’t want to say, “Stay in school,” and then some kid’s like, “God, that dick from Tool told me to stay in school, and I should have never listened to him.” Just make decisions from your gut. When I do, I’m usually right.
Posted to t.d.n: 12/06/01 02:04:08