Publication: Drum Media
Date: July, 2001
page: 32 title: Happy Meals Versus Tool Albums author: Rod Yates Happy Meals versus TOOL Albums - Rod Yates Maynard James Keenan speaks with the kind of cold, calculated and measured tone that would send a shiver down the spine of even Hannibal Lecter. Over the course of this 15 minute conversation there is no hint of emotion except, except - and even this is a stretch - boredom. The Tool vocalist's dislike of interviews is famed, and so the fact that he's attacking this one with far less vigour than Lecter would any of his victims isn't that surprising. That said, he is not rude. Simply, you get the feeling that, in his eyes, he's already done his job. Lateralus, Tool's third album, was released a few months ago, and into it he pounded every ounce of emotion, intelligence and creativity he had. All the listener has to do is listen, take what they want from the exchange, and move on. And, apart from the live show, that should be the extent of the exchange. What you can't get from his music isn't worth getting. Conversely, what he hasn't said in his music isn't worth saying. But, here he is on the eve of the band's third Australian tour, faced with doing an interview he has little interest in doing, in the aim of promoting a tour that has already proved astoundingly successful. Considering the depth and the blatantly uncommercial nature of Tool's music, the fact that the band's first Sydney show sold out within hours boarders on the phenomenal. Wouldn't you say Maynard? "I don't know," he deadpans. "I think it has more to do with where you start and where you focus your energy and whether you're persistent." In what regard? "Well, if you just play music for music's sake and you have a group of people who are not only good at their craft and their technique, but are pretty good listeners - which is what music is about, it's about listening - eventually it comes around where other people are interested in listening to you listening. And the more you play the more the magic spreads and people show up because they wanna hear it. They wanna see reactions." The number of people "showing up" has been growing exponentially ever since Tool first set foot on a stage in LA in 1990. And although it's been remarked upon many times, the fact that they can sell out venues and top charts across the world remains one of the great mysteries of the modern world. For here is a band that deals in complex musical landscapes, refuses to play any of the industry games, and is as far removed from what's considered musically popular these days as you can get. The fact that they sell any records at all is a huge triumph of substance over style. As far as the band are concerned though, their commercial achievements leave a lot to be desired. "When you hear about all the bands who claim to be influenced by us selling 10 times as many records than we are, no, I don't think we're selling that many records," says Keenan. "If you just look at how many people are in a city, we're not selling that many records. McDonalds sells more happy meals in a day than we do records." How do you feel about these bands who list you as an influence? "I don't really see the connection. Because there is some intensity in some of our songs, I think these bands pick up the surface noise, and that's their influence. It would be a flattering thing if I heard that PJ Harvey was influenced by something we did, or Massive Attack, I would go great, because I feel the deeper movements to this music. When I hear these loud, goofy posturing idiots jumping up and down, more concerned about their hairdos than their music, it's just we don't do that, what am I missing? There's nothing to the music that moves me, or compels me to want to sit down and listen to it, which is unfortunate. Maybe I'm just a cynical old bastard." When Tool complete their Australian tour, they'll embark on a US trek with King Crimson, a band they've openly admired for years, and one whom they've been compared more and more over the years, particularly since the release of Lateralus. Given the band's deep respect for King Crimson mastermind Robert Fripp, the idea of headlining over one of their idols is the source of some discomfort. "It's terrifying and it's an honour at the same time," Keenan murmurs. "Robert Fripp is definitely a musician to be reckoned with. He said he's been writing a lot heavier stuff lately, just in response to what he's heard from us, which is terrifying to have him go out and open for us, because he's the master. And of course we've always said that we're very much influenced by King Crimson and bands of that ilk, and to have them play ahead of us.... I have a feeling kids are going to come and hear King Crimson and go, fuck Tool ripped these guys off blind, because it'll be right there for you to see. But we've said that all along, that were definitely influenced by this band, there's no mystery." While this upcoming Australian tour will be the bands third, Keenan's memories of their first Australian trek for the Alternative Nation festival in Sydney can be summed up in one word. "Rain. I just remember the band Live whining about mud, and it was just hilarious watching them get pummelled. One thing you don't say to a bunch of kids who have been standing in the rain waiting for you to come on all day long is, "Hey don't get me wet. 'Fucking bastard, I've been standing out here all day waiting for you and you've got the front to tell me not to get any mud on you? That was pretty funny just watching them get completely driven off the stage with mud balls." He pauses for a second. "They didn't throw any mud at us at all."
Posted to t.d.n: 08/07/01 12:08:25