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The Tool Page: An Article

Publication: Drum Media

Date: July, 2001

Transcribed by
Goatboy (hall@mail.md)


  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