Date: June, 2001
Dave Westermann (email@example.com)
Dave Westermann (firstname.lastname@example.org)
page: title: Tool Faces It's Demons author: Phil Downing Enter the world of Tool, and you're immediately greeted with contradiction and paradox -- vulnerable vocals and bruising rhythms, agonized lyrics and tongue-in-cheek wordplay, occult symbols and life-affirming sentiment. For Tool, confrontation, not complacency, provides the key to the doors of enlightenment. And education comes, not from instruction, but from creating dilemmas and posing questions. Since its inception in 1990, the band -- vocalist Maynard James Keenan, guitarist Adam Jones, bassist Justin Chancellor, and drummer Danny Carey -- has surrounded itself in a veil of mystery and danger. It has decorated its albums with inscrutable glyphs and strange artwork; embraced the controversial philosophies of Aleister Crowley, Carl Jung, and Timothy Leary; and created an innovative hybrid of metal, prog rock, and psychedelia that challenges, inspires, and provokes. In person, the members of Tool are laid back and almost apathetic. They're not interested in being rock stars or media darlings. In fact, the band rarely does press and frequently dwells in its own darkened shadows, wearing masks, facepaint, costumes -- anything to hide its identity. Ideas, not people are what Tool wants its fans to focus on. And there are plenty of ideas in the group's albums, especially its new monstrous, epic, Lateralus. The disc is vibrant, visceral, and evocative. Few of the songs are under eight minutes long, and they all brim with elaborate rhythms, hypnotic beats, and agonized, soul- cleansing passages. Swarms of guitars create iridescent sound clouds; powerhouse rock beats and tribal percussion circle each other like possessed warriors; and disturbing vocal melodies swirl from the murky depths like bursting geysers before abruptly ending in volleys of cathartic screams. Like their heroes King Crimson, Led Zeppelin, and Rush, Tool builds musical tension, releases it, and then drops back down to begin the process anew. Its music is at once chaotic and beautiful, evolving gradually, almost spiritually, encompassing themes of destruction and rebirth, stagnation and evolution, ecstasy and agony. CDNOW recently caught up with Keenan and Carey to discuss the motivations that drive the Tool machine. CDNOW: Your last album, Aenima, came out six years ago, and then you entered a period of creative stagnancy. What happened? Danny Carey: There were so many distractions we had to weed out of our lives before we could get back to being Tool. There were these lawsuits with our former record label, Zoo, because they didn't pick up the option on our contract in time. And then they treated us like shit, so we decided to find another label. The legal hassles took a long time to work themselves out. And whenever we got together, we wouldn't be playing music; we'd be talking about the legal crap, which was really frustrating. Did you ever think about cashing in your Tools and calling it a career? Maynard James Keenan: I'm sure that crossed all of our minds. There was a point when the industry thing got me so down that our communication dropped to zero, and I just said, "Well, I'm gonna go do something else for a while." I'm sure once I took off to do A Perfect Circle, [the side band Keenan formed with ex-Tool guitar tech Billy Howardel and drummer Josh Freese] the other guys [in Tool] were saying, "Well, it's over. We're breaking up." But that wasn't the case. It was just a matter of taking a break and reminding ourselves who we are, what we want, and what we bring to each other's table. Were you surprised at how A Perfect Circle took off? Keenan: We, as Tool, surround ourselves with positive, self- sufficient, creative people. Because we all are individuals who are creating and are positive forces in this art circle, it was bound to happen. It was bound to be good music. Billy Howardel's a creative person, and all the people that he brought into the fold with him are creative, positive people. Are your loyalties now split, or is Tool again your priority? Keenan: They're both a priority, and there's equal space for both of them. To say I should focus on one or the other is like going up to a mother and saying, "Your first kid was great, but your second kid was so much cooler than your first baby. You should focus on that one. Fuck the first baby." It's just a weird argument. I've given birth to some words in different forms and reacted to different musicians. I want it all to succeed. I want people to hear all of it. Lateralus is fiercely innovative and ambitious. Carey: It's pretty evident that we're not following templates when we make our music. We do what feels good to us. And it's bound to sound different or sound new, or break new barriers or build bridges between different points. That's what we're out to do. It's easy to play formulated three-minute pop songs, and we offer the alternative to that. Was Lateralus an easy record to make? Did you feel pressure creating this record? Keenan: I think we felt pressure because of the factor of the unknown. Before we started to make it, we were probably scared about the process. But when we get together, and we actually break down all that bullshit and just get to the music, we go, "Oh, yeah, this is easy. This is what we do. There's no fear here." Carey: It just takes courage to have a relationship with someone for 10 years. That's the part that's scary -- facing your partner and facing the demons that only come out after you've had a relationship that long. What are some of those demons? Keenan: Well, that would be telling, wouldn't it? Your music is intricate and involved. Do you consider yourself prog-metal? Keenan: We do have a connection with some of the progressive stuff -- Crimson and Yes, and Pink Floyd. But a lot of those bands aren't very emotional. They're more about the head and the technical stuff. I think we've progressed that kind of rock to a point where we've now integrated the emotional element. I love King Crimson and Rush, but there comes a point where you just have to go and listen to Billie Holiday. Your music is certainly emotional, generating feelings of vulnerability and sensitivity, not just rage. Carey: It's best to always be passionate more than anything else. The worst thing is if someone listens to your music and goes, "Oh, that's interesting." You don't want to hear that. You want to get an emotional response. That's what it's all about. Is there a conceptual thread winding through Lateralus? Keenan: There are some life stories going on that yield resolutions of sorts. A lot of things happen when you turn 30. There are major life choices and major changes in orientation. The entire celebration of Easter is about that kind of orientation. Easter is like the Equinox, and the sun and moon are on opposite horizons. If you're standing in the right place at the right time, you can't tell one from the other. They're of equal intensity. Metaphorically, that's kind of the re-birthing, the mid-life statement, where the moon has gone through its progression from youth of a crescent into the full moon. And at that moment of the fullest, brightest that it can be, there's the realization that it's not its own light. There's a higher source it has been reflected off of. Can you put that in terms a metalhead will understand? Keenan: We're addressing different ideas. There's the communication aspect of coming to terms with and letting go of old patterns, and just re-evaluating your purpose: "Why am I doing this?" Well, I do it for these reasons, otherwise I wouldn't be here. So the whole thing is to remind yourself, "Hey, don't get all caught up in all the crap. Just remember why you're here. Keep your eye on the ball." On your last album, Aenima, you addressed the philosophies of Jung, Leary, and Campbell. This record seems to be a little less about the philosophical and a little bit more about the personal. Keenan: It's about taking the information we've learned and personalizing it. That's the big thing about education. People can be book smart, but not really intelligent about anything else. A lot of times they just taking in all this information and regurgitate it. It's much more important to process it and personalize it. To apply it to your world, to your life. You have to walk the walk, or you can't really report about it honestly. How would you apply the ideas of your spiritual mentors to your personal life? Keenan: By experiencing what they were talking about. You have to do the personal work and exploring if you want to grow. Jung used to talk about staring into that shadow in the corner. Just stepping into that shadow and going, "OK, what is it that I fear the most? What is it that freezes me up like a doe in the headlights?" And then go and do that and see what happens. The worst thing that'll happen is you'll die.
Posted to t.d.n: 06/05/01 20:26:06