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The Tool Page: An Article

Publication: Exclaim!

Date: June, 2001

Transcribed by
Roman Sokal (rsokal@tapeop.com)


  page: 22
 title: Tool: Stepping Out From The Shadows
author: Roman Sokal

[also available here (with new band pics!) 
http://exclaim.ca/common/display.php3?articleid=685 ]


May 23rd 2001

To achieve a state of autonomy within a megalopolis such as Los Angeles, the 
entertainment capital of the planet, is practically impossible. The dark and infectious 
ethereal left-field hard rock collective Tool have managed to do so, avoiding the 
temptations to compromise that lead to eventual mediocrity. Instead of being an 
instrument to the business, the business has succumbed to them, but not without a 
fight. Having released only three full-length albums in their 11-year existence, they 
have maintained their artistic integrity and sense of self, even bypassing the 
requirement to be seen in their music videos, created (along with all album artwork) by 
the band themselves. Their infectious opuses are melodic and intelligent, built upon a 
spiritual struggle for self-awareness and the need to evolve. On May 15th the band 
finally released their third and long-awaited 79-minute aural epic Lateralus.

1990
Drummer Danny Carey (Carole King, Pygmy Love Circus, Green Jelly) is introduced to 
guitarist Adam Jones (at the time working in special effects, having contributed to 
Jurassic Park and Terminator 2). The conduit is Jones’s old high school friend, Rage 
Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello. They are joined by bassist Paul D’Amour 
and vocalist Maynard James Keenan, who is Carey’s neighbour; he’d previously been in 
an industrial/ experimental band called Children of the Anachronistic Dynasty and 
released one album entitled Fingernails. According to their first official bio, their name 
is inspired by "lachrymology," a philosophic study of crying as a therapeutic tool 
conceptualised in a 1949 book entitled The Joyful Guide to Lachrymology by Ronald P. 
Vincent, whom D’Amour befriended in his dying derelict days in Hollywood. This is 
widely believed to be dis-information, one of the first examples of the band tinkering 
with the press and the public’s gullibility.

1991
Nirvana breaks the seal, and heavy riffage vibrates commercial radio waves and major 
label A&R reps scour the continent for grunge talent. Within three months of their 
formal inception, having played only a handful of gigs and with no recordings, Tool 
signs to Zoo/BMG, one of the first major labels to make an offer. They tour opening 
for the Rollins Band, Rage Against The Machine and Fishbone, gaining in popularity 
with every gig.

1992
Tool releases Opiate, an EP that eventually sells gold (500,000 copies) in the U.S. This 
choice mixture of the band’s heavier songs are released as both studio and live tracks. 
The video for "Hush," directed by Failure’s Ken Andrews, portrays the band naked 
walking across a white room with Parental Advisory signs over their buttocks.

1993
Their breakthrough, Undertow hits shelves. The track "Sober," with its innovative and 
creepy claymation video directed by Jones and surrealist Fred Stuhr, helps catapult the 
band to stardom. They play with the capabilities of CDs by adding an extra "hidden" 
track (still innovative at this time): track 69 is the highly abstract track "Disgustipated." 
The album is a thinking person’s amalgam of metal, classic rock and the ruling 
"alternative" ethos, a heavy, progressive blend of the cathartic with the 
thought-provoking. Censorship advocates feast on the album’s lyrical content and 
graphics, including photos of ultra-obese naked women, stuck pigs, and cows licking 
themselves. A "clean" version of the album is manufactured for more conservative 
audiences. In place of the artwork, a giant bar code is left on the cover. In May, a show 
is played at the Garden Pavilion in Hollywood. At the last minute, they learn that the 
venue is owned and funded by L. Ron Hubbard’s Church of Scientology, which betrays 
the band’s ethics about how a person should not follow a belief system that constricts 
their development as a human being. Partway throughout the set, Keenan loudly 
bleats like a sheep over the P.A. to express his sentiments. The band’s jovial Aussie 
manager (and co-founder of the Lollapalooza festival) gets the band on the summer 
festival’s second stage; it proves to be the catalyst to their meteoric rise. They are 
quickly moved to the main stage based on their presence, prowess and power. When 
they finally get a touring break, Tool and Rage Against The Machine collaborate on an 
untitled seven-minute track (commonly referred to as "Revolution") for the movie 
Judgement Night, which never ends up in the final cut nor on the soundtrack CD.

1994
The video for the controversial "Prison Sex," once again co-directed by Jones and Fred 
Stuhr, is deemed "Too Much for Much" on MuchMusic. The stop-motion figurine 
animation video is an extremely dark, yet fantastic gangly Brothers Quay-inspired 
depiction of the cycle of domestic abuse. The band is upset over the judgements 
passed upon the song and its visual interpretation, claiming there is a positive 
message at its core that many can relate to. In June, Kiss My Ass, a Kiss tribute album 
is released with the track "Calling Dr. Love," by Shandi's Addiction, featuring Keenan on 
vocals along with Rage Against the Machine’s Brad Wilk and Tom Morello and Faith No 
More’s Billy Gould.

1995
In September, bassist D’Amour amicably departs due to "creative differences," further 
delaying work on new material. Two months later, the band recruits UK-based bassist 
Justin Chancellor, formerly of Peach, a band that had opened for them on tour earlier 
that year. D’Amour and members of Failure and Zaum (another side project of Carey’s) 
release an album on Zoo as the Replicants, a collection of 13 covers by the likes of 
Syd Barrett, the Cars and David Bowie. Keenan sings on Paul McCartney’s "Silly Love 
Songs."

1996
Instead of choosing from a plethora of Los Angeles-based flavour of the week 
producers, the band taps Hamilton, ON engineer David Bottrill, whose c.v. includes 
Peter Gabriel’s Passion, King Crimson’s Thrak and Real World albums by Nusrat Fateh 
Ali Khan. "Funnily enough, they called and asked if I would work on [their new album] 
and they sent me their records," Bottrill recalls. "I listened to them and thought ‘I've 
never done anything like this before. Why would this kind of American metal band be 
sending me things when all I've done was English art-rock music?’ At first I thought 
they had me confused with someone else. As it turned out, Danny [Carey] was a huge 
King Crimson fan and Adam [Jones’s] favourite album had been David Sylvian/Robert 
Fripp’s The First Day. Maynard was a huge Real World music fan. A lot of the stuff I 
worked on happened to be their favourites, even though they were musically doing 
different things. They thought I wasn't an ‘American rock producer’ but they figured 
they already knew what they wanted and that I would bring something else to their 
music. They knew what I could do, they knew what they and their fans wanted, so I 
went along with their confidence." According to Carey, "We had all these producers 
climbing down our backs at the time and everyone we talked to said ‘I’ll do this and I’ll 
do that.’ When we came to David he was like, ‘Why do you want me?’ And that was 
such a cool attitude to have — he wanted to know what was going on with the band and 
what we were about, rather than just ‘Oh Tool’s a big name, I’ll record them!’ That’s 
what really won us over. What struck me about his work on Passion and with King 
Crimson was that it didn’t have that ‘producer’ sheen on it. He was kind of transparent 
in a way. He just let things shine through more than he tried to put his touch on things 
like that. In the past we didn’t have big budgets so we just worked everything out 
before we would get into the studio and count on someone with the ears and know-how 
to capture it. He was perfect for that." The result, Ćnima, is a dark, 70-plus minute 
sonic tour de force. Debuting at #2 on the Billboard charts, the multi-platinum album 
receives mass praise and minor flak for its lengthy compositions and their recurring 
themes of fuelling life by feeding off of pain. They impose a press blackout in order to 
protect the lyrical integrity of the album. Its title, as with its animated artwork 
(nominated the following year for a Grammy Award for Best Recording Package) 
includes a view of Southern California being swallowed by the Pacific ocean, and a 
painting of the late Bill Hicks, a hard-hitting comedian whose sense of logic and 
exposure of irony parallels the intelligence and wit of the band. (The album is 
dedicated to his memory and he can be heard on the track "Third Eye.") Despite the 
seemingly dominant darkness, there is a balance of humour throughout. The track 
"Die Eier Von Satan," is a Nuremberg rally-esque speech in German that translates as 
nothing more than a recipe for cookies. Producer Bottrill explains "A Message To Harry 
Manback": "That was me playing the piano. A threatening Italian person was leaving a 
real phone message on Maynard's roommate's machine. Basically, it was from a guy 
who had recently been kicked out of the house for being the guest from hell." Due to 
censorship concerns, the name of the first single and video, "Stinkfist," is changed to 
the more generic "Track #1."

1997
In January, Keenan appears onstage with Tori Amos to perform a duet of her song 
"Muhammad My Friend" at a benefit show for her charity organisation, RAINN. 
Extensive touring continues, including another summer stint with Lollapalooza. The 
highly involved and spiritual/supernatural live shows feature Keenan painted in a half 
blue & white colour scheme, and at times with his face painted like a woman while 
wearing fake breasts. Drummer Carey, deeply interested in magick and Aleister 
Crowley, brings along an Enochian board called the "Sigillum Dei Aemeth," potentially 
misinterpreted as Satanic instead of as an icon for the focusing of energy. Near the 
end of the year, their label files a law suit against the band alleging that Tool has 
violated their contract by entertaining offers from other labels. The band files a 
counter-suit against Volcano, claiming that the label failed to exercise a renewal option 
in their contract. The litigation proves to be yet another fighting test to preserve their 
ethics and identity and halts the band from developing any new material.

1998
The title track from Ćnema wins a Grammy for Best Metal Performance. Legal matters 
with Volcano Records are resolved at the end of the year, shortly before court 
proceedings. Contracts are renegotiated, resulting in a three-record deal.

1999
Fresh from legal limbo, the band slowly rejuvenates. Tool plays just one show at the 
Coachella festival in the desert near Indio, CA. Keenan is approached by Tool’s former 
guitar tech and friend Billy Howerdel to fill in the vocalist vacancy for A Perfect Circle, a 
"sexy" musical project spearheaded by Howerdel, who originally met Keenan years 
earlier when he was Fishbone’s guitar tech. A Perfect Circle serves as an alternate 
avenue of expression for Keenan; APC’s musical approach is more spiritual, feminine 
and sensual in nature, while Tool’s structure remains more mathematical, 
methodological and somewhat angst-ridden.

2000
Though they don’t play a single show, they record "Divorced," a 14-minute long 
collaboration with long-time friends and tour-mates the Melvins, released on the 
Melvins album The Crybaby. In May, A Perfect Circle’s debut Mer de Noms is released 
and within a few weeks surpasses Tool’s total career sales. Keenan tours with A Perfect 
Circle while remaining members rehearse new material almost daily. At this time, the 
band fires their manager of eight years, Ted Gardner. In retaliation, Gardner files suit 
against them, claiming fraud, negligent misrepresentation, breach of contract and 
quantum merit, demanding $5 million in retribution. Shortly after, the band hire 
Victoria Blake as their new manager. In June, the Deftones release White Pony, 
featuring guest vocals from Keenan on "Passenger"; APC and the Deftones tour 
together in the summer, and Keenan joins in on live renditions of the song. During the 
APC tour, the bald Keenan sports a variety of long-haired wigs to distinguish his 
onstage identity. While other members go on vacations, Carey travels to Stull, Kansas 
to investigate the long-alleged fact that the very small town houses the gateway to 
hell. He also tracks down a first edition Aleister Crowley book, White Stains, an ultra 
rare 1898 compilation of erotic verse that allegedly contains the semen of its author 
within its cloth cover. In autumn, producer Bottrill comes to Los Angeles to begin work 
on their third full-length album. The hype begins. Bottrill mixes Salival, a mini box-set 
released just before Christmas that contains live and unreleased material as well as a 
VHS/DVD containing their avant-garde music videos. Among its highlights are the 
band’s fabled 12-minute aquatic cover of "No Quarter" by Led Zeppelin. (The track was 
originally recorded during the Ćnima sessions and almost ended up on the 1997 
Howard Stern Private Parts movie soundtrack against the band’s wishes.) Salival’s live 
material focuses more on the band’s Eastern influences and a cover of Peach’s "You 
Lied." An odd curio is the hidden track "Maynard’s Dick." Peach’s Giving Birth to a Stone 
album is re-released at the end of the year with new artwork by Jones. Due to his 
commitments to Tool, Keenan turns down a lead acting role in Fight Club director David 
Fincher’s new film The Panic Room. (Fincher directed the "Judith" video for A Perfect 
Circle.)

2001
Salival sells over 150,000 copies in its first few weeks. Lateralus is completed and kept 
under tight security by the band and label to ward off internet bootlegging. The band 
once again messes with the hype machine by first announcing shifting bogus track 
titles such as "Munge," "Poopy the Clown," and "Alcaharlot," on their web site 
toolband.com. "They were under immense pressure," Bottrill says, "from all the 
litigations, the record labels — pressure from just about everywhere to make a great 
record. The last record had more flavours of Led Zeppelin in arrangement and writing 
style — [Lateralus] is almost more Pink Floyd-y, more ‘trippy.’ All the songs run in the 
neighbourhood of seven minutes. One of the songs they wrote this time, which is the 
last track on the album, runs about 22 minutes. In the middle it becomes much more 
of an entrancing groove track — an amazing arrangement that is totally hypnotic. 
Lyrically, they’re more open for interpretation although there are some specifics in 
there — more about Maynard’s current and future relationships instead of the past and 
things about his son [Devo]." Lateralus is more broad in scope, taking the immediate 
aggressiveness of Opiate, the melodacy of Undertow and the cinemascope aspects of 
Ćnima. "We mastered it up in Maine with Bob Ludwig," Bottrill says, "and were trying to 
put some segues in and he turned to us at one point and said ‘Look you guys, I don’t 
say this very much, but I think you guys are onto a classic record here. Don’t screw it 
up by trying to stuff things in!’" Also set for release later this year is a side project 
entitled Tapeworm, featuring members of Nine Inch Nails with two tracks sung by 
Keenan, one being entitled "Vacant," a track already previewed during A Perfect Circle 
shows (which apparently upset Trent Reznor, who felt the song was still incomplete). 
Tool continue to amaze, disturb, soothe and question; after all, it is all about the 
music, and any of the facts you have read here may or may not actually exist. 
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Posted to t.d.n: 06/13/01 13:38:47