Publication: Guitar World
Date: June, 2001
page: 63 title: Fight Club author: Brian Stillman "The four of us never wanted to be rock stars," says Adam Jones. "We just waned to push are for art's sake." Tool's guitarist is lounging on a couch in North Hollywood's Larrabee Studios as he makes this declaration. He certainly doesn't look like a rock star, with his wrinkled T-shirt and faded jeans. But the truth is, with multi-Platinum album sales, worldwide tours and a long list of fan sites on the internet(today's true definition of fame and popularity), how can Tool be considered anything but? "It's all about perspective," says Jones. "the band decided early on that we, as people, would take the backseat and instead push our ideas and thoughts through our music." Jones appears relaxed as he says this, but really, he and the rest of Tool-singer Maynard James Keenan, bass player Justin Chancellor and drummer Danny Carey-are in the midst of fighting a battle to complete the final tracks on their latest release, LATERALUS. Unfortuately, it's a battle they will ultimately lose; when the smoke clears, the record still ends up hitting stores a month behind schedule. But what's another month, considering that it's been four years since Tool released AENIMA, the group's last studio album. "People always ask us why it took so long to record," says an exasperated Jones. "But we didn't take four years to record. First, we toured for a couple years behind AENIMA. Then we did Ozzfest, and then Maynard did his work with his side group, A Perfect Circle. So we really did this album in about a year, which in my mind is pretty good. But you know what?" he continues, "That's not entirely accurate. There were a lot of little things that got in the way of us completing the record on time. I think every that could have gone wrong with this album did, from litlle things like broken gear to bigger issues like getting involved in a lawsuit with our label. I was telling the band as we got on a plane to go to the mastering studio in Maine that I wouldn't be surprised if we crashed." It's enough to break most bands' spirits, but not Tool. The band has been fighting the record industry and all its slings and arrows since the group's first release, the 1992 EP OPIATE. Tool takes great pains to control its music, its message and the way it's presented to the public. Maybe that's why the band members are notoriously gun shy around journalists, refusing to do most interviews even as their peers fight to see who can garner the most apperances on TOTAL REQUEST LIVE. As a result, Tool has earned a reputation as one of today's more enigmatic rock acts. The group's music defies strict categorization- it's dense, progressive, aggreessive, melodic, heavy and experimental all at once. Tracks on LATERALUS clock in at over seven minutes and cover a sonic landscape so broad, so full of twists and turns, that other hard rock bands would get lost in it. Tool's videos and album art rarely feature images of the band itself, and vocalist Maynard refuses to discuss lyrics that are, quite often, confusing in their own right. "We never set out to be mysterious," says Jones with a chuckle. "We just didn't want to worry about image. 'How does the band look? What are they wearing? Are they cute?' We just said, 'Let's allow the music to be the star.' And you know what? I'm comfortable with the fact that I can go watch the opening band at one of our sold out shows and never be recognized." As for the group's celebrated reluctance to give interviews, Justin Chancellor explains: "How many times can you say the same thing? For us, the main focus is the music. When ther's nothing musical going on, there's nothing worth talking about. When the music comes out, we go back into the interview process again." Tool's story begins in Los Angeles in 1989, when Jones met Keenan through a mutual friend. "Tom Morello, who's a friend of mine, had his band Lock Up-that really put me in the mood to get something together myself," remembers Jones. "I had been jamming with a bunch of different bands at the time, but none of them were really working out. Then one day, Maynard played me a tape of some joke band he was in. I just thought, Fuck, you cn sing! He really blew my mind. From that point on, I bugged him until he finlly gave in and joined me." They were soon jamming with drummer Carey, and were eventually joined by original bass player Paul D' Amour. "We began playing out and had done about three or four gigs before being approached by A&R people," says Jones. "By our tenth gig, we had a bunch of record companies chasing us around." Of course, this only baffled the fledgling band. "At first we all thought it was stupid. We didn't think we were any good. We didn't want to be musicians for a living; we already had jobs." Soon though, as more and more record execs began to show interest, the band became excited at the prospect of a career change. "It was certainly something we all enjoyed. And making a living with it-what could be better? As long as we could do things our way as much as possible." So when Zoo offered the type of artistic control the band members wanted, they decided to take a chance and try their luck. "I worked for a makeup effects house, and everyone was convinced I'd be back in a month," says Jones. "To tell you the truth, I was pretty scared. I was worried that they might be right." No chance. Today Tool is consistently cited by such groups as Limp Bizkit and the Deftones as a major influence, and many critics consider the band to be the forerunners of the current aggro brand of new metal. Not that any of this happened by design. "We don't set out to be influential. Anything that happens in our music comes out of the dynamics of the band," says Chancellor: "We're just four completely different people, and we have our good sides and our really fucked up sides. When you're in the studio playing, it's like a democracy, and sometimes it creates friction. But that in turn produces great variety in music. Because sometimes someone will have his way with a riff that you wrote, and it will give the song an entirely new character. And then there's the times when you end up sacrificing your original vision entirely, and the song goes in yet another direction. It's that thrill and challenge of discovery." Or as Jones puts it, "When I hear our music, I like it. I like it a lot. And I don't think that's ego. I'm proud of what we've done. What we do together is magical, and I wouldn't trade it for anything." In an exclusive Guitar World interview, Adam Jones breaks his band's code of silence to give us the inside scoop on the making of LATERALUS, the pressures of running a successful band, and why you can't let go of your artistic integrity. GUITAR WORLD So tell us, the delays, the stresses, the lawsuits-is this typical of the way things run? ADAM JONES It's a business. And the bigger your business becomes, the more pressures you face, the more you need to become a better businessman. Most younger bands don't seem to care abut these details. Hell, there are lots of bigger bands that don't care, and they're the ones who get ripped off and end up on VH1. From the start, we've always tried to have our havds in our band's success. If we had done things the record company's way, I don't think we'd be together today. They would gave chewed us up and spit us out. But you have to accept that it's going to be a slow climb. Maybe our album's not going to come out and be number one, but two years from now we'll still be riding it, working it, touring behind it. We don't want to be a band that puts out an album a year, we'd become a cover band of ourselves. There'd be no room to grow. GW The irony is that you end up becoming a better long term investment for the record companies by doing it your way. AJ Of course we do. But they don't see it like that. They think, How can we make as much money as we can as fast as possible? But we try not to let it worry us. What I'm really worried about is you guys in the press. you keep saing that LATERALUS is the most anticipated album of the year, but I haven't heard that from any fans. You're setting it up to be an instant let down, like the Y2K bug or something. Sure, I think there are a lot of Tool fans that are definitely anticipating this album. But that's a very small market. Most people don't give a shit about our band. GW In many ways, though, it's the group's fault. You've put out two extremely well received albums, as well as a great EP. You'e set your bar very high, and consequently, people have high expectations of the band. AJ Only within our little community. But the press use it as a headline to sell magazines. GW Well having heard the album, I can honestly say thatit's very good. In fact, it's everything it's been hyped up to be. AJ I think our fans will be really happy. And I hope we make some new fans with it. I sort of know what will happen. With AENIMA, fans complained that it wasn't as good as UNDERTOW. But they came around agter giving the new music a chance. There's 78 minutes and 58 seconds' worth of music on LATERALUS. There are many different paths that we went down and experimented with, so I think there's something to touch everyone. I think it will grow on people too. GW Something about the album makes it feel more intimate than AENIMA or UNDERTOW. AJ It's a lot more vulnerable, yeah. We were under so much stress going into the album due to label problems, and that influenced its directio. Also, Maynard wrote about themes he wouldn'thave addressed in the past. Before, it was more about themes that were outside of the band, like the stuff about Bill Hicks on AENIMA. We're fans of Bill Hicks,and we wrote two songs based on his philosophy/comedy. On LATERALUS, we went inside the band for themes. For instance, Maynard might write something that's about him specifically, maybe about his realtionship with a girl. Since we know him and have maybe gone through it with him, the song becomes personal to us as well. Or maybe it's a concept that we really do all share directly, like when you and your friends have an inside joke that no one gets. GW When it came to personal themes, was it tough to open up to one other? AJ Yeah, it was, but it became this great catharsis. We didn't enter into the recording studio looking for that, but we needed it to happen nonetheless. I feel like everything that's happened to our band in the last three years has just been a huge test. GW Did you pass? AJ Let's just say that I like the outcome of the test-I think it's good. It was a healing process. GW Did you anticipate all these problems, all this stress, when you were starting out? AJ David Bowie said something in an interview that got me really excited: "I had to become a better businessman to become a better artist." I thought it was beautiful because it's so true. When some bands become too big, they start fighting about money and control. Then other parties get involved and everything starts to disintergrate. That's why you hear about great bands breaking up. When we started out, we decided to split everything four ways. We didn't want to be one of those bands that fought over this song, that song, the single or who gets what put on the album. GW What was the writing process like for LATERALUS? AJ Most bands have been taught that they have to write these formulaic pop songs to be successful. As soon as you start listening to those rules, you're in trouble. So we approach music as movements, not necessarily "songs." What often happens is that someone comes in with a riff and we jam on it-probably for too long. We go down every kind of avenue we can, seeing what kind of feeling and emotions turn up. If you do that enough, you start going on this little journey. I don't want to get too pretentious about it-it's really just fun. We don't say,"Let's write an eight minute song." Then we start putting riffs together. When something's working, that goes to tape. After that, we take it home and scrutinize it. See, there's two ways a musician hears his music. When he's actually playing it, he's listening to make sure he gets his notes right. Afterward, he's listening to it simply as a piece of music. That's what's really important. That's how you really tell what's working and what's not. Most of us in Tool have had some musical training, high school band, whatever. That's when you develop the discipline to hear what's best for the whole rather than what's best for just you. The focus needs to be the band, not the four members. GW It allows you to avoid that old cliche' of the band sitting around the mixer, each member turning themselves up and fighting to be heard. AJ I'm not going to say that doesn't happen. But it's about looking at it as a band and saying,"Okay, we need to hear more of the bass. Do we turn it up or turn the guitar down?" There are times when I get completely buried. But the song's not there for me, I'm there for the song. GW Guitarists aren't typically known for suppressing their own egos like that. Is it tough for you to do so? AJ (laughs)Sometimes. That's why we like our producer, Dave Bottrill, so much. Despite his experience, he never says,"That's not the way things are done." He says, "Well how about this?" He promotes an atmosphere of experimentation and musical growth. Like I said, the band members and I try to be open minded. To at least listen to the other people and try out whatever they might be suggesting. It's a give and take that developed over time. They're my brothers. Sometimes you love your brothers and other times you want to put each other in a headlock. GW Was it tough for the band to leave all the frustrations of the last few years behind when it entered into the studio? AJ Yes. And that's also what I meant when I was talking earlier about this album being a healing process. You have all these little cancers on your body, on your fingers, and they're getting in the way of your playing guitar. But as you write, as you get together and play, they start to fall away. It was a huge challenge, but we're really happy with the outcome. But it also makes you think, what if I didn't have these little cancerous things? Would the album sound different? Would we have put less effort into it? It's all those what ifs. GW So what sort of gear were you playing on the album? AJ I have a Gibson Custom Deluxe. I also used an SG and a little acoustic guitar. All of that is run through a Marshall bass head that has the two channels hot-wired together. I also use a Diezel Amp, which is custom made in Germany. Billy Howerdel of A Perfect Circle, used to be my guitar tech and he got me into them. They filled in for what the Marshalls weren't pulling off in the low end. The two together are magic. It's actually the same rig I use live. GW There is a very bass-driven, chunky quality to your guitar sound. In fact, it sometimes seems as if it's playing bass parts while the bass fills in on more melodic riffs. AJ I think there's a chemistry between guitar and bass that Justin and I really like to explore. I don't like to limit the role of any instrument in the band. They're not on separate worlds. There's a point where they can meet and interact in different ways. It's a pendulum. Sometimes I'm playing bass lines underneath what he's playing, even though I'm on the guitar. In some ways it's like having a lead player and a rhythm player, and it really opens up our playing. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. You just never know until you try. You have to remember that everything in life is based on chaos. Some things you can just let go, and some you can't. You need to use your weaknesses as well as your strengths. GW The end result of that whole process, Tool's music, doesn't really sound like anything else coming out of the metal scene. AJ But I don't know if I even consider us a metal band. We're more of a hard rock band, if anything. Or a hard rock prog band. When we were signed, we kept telling our label, "Don't push us on all the metal stations. Don't push us with other metal bands." But they did, because that's the only way they could see us. And that's what happedned with the EP OPIATE. We thought at the time that we should release the heaviest songs we had because those would make the most impact, but al it really did was force us into this little category. Which was ridiculous. Think about the metal bands that were around in '92: They were all glam bands. We didn't want to have anything to do with that. GW But the definition of metal has changed since then, and many people would attribute that to you guys. Whether or not it was the result of overzealous marketing on your label's part or not, most of today's metal bands employ the heavy rhythmic riffing, melodic vocals, complex drumming and heavy low-end that your guys are thought to have pioneered. AJ Let me respond to that with, really? (laughs) I had no idea. I never considered us innovative. Rage Against the Machine-they're innovative. I can point to a dozen bands that sound, or try to sound, just like them. No one seems to be trying to sound like us. But I see what you mean. Maybe there is some of our influence in some of the newer bands. It's hard to tell, being so close to it. GW So when did the band begin to fell like it was being accurately represented by its music? AJ By UNDERTOW. We had most of that music written when we released OPIATE. UNDERTOW showed a much broader range to our sound-not just the heavy stuff. I saw that as a second chance, at least in terms of the way people would preceive the band. It was much more truthful. GW It seems that, based on Zoo's initial decision to push the band as a metal band, UNDERTOW might be seen by the label as a risk. You must have had a lot of artistic control. AJ Well, we had some. That was one of the reasons we signed with Zoo. They offered us a larger amount of control in exchange for a smaller amount of money, which seemed like a fine trade to us. And we did have control, to a point. But there was the issue of us being promoted as a metal band. And they were supposed to check with us before doing anything that would affect the band. Of course, they'd call us when they knew we were out, and then say, "Well we tried to get a hold of you." That sort of shit happened all the time. GW Is that what lead to the legal problems with your record label a couple of years ago? AJ Not quite. That's a longer story. Zoo Records agreed to sign us and let us have a lot of control. Plus, they were in L.A., which made dealing with them at least a little easier. Then Zoo became Volcano Entertainment and was sold to this jackass who renamed the label Freeworld Entertainment before changing the name back to Zoo. At that time, he was supposed to pick up our contract option, but he forgot to. And since we weren't too happy with him in the first place, we informed the label that they forgot to pick up our option and, therefore, we were out of our contract. Of course, they freaked out and tried to sue us for every reason they could think of, just to make it all messy. They hoped that they could at least sell the company to someone else and then let them settle with us. Which is exactly what happened. GW I notice that your new album and your CD/DVD SALIVAL, are released jointly by Tool's Dissectional label and Volcano. AJ Well, it's a joint company, where we're supposed to make decisions together. I thought it would be good, and it is-to a point. But the guys who own it are managers and it's still just a business. They have their perspective on how things work and we have ours. No one's wrong, but no one agrees either. GW It seems like, three studio albums, and EP, one live album and a DVD of groundbreaking videos later, maybe your instincts have been proven correct. Obviously the fans feel this way. Do you feel like your label is acknowledging this? AJ Perhaps, but that could change on a dime. We could give them something and they could decide it isn't working, and then it's all over. That's the cruelty of show business. But I fell fortunate that it's gone this way for so long. We've kept our integrity and I can sleep at night. I wouldn't want it any other way.
Posted to t.d.n: 04/26/01 10:59:20