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The Tool Page: An Article

Publication: Modern Drummer

Date: June, 2001

Transcribed by
Ruskin F. (subvertthemodernparadigm@hotmail.com)


  page: 56
 title: Danny Carey: Demon On Drums
author: Ken Micallef
For their fourth and most surprising album to date, Tool drummer 
Danny Carey, singer Maynard James Keenan, guitarist Adam Jones, and 
bassist Justin Chancellor pull out all the stops–injecting all of the 
metal meat and ritual magic they can muster into what may well be 
remembered as a prog-metal classic.
Lateralus is a powerfully progressive work that showcases Carey’s 
elastic drumming–an engrossing web of odd-metered beats, intricate 
tribal patterns, intense tom figures, and double-bass dexterity that 
is simply spellbinding. Many of the songs seem built from the ground 
up around Carey’s volcanic rhythms, and they often erupt into full-
blown drum solos. And the song titles, "Faaip De Oaid" (The Voice Of 
God), "Mantra," "Parabola," and "Ticks And Leeches," reflect Carey’s 
deep fascination with the occult. In fact, this "interest" literally 
smacks you in the face when you enter Carey’s dingy Hollywood studio, 
which is where Tool wrote the bulk of Lateralus.
Entering the studio through a tiny alley behind a health food store, 
you’re greeted by a mural that looks like a boy’s night out at the 
death ranch. Skeletons linger under spotlights, cobwebs coil 
ominously. Inside, the studio is perpetually dark, and when the 
lights are turned up, you understand why. A large geometric grid 
(like the artwork on Carey’s Simmons pads) covers the ceiling, which 
is also decorated with gargoyles, dinosaur mobiles, and skulls. Two-
hundred-year-old swords once used by Carey’s father in Masonic rites 
adorn one wall, along with more geometric designs, a mace, a virtual 
occult library, a bronze bust by the sculptor Szukalski, framed 
photos of Carl Palmer, an Aphex Twin poster, and a weird looking 
Jacob’s Ladder, like you might see in a Frankenstein movie. A large 
Enochian "magic board" embellished with the names of various angels 
(used to channel the spirits) sits behind Carey’s double-bass Sonor 
kit. The room is littered with more disparate objects–talking drums, 
a zebra-skin recliner, ancient masonry fragments…. Apparently Carey 
is both a scholar of the occult and a collector of spooky junk.
But it’s his drumming that is most dazzling.
With Lateralus, you can sense Carey’s intelligence in the tribal 
warfare of "The Grudge," the heavy metal grind of "The Patient," the 
explosive drum-band orchestrations of "Schism," his own Tibetan monk 
growls in "Parabola," the hyper-speed rhythms of "Ticks And Leeches," 
and the frequent double-bass eruptions that occur throughout, like a 
time traveler pushing his ship into warp speed.
Coming off the platinum selling Ænima, Tool spent two years 
overcoming major legal hassles with their former record label. Where 
such obstacles would have defeated a lesser band, Tool simply 
summoned their strengths to create an album that seems to describe 
their frustrations and rewards.
Like a meeting of King Crimson and Black Sabbath, Lateralus is food 
for the mind and sustenance for the belly. Similarly, like a union of 
some African war god with a multi-limbed rhythmic Houdini, Danny 
Carey creates questions for the mind and music for the soul.

To Occult Or Not To Occult?
MD:Tool promulgates a mysterious, enigmatic image of powerful, heavy 
music laced with occult imagery. Some people think the band is 
satanic. Is this image simply a ploy to keep the fans guessing?

Danny: There's no effort to appear any certain way. We just want to 
stay true to what we do. Maybe because we dig a little deeper within 
each other, stranger things come out that people aren't exposed to. 
If you're not familiar with something, instead of being curious, 
their instinct is to fear it. That can lead to misperceptions. 

MD: You've noted that you use five toms and six-sided Simmons drums, 
that the combination of numbers works as a "channel" of sorts.

Danny: Every number has its strike on the subconscious in one way or 
another, whether we're aware of it or not. The more you can make 
yourself sensitive to these things, the more it can open you up to 
other forces that may want to be heard. It's my job to get my ego out 
of the way enough to be sensitive to these things and let them flow 
through me. I've always been fascinated with sacred geometry---those 
are some of the shapes I've drawn on the Simmons pads. It's about 
tracing the manifestation of matter into the physical world. Those 
are little signposts along that journey.

MD: Many of the songs on Lateralus sound as if they’re built around 
the rhythms you play.                                                                 

Danny: Some of them are built around the drumming, but just as many 
were built around bass and guitar riffs. I tried to stay as open as 
possible when we were jamming or when people were coming in with new 
ideas for riffs. Adam and Justin are quirky players. They aren’t 
following anyone’s examples, so they come up with things that are in 
strange time signatures. And I definitely don’t want to mold them 
into something else. I go with what they’re doing, and that sets the 
stage for the whole writing process.
Writing is a very open, organic process for us. We’ll jam on one of 
these riffs for a few hours with the tape machine running, then go 
back and find the jewels that pop up. Then we catalog all of these 
precious little things and find ways to arrange them together into 
songs.

MD: Tool’s music is very progressive with a heavy, psychedelic edge. 
Your drums have a unique yet kind of thick, ’70s sound.

Danny: We’ve tried to sidestep trends. I hear a drum sound in my 
head, and it’s mainly the sound that I hear when the four of us are 
in the rehearsal room together. My goal is to re-create that as 
closely as possible onto a recording. If that sounds like something 
that was done in the ’60s or ’70s, so be it. I’ve never been into 
gadgets on the drums just to follow a trend or to make them sound 
modern.

MD: Is there less or more electronic drumming, looping, and sampling 
on Lateralus than there was on Ænima?

Danny: There’s a little bit less of that stuff on the new record, 
which is kind of a strange thing. Most of the samples I have are in 
my Simmons SDX. I’m still using that antique–no one has come up with 
anything better. It’s just ridiculous. The electronic drumming world 
is the most retarded thing. I’m so disgustapated (sic) about the 
whole thing. The fact that the Simmons SDX is still the coolest thing 
out there and is twelve years old really frustrates me. Dennis 
Grzesik of Simmons still takes care of me, but I must say that the 
Simmons have been very reliable. That’s why I’m able to keep playing 
them. I’ll admit, ddrums and the Roland V-Drums feel great, and they 
don’t have any MIDI lag like the old SDX does. But for me, the 
problem with them is that they don’t have any surface intelligence, 
and that’s one of the most important factors. To be able to bend 
pitches or change ant kind of parameter as you move around the head 
in an intelligent way is key.

MD: The state of electronic drumming today is at an interesting point.

Danny: Well, it was seen as that geeky ’80s thing. But back then a 
lot of those guys were trying to imitate real drums, and that’s why 
it was cheesy. They weren’t using it as another instrument to add to 
the drums. That’s the way I’ve always looked at electronics.

MD: Album by album, Tool’s music seems to grow more meditative and 
improvisatory.

Danny: You want to leave yourself more space for improvisation as you 
grow older, that’s for sure. You know you’re going out on a tour and 
you have to play these songs every night, so you want to leave 
yourself room to move so you don’t become tired of the tunes. But our 
tunes have become good enough emotional vehicles for us that I don’t 
grow weary of them. I still dig my gig.

MD: There’s a lot of drumming on Lateralus.

Danny: Much of it wasn’t conceived that way. We really took our time 
and developed all of our parts to where we had belief and conviction 
in them. We can play them over and over again, and they’ll still work 
for us.

MD: Are you locked into these drum parts, or do they change once you 
hit the road?

Danny: The framework is locked in, but I can toy around with them and 
have fun. We all know that it happens at gigs. When we perform older 
tunes, I feel that I should play it like it is on the record–just for 
the fans. And there’s a certain percentage of the audience that comes 
out wanting to hear a certain fill. But hey, there are some nights 
when I twist it all around and never play any of the fills on the 
records.

You Built It. Will They Come?
MD: How do you think the market will accept Lateralus? The record-
buying public has changed a lot since the mid '90s.

Danny: There's a large percentage of people who are disgusted a the 
state of the music industry. I think for those people this record 
will be a breath of fresh air. I would like to think that Lateralus 
will break down all the barriers, start a whole now revolution in 
music, and show where the influence for a lot of the music of the 
last few years has come from.

MD: The record alludes to so many sounds and themes.

Danny: It's a lot to take in right away. But those are the kinds of 
records I always loved as a kid. When I first heard them they would 
baffle me in places, like the old Yes and King Crimson records. You 
couldn't "hear" them all at once but those would be the ones that 
would grow to become a part of me. That's my goal for Lateralus.

MD: The band is more impressionistic on the now album as well.

Danny: That's part of our growing as individuals. The level of 
communication has reached a now height in the band. It HAD to, 
otherwise we definitely would have broken up, what with all the 
strain of the legal battles we've had. You now see the end product of 
that perseverance.

MD: On the live DVD Salival and on AEnima, the way you play the toms 
and the note groupings reminds me of Bill Bruford expecially on his 
early solo albums.

Danny: I guess it rubs off. No question, Bill is one of my biggest 
influences. I love watching him play. He makes it look so effortless. 
What come out is so beautiful.

MD: As far as your time conception, i can hear a little Bruford, but 
the basic logic reminds me a bit of Vinnie Colaiuta as far as the 
allusions to one time or feel over another. You play odd meters well.

Danny: The band works really hard in the rehearsal room on those 
types of things. It's hard for us to be satisfied with the runes, so 
we all dig deeper and deeper on our individual parts, trying as many 
possibilities as we can before we do the recording.  It's that will 
to keep pushing the songs as far as possible the has helped me 
develop those chops. There's a danger in the too. You have to know 
when to quit.

MD: How DO you know?

Danny: You have to trust your instincts. At a certain point along the 
way, when the structures are put together, the songs take on a life 
of their own. You have to be as true to that as possible. Let it 
breathe and become its own entity so it'll have a beginning, and end 
and some evolution without getting too messy.

MD: When someone brings some music in, do you actually identify it as 
being in a particular meter, or are you past that point as a band?

Danny: There's never any mention of time signatures, ever. There have 
been times when I played a weird beat and one of the guys wanted to 
play something over it. Then you have to use a meter metaphor to get 
the point across, say, "Play over this meter of five or fifteen," 
just so there'll be a meeting point some where. It mainly come in the 
arranging stages, like when we're trying to find ways to string 
things together in subtle way. As far as the riffs the other band-
members bring in, it's pure feeling. It's pretty organic, picking 
themes from a jam we've had, until it comes to arranging. That's when 
the hard word starts. The payoff is having songs that go a journey 
instead of just verse, chorus, verse, bridge, chorus, out.

MD: What did you practice prior to recording this album?

Danny: I work on polyrhythmic exercises, and I still work out of Gary 
Chester’s The New Breed book, just to keep my hands and feet moving 
separately yet together. I do some hand exercises to keep my chops 
up, too.
The main thing I work on now is trying to free myself from time. I 
still feel like a prisoner of time. Sometimes I catch a glimpse of 
that freedom, and shed the shackles and knock down the barriers. It’s 
in those moments when I feel so inside of the music that time doesn’t 
exist. That’s when I do my best drumming and the flashes of 
inspiration come.
The only way for me to get to that inspirational place is to get 
myself out of the way and let it come through. And that only comes 
through discipline and a lot of hard work, keeping clarity of mind 
and concentration when I’m playing. It’s a never-ending thing. That’s 
why I’m still playing the drums after thirty years.

MD: Can you practice that kind of freedom?

Danny: You can't practice it per se. It's a state of mind, something 
that, if you attain, won't be only behind the kit. It'll be your 
whole life.

MD: Overall, Lateralus is very complex rhythmically. When an obvious 
4/4 rhythm pops up, it's like a celebration.

Danny: I like the contrast. That makes it all the more heavy when you 
drop into a straight rock groove. That gives the music greater impact.

MD: It sounds like you're incorporating double bass on this record 
more than ever before. 

Danny: I suppose I've gotten a little better at double bass, so it 
pops up more frequently. But i didn't go into the record trying to 
play more double kick. It just worked worked with the music we 
created. Actually, Adam always pushes me to play MORE double kick.

MD: In a previous MD interview you spoke highly of John Pratt's 
Modern Contest Solos For Snare Drum. Do you still practice it?

Danny: Yes. I even play some of that stuff on the kit sometimes to 
warm up. I also used some of the old rudimental solos I played in 
high school. I have "Tornado" memorized! I studied Chapin's Advanced 
Techniques For The Modern Drummer. I also spent a lot of time with 
Four Way Coordination by Marv Dahlgren and Elliot Fine. That's a 
tough one, but it helped my feel a lot and double bass playing. I 
would work through these books, and sometimes it would get stagnant. 
But when I found something cool, like a hip phrase, I would repeat it 
until I could just rip on it. Then it became my own. I could drop it 
in wherever I saw fit.

MD: Did you play much jazz as a kid?

Danny: I played in the school jazz band in college in Kansas City 
[UMKC] I played in the big band and in combos. Kansas City is such a 
jazz town, there were always gigs to play. You couldn't avoid playing 
straight-ahead.

Getting Lateralus
MD: Does Tool write several songs simultaneously?

Danny: Occasionally we'll have two or three going at the same time, 
but usually we focus on one at a time. It's tough for Maynard to 
write the words for more than one song at a time. The emotions get 
mixed. But we do hit sticking points, so we might set one tune aside 
and start on another. We want each song to have its own identity.

MD: What were the first and last songs written for Lateralus?

Danny: "The Grudge" was first, "Triad" was last.

MD: That's almost in the album's running order.

Danny: Yes, it's funny, we hadn't even thought about the order of the 
album until we got to the mastering lab. we wrote the song titles on 
pieces of paper, shifted them around, and the final order came out 
almost exactly in the order we had written them.

MD: What are some of the samples you use on the album? One sound is 
a "Jacob's Ladder" [large transformer that produces an electrical 
crackling sound].

Danny: We use that. I also had a piano that was destroyed. I got some 
good samples from that, banging on the strings for "Resolution." I 
liked some didgeridoo samples, and a lot of found-sound stuff. The 
Tibetan monk sounds you hear on the record are just me growling 
through a tube. That was the initial sample, and then I overdubbed an 
Oberheim through a Vocoder. Before thos record, we were really rigid 
about being able to perform every note live, but we got away from 
that for this one. Maynard is doing more harmonies and doubling on 
his voices, and Adam did more guitar overdubs.

MD: On Salival there are tracks where there's a tabla player and 
percussion. Was that live?

Danny: Aloke Dutta, who I'm studying tabla with, played on some of 
our shows, and I actually have him sampled in my Simmons brain. I 
trigger some of his sounds and play them with my sticks, but he does 
the real thing. You can tell which is which!

MD: Did the actual recording process of the drums differ this time 
from AEnima?

Danny: Not too much. We had a little more time and a little bigger 
budget, so we didn't feel so forced to rush through everything. We 
were more meticulous. That's why the drums are even more powerful-
sounding this time. We recorded in the big room at Cello [formerly 
Ocean Way studios], the same one that Frank Sinatra used. As for 
miking the drums, we used Akai C12s for the overheads and Neumann U-
87s on the tops and bottoms of every tom.

MD: Did the drums go down first?

Danny: Yes. we started out just going for a great drum track. The 
band set it up so we could hear each other in our iso booths. I could 
clearly hear the other guys in my cans, and we just played the songs 
until I nailed the part. It usually took me about three takes. A 
couple of time we would take I liked, but then add in parts of 
different takes within it. But we didn't do much of that. It was 
mostly me just going for a good overall take. The basic drum sounds 
took a day, and we tweaked a little bit on the second day. The drums 
sounded great. They're the Sonor Bubinga Limited Edition Signature 
series. Bubinga wood is awesome. I've always preferred equatorial 
woods for drums, which are higher in density and heavier and tend to 
reflect off solar current. It predisposes them to pour forth Hecates 
Fountain...that's the vide that seems to fit with Tool.

MD: Hecates Fountain?

Danny: You would have to read Kenneth Grant. The lunar current, 
rather than solar current, is what Tool is about. As long as I can 
get my ego out of the way and let that pour forth, we can create what 
we're aiming to do . But I also used my 1977 Octaplus stainless-steel 
Ludwig set on two songs, "Ticks And Leeches" and "The Grudge."

MD: Do you sill tune the drums to match the guitars?

Danny: Absolutely. When the songs are in D minor I think it's 
effective to tune the toms to triad-----D, F, A. Of course, certain 
toms are more suited to a certain range, so you have to pick which 
chord inversion words best. It might be something like D, A, then 
another D, then an F. It could be any order. You don't want to force 
your drum to a pitch that it's not going to resonate at.

MD: Do you carry the Enochian magic board into the studio when you 
record?

Danny: Yes. We try to take advantage of every tool available. We'll 
use whatever it takes to get the best recording we can to get us in 
the optimum position to make music.

Ch...Ch...Ch...Changes
MD: What changes have occurred in your setup since AEnima?

Danny: The RotoTom I used to use has been replaced by a Korg Wave 
Drum. The pad, cymbal, and drum configuration are all pretty much the 
some . I've added a Roland MC505 Groovebox, an Oberheim TVS, an 
old '70s analog synth, and the Roland Vocoder, which I use 
on "Parabola." I have a Mackie mixer in my rack to mix all of this 
stuff. But I don't mix the drums from the stage. My snare drum is by 
Jeff Ocheltree, one of hes new ones where he creates the shell by 
melting down old Paiste 2002 cymbals. Jeff is making a complete drum 
set for me using this same principle, but made out of Paiste's 
Signature series cymbals. The kit will be like Carl Palmer's 1970s 
metal set, but my kit will have 3/16" bronze shells instead of 
stainless steel, which will be HEAVY. My roadie will be bumming. I've 
also added a Paiste Micro-Hat on the right side of the kit so I can 
play a few double hi-hat things.

Marking Time, Making Lateralus
MD: Is the tribal sort of drumming you're known for designed to help 
the crowd reach some meditative state? It's like a Haitian voodoo 
ceremony.

Danny: When people come to see us, I want make it as much of a 
ritualistic experience as possible. If that means trying to emulate 
five African drummers, then that's what I'll do. I work on 
polyrhythms that might come across that way. I'll also put samples of 
African drums in my Simmons pads----just do all I can to get that 
vide across. Some beats suck people in. Something like "Resolution," 
though, is a departure for us, more hypnotic and trance-oriented 
rather than just wailing away.

MD: "The Grudge" sounds like it's in 10/4.

Danny: Most of it is in five. There are transitional places where we 
just add a couple of beats to the bridge. It's all done to make the 
music flow together. It all makes sense to us and wouldn't fit 
together any other way.

MD: The end of "The Grudge" and "Schism" feature short drum solos. 
And the last track is an obvious drum solo.

Danny: That's about all hell breaking loose. That track features a 
sample of the rantings of a guy who worked at Area 51. Who knows if 
he was speaking from a rational state, is really panicked, or is a 
complete schizophrenic who completely lost it? We may never know.

MD: How did the drum solos develop?

Danny: I felt like the songs needed to have a climactic ending and be 
as huge as possible. The intensity had to be raised to that level to 
make the song climax, and what better way to do that than with a drum 
solo? I just wailed and let my emotions dictate what was going to 
happen.

MD: "Ticks And Leeches" is in 7/4?

Danny: Yes, and that's a fun one to play. The opening patter is one 
of the most powerful things I've come up with. The song is actually 
rehashed from an old song we had done around the Opiate period. There 
are a few places where a double kick comes into play---it's poking 
between may hand in places to fill in. When it needs to step up, I 
use the double kick to add some of the heavy low end behind it. At 
the end, when it starts climaxing, it's double kick all the way.

MD: Is that a 16th-note pattern across the toms?

Danny: Yeah, with the accents broken up so it sound like three over 
the bar of seven.

MD: How do you think your drumming has changed over the years?

Danny: I think it's fitting in better with the songs and with what 
the other guys are playing. That's the goal. It doesn't mean anything 
if you just hear the drums doing these tricky things. I don't want to 
have people say, "That guy is burning." I would rather hear them 
say, "That reminds me of the Moors running down the hill, or Scotsmen 
attacking with their heads on fire, butt-naked in the middle of 
winter." [laughs] But seriously, I would rather create images in 
people's minds than have some drumming commentary. The worst thing 
someone con say about your playing is, "Wow, that is interesting."

MD: "Lateralus" has some fun meter twists.

Danny: The drum groove, which is prominent, is in five. The beginning 
is in 9/8, 8/8, and 7/4 repeating, which is kind of fun because you 
can divide it into groups of three. You can take to the break down, 
where the guys are in six and I play in five over the top of it. I 
thought It would be fun to take it in a different direction. 

MD: "Disposition," "Resolution," "Triad" ---are these a trilogy?

Danny: Yes, They were constructed as one song. At twenty minutes, the 
three together was a little long, so we split them up.

MD: "Resolution" is serious sex orgy in the mosh pit.

Danny: I'm proud of that. It's a departure for us to do something so 
trance-like in a way. It's repetitive and groove-oriented rather than 
a slamming thing. That piece has really grown on me.

MD: And the final track is another instance of over-the-top drumming.

Danny: The tune came about one night when I was recording really 
late. One of my old reverb units went haywire. It sounded like a 
transmission from beyond coming through. I heard it start to blow up, 
so I hit the record button on the DAT. You hear it going down the 
tubes. it had a compositional form to it. So I pushed it to the 
limit, developed it, and made it as anxiety-ridden and horrifying as 
possible.

Demons & Drumming
MD: On your bio page on the band's Web site [www.toolband.com] it 
states that you set up your drums "in proportion to the circle and 
square of the New Jerusalem," and it mentions The Book Of Thoth.

Danny: That's one of the cards from Crowley's Tarot deck. It has an 
incredible wealth of information. There's so much packed into each 
one of those cards.

MD: So how often do you get out the swords and summon up the demons?

Danny: Never, as far as you know: [laughs]

Posted to t.d.n: 05/11/01 19:17:07