Date: June, 2001
page: title: Tool making up for lost time with ``Lateralus'' author: Gary Graff DETROIT (Reuters) - It's Tool time again. Five years after its last album of new material, the Los Angeles-based hard rock quartet has emerged with ``Lateralus,'' a 79-minute collection of sprawling, metallic epics. And if there was any question that Tool's absence made fans' hearts grow fonder, the answer came in first-week sales that propelled the album to No. 1 in the United States, Canada and Australia, and into the Top 10 in six other countries. Or consider that fans snapped up tickets in just minutes for four small-venue U.S. concerts Tool performed before heading over to Europe for a series of festival appearances. ``I can't believe what the vibe is at the moment. It's really mad,'' says Justin Chancellor, Tool's British-born bass player, as he lounges backstage at Detroit's State Theatre. The strength of the Tool's studio work, Chancellor says, is that the band turns its focus inward and avoids ``trying to please other people.'' ``We lock ourselves away, and we concentrate on what we're doing and try not to think about the madness that's surrounding it, and all the hype.'' There has certainly been plenty of both as anticipation built for ``Lateralus,'' which follows 1996's Grammy- winning ''Aenima'' (''Salival,'' a rarities and video project, was released last December). Founded in 1991, Tool -- which also includes singer Maynard James Keenan, guitarist Adam Jones and drummer Danny Carey -- won its audience with an ambitious, aggressive approach that draws from classic heavy metal and expansive progressive-rock influences, as well as some jazz-fusion sensibilities. The group also has drawn in fans with its visual approach, including surreal, dark promotional videos (such as a close- up of an eyeball being poked and prodded) directed by Jones and live performances that mix more video footage with Keenan's flare for dramatic costuming. But the years between ``Aenima'' and ``Lateralus'' proved difficult. A volatile group of personalities by nature, Tool's members were tested by legal wrangling with its label, Volcano, which underwent a series of ownership changes that delayed the new album. ``I think going through all that legal stuff really kind of hurt us,'' Keenan says. ``It's just exhausting when you're having to cover your ass from the posturing of the lawyers; here you are, caught in the middle of trying to make art and dealing with that. ``So I think after all that kind of settled, we just needed a break. We just needed to kind of live our lives, so to speak, and a couple of the guys had just gotten married. So we decided to enjoy life, just let (the band) go for a second and take a rest and get back to it.'' By that time, however, there was another distraction -- Keenan's involvement in another band, a Perfect Circle, whose debut, ``Mer de Noms,'' went platinum and kept that group working for nearly a year. Keenan continued to swear loyalty to Tool -- and the other three members gave him their blessing for the outside project -- but Chancellor acknowledged the situation was sometimes unnerving. ``Their tour went a little longer than anyone really thought it would, so that got a little frustrating towards the end,'' the bassist recalls. ``And there was the odd moment of insecurity, obviously, where you're like, 'What's he doing?' ``But as soon as he got back, we could tell he was completely committed to Tool,'' Chancellor says. ``And I think it helped us all come closer together in the end and realize the value of what we have as four musicians.'' Keenan says the collaborative spirit of Tool is important to the band. ``We really concentrate on listening to each other and playing music that we're all responding to in some way and trying to be as honest as we can about it,'' the singer says. But it's also clear that the time Jones, Chancellor and Carey spent working together in his absence brought a stronger instrumental focus to ``Lateralus.'' ``Well, we definitely did a lot of experimentation,'' says Chancellor. ``But we always think of Maynard as another instrument, anyway; it's like four people doing four different things rather than really (loud) vocals and the music underneath. ``A lot of the ideas (on 'Lateralus') are a lot more personal. They're a lot more about the four of us and what we do and the relationships that we have and the way we communicate with each other. I think (Keenan) probably did a good job on the other records; he was angry, and he vented about it and he feels much better now. And there's other emotions to explore.'' After its sweep through Europe, Tool plans a more extensive North American tour supported by King Crimson, the veteran rock outfit that the Tool men admire a great deal. A previous band of Chancellor's even received a note from Crimson founder Robert Fripp after it covered his band's song ``Cat Food.'' And while Tool plans to spend a good deal of time on the road, Chancellor promises fans won't have to wait another five years for the next album. ``We've got tons of material that we didn't use,'' he says. ''That was kind of an added bonus of the time that we took writing this stuff. There's a lot that we didn't get to put on this album and a lot of ideas that we're really excited about. So I think it's gonna come a lot quicker, the next one.''
Posted to t.d.n: 06/16/01 21:40:10