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The Tool Page: An Article

Publication: Alternative Press

Date: March, 1997

Transcribed by
Jon (kross@nauticom.net)


  page: 
 title: Nobody's Tool
author: Jason Pettigrew

	You are reading this story because you want to know what inspires 
the four members of Los Angeles band Tool.  What motivates the band-
guitarist Adam Jones, drummer Danny Carey, singer Maynard Keenan and 
bassist Justin Chancellor-to create lengthy rock opuses in a culture 
where ennui sets in at the touch of a remote-control unit?  You want 
to know the band's lyrics, examine their belief systems and ponder the 
significance of the floating eyes, the contortionist and the other 
shifting images that appear on the cover of Tool's new Zoo album, 
AEnima.  You want to be privy to their vision.
	If facts, lyrics, and assorted minutiae are what you are seeking 
from Tool, here is a public service announcement:Tool advise you to 
think for yourself, before somebody does it for you.
	"Most people think, 'What are you guys about? Explain yourselves, 
your music, your videos,'" Jones says disgustedly.  "why do we have to 
explain everything?  Entertainment can be like going in the woods.  
You can see nature; you may understand the basics of it, but you can 
still enjoy it, and it can affect you in many ways.  That's how we 
approach music."
	Jones and Keenan formed Tool in 1991, enlisting Paul D'Amour to 
play bass and workaholic drummer Danny Carey, who was holding down a 
straight nine-to-five job while playing with Carole King, Pygmy Love 
Circus and local country bands, as well as with comedy-metallers Green 
Jelly.(Incidentally, that's Keenan singing the falsetto phrase "not by 
the hair on my chinny-chin-chin" on Jelly's only hit "Three Little 
Pigs.")  Later that year, Tool signed with Zoo, who released their 
cement mixer heavy EP Opiate in 1992.  The quartet's synergy of 
atmospheric riffage and Keenan's idiosyncratic vocal style was welcome 
by audiences friendly to the stylistic inversions made to hard rock by 
bands such as Soundgarden and Rage Against the Machine.
	Tool's full length debut, Undertow, was released in April of '93.  
The music inside the package was as claustrophobic and textured as the 
album artwork-graphic images of an obese woman, x-rays and grimy 
portraits of the band that scream homage to macabre photographer Joel 
Peter Witkin.  Consider if Black Sabbath had been formed by literate 
art students rather than a bunch of British working-class blues 
growlers.  Not that any of the one-million plus owners of Undertow 
thought specifically in those terms; regardless of the music's 
airpunching/headbanging aspect, there was a tweaked aesthetic at work.  
Manager and Lollapalooza co-founder Ted Gardner installed Tool on the 
second stage of Lollapalooza '93 for a few weeks before he graduated 
them to the main stage.
	Three-and-a-half years in the making, AEnima was released last 
fall.  Produced by David Bottrill (whoís worked with King Crimson) and 
clocking in at 77 minutes, itís a harrowing collection of atmospheres 
and musical tributaries that doesnít fit into tidy little slots like 
ìmetalî or ìalternative,î or the grandfather of all musical categories 
used when your songs run over five minutes, ìprogressive.î  (When Tool 
were asked if there was one band common to their individual record 
collections, Carey and Jones settled on King Crimson and the Melvins.  
If Keenan were King of America, each home would own a copy of Peter 
Gabrielís Passion.)  AEnima offers the brooding energy of ìStinkfistî; 
Keenanís accelerated diatribe on credibilty-police officers, ìHooker 
with a Penisî; the potentous metal of ìEulogyî; and the epic ìThird 
Eye.î  There are also plenty of in-jokes as segues (ìDie Eier Von 
Satanî is a German recitation of a Mexican wedding cookie recipe 
sonically modified to give the feel of an industrial-rock Nuremberg 
rally).  Sure, AEnima is epic and at times sounds self-absorbed, but 
the disc has more substance than anything on the Billboard charts.
	 But if you are looking for specific insight into Tool-the bandís 
modus operandi, the je ne sais quoi, if you will, youíll have to look 
elsewhere.  The members of Tool donít owe explanations to anyone-not 
to the record company, management, critics or fans.  The band will 
tell you that they are only there for the music.  Jones, who has spent 
six months in stop-action animation, creates Toolís maverick videos-
which almost never feature the band.  Tool have turned down high-
profile opportunities like soundtrack offers and appearances on 
Saturday Night Live.  The band refuses to do commercial radio-edits of 
their lengthy singles, despite their labelís cajoling (ìevery Pink 
Floyd record I ever heard, I never once said, ëHey, this is a really 
long song; itís not radio friendly,íî quips Jones).  After the 
compilers of the recent Led Zeppelin tribute album Enconium haggled 
with Tool over the length of their projected contribution (a seven 
minute version of ìNo Quarterî), the band walked.
	Tool are a band first and foremost.  AP photographer Chris Toliver 
was denied a request to shoot individual portraits because the band 
didn't want just one member ending up on the cover.  There was even a 
point when the band wanted to be interviewed together, so one 
personality wouldnít overtake this story.  If they wanted any more 
control, theyíd have to dissolve the band and get jobs in national 
security.
	Iím waiting backstage with Toolís A&R man, Matt Marshall.  
Marshallís job on this trip is to placate ma and the band, but not 
necessarily in that order.  After I endure three hours of Comedy 
Central programming and an old Bob Hope movie, the band finally arrive 
for soundcheck, dinner and-I-hope-conversation.  It seems they were 
doing phone interviews for European press.
	Marshall corrals new bassist Justin Chancellor for the first 
interview.  Chancellor was enlisted to replace Paul DíAmour after his 
band Peach (not the American classic rock revivalists on Caroline) had 
supported Tool on British dates for the Undertow tour.  His brother 
had turned him on to Tool early on, and Chancellor had been friends 
with the bandís members prior to being enlisted.  How a band like Tool 
figure into a British music scene driven by disposable fashion is a 
good place to start.
	ìThe music scene is run by the two papers (NME and Melody Maker), 
with no scope of radio play,î says Chancellor.  ìEveryoneís looking 
over their shoulder.  They will only commit to something if someone 
else does.  Thatís how you get a movement going, like shoegazing or 
Britpop.  If you donít conform to that, you are irrelevant.  People In 
England say that Tool is not relevant.î  He smiles, adding, ìBy virtue 
of that comment, weíre completely relevant.î
	Chancellor feels that Toolís think-for-yourself campaign doesnít 
recognize frontiers.  He feels that British audiences enjoy being 
spoonfed the music of the hour.  Chancellorís personal faves include 
Swervedriver, Mint 400, Penthouse and the God Machine-not necessarily 
Britpopís Greatest Hits, but still bands with defined characters.
	ìItís all about participating on behalf of the listener.  Itís 
about digging in and exploring,î Chancellor continues.  ì(With Tool) 
everyoneís perception is different, whereas everyoneís perception of 
poppy British bands is pretty much the same.  Itís all face value.  
Peach was more along the same lines as Tool sonically than what was 
going on in England.  It makes you spiteful, but it also makes you 
more belligerent in your convictions.
	ìI have a friend in England whoís real into electronic trance 
music.  I played him AEnima, and when we talked about it, he was 
really excited.  I suddenly realized that AEnima has more to do with 
electronica than anything else in England-both have momentum and move 
forward.  As soon as stuff like ego and personality come into the 
picture, the purity of the music isnít there.î
	There are many stories about Maynard Keenan, and you can take your 
pick from the ones you want to believe.  Keenan is an Ohio native who 
did a stint in the army and ended up in Los Angeles.  He rigorously 
practices jujitsu, has a young son (who makes an appearance on Toolís 
ìCesaro Summabilityî) and has a profound respect for folk singer Joni 
Mitchell and the late comedian Bill Hicks (a portrait of Hicks graces 
the inner sleeve of AEnima, with the caption ìAnother Dead Heroî above 
it.)
	Keenan enters the Green Room with no introduction save a casual 
hello.  He fixes me with a thousand yard stare; Iím not sure whether 
it reflects boredom or contempt.
	ìIn this quick-flip generation,î he says quietly, nursing an 
herbal tea to soothe his sore throat, ìits easy for a kid to listen to 
what his older brother is listening to and say, ëNo.  I want to listen 
to something completely contrary to what my brothers, sisters and 
parents are listening to.í  Then they find us.  I donít think weíre 
doing anything innovative; weíre just filling a need.î
	 Nut eight and fifteen minute songs are not something the 
marketplace commonly embraces.  If that were true, Green Day would be 
covering all four sides of Yesí Tales from Topographic Oceans-and 
getting paid.  It seems that Tool have unearthed an audience eager to 
make the trip with the band.
	ìwhen the four of us are in a room making decisions, it comes down 
to whether the music holds its own,î says Keenan.  ìI donít think 
weíre writing anything thatís timeless.  In the big picture, I think 
that in ten years nobody is gonna care.  Twenty years, definitely not.  
Even if 15 million people bought our record, and you gathered them 
together and tried to see them from the moon,î he laughs, ìIts 
nothing!î
	But what about the kid in Squirrel Nut, Iowa whose first record is 
a Tool record?  When many of us brought home our first record purchase 
from a department store, we read every liner note; we ingested every 
image on the cover and in the inner sleeves.  In the long run, that 
was necessary for developing a personal aesthetic and personal growth.  
Shouldnít Tool fans expect more?  Whatís wrong with setting some kidís 
perception straight?
	ìThe record is written so that there are layers for him to get 
into,î says Keenan.  ìheíll hear ëHooker with a Penisí and initially 
think its a ëf**k somebodyí song, when actually its saying f**k 
everybody and not f**k everybody.  Itís about unity, realizing that 
everything is connected.  Itís about breaking down the process of 
pointing the finger.  Heíll get it in about five years.î
	ìSo what should people take away from Tool?î
	ìIn a perfect world?î
	Now you know the world is not perfect...
	ìLetís speak in terms of a perfect world because weíre dreaming 
today,î he quietly volleys back.  ìIn a perfect world, people in 
general will hear the album, be inspired and do something 
extraordinary.  I hope someone might use us as a backdrop for 
inspiration for some other activity they excel in.  Iím not going to 
spoon feed anybody and rob them of their own personal experiences.  I 
read the interpretations of the lyrics that people send to the Tool 
web page.  Theyíre way off.  But thatís fine.î
	ìI really do have more faith in humanity than most people think I 
do.  I get resentful and upset when people donít use their head about 
stuff.  It upsets me when people are selling themselves short and 
letting themselves down, whether itís education or information.î
	While Keenan is highly articulate, it seems that he also 
cultivates a streak of misanthropy.  During an encore at a recent 
Cleveland show, the singer stormed offstage after a fan made it over 
the barrier past security and gave him a hug.  Keenan very well could 
have taken down the intruder with his martial-arts prowess.  But why 
should the thinking people in attendance have to bear the consequences 
of one stage invasion?  Hollywood Babylon author Kenneth Anger wrote 
that celebrities-actors, musicians, novelists, public figures in 
general-deserve about as much privacy as God does.  Because some 
people identify with public figures and for the most part for a part 
of said figuresí successes, fans then think they deserve more.
	ìWhat I wear, how I walk, who Iím f***ing, what I eat, what time I 
go to bed has nothing to do with what weíre doing,î Keenan stresses.  
ìPresenting those things as somehow being part of Tool is deceptive.  
Itís not honest.  I donít embrace anybody.  I want my space, my 
distance.  Iím not a very warm person.  Iím sure that most of the 
people whose music I love are assholes.  Where I met them is at their 
music.  That inspired me to do something for myself.î
	When the lights go down at the Sunrise Theatre, the audience is 
treated to the animated billowing-smoke-box graphic from the cover of 
AEnima projected onto two video screens behind the stage.  The image 
is accompanied by a menacing low-end rumble seemingly capable of 
disrupting human bowel functions.  At the beginning of the sequence, 
the audience screams, whistles, applauds and yells, ìToooooool!î  
After about six minutes, the band still havenít shown up onstage.  The 
crowd remains silent, save for the couple of boxheads screaming, ìWhat 
the f**k?  Already, huh?î
	The audienceís reward for this behavior is ìThird Eye,î Toolís 
blistering, fifteen-minute psych-metal journey in praise of spiritual 
enlightment.  Itís no quick-fix radio hit; Tool are like life, buddy, 
and nothing ever comes easy with either of them.
	Through brute force and volume, Tool burn brightly in front of the 
crowd.  Keenan changes lyrics to the delight and disgust of the fans.  
Jonesí playing qualifies him for the honor of Americaís first 
intelligent guitar hero; he eschews tired look-at-me fretboard 
calisthenics for interesting atmospheres.  Unfortunately, most of the 
intriguing subtleties that make AEnima so compelling get lost in the 
live show arena.  Of note is tonightís extended intro to ìSober,î 
which features Jones and Chancellor creating drones while Carey plays 
random disjointed bursts from his kit.
	In the middle of the set, Keenan addresses the crowd.  ìIf any of 
you have nothing better to do, weíre playing Orlando tomorrow.  Itís 
only about four or five hours away.î
	A handful of people, obviously heading to Orlando, whoops it up.
	ìIf not,î Keenan adds softly.  ìWeíll miss you.î
	The audience goes nuts.  Keenan revels in the knowledge that once 
your audience rises above 1,000 people, there is no room for irony.
	ìTool are all really smart guys,î says Kabir Akhtar, a University 
of Miami graduate film student and the creator of Toolís extensive web 
site (http:toolshed.down.net).  Akhtar created the Toll FAQ 
(frequently asked questions) file, which answers questions that range 
from general fan info (ìWhatís that line in the chorus of Sober?î) to 
plain old urban-folklore stupidity (ìI hear that Maynard keeps corpses 
in his home...î).  A few years back, Akhtar sent Keenan a brief e-mail 
message with the site address, telling the singer to check it out.  
Keenan did and got back in touch with Akhtar with corrections.  The 
Web site gets thousands of hits each day, and was recently reviewed in 
the New York Post.  Akhtar says that although he gets a fair amount of 
dumb-guy mail, most of the Internet surfers logging on to the Tool 
site are far more intelligent than your typical rock fans.  When the 
MTV program 120 minutes changed the title of the ìStinkfistî  video to 
ìTrack #1,î Kabir had MTVís e-mail address posted on the page in an 
attempt to get people to voice their complaints to the network.  The 
avalanche of e-mail was so large, host Matt Pinfield came on the air 
the next week to apologize about corporate policy.
	ìThe Tool page has its own little agenda,î reveals Akhtar.  ìOn 
the one hand it promotes the band, but it also furthers their anti-
stupidity message.  Sure, I get a lot of ëDudes, you rock; come play 
my high schoolí stuff.  But a lot of people send me information on 
Hinduism, Buddhism, Jungian Theory and how it applies to AEnimaís 
ëForty Six & 2.í  These fans are really intelligent people who figure 
this stuff out.  Toolís music means a lot to them on many different 
levels.  These are the people who get what Tool is all about.
	The next day, at the University of Floridaís Field House in 
Orlando, Jones and Carey seize the opportunity to shoot some hoops on 
the remaining court after dinner and before show time-and before the 
interview.  Even Marshall joins in the fun, leaving me benched with 
bronchitis and a fraying temper.
	ìI want Tool to be a powerful escapism,î Jones says, back on the 
bandís coach 45 minutes later.  ìI want Tool to be like a drug.  Take 
Tool and kick back into your own little world, or get aggressive, or 
get all sweet and nice and go ice skating-whatever floats your boat.  
The bottom line is that weíre pretty selfish; this is our thing, and 
itís what we want out of music.  The fans are pretty secondary to 
that.  Itís nice that theyíre there and they can appreciate us opening 
with a fourteen-minute song.  Iím in this to be happy.î
	AEnimaís musical schizophrenia can quench the desires of a broad 
range of music fans.  But is that diversity merely tolerated by 
listeners?  If someone loves the electro-rock aggression of ìHooker 
with a Penis,î will he or she be patient for a fifteen minute piece of 
menacing terror like ìThird Eyeî?  
	ìThere are no rules to this,î he stresses, ì and when you start 
making rules it gets convoluted.  Everyone wants to supply rules to 
it, and that takes away the magic of doing something musically that 
can remind someone of a sensory experience, a smell, a thinking 
process, whatever.  itís about exploring, any way to touch the 
senses.î
	ìWe try to push that sense of time,î Jones continues.  ìWhen the 
show begins, the rumble goes on and the smoke-box video comes up.  We 
leave it up for a while, and I can hear people in the crowd yelling, 
ëOkay, okay; come on!í  Some people are thinking thereís a problem 
because weíre not coming out yet.  Itís pushing the element; thereís 
the long fix and the quick fix.  Which oneís better?  Neither, but 
theyíre both powerful.î  At that point both Carey and Keenan get on 
the bus to prepare for tonightís show.
	Not much has been said about DíAmourís departure from the band.  
It seems odd that someone would walk away from a million-selling band, 
especially when the bandís music has evolved enough to accommodate the 
vision of the individual members.
	ìHe was open to anything but not getting anywhere,î explains 
Keenan.  ìIf youíre sitting there and not doing anything...î
	ìWhere we bring in our individual ideas, he wanted us to come to 
him,î says Jones.  ìItís not what itís about.î
	ìPaul was more into pop stuff,î says Carey.  ìwait for his album 
to come out, and youíll see why he wasnít happy (DíAmourís new band, 
Luze, will have a record out later this year).  What we have now is a 
really good thing.  Weíre content with each otherís contributions, and 
I canít see that changing.î
	Carey remembers the bandís early days, when Nirvana had just hit 
and the last vestiges of hairspray metal were on the wane.  He says 
that Tool, Helmet, and Rage Against the Machine were all signed to 
major labels around the same time.
	ìThe labels were looking for the next Nirvana,î he remembers, ìand 
once we began to draw crowds, we knew we were next.  I hope we can 
provide an alternative to all of the lowest-common-denominator s**t 
going on right now.  I just wish people were doing something weirder 
than we are.
	ìI canít listen to the radio,î he continues.  ìIt bummed me out 
heavily when all that punk s**t started happening again.  The same f**
*ing guitar, bass, and drums Iíve heard a million times from back in 
ë79.  Maybe they donít consider themselves artists, but I think they 
should have a little more responsibility to try and do something more 
than cash in on a trend.  I think that s**t drags humanity down.
	At this eveningís sold out show, Tool continue to pulverize the 
masses.  Keenan twitches and turns like a marionette wrestler, while 
the rest of the band shore him up with a roaring sludge.  As the 
general-admission crowd takes a break between songs from beating the 
hell out of each other on the gym floor, Keenan, covered from head to 
toe in dark clay stage make-up, winds up the audience again.
	ìYou know,î he says demurely, ìI was reading on the Internet that 
the state of Florida has the best dancers in the country.î
	The audience erupts in cheers.  The more vociferous members around 
me are several backward-baseball-cap-wearing white-male jock types, 
and several frumpy women who would be paid lots of money not to dance 
on tables.  They hoot and holler the loudest because Keenan is 
speaking to them.
	But theyíve got it all wrong.  Keenan is not speaking to them.  
Tool are not speaking to them.  They are speaking at them.  And thatís 
okay.  But thatís only what I think...


Posted to t.d.n: 05/11/97 16:04:37