Publication: Bass Player
Date: March 1997
Transcribed by Jason Sites (email@example.com)
title: Justin Chancellor - expanding alternative's horizons author: Kristian Dunn "It's just playing with words," says Tool bassist Justin Chancellor, when asked about his band's enigmatic new album title, AENIMA (Zoo). "'Anima' is a term for the female side of your psyche, it represents the stuff guys try to avoid but that's always there - the shit you've got to confront and deal with. The 'enema' part of it is a slightly different theme that's more self-explanatory. A lot of the album's songs are about evolution and trying to pry open your third eye." Aenima, Tool's third and latest record, was three years in the making - but it entered the Billboard Top 200 chart at #2, selling almost 150,000 copies in its first week of release. The disc received virtually unanimous critical acclaim, and the tour that followed came very close to selling out. That's not bad for a bunch of guys who formed a band just for fun and to blow off steam. Without any desire for commercial success, Tool created and extremely honest and original brand of dark, heavy, radio-unfriendly rock the would (oddly enough) make them one the most popular acts in the world. It was this honesty that originally attracted Chancellor, who was living in London, to the band. Little did he know he would eventually land a spot in the band. "Years ago I heard Tool's demo tape, and it just kicked my ass!" Justin remembers. "Eventually I came to America and met them in New York; we got on really well and kept in touch. A couple of years later, my band in England, Peach, did a tour with Tool when they came over to Europe." When original bassist Paul D'Amour left to play guitar in Lust, Tool gave Justin a call. "At first I actually turned them down. Peach had broken up about six months before, and I was forming a new band with the guitarist. It was pretty tough; I felt really loyal to this friend of mine, whom I'd played with since I was 14. But then I decided I couldn't deny myself this opportunity." Chancellor flew to the U.S., auditioned, and got the job. He beat out some stiff competition, which included Filter's Frank Cavanagh, KYUSS's Scott Reeder, and Pigmy Love Circus's Marko Fox. When the band's song writing process resumed, Justin was pleased to discover an extremely democratic working environment. "This is the most equal, four-way band I've ever been involved in. We all pull our own weight and motivate each other. A lot of people assume Maynard James Keenan is the main songwriter, since as the singer he gets so much attention-but that's more of a problem for him than us. Outside of the public eye, there is total, mutual respect for each individual in the band." With Chancellor in the picture, Tool began to develop a new, more experimental, epic-sounding style. In order to capture this sound on tape, the quartet felt they had to find exactly the right producer. Although they could have gone with just about anybody in the industry, they chose King Crimson/Peter Gabriel veteran David Bottrill. "We met a lot of people who were kind of the hot producers of the moment, and they all seemed to be able to do a good job-but they had a lot of attitude. We wanted someone who could push the sounds a bit, and we all enjoy King Crimson; that's how we came up with the idea of using David. This new material is a bit broader and more sonically challenging, so we didn't want to use someone who would just nail down a heavy rock sound. He was really the right person." In the studio, Chancellor used almost exclusively a custom-made Wal bass, tuned DADG; on tour, he plays the Wal for almost the entire set. For the song "Prison Sex" (UNDERTOW, Zoo), though, he pulls out a Music Man StingRay, tuned BADG. When asked about strings, Justin laughs, "I have no idea! I've been trying loads of different ones, and I seem to kill them all." He plays through a Demeter preamp, MESA/Boogie M-2000 head, and MESA/Boogie speaker cabinets. He's also begun using a slew of effects, which represents a challenge. "In my old bands, I used to sing," Justin says. "Singing and playing is one thing-but playing and using pedals the whole time is another. It's tough trying to coordinate it all. But I've been experimenting a lot; I've got delay, chorus, flanger, and distortion pedals form Boss, as well as a DigiTech Bass Whammy pedal, which is a lot of fun. When I first got the Whammy I got a little carried away with it; I used it on practically every song! I had to get it out of my system. Now I use it just for little moments, like the beginning of 'Third Eye'. You probably wouldn't even know it's bass; it just sounds like weird noises going on. I also used it on the beginning of 'Eulogy'." Chancellor has a unique approach to writing his lines. "I used to play guitar, so I write my bass lines on guitar most of the time. I think it's a pretty good way of pushing your abilities as a bass player; there is so much more space to play around with. I guess I'm the sort of person who always feels slightly incompetent-but I'm always trying new things, and I think that's important for everyone. You should just keep realizing you're never as good as you can be."