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The Tool Page: An Article

Publication: Metal Hammer

Date: March, 1997

Transcribed by
Henrik Eriksson (fscu7005@liverpool.ac.uk)


  page: 
 title: The misunderstood, but hugely respected, LA quartet
author: Katherine Turman

"I'm appalled at people's stupidity", says Tool drummer Danny Carey,
referring to people's misconceptions about the highly respected, but
often misunderstood, LA band. Katheringe Turman taps into the minds 
of the artistic quartet.

Tool guitarist Adam Jones is backstage at Los Angeles Universial
Amphitheatre, happily brandishing an Epilady razor, a barbaric device for
removing unwanted hair by its roots. So heinous a feminine beauty
contraption, in fact, that it was taken off the market. But Jones is on a
quest, has put the word out, and this one has just arrived - courtesy of a
fan, perhaps? - in the mail. 

As Jones darts off, ecstatic with his new toy, and Tool singer Maynard
James Keenan rushes by, scrawny and shirtless, searching for his young
son, I corner drummer Danny Carey and new bassist Justin Chancellor:  why
the Epilady razors? 

"For noise effects. They have an interesting effect on magnetic pick- ups. 
I tried one on the back of my hand one time", offers the soft-spoken
Carey, who still has the vestiges of his mid-Western accent. "I wish I
hadn't..." 

Since their inception in Los Angeles in 1991 and the 1992 debut EP
'Opiate', Tool have always done things to "interesting effect", pushing
the envelope musically and visually without ever seeming to force it. They
played shows at the controversial Church of Scientology. They write songs
about 'Prison Sex'. Have photos of morbidly obese women inside their 1993
album 'Undertow'. Possesses a near-fanaticism for late comedian Bill
Hicks. 

And two hours hence, Tool will take the stage with Keenan clad only in a
pair of skintight white shorts, half of his body - face and head included
- painted blue. He will then proceed to writhe and vent and contort and in
general, appear to go through a musical and spiritual exorcism on stage. 

Is it any wonder kids spend hours on the Internet, debating the band's
lyrics and speculating on the deep dark world Tool must surely inhabit? 

But, as Carey notes, that's a common misconception, "that we're really
unhappy and negative all the time. I've read, like, three interviews...
First, they keep thinking it's about 'nudity and revolution'. It's kinda
funny sometimes, but I'm also appalled at people's stupidity", says the
drummer, who still occupies the same Hollywood rehearsal space/ apartment
where Tool started. 

"People get tunnel vision, dissecting lyrics, that are secondary to
melodies and harmonies", he continues. " A voice is a beautiful thing, but
when most of our songs are written, Maynard's not even singing words at
the beginning." 

Though the stunning 'Aenima' is easily a classic, it's not an easy record,
and Tool are not a band who can be glossed over with quick descriptions
and categories. Most artists are understandably loath to sum up their work
in a pat phrase, but Keenan, who at this hometown gig is busy with family
and friends, recently told Billboard magazine that a passage by Bill Hicks
in 'Aenima''s 'Third Eye', helps to encapsulate the LP: "He believes in
the human spirit and, in a nutshell, he believes in choosing compassion
over fear, and that sums up our record." 

A hundred listens could yield a hundred meanings to dense tracks like
'Intermission' or the scarily comic 'Die Eier Von Satan', which is
apparently a German voice dictating a cookie recipe. And while there seems
to be a thread tying the album together - and indeed, an entire Tool
philosophy that has run through everything the band has done since it's
inception - 'Aenima' isn't a concept album, though it is an LP that might
be better reviewed by a philosopher/phsyciatrist than a music critic. 

"I'm glad that it kinda appears (to be a concept record)", offers Carey,
who has played with a variety of artists, ranging from Green Jello to
Carole King. "Cos I want the album to be as cohesive an experience as
possible." 

"But concept implies a preconcieved idea and that wasn't what happened at
all", add Chancellor, who joined Tool after the band's former bassist Paul
D'Amour left to pursue his own music in late 1995. "The reason it turned
out that way is because we were all in the same place, physically and
mentally. We wanted to make a fucking awesome record, and we just applied
ourselves." 

For the newest member of Tool, and an Englishman amongst Yanks, Chancellor
seems remarkably well-integrated into the band, an observation cemented by
his performance onstage later, his hair fashioned into devilish horns.
Prior to joining, he was such a big fan of Tool that he olmost didn't care
to audition! 

"I came to a gig in New York with my brother, who had a small record label
in England. We'd got the demo tape and we were just really into it", says
Chancellor, recalling his earliest Tool memories. "We took a trip to New
York when they were there with the Rollins Band and saw them and hung out
and met them all, and every time they came to England, we'd go out for
beers or whatever. My band in England [Peach], we'd play with them in
London, and finally, we did about eight dates with them. We built up a
friendship." 

When the call came to audition for Tool, Chancellor's reaction was one of
"total surprise". 

"He wasn't even going to try out", laughs Carey, shooting a glance over at
his new rhythmic partner. 

"I don't know... I'd been playing with this one guy all my life really,
since I was 14", Chancellor muses. "It was a question of loyalty and
wanting to do the right thing." 

"Also, it was kinda intimidating, because Tool were one of my favourite
bands and I didn't know whether it was just a nice gesture or they really
seriously thought I was good enough. I was in total mental turmoil. And I
thought, 'No, I'll just keep them as my favorite band, and reap all the
benefits that that brings. But I couldn't sleep, so I phoned them
back...". 

"I had to try; otherwise you'd spend the rest of your life, never knowing. 
And the fact that it worked out is another thing altogether!" 

While Keenan now lives in Arizona ("he likes the desert"), the rest of the
band reside in Los Angeles, and you would imagine that coping with the
Tool 'philosophy', moving to a different country and making a record with
King Crimson producer Bill Botrill would be a hard burden to handle. The
Tool ideology is a difficult one for an outsider to pin down, and that
intellectual mystery is a part of the Tool mystique. But Chancellor
managed admirably. 

"I have respect for all the ideas and the subject matter. In my own way, I
do have a similar outlook", begins the new kid on the block. 

"It's a very open-minded state", chimes in Carey. "Just to be willing to
do whatever it takes." 

Or, as the liner notes on 'Aenima' state: "Beliefs allow the mind to stop
functioning". Things that make you ho "hmmm..." 

While Keenan has traded the grime and crime of the city for the space and
loneliness of the desert, Chancellor swopped London for LA (despite the
fact that the 'Aenima' sleeve artwork shows California falling into the
ocean when the picture is looked at from the right angle). 

"It's fine", the bassist says about his new hometown, befora admitting,
"It was really hell to start with. LA's really weird. I wouldn't ever
really choose to live here if it wasn't for the work I'm doing. The work
I'm doing makes it the greatest place in the world". 

For Angelenos, anxious to stay on the musical map, it seemed an
interminable wait for the new albums from both Rage Against the Machine
and Tool - a race in which Tool came in second. 

"I don't think it was anyone else's pressure as much as our own",
acknowledges Carey. "It took a while to do this record. 'Stinkfist' was
one of the first songs we wrote, though it changed a lot along the way.
The first three or four songs were written when Paul was still in the
band." 

But 'Aenima''s adventurous, epic aural landscape proved worth any wait,
and while the band's success in the US hasn't been over the top, right now
Carey is feeling content. 

"I'm pretty comfortable with where we are", the understated drummer muses. 
"You're only as good as the worst seat in the house". 



Tool Los Angeles Universal Ampitheatre (Rating: 4/5) Katherine Turman Metal Hammer, March 1997 A Tool concert is not exactly a feel-good experience... unless two hours of soul-baring, cerebral musings, and references to high colonics and Carl Jung, all musically rendered, is your idea of a good time. These LA based angst-rockers can, however, be cathartic, intense and intentionally provocative, as songs like 'Prison Sex' and gigs at the Hollywood Scientology Centre have proved over the quartet's five-year existence. Singer Maynard James Keenan took the stage clad only in a pair of white, tight shorts, the entire left portion of his body - head and face included - painted in deep blue. Like a performer in some sort of satanic Cirque du Soleil, Keenan, using two microphones (separately) for different vocal effects, writhed his way through songs from the group's two LP's and 'Opiate' EP, backed by a band that has, over the years, progressed from a near-metal line-up to a thoughtful, experimental left-to-centre bunch, without falling out of a general metal/industrial milieu. Indeed, it was Tool's primal, heavy intensity that served them best in this live context. While he is a somewhat understated performer, Adam Jones nonetheless plays with the flair and power of a guitar hero, his varied tones meshing wonderfully with drummer Danny Carey's inventive, but hard-hitting, beats and occasional Middle Eastern influences. A plethora of tunes from the band's well-received new album, 'Aenima', including the stunning title track, kept the young audience in its feet for the duration - despite the fact that, to the uninitiated, a Tool show (much like a White Zombie gig) can sound like one long song - and the intense 'Sober', escalating power of 'Cold and Ugly' and 'Opiate' and the group's current single, 'Stinkfist' (known as 'Track #1', thanks to MTV censors) prove that the band are able to write subversive, strange, industrial-tinged songs, which are nevertheless still deemed worthy of radio airplay. Tool may have served up many introspective musical moments reminiscent of the Doors or King Crimson, but those heady meditative moods are better experienced on album - or perhaps with chemical enhancement and a pair of headphones!


Posted to t.d.n: 04/28/97 02:22:20