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The Tool Page: An Article

Publication: SLAMM Magazine

Date: March, 1997

Transcribed by
Jeremy Holmes (Shift619@aol.com)


  page: 
 title: Tool Time
author: Scot Tempesta

Tool is quite possibly the scariest band in the world. They don't
achieve this with any of the obvious methods of trendy posturing, 
posing or fronting. No black leather, tattoos or body piercings. What 
makes Tool so intimidating is their honesty. Why is honesty so scary? 
In a world of trendmongers, flip-floppers and wannabes, Tool presents 
a vision which is singularly their own: a no-compromise musical 
powerhouse steeped in lyrical imagery that is dark, brooding and 
compelling.
        
Formed in 1991, Tool is compromised of singer Maynard James Keenan,
guitarist Adam Jones, Danny Carey on drums and Justin Chancellor 
playing bass. Paul D'Amour was the original bass player, but he left 
the band in 1995 due to the often-used "creative differences."  
(D'Amour is in a new band called Luze. Their debut album will be out 
sometime this year.)
        
Tool released their first and heaviest effort to date, the EP Opiate 
in 1992. Somewhat mistakenly, Tool was quickly lumped in with bands 
like Rage Against the Machine, but their first full-length release, 
Undertow, with it's multi-layered, deeply textured sound just as 
quickly put Tool in a league of their own, where they gladly reside 
today. Over three years in the making, their latest release, Aenima, 
debuted at #2 on the Billboard charts in October of last year, and is 
still near the top in the Alternative, Loud Rock and College charts.
        
Aenima is an album so varied in its delivery that it cannot simply be
labeled "alternative" or "metal."  Blindingly intense and numbingly
relentless, it is a sonic tour de force.
        
Though they are in the middle of an enormous European, Australian and
American tour (Tool will be appearing at RIMAC Arena March 16), I had 
the chance to speak with drummer Danny Carey about the band. Despite 
the cliched image of a egomaniacal, demonic rock star, I found Carey 
to be thoughtful, articulate and considerate with his answers. The 
band members are all in their late twenties and early thirties, and 
Carey embodies a certain maturity that goes along with that age group. 
As obviously talented as Carey and his mates, he came across as a 
genuinely nice guy who is serious about his art and very normal at the 
same time. It was refreshing to experience such a human element behind 
Tool's often other-worldly music.

SLAMM:  First of all, I'd like you to tell us the essence of Tool. I 
had read that one reason why the name Tool was chosen for the band was 
so that it could be a tool to learn and gain from. What do you expect 
your listeners to learn from Tool?

Danny:  I think the most important thing is that everybody is going to 
hear and interpret the band in their own way; it varies completely 
with the individual and is so subjective. At a show, one person might 
be up front banging their head, where somebody in the back of the hall 
might just be listening to what is happening and taking in the energy 
and the light in a different way. We don't force any preconceived 
things, it is not a certain lesson we're trying across to people.  
It's just about freedom for us. We're not trying to establish a 
specific theme by our music, it's more about artistic expression, 
which is what I think art is about.

SLAMM:  If there was one word to describe the message that best 
represents Tool, what would it be?

Danny:  Evolution.

SLAMM:  Let's talk about the new record. I assume the spelling of 
Aenima has a purpose?

Danny:  We just liked the Greek letter of the A and E together, but 
the word is anima that you'll find in the dictionary, which is a 
Jungian term meaning the opposite side of your psyche. For example, in 
a male it would be your female side, and for a female it would be the 
male side.

SLAMM:  I understand that the band spent two years in the South of 
France writing the new album. How did that inspire you in a way that, 
say, San Francisco wouldn't have?

Danny:  Well, any place can be inspiring, it just would have been a 
different record, I suppose. There are certain geographical locations 
that are known to have more power in them, and the location we chose 
in France is a very powerful spot.

SLAMM:  Powerful in what way?

Danny:  Just in the way that there is an energy there that was very
conductive to creating.

SLAMM:  When Aenima debuted at #2 on the Billboard charts, how much of 
a surprise was that?

Danny:  Not too much, actually, because we knew that it was going to 
go very high just because we had taken so long to get the record out 
and there was a lot of anticipation from fans and industry people as 
well. And then when we mastered the record and knew what we had, we 
knew it was going to do well. We thought that it would go very high 
for the first week. What is surprising, though, is the way that it is 
still doing pretty well. In the Billboard charts today it is still 
somewhere in the fifties. It is easy to have a flash in the pan 
record. That's what most records are constructed to be these days:  
ten songs thrown together to get played on the radio.

SLAMM:  Have you geared any of your material towards radio?

Danny:  None of our focus has ever been towards radio airplay.  We try 
to make an album and I think that in general albums that have some 
sort of cohesive factor tend to last a bit longer.  Our album mix is 
more as a whole, where as I think most records aren't.

SLAMM:  Aenima appears to have crossed over a number of format lines. 
It seems to be a favorite of alternative, metal and hard rock fans and 
radio stations. As such, Tool is a band that in many ways defies 
categorization and labeling. Have you made a conscious effort at not 
being typecast?

Danny:  It's not like we do anything intentionally to stay out of 
these pigeonholes. We try to keep our ideas as free flowing as 
possible and let them grow into whatever they can be. When we are 
composing, we keep the song first in our mind and not force it into 
anything, but just to let everything develop on its own. We maybe get 
a sound that is a bit more unique because we are not trying to control 
it in any way.

SLAMM:  There is the line in "Eulogy" that says "To ascend you must 
die/you must be crucified/For your sins and your lies/Goodbye." Beyond 
the religious implications is the song about anybody in particular?

Danny:  It's not about any specific person. It's about anyone who has
delusions of grandeur, thinking that they might be a martyr, and if 
they want to live that way then they should die that way.

SLAMM:  "Stinkfist" was the first single and "H." is the new one. The 
lyrics in "H.," as in most other songs, create certain images. Are the 
words meant to have a literal translation?

Danny:  In our method of composing, Maynard is singing in the room 
with us, but he's not really singing words. The words are an 
afterthought. And the words and lyrics are about 90% Maynard's 
interpretation. We don't place that much significance on them. We want 
people to interpret the music and get their own inspiration out of it. 
That's what we hope for, anyway. That's why we don't put the words in 
the record, either, because people will latch onto them heavily. If 
words were so important, compared to the light and energy that is 
going on the stage, then people would be selling out spoken word 
shows. Which they aren't. The music is what the emphasis is on in our 
band.

SLAMM:  You mentioned the importance of evolution as it relates to the 
band. "Forty-six & 2" off the new album seems to address this theme, 
correct? And what does "Forty-six & 2" mean?

Danny:  "Forty-six & 2" is a DNA chromosome count. And in the song we 
use it as a metaphor for evolution and change. Right now, humans have 
forty-four plus two, and supposedly the next step in our evolution 
will be the addition of a couple more chromosomes.

SLAMM:  When Tool played here [San Diego] last October, I was 
impressed with how powerful and clean the sound was, which is 
something that is very unusual for a band with such a marked ability 
to be loud. How do you achieve that?

Danny:  Hats off to our sound man, Pete. He's our interpreter for each 
night, and we have to depend on him to be the link between us and the 
audience. I've heard lots of comments like yours, and it makes me feel 
good to know what a great job he's doing.

SLAMM:  You guys are in the middle of a lengthy tour and just returned 
from Europe. How is Tool received in places like Germany and Belgium?

Danny:  Much better than before. We're getting bigger there now. We're 
still about one record behind there because Undertow laid the 
groundwork there instead of our first album. But we were received very 
well, and I think most of the shows sold out, so there's no complaint.

SLAMM:  I've talked to other bands who didn't like Europe. How about 
you?

Danny:  I enjoyed touring Europe--there's a lot more sightseeing and 
things like that. I've already been around America enough times, but 
we do tend to get more work done when we tour here because there 
aren't as many distractions.

SLAMM:  I've been fascinated by the way that Maynard's vocals often 
have a floating, detached quality to them. Is there a special effort 
to this sound?

Danny:  It's just what happens when Maynard is in the room with the 
rest of us. What we all do individually is just a reaction to the  
other members in the band. We just find the things that fit the song 
at that time. Maynard is just gifted with a really good voice that's 
flexible which gives the potential for a lot of different effects 
through just his throat alone. He carries a lot of compassion through 
his voice, and I think it makes it a little more difficult to listen 
to because there's a wider emotional range that he is conveying.  
There's just more depth, and I think it gives the music more power, 
but maybe some people are uncomfortable to hear that when someone 
bares their soul like Maynard does.

SLAMM:  How has the band evolved?

Danny:  Kind of in the obvious ways. We're not just growing as 
players. There's nothing preconceived about our direction. We're 
hoping that we are learning how to make better records and how to work 
better with each other to create songs that are better vehicles for 
everyone to hear. We haven't really changed anything that we do since 
we started the band. We just play music for ourselves and since we can 
be sincere about that, I think that it makes it easier for the songs 
to translate to people. As a band, I think that all cylinders are 
firing.

Posted to t.d.n: 05/10/97 17:56:52