Publication: SLAMM Magazine
Date: March, 1997
Jeremy Holmes (Shift619@aol.com)
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