the tool page

breathe in union

This site is now an archive; it is no longer being updated. See here and here for details.


select a year

The Tool Page: An Article

Publication: Kerrang!

Date: March, 2001

Transcribed by
Matthew Coleman (

  page: 29
 title: Tool - The Ultimate Interview
author: Ian Winwood

Itís taken them five years to follow-up ëAenimaí. Now TOOL are ready 
to change the face of music once more.

The story youíre about to read is the story of the comeback of the 
year. You might at first think that the story would be about Guns 
NíRoses, but youíd be wrong, GNíR may well return this summer with 
the album of the decade but ñ directed by a frontman 
whose ëeccentricí tendencies appear to border on the insane, a man 
who, at best, might be described as ëanonymousí and an alum that 
anyone has yet to hear ñ there is absolutely no evidence to support 
this claim.

No, the band weíre talking about is Tool. And in exactly two monthsí 
time the band ñ thatís vocalist Maynard James Keenan, drummer Danny 
Carey, guitarist Adam Jones and English-born bassist Justin 
Chancellor ñ will release their third full-length LP, prospectively 
titled ëLateralusí (though God knows that might change), upon an 
obsessively appreciative and manically anticipative audience of two 
million people. And in exactly two monthsí time, you will see, and 
hear, precisely what all this fuss is about.

But weíre getting ahead of ourselves. First of all we have to go back 
to late January and an afternoon spent in Los Angeles talking to 
Tool, at the bandís invitation, at Larrabee South North Studios in 
Universal City on the last day of mixing for the new album. Because 
Tool are a genuine, hard-fought, hard-earned, nuts ëní bolts 
democratic unit ñ a state other bands may well pay lip-service to, or 
aspire to, but a relationship this band genuinely treasure and have 
struggled hard to achieve ñ the interviews are conducted in pairs. 
There is one half hour session with Danny Carey and Adam Jones and 
another with Justin Chancellor and Maynard James Keenan. This is 
preceded by a playback of five songs from the new album, played on 
individual DAT tapes through a five-figure stereo system in a 
listening room at the Larrabee studio. Interspersing all this action, 
in case anyone might be getting too excited and be close to collapse 
beneath the pleasant Californian sunshine, we also have hours and 
hours and hours and hours of hanging around.

Larrabee South North studios is the type of place you feel guilty in, 
even before youíve stolen anything. To the uninitiated ñ and in my 
case, easily lost ñ it is an air conditioned and sound-proofed maze 
containing dozens of rooms, miles of cables, millions of dollars 
worth of state-of-the-art recording equipment, pool tables, coffee 
machines, television rooms, chrome bathrooms and bowls of fresh 
fruit. Oh, and a receptionist who checks your name very carefully on 
her list of who she will and who she wonít let in. In my case she 
looks at me, looks at her list, looks at me again, looks at her list 
again and, finally, without smiling, tells me of the one room in the 
studio Iím allowed to go into. She then calls one of Toolís ëpeopleí ñ
 management assistants and so forth ñ to escort me to where the 
album, or at least part of it, is being played.

To say that the organisation of todayís press junket is exact and 
unsmiling is a little like saying that itís difficult to find 
George ëDubbyaí Bushís direct line number in the ëWashington Yellow 
Pagesí. Yet things could have been much, much worse. At least theyíre 
going to talk to me. I flew out to Los Angeles with one journalist ñ 
thatís a £1,200 flight, all his meals and drinks and Christ knows how 
much for the hotel apartment they put him up in ñ who, upon arriving, 
learned that Tool had decided they werenít going to grant him an 
interview or even allow him up to the studio at all. ìJust go 
shopping,î he was told.

And outside Larrabee studios sits a French writer smouldering with an 
anger so intense you can almost see vapour trails coming from him, He 
received a phone call on his mobile at Charles De Gaulle airport in 
Paris, just as he was about to board the plane to LA International, 
telling him no to bother as he wasnít going to get access to the 
band. He figured heíd chance his arm and go t on the plane anyway. He 
was wrong. Thatís why heís sat outside today, not even allowed to 
enter the studio.

At least Tool are happy to talk to Kerrang!. And at least theyíre 
going to let us hear the new music.

ìOn this album we took the opportunity to just go for it,î is how 
Maynard James Keenan answers that most boring gambit in the lexicon 
of music journalism: ëTell us about your new albumí. ìI believe that 
to be true and I believe that to be a good thing. I think a lot of 
bands start worrying about how they can double a dollar from their 
last event. They tend to pare it down ñ perhaps water it down is a 
better way of putting it-= on their next release. Or they try to 
second-guess what they feel their audience will want. If youíve had 
enough success on one record that your rent is paid, then I would 
that youíve afforded yourself the luxury of going a little crazier, 
of going off at the deep end or of just exploring. I think itís 
unfortunate that most bands donít do that, that they just kind of 
play it safe.î

The one thing Tool will never be accused of is playing it safe. Their 
last album, the exceptional and complex ëAenimaí ñ 
pronounced ëonemaí ñ displayed a heartening faith in the listenerís 
intelligence and, as a consequence, still continues to surprise and 
invigorate almost five years after its release. Not that Toolís faith 
in their audience wasnít repaid. It was, in full. ëAenimaí sold more 
than two-million copies and entered the all-important Billboard 200 
US album chart at number Two (as did its predecessor, ëUndertowí).

To this day, Tool possess a fan-base that is startling in its 
intensity and its militaristic appreciation of the band. In fact, we 
might well be dealing with the worldís most significant ëcultí band 

ìI think the reason that people seem to have such a loyalty to us is 
that the commodity they are searching for is really rare,î is how 
drummer Danny Carey articulately explains this situation. ìMaybe 
these people need something above and beyond the pop songs that are 
everywhere and are inescapable. We offer something thatís not that. 
Our music is alternative to that, and itís harder to find. Itís 
harder for me to find something that I really like, and I find a band 
that I really dig and who sound new and who make me have flashes if 
inspiration, then I become fanatical towards them also. I think it 
goes along with being a little more selective, you know, how rabid 
your fans are.î

Sitting listening to the five new Tool songs which the band have 
deemed ready to play to the handful of journalists and magazines 
theyíre willing to talk to today ñ including ëRolling Stoneí, a 
couple of European titles and a Japanese glossy ñ itís difficult to 
overestimate how far removed these songs are from anything else that 
is happening today. Even in the atmosphere of almost laughable 
solemnity conjured up by five journalists beavering away with 
notepads and frowns under the watchful eye of band management, these 
songs ñ titled ëThe Grudgeí, ëSchismí, ëParabolaí, ëLateralusí 
and ëPatientí ñ are something else. Involved and complex ñ no song is 
under six minutes in length and a couple are nudging the 10 minutes 
mark ñ the collection is impossible to grasp on a first listen. 
Perhaps the best way of describing the power of the music to say that 
the one thing I wanted to do more than anything was to listen to the 
songs again. Any chance of that happening? Not a chance of that 
happening, reckon the management. Just for a laugh, I ask if it would 
be possible to get a tape of the album to take home to England to 
impress my friends. Iím looked at like Iíve just asked if it would be 
possible to grab a couple of naked shots of Maynard James Keenan for 
a private collection.

Yet for a band who profess to hate the ëbusinessí end of the music 
business, Tool are managing to stoke up anticipation for ëLateralusí 
with the sort of skill that go Ken Livingstone elected to the post of 
Mayor of London. The album was produced by David Bottrell (sic) (a 
very pleasant North American, currently living in Bethnal Green, who 
has worked with acts on Peter Gabrielís One World label), was 
recorded at Cello studios on Ocean Way, California, the Hook studios 
in California and mixed at Larrabee South North here in Universal 
City. And thatís all theyíre willing to say. Theyíve thrown out red 
herrings for album titles ñ on one MTC site the title changed every 
day for a whole month ñ and theyëve thrown out red herrings for song 
titles. They even messed with your head when it came to who would be 
producing the LP, when they floated the rumour that priapic porn star 
Ron Jeremy ñ a man more concerned with erection than production ñ 
might be taking the helm at the recording console.

Even a fortnight back, during a supplementary phone interview with 
Danny Carey, Tool were still loathe to reveal anything about their 
new record. Apart from the fact that, as yet, no-one from the record 
company has heard it ñ in fact, your reporter is the only person in 
the UK to have heard anything at all ñ and the small matter of all 
those executives up on the fifth floor getting just a little bit 
angsty about that fact.

ìI hope no-one thinks weíre being cynical,î says Danny Carey.

Maynard James Keenan talks with a voice so quiet that transcribing 
this interview involved holding a tape recorder to the left ear and 
typing, one-handed, with the right. Keenan also has a reputation for 
being a ëdifficultí subject, either to interview or to photograph 
(one Kerrang! Photographer professes his love for Tool and A Perfect 
Circle to be surpassed only by his desire to punch Maynard James 
Keenan in the mouth).

Today, though, he appears to be on good form. Itís getting late in 
the day ñ nine hours after listening to the music in the playback 
room ñ when we finally get to sit down together, along with the 
rustic and handsome looking Justin Chancellor, to get something down 
on tape. Although diminutive in stature, Keenan appears charismatic 
in a gentle kind of a way. Wearing a denim jacket and tan-leather 
trousers, the shaven-headed frontman (he sports an array of wigs in 
public to aid his anonymity; the Tool 2001 model is a short, 
strawberry blonde flat-top) asks if Iíd mind if we do the interview 
in the dark, with just the glow from the glass panelling at the side 
of the door for light, apologises in advance in case heís called into 
the mixing room to hear a new take on Toolís work in progress, and 
sits down to listen to the questions. Speaking carefully and with 
perfectly constructed sentences ñ absolutely unheard of in an age of 
musicians whose entire vocabulary is made up of the 
words ìlikeî, ìshitî and ìyou knowî ñ Keenan begins slowly, sharing 
each answer with Justin Chancellor. Then he warms up and starts to 
open up the conversation.

Keenan professes to be a little nervous about returning with Tool 
after so long, a little apprehensive about whether the bandís 
audience will still be as attentive to their unique challenges and 
charms. Later in the interview he concludes they will. He talks about 
his experiences with the bandís last two record labels ñ the now 
defunct Zoo label and, later, Volcano ñ and the struggle Tool had 
trying to extricate themselves from the arms of the latter in a legal 
dispute that ate up so much of the bandís time. He then talks about 
the difficult y of maintaining a creative edge when business 
frustrations seem to swamp everything he and the band try to do.

ìThe whole record industry is almost designed to pull a band apart,î 
believes Justin Chancellor. ìWe reached the point where we all had to 
say, ëStop!í. And we had to think back to what it was that we loved 
about this thing that we are doing before all this other stuff got in 
the way. And we had to dig in and get back to that. Thereís no doubt 
that did involve a lot of personal growth and communication between 

The conversation drifts to the time when Tool first emerged, blinking 
enigmatically into the light, with their ëOpiateí EP in 1992. Looking 
over oneís shoulder at that period of time ñ a time, lest we forget, 
of Nirvana, of Soundgarden, of Faith No more, of Ministry ñ itís 
difficult not get (sic) dewy-eyed and nostalgic as the 10-year 
anniversary approaches. Maynard James Keenan, philosophically, seems 
to agree.

ìYou have to figure that the beautiful thing that Tool and Nirvana 
and Soundgarden and the Melvins and Rage Against The Machine and Nine 
Inch Nails and all those bands brought to the table was an ëindieí 
sensibility,î he says. ìAll of a sudden you didnít have to listen to 
corporate America, where record companies and radio stations told you 
what you had to do. In fact you should go against what these 
interests tell you because itís your responsibility as an artist to 
defy them. And I think what happened was that all of those bands got 
caught up in that sensibility of not doing anything to take a stand.

ìBut the quarterly numbers have to be kept up,î he continues, ìso the 
record companies and businessmen went and found themselves the chumps 
and the clowns who would allow them to keep those numbers up, the 
chumps and the clowns who would jump through whatever hoops the 
record companies and businessmen asked them to jump thoughtÖî

Who are you talking about specifically?

ìThe chumps and the clowns,î Keenan replies, after a pause and a 
smile. ìI donít want to get specific; theyíve made their choices and 
they know who they are. I guess those choices were made for the very 
best of reasons, but I didnít make those choices so of course I can 
criticise. Thatís just my point of view, I may be completely wrong. 
But what happens is that you have all this vacant space and even that 
which is mediocre will fill it up. And itís our fault for leaving 
space, really. If weíd have been more prolificÖî

When you say ëweí youíre referring toÖ?

ìAll of us really. The Nirvanas, the Nine Inch Nails, Rage, 
Soundgarden,î he says, gently wafting his hand through the air. ìAll 
of us. If weíd have been a bit more diligent about our mission and 
had filled up the spaces a little more then there would have been a 
little less of them and little bit more of us. ëCos thereís a finite 
number of magazine covers and thereís a finite number of hours in the 
day for radio stations to play music, so all we need to do is create 
from the heart in order to offer our contribution as to what should 
fill up those spaces. And people will respond from the heart.

ìBut I donít want to be as pretentious as to suggest we were 
responsible for the downfall of music or anything. I donít think our 
role is that important. But I do worry that it might now be a little 
too late. I thought that the Nine Inch Nails record (ëThe Fragileí) 
was an _incredible_ record, I loved it, but nobody heard it. It 
didnít have any singles on it and all this other stuff was clogging 
up the pipe, so people missed it. The Rage record (ëThe Battle of Los 
Angelesí) did okay, but it didnít do as greats as it should have done 
because thatís a great record too. Itís a _great record_. So itís 
hard to say, I like this new Tool record, but we might have waited 
too long. Who knows?î

Another thing Maynard James Keenan is suspicious of ñ he appears to 
dismay of it, actually ñ is the cult of anger and victimisation that 
seems to permeate music at this moment. People being angry or 
wounded, people looking for something to be angry or wounded about. 
Broken homes, slapped arses, anything.

ìI think so much of this stuff seems to display a false sense of 
anger,î is his opinion. ìI think that when you go back and look at 
the reality of some of these kidsí lives and their upbringing, well 
the whole thing just doesnít seem to add up. Letís see, how does 
living in a five-bedroom house with one other sibling and having a 
pool, and a car at the age of 16Ö gee, how must that have been for 
you? That must have been so tough on you.î

Itís like the white manís burden, isnít it?

ìThatís exactly what itís like, yeah,î he agrees. ìI think a lot of 
what this is about ñ and I donít think Iím being unusually perceptive 
when I say this ñ is that people have figured out a way of selling 
records on the anger of what I would call ëMom and Dadí situations.î

Where exactly Tool stand in relation to all these ìchumps and 
clownsî, amid all this ìmom and dadî anger, is a fascinating point. 
The band are obviously suspicious of the business end of the music 
industry ñ not an accusation one could ever level at, say, Fred 
Durst, for example ñ and have no desire whatsoever for such totems of 
success as their own vanity imprint record label o their own set of 
gold-plated keys to the executive bathroom as company Vice 
Presidents. And good for them. Tool do, however, display a keen, 
relentless desire to control everything they do, because, after all, 
they realise, the buck stops with them. So they take responsibility 
for their actions. This stretches to their attitude to the press ñ 
although every member of the band was courteous and accommodating, I 
couldnít shake the idea that Tool were holding a deeply artistic 
loathing for my profession just beneath the surface ñ and even the 
fact that, for the first time since Guns NíRoses released their ëUse 
Your Illusioní sets a decade back, not a single review copy 
of ëLateralusí will be making its way to a single magazine in any 
country in the world.

ìI think weíve come to break down the barriers between what people 
expect from a popular rock or alternative band,î believes Maynard 
James Keenan. ìWhether that be in the format of the songs, the 
structure of the songs, the different lengths of the songs, the 
videos ñ all of those things. Another thing that helps me get back to 
what I was supposed to be doing, artistically, with Tool was going 
off and doing A Perfect Circle. That was great because, once again, 
we as Tool ñ or at least I as part of Tool, I being an extension of 
that ñ proved that the industry doesnít want you to be anything other 
than that thing they know you as. So I proved that if you have a 
solid audience if you have people who appreciate what you do as an 
artist, then theyíre not going to pre-judge what it is youíre trying 
to do.

ìSo we put a band together, went out and toured it and now it has a 
complete life of its own, in and of itself. And itís almost a 
completely separate audience. When do A Perfect Circle shows, the 
kids are outside holding their A Perfect Circle CDs and itís those 
they want signing, not ëUndertowí or ëOpiateí. So I think itís Tool 
fans ñ mostly guys, if Iím being honest ñ telling their sister, who 
theyíve been trying to get to listen to Tool forever, to now listen 
to A Perfect Circle. So now we as artists have proven, once again, 
that you can break the boundaries. You just have to really want to do 

I came to the Larrabee studio thinking thee might be a story to be 
had involving a conflict between the other three members of Tool and 
Maynard James Keenan: vis-ý-vis the time the singer spent touring A 
Perfect Circleís excellent ëMer De Nomsí set ñ itself a million-
selling album in the United States ñ and the fact that ëLateralusí 
has taken more than four years to produce. Not so.

ìA lot of journalists and interviewers come in and say, ëWell, this 
alum was four years in the making,î says guitarist Adam Jones. ìItís 
like, ëNo itís not!í. We didnít finish the last album and then start 
working on this one right away, you know?î

ìYeah, we toured for like two years and then fought with the record 
company for a year,î smiles Danny Carey.

So with regard to Maynard and his involvement with A Perfect Circle, 
did this hold up the arrival of ëLateralusí to any degree?

ìHmmm,î draws Carey, slowly. ìMaybe. Very slightly.î

Even if it did ñ and thereís no evidence to suggest that it did ñ 
neither Danny Carey nor Adam Jones seems to mind. The pair were my 
first interview of the day ñ five hours before my second interview of 
the day ñ and proffered much of the background information scattered 
around this story. Little facts such as Tool being a true democratic 
unit that stretches as far as each member taking an equal share of 
whatever royalties and the money the band earn. Such as the fact 
tension existed between the four of them during the making of the 
album ñ nothing unusual there ñ and that tension existed between the 
four of them during their period of litigation with Volcano records ñ 
a fact, and a situation, which was unusual.

But, still, all the time I talk to Danny Carey and Adam Jones, I 
couldnít shake a quote from the back cover of the Bret Easton Ellis 
novel ëGlamoramaí from my head. The quote says, ëWeíll slide down the 
surface of thingsí, which is very much what Carey and Jones appeared 
to be doing. They are polite, talking at length ñ the guitarist with 
melodic, Californian tones; Carey with a voice so low it might 
actually work as a cure for constipation ñ but both seemed reluctant 
to speak specifically on anything other than a few subjects. During 
the subsequent phone interview with Danny, I attempted to broach the 
subject of Toolís interest in Enochian and Crowlean magick, and the 
mystique that envelops Tool on this front. Nothing doing there. Does 
it work like a spell, I wondered? Is it like a religion, perhaps? We 
could have been on the phone for a fortnight and I still would have 
been none the wiser.

One of the things the pair did seem happy to discuss, however, was 
Tool itself. And how four years away have changed each member both as 
individuals and as a band.

ìOur band is based on the foundation of friendship,î says 
Adam. ìThere is a fundamental friendship there, there is respect. 
Whereas you look at other bands who have recently broken upÖî

Here Adam Jones looks at me, pauses for a moment, says, ìOkay,î like 
Iím an idiot, and carries on.

ìÖWell, they got together because this guy was a good drummer, and 
this guy was good guitar player, and this guy could sing and blah, 
blah, blah. And all of them hate each other. And all of them cannot 
stand to be in the same room as one another.î

Oh, right! Youíre talking about Rage Against The Machine, arenít you?

Adam Jones has a smile as wide as his face now.

ìI never said that!î he says. ìI never said that.î

One of the things that cements Toolís solidarity as a band, even in 
times of relative trouble, is a sense of maturity and an ability to 
communicate ñ ìwhich is probably why weíre still togetherî, reveals 
Danny ñ with one another on a level that appears to transcend the 
egos and divisions that so often sour the chemistry of a successful 

Then again, Tool are in the enviable position of being successful 
without actually being all that famous. Or all that recognisable.

ìThat whole ëfameí thing is just not the course weíve chosen to 
take,î explains Danny. ìItís something weíve never really pushed, 
because the music seems to fill that space for us, rather than us 
having to plaster our faces all over our records. Itís become a 
convenient thing now. I can o out and watch our support bands, even 
at our own shows, and people donít recognise me. And thatís great. I 
wouldnít trade that for anything. Not at this point anyway. At the 
time, I never really realised how fortunate we all were that it 
worked out that way. Itís really something.î


ìWeíve been told by people that weíre going to have to start to 
embrace fame and celebrity a little bit,î says Adam. ìThey say that 
with the position weíre getting into that itís going to be 
unavoidable. But weíre going to try and hang on to what weíve got for 
as long as we can.î

Weíll end where we began, with the upcoming release of ëLateralusí. 
Last December, US music magazine ëAlternative Pressí ran an end-of-
year special on the most fervently anticipated releases of 2001. 
There were plenty of successful or significant bands in the issue ñ 
Stone Temple Pilots, Sugar Ray, Incubus ñ but it was Tool who made 
the cover. The tag-line racing across the front screamed ëTheir first 
interview in years!í like it was really something to trumpet. Which 
it was.

And itís not difficult to see why. It sounds terribly pompous to 
suggest that music needs the return of Tool, but music does need the 
return of Tool. After all, if a figure like Disturbedís ëMadí Davey 
Draiman ñ someone who stares glassy-eyed whenever the topic of 
conversation stretches further than himself personally ñ can 
seriously be countenanced as a man of intelligence, then something 
has to give. If a band like Limp Bizkit can have their phenomenal 
commercial success mistaken for a creative achievement rather than a 
triumph of marketing then something has to give. And this just might 
be it.

ìYeah, I think so,î is how Maynard James Keenan responds when asked 
if he thinks enough of Toolís fans will have endured the wait to 
make ëLateralusí a commercial success. ìI think so. I think thereís 
always that dangerous Spinal Tap line of our audience becoming more 
selective, but I think theyíll still be around. Even if itís based on 
the last record, how people have discovered that and how it continues 
to be discovered, even now, almost five years later. If you look at 
the catalogue chart (Billboardís listing system for back catalogue 
albums which have fallen out of the Top 200 but continue still to 
sell, albums such as AC/DCís ëBack in Blackí or Metallicaís ëBlack 
Albumí) it proves that weíre getting new fans all the time, that new 
fans are coming to the table all the time.

ìI guess the cool thing about it is we make the music we make because 
we listen to each other,î states the frontman, by way of a 
conclusion. ìWeíre not concerned with outside influences too much, 
which puts us in a position of great artistic strength. The last 
album I think had lots to chew over a period of time. And now weíre 
about to release another records that has even more to chew on.î

ëLateralusí is released on May 15.
The ëSalivalí box set is out now.

Posted to t.d.n: 03/15/01 16:41:23