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A TOOL-Related Article

Publication: Circus Magazine

Date: May 31, 1994

Transcribed by

 title: A Sober Look At Tool
author: Katherine Turman

        Pain is good. At least it's useful to the band Tool. "[It's]
really about just making pain work for you instead of against you,"
says drummer Danny Carey, summing up the L.A. band's philosophy.
        You can hear the pain in the dark, tortured tones of the fast-
rising aggro-rock band's full-length debut album Undertow. It's in
self hating lyrics like "I am just a worthless liar, I am just an
imbecile, trust in me and fall as well," from the song "Sober". It's
in guitarist Adam Jones' screeching riffs, and in Maynard James 
Keenan's mournful vocals and compelling, spookily insect-like stage
        It's also in the weird images of Tool's nightmarish "Sober"
video. In line with the make-pain-work-for-you philosophy, the video
is inspired by a drug-addicted acquaintance of the band, and centers 
on the anguish of a grotesque, jesus-like character. The grey, dismal
clip has sent chills down the spine of many an MTV viewer recently
and is gaining Tool some well-deserved attention.
        The band first came to prominence during it's stint on the
Lollapalooza '93 road show. Though they spent half the tour on the 
side stage, their intense performances drove Undertow to No. 52 on
Billboard. Later, when America's venerable music critics, Mssrs.
Beavis and Butt-head, pronounced the "Sober" video "cool", Tool was
a shoo-in as alternative's next up-and-comers.
        Jones, a veritable renaissance man who's also a filmmaker and 
an artist, is the twisted genius behind the "Sober" video. He built
the creepy dude and the yucky "meat tunnel" in the clip, which was
produced and edited by the band.
        He's also the madman responsible for Undertow's depressing
cover design, with it's images of a pronged pig with "undertow"
shaved into it's hide and an obese, naked woman huddled in a fetal
position. We won't even go into the necrophilic Polaroid on the 
Opiate cover (Tool's debut EP).
        The bands painful views are fashioned by a 1949 book by crop-
duster-cum-philosopher Ronald P. Vincent, A Joyful Guide to 
Lachrymology. "Where there is no pain, there is neither the reason
nor the desire to think or create," Vincent wrote. The book,
essentially a guide to feeding off the pain in life, serves as a 
sort of informal bible for the band.
        Though Vincent's ideas enjoyed a modicum of success in the
1950's, he ultimately wound up down and out in Los Angeles. Jones met
the derilect Vincent in 1988 just before his death and hipped the
rest of the group onto lachrymology (the study of crying). And while
all this sounds a bit heavy, Carey points out that Tool is not as
sober as it might seem.
        "People always thought we were a lot more serious than we
really are," says the soft-spoken drummer, "but still, we're just guys
playing music, and we have a good time and that's what it comes down
to. And that's why this band has lasted so long. Everyone has a good
sense of humor, and we spend all our time on the road watching
comedians and horrible movies we find funny-Caddyshack for instance.
It's not like a constant debate about philosophy and metaphysics".
        The lineup came together in 1990. Keenan and Carey were
memberas of daffy rockers Green Jello-now Green Jelly. (Keenan
actually sang the high voice-"not by the hair of my chinny chin chin"-
on the "Three Little Pigs"). Jones, originally from Illinois, was
working in the motion picture industry and helped Green Jello with
it's costumes. The three became friends and met bassist Paul D'Amour
(originally from Spokane, Washington) through an art-world friend of
        Started as just a bit of fun, Tool earned a record deal with
Zoo after a mere three months of band-dom. To date, Undertow has sold
over 600,000 copies, and if the bands next slice of aural and visual
pain, "Prison Sex"-which explores the consequences of child abuse-
has the expected effect on the conciiousness of hungry rock fans, that
number will be increasing. But for Carey-laundry strewn around his
comfortably disheveled, large, industrial-style home-office-rehearsal
space-life goes on.
        "Nothing's changed in my life," he says, "since I quit my day
job [working in a tape duplicating place]. All the stuff from the
royalty companies is so far backlogged, we still haven't even gotten  
anything from Opiate. You know? I expected to at least get a check
for like 50 cents or something. I suppose it will be a big thrill if
I get a gold record, then I can send it to my mom so she can go `I
don't have to feed my son anymore!'"

kabir/akhtar | kabir@t.d.n