Publication: Rock Sound
Date: May, 2001
Matthew Coleman (email@example.com)
Matthew Coleman (firstname.lastname@example.org)
page: 26 title: The Art of Noise author: Tool don’t make music, they make art, according to Maynard James Keenan who’s back from moonlighting with A Perfect Circle to put rock music back on track. There are many words to describe Tool’s music but conventional certainly isn’t one of them. Formed in LA in 1991 by guitarist Adam Jones (a special effects designer by day who worked on such films as Terminator 2 and Jurassic Park) and Maynard James Keenan who’d recently moved to the West Coast after leaving the army; the band were completed by Danny Carey on drums and Paul D’Amour on bass. In 1992 they released their debut EP ‘Opiate’ followed in 1993 by their debut full-length album, ‘Undertow’. Combining dark, unusual songs with twisted angry lyrics, it plundered from the deepest recesses of Keenan’s tortured mindset. Featuring the songs ‘Sober’ and ‘Prison Sex’, the latter an attempt by Keenan to come to terms with the abuse he suffered at the hands of his father, ‘Undertow’ eventually went platinum Stateside while the video for ‘Sober’, featuring stunning special effects produced by Adam Jones, won Tool the ‘Best New Artist’ at the Billboard Video Awards. By 1996, Paul D’Amour had departed and the British born Justin Chancellor was enlisted into the band. Chancellor had formed his own band, Peach, and had supported Tool during one of their rare UK appearances. This was also the year of ‘Ænima’, their eagerly awaited follow up second album. Sylvia Massy (sic), who produced the first two records, was replaced by David Bottrill. Aenima debuted on the US music chart at number two and established Tool as one of the foremost metal bands in the States. Many UK bands admit to being heavily influenced by Tool’s unique sound (earthtone9 and Miocene being prime examples), but their unconventional style has kept their appeal selective. Now, it’s 2001, Tool are busy at Larrabee South North Studios, in Universal City, CA putting the finishing touches to their latest studio record, ‘Lateralus’ – possibly the most anticipated album since Trent Reznor unleashed ‘The Fragile’. Tool fans eager for new material were given a recent reprieve with the recent release of ‘Salival’, a DVD featuring the band’s videos and an audio CD featuring live and previously unreleased material. But it’s the new record that everybody’s waiting for. Rock Sound is played five tracks from the new record: ‘Patient’, ‘The Grudge’, ‘Schism’, ‘Lateralus’ and ‘Parabola’. It’s Tool alright (sic)! With some songs even running through the 10-minute barrier. Afterwards, we’re escorted to a room where we’re told to wait for what seems like an unfeasibly long time before the door swings open and Maynard James Keenan and Justin Chancellor enter. Before the recording of ‘Lateralus’ got under way, Keenan was occupying his time as frontman for Billy Howerdel’s A Perfect Circle, but it’s with Tool that he feels most at home. He’s softly spoken and thinks very carefully before he answers any of the questions put to him. Chancellor talks in a distinguished deep British tone and two seem to have a good rapport going on as we begin. What was the band’s state of mind when you started recording the new album? MK: This time I think it was vastly different. Many of these songs have been kinda evolving over many years, just pieces – not even finished arrangements. About a year ago we narrowed down which pieces we were going to develop and started arranging things in more of a final state. Normally when we go into the studio we have everything pretty much figured out before we go in. It’s completely rehearsed so we know exactly what we want. We listen back to demos and go ‘Okay I really wanna get this effect’ so we know precisely what we’re doing. When we go into the studio we do something in a certain way where we know that we’re gonna do this thing to it, or that; we plan it out. This time it wasn’t quite as planned out – things were arranged, like 95% complete. It was an interesting experience ‘cos it left space for growth and room to kinda shift one way or another with the final pieces. JC: Some of the music – certain sections – were left open till we were in the studio so we were able to kinda be creative in the moment while we recorded it. Were you trying to capture the spontaneity of a live recording? MK: There are definitely some pieces that have more of an organic feel. Like I said before, the organic nature in the music ends up taking place before we go into the studio so even in the other records there’s that nature to it, but it’s something we explored before we recorded it. This time we went in without having finished our experimentation – so it was a bit terrifying. Why did you decide to work with Dave Bottrill again for this new album? MK: He has a good ear. He’s a wonderful engineer with wonderful ideas, a truly...great producer. Silvia Massy (sic) produced your 1993 debut ‘Undertow’, why did you decide to work with Dave Bottrill when you did ‘Ænima’? JC: He’s worked on some albums that we really liked. With Peter Gabriel he did the ‘Passion’ album... MK: The Real World stuff as well... JC: And King Crimson...he was kind of appealing ‘cos of the different variety of sounds that he’s worked with. I think on the last album we had some more experimental sounds that we wanted to capture, and he seemed to work them out. Are you happy with the outcome or would you have liked to spend longer on some of the tracks? MK: Possibly, but there comes a time when you have to leave it and just finish it. JC: Yeah you could go on forever. It’s good to have a little bit of discipline. Why did you decide to release the live record ‘Salival’ so soon before the release of the new record? It seems like a strange thing to do. JC: Unconventional maybe, but we were always gonna release the videos – that’s been a long time coming, just to make them available. Then we decided to add a bit of live stuff to make it a nicer package. It’s been a while since anything’s been out and we really didn’t see the harm in it. It’s a very different thing to what our album’s going to be like. Tool’s music has always been seen as unconventional – how accessible is the new album? MK: I don’t know, we’re in the middle of it. JC: We’re too close... MK: I guess the songs are longer so if you’re a lazy person yeah it’s gonna be a hard record to get into. But if you’re a fan of music and you appreciate what musicians do then there’s plenty to listen to here. Where do you see Tool fitting into the current music scene? MK: I think in light of what’s out there right now, people need something. Something they can sink their teeth into, something that they know they can come back to and rediscover more in it as they go. Speaking in terms of film have you ever seen Wings of Desire? (A movie directed by the acclaimed Wim Wenders) With a film like that you can see it again and again and keep finding more in it. I think that that’s what this band is about. This band is definitely for somebody where we make these pieces that are something that you can come back to, and whatever issues you’re going through in your personal life you might find a song on the record that is very much suited to that particular struggle. Most bands that are out nowadays, they’re not really making movies they’re more like commercials. Their heart isn’t really into it. Do you consider making a record as producing a piece of art? MK: Absolutely, there’s an artistic approach to this music. I think speaking in terms of what would be considered progressive rock, say Pink Floyd or King Crimson, or bands like Yes, I think we’re picking up where they left off. Their music is very much in the head and very much kind of a left brain. I think what Tool brings to this kind of music is more heart, more emotional aspects to the intellectualised music – so it’s a wide spectrum that involves the heart and the head and that way we’ve evolved where they’ve left off. What was the most difficult part of recording the new record? JC: Probably deciding to start the process. You get to a point where you have to decide ‘Okay we’re gonna go in and actually capture this now’ ‘cos a lot of the creativity comes in the moment. You eventually put yourself under the gun and try and capture that and it’s hard to make that decision... What was the most enjoyable part? MK: Just hearing it – hearing it played back. When a song is finished, hearing how all the pieces have been put together and the nuances that have come out. When you’re rehearsing in a space you can’t really hear all the nuances of what everybody’s doing. I’m gonna be hearing something that another band member’s doing and then responding. But that person hasn’t heard me responding to what they’ve done yet so it’s really interesting to finally be in a room and go, ‘Oh yeah, they were listening to me’. So you’ve got good communication between band members then? MK: Yes, absolutely, this record has been about re-establishing communication ‘cos you get caught up in all the crap that goes along with being in this business and you forget why you got into it. You really have to think back to what it is that made you wanna be here and remember that. JC: Especially the four of us all contributing musically. It’s a very important thing for us to deal with our problems and make that communication happen. When you talk about the crap, do you mean the business side of the band? MK: Yeah, it’s a cancer. We didn’t get together to open up an office and send each other faxes or become lawyers. When you’re forced to do that with each other, you’re in an awkward position because you start to really resent each other because you don’t wanna be doing it, that’s not why we’re here. Once that stuff gets out of the way and you get back to making music it’s like ‘Oh yeah, that’s why I’m here’. It can be a very taxing process all the business and I think that’s why we have prevailed where our peers failed, in that we established that communication and really put our compassion to the test, learned a lot about each other, not really compromising, but just accepting each other. The Beatles got heavily involved with the business side of music which lead to a lot of problems for them. MK: If you look at their career it wasn’t very long really. People have this idea in their head that is was this 20-year career but it wasn’t, it was like eight years or something really short and we’ve outlived that now, we’ve gone beyond that mark and we’re still going strong so it’s an achievement. You really tend to appreciate and have respect for bands like REM or Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers or Metallica, up until last week (when news broke of Jason Newstead’s departure). They stuck through all this crap and come (sic) out doing very well. Whether you like their music or not is irrelevant but the fact that they can sit in the same room with each other and function and make decisions with each other and they can still make music is admirable. King Crimson’s Robert Fripp once said that the music he produced was beyond the band and existed in its own state. He was just a channel for it. What’s your view on the subject? MK: I think for any self-respecting musician who has any aspirations to make selfless music, that’s what the goal is really. Like I said before it’s a process of mastering the art of listening, not necessarily mastering the art of responding. Mastering the art of listening so that you can respond in a way that’s gonna be appropriate for what you’re hearing. Once you get out of the way and let that listening process come into play then that’s exactly what that is, the music is out there you just gotta get out of the way and let it come through. JC: It’s a translation of feeling, ultimately, and when there’s four of you trying to do that you tend to end up with a fifth thing – another element that didn’t even exist before. What’s the word? It’s a kind of alchemy. What does the future hold for Tool? MK: We’re heading towards some big changes definitely combined with technology, computers and the internet advancing exponentially. It’s pretty incredible. We’re in a different mindset now. We’re in a mindset where we’re not so sure what tomorrow’s gonna bring because there’s such an increased rate of ideas coming into fruition, coming to light and physically appearing for us. A 100 (sic) years ago somebody had the idea of talking down a phone line to somebody else and it was just an idea and it kinda evolved slowly. But the idea that 100 years ago somebody saying ‘I’m gonna make this thing that you talk into and you can talk to somebody on the other side of the globe, which is round by the way, not flat you know?’ Those would just be crazy ideas, you’re talking spaceships or something. But now, we’ve broken down the genetic code, we’re making tiny little phones like the Japanese have made a phone that’s a wrist band. So when you see people on the street babbling into a watch, they very well might be talking to someone on the East Coast, they’ve tapped into some collective that we don’t know about. David Bottrill on Tool (same article) David Bottrill hails from Hamilton, Canada. He spent most of his early days working in the studios of Daniel and Bob Lanois before following Daniel to the UK to work with Peter Gabriel’s Real World label. As well as producing Real World artists, David has worked with King Crimson, Remy Zero, dEUS, Ultraspank and more recently he produced Muse’s latest single ‘Plug in Baby’. Are there certain ways of working with a band like Tool? There are certain boundaries within the total quality of the music that you have to abide by a little bit. Although, having said that, the guitars on Tool don’t sound like anybody else’s guitars and the drums don’t sound like anybody else’s drums. You have such great players in a band like Tool that the flexibility is there to experiment with tones and experiment with sounds. They don’t all have to conform to a certain thing because Danny doesn’t play like other drummers; you have to have the dynamic and subtly (sic) of what he does. You have to be able to get the detail of what he’s playing otherwise it’s not Tool anymore, it’s just anybody. Why do you think the band chose you again to work on the new album? I think it was just such a good working relationship from the last one that we wanted to develop that further. We wanted it to be slightly different but still have the same quality as the last one and I think we’ve achieved that. It’s still a Tool record, it’s Tool four years on, there are some more modern elements and there are some more classic elements of what Tool is, but I think we just have a good working relationship. With the next album, who knows? They may wanna work with somebody different and that’s fine. People always wanna move on but it’s been great doing a couple of records with them. In your opinion, what makes Tool so special? As a band they’re always broadening their horizons and broadening their spectrum of music, that’s why they ended up calling me for ‘Ænima’. When they sent me the album and sent me the music, I hadn’t really done things like their music before. I kinda felt they had me confused with somebody else but when I came here and we did some rehearsing, I found out that their musical influences were people I had worked with already. Maynard was a big King Crimson fan as well as a Joni Mitchell fan, and a lot of the world music from Real World, he liked that stuff. All these people I had worked with, they were listening to and because my name was on a lot of it they thought I might be someone they’d be interested in working with. Luckily, it worked out last time and hopefully it’s working out again this time. --------------------------------------------------------------------- Transcriber’s note: the UK bands mentioned in this article (earthtone9 and Miocene) are well worth checking out. If you want me to recommend songs, just e-mail me...
Posted to t.d.n: 04/25/01 16:02:19