Publication: JAM (Florida's Music Magazine)
Date: November 8 - 21, 1996
Transcribed by Laura53081@aol.com
title: TOOL TIME author: Peter Atkinson So said Tool singer Maynard James Keenan two years ago as the band was wrapping up their tour in support of their incessantly intense, very successful debut album. By then he'd had over a year's worth of gigs to vent what was left over from the cathartic Undertow where he boasts "hatred keeps me alive" on the track "Bottom." Listening to Aenima, the follow-up to Undertow, it would seem Keenan perhaps misspoke about anger's usefullness on that earlier occasion-the title itself means "hostile emotion." "I sure could use a vacation from this bullshit three-ring circus side show," sings Keenan on the title track. He also warns listeners on "Hooker With A Penis" that, "before you point your finger at me little buddy, you should know that I'm the man... so you can point your fucking finger up your ass." To go along with that is the chilling segue "Message To Harry Manback," a piano-backed answering machine message-apparently for Harry-from a murderously irate foreigner who notes "one of three Americans die of cancer, asshole. You're gonna be one of those ...I hope someone in your family dies soon." Not exactly the "Happy Happy, Joy Joy" song, but then again, Tool has never been accused of propagating sugary sweet pop music. Unfortunately, Keenan has not made himself available to take up the argument. Tool of-fered but a handful of interviews upon the release of Aenima instead of the full-frontal media assault one might expect after the platinum plus success of Undertow. With Keenan keeping a low profile and guitarist Adam Jones finishing the video for "Stinkfist," drummer Danny Carey is acting as Tool spokesman at this rare point in time when the band is even talking at all. "I think(Aenima)is a real positive record ,"opines Carey , despite the ominous tone that permeates the disc. "íHooker is probably the lightest song on the record-itís almost like comic relief in the middle of it all. Itís a fun song to play (because) we like the good energy of it." "Thereís all these emotions that run the gamut of everyday life and the record is pretty much a postcard of our lives over the past year or so. While ëStinkfistí is a song that deals with desensitization and overexposure-the media and things like that-overall, itís a record about unity and change, metamorphosis and evolution." If that message is hard to gather through Keenanís whisper-to-a-scream vocals and often cryptic lyrics, then so be it. Tool has little use for fluff and by avoiding the obvious-and notable not providing a lyric sheet-it leaves things wide open to interpretation by the listener, which Carey is all for. "I think you can dig deeper into our music," he says. "We get along well enough (as a band) that weíre comfortable with each other. We donít have to talk about strange, superficial things. We can go in and pull out some of the uglier things that maybe people wouldnít normally share with each other. Itís a unity thing. "Itís a good feeling to be able to share that with other people, and they really relate to it, " he adds. "You arenít going to get that listening to the radio most of the time." As far as Toolís veritable avoidance of the media for Aenima, donít mistake their reticence for arrogance. The band would just rather have its music and vision do the talking, despite the obvious interest by fans to hear it from the horseís mouth. "I think a lot of times (interviews) limit peopleís interpretations," says Carey. Itís kind of nice just throwing (a CD) out there and letting (people) run wild with it and seeing where they go. I think thatís a healthier way. When I was growing up, it was always better in my imagination than in real life. Itís good to let people imagine things. "We try to keep our egos out of our music as much as possible and let things happen. Weíre just lucky that we met each other and have someone to share ideas with. It feels good that way;you donít have to try to force things." Indeed Tool is a model for teamwork. Despite the departure of bassist Paul DíAmour last year (who has formed his own project Lusk ), Tool is about a tight a unit as you will find. The band does almost everything within its own ranks, from writing and recording the music to making its captivating and painstaking videos to putting together the packaging and artwork (which, for Aenima, involves a dynamic 3-D presentation). Everyone is as important a cog in the wheel as the next guy-even new bassist Justin Chancellor (formerly of Peach). "As soon as we found out record companies wanted to sign us, we were concerned as much about maintaining complete artistic control as we were about getting big advances, " says Carey. " We understand what weíre about. It always seemed like such a ridiculous thing for a band to give away that part of their expression. "(As a band, Tool ) is a good healthy environment," he says. "We feed off each other in a lot of ways, so it kind of snowballs. Iím always amazed when I talk to other bands about how difficult it must be to go through the arguments and things like that. Everyone in the group has a similar vision that we can relate to. It gives us a lot more energy and power." Things fell into place quickly for Tool when it first formed in early 1991. Keenan moved in next door to Carey. Keenan knew Jones, and DíAmour was a friend of Jones. The quartet quickly began jamming and, by the end of í91 after a handful of gigs, Tool landed a deal with Zoo entertainment. Several months later, the band released its debut EP Opiate, and hit the road with The Rollins Band. In typical Tool fashion, they havenít looked back since. "We all knew we had a similar vision in mind once we started playing together and got to know each other," says Carey. "All it really takes to have a good band or success in anything is strength in numbers working for you. We all believe in what we do." Aenima debuted at No. 2, and likely would have been No. 1 were it not for Walmart and K-Martís policy of not stocking albums labeled with "explicit lyrics" stickers. All of the hard work put in with Undertow has paid instant dividends this time. With Undertow, it was a much slower climb to success. The album went platinum over 15 months after its April 1993 release without ever cracking the Top 40. That longevity is largely due to the haunting but visually striking stop-action animation videos for "Sober" and "Prison Sex". "It took a while for MTV to catch on or, actually, to become aware of the band, says Carey. "The main breakthrough was playing on Lollapalooza (1993) because MTV was giving that tour a lot of attention. Once we moved up to the main stage we started to reap the benefits of that. They up picked our video and thatís really when things started to take off. We went to our peak position when Beavis and Butthead got a hold of it. "We knew it was a good record but you are always surprised when people like it. It was kind of a shocker," he adds. "A million and a half people bought it. Iím glad there were that many people who could relate to something like that rather than, say, a Hootie record or a Garth Brooks record." Still the band didnít let commercial considerations play into the follow-up, as evidenced by the series of bizarre interludes that tie the record together. Thereís also the epic "Third Eye" which concludes Aenima-an album on which most of the tracks top six minutes anyway-in a tumultuous 15-minute jam. "All the pressure just comes from us-it doesnít come from anywhere else," says Carey. "You always have to question, ëAm I growing, am I learning, am I progressing in some way?í As long as your heart is in the right place, thatís going to naturally happen. We just let it work, and if things are in harmony between us, thatís going to come out in the record. I think it did this time."