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A TOOL-Related Article

Publication: University Reporter (Seattle, WA)

Date: November 1996

Transcribed by Shane Brouse (shane@toolshed.down.net)
Article supplied by Scott of Seattle



  page: 26f
 title: Tool - With Friends Like These...
author: University Reporter

Los Angeles-based Tool have never exactly done things the "normal" way. 
Less than six months after being formed by sculptor/special effects
designer/guitarist Adam Jones, vocalist Maynard James Keenan, drummer
Danny Carey and bassist Paul D'Amour, the band was snatched up by the
upstart Zoo Entertainment label. Less than one year later, after releasing
their critically-acclaimed debut EP, _Opiate_, the band was on a
high-profile national tour opening for the Rollins Band. This was a fairly
auspicious beginning, but certainly nothing that portended the explosion
to come with the release of their debut LP, _Undertow_.

After the album's release in April of 1993, Tool found themselves part two
of that year's Lollapalooza's powerful one-two punch, starting the shows
off with a mindblowing bang.  Following openers Rage Against The Machine,
Tool's unique mix of angst, anger, and testosterone-pumping energy to get
the sun-baked crowds incited into a moshpit frenzy. MTV caught word of the
buzz surrounded these two young bands, and soon enough, Tool's rocket to
stardom took off in a way they'd never imagined.

Fueled by the success of distinctive videos for two singles, "Sober" and
"Prison Sex," _Undertow_ was soon certified Gold (and later went
Platinum). A major critical success as well, the album was named one of
the Top 10 Records of 1993 by *Entertainment Weekly*, and the band was
showered with awards for video excellence. What was more amazing was the
fact that the band never appeared in its self-produced stop-motion
animation videos, handled all album and merchandising artwork themselves,
largely kept a low press profile by rarely granting interviews, and
refused to "sell out" for commercial acceptance. Here, for once, was a
band that stayed true to themselves, and their fans loved them for it.

In 1995, the first cog was thrown into Tool's rapidly spinning wheels, as
bassist D'Amour left the band to pursue a solo career, soon replaced by
Justin Chancellor of British band Peach.  Now, 3 years and six months
after _Undertow_ was released, the band is back with _Ænima_, a brilliant
77-minute long concept album that redefines hard rock in a way unheard
since Jane's Addiction's breakup. Although only the second album in the
band's five-year history, it is nonetheless a groundbreaking tour-de-force
that promises to take the band to the next level. I recently had the rare
opportunity to speak with Danny Carey, the virtuosic drummer whose
ever-evolving rhythms drive the band's pummeling sound.

UR: The first time I saw you guys was on the 1992 tour with the Rollins
Band, which began barely a year after you'd formed. How did Tool get on
such a high-profile tour so quickly?

Danny: I guess the tour mainly came about because we were both base in
L.A..  We knew about Rollins, and Rollins had heard about us through
word-of-mouth just because we had a good buzz going around the clubs here. 
I guess he saw some value in our band, so he decided to let us tour (with
them), and Rollins was one of the only groups we could think of that we
wanted to play with at the time.

UR: Was it overwhelming to tour with such a rock legend at that early 
stage? 

Danny: No, not really. Those were great shows though, because Rollins was
at a really intense stage in his career then. He'd just gone through
seeing his best friend (musician Joe Cole)  getting killed, and he was
just _so_ driven and _so_ insane at that time. I remember all those shows
putting an impact on me that I'll never forget. Just seeing how convicted
he was every night of that whole tour was pretty impressive.

UR: I was working as an alternative music rep for BMG (the company that
distributes Zoo) at that time, and I remember that you guys were fairly
resistant to aggressive marketing. Did you have fear of the dangers of
instant success or of peaking too early in your careers?

Danny: Well, not so much of peaking too early, but being exploited in ways
that we didn't approve of. It's easy for people to get sick of you if
you're shoveled down their throats in the wrong way. As long as we keep
control over our advertising plans and things like that, it makes it
easier for us to maintain control. That's one of the things we were lucky
enough to have stipulated in our record deal. We got approval over our
artwork and our advertisements and everything. We have complete creative
control, and I think a lot of bands don't have that luxury.

UR: Through your posters, videos, album art and music, there's this thread
of continuity. Was having this control over your "image" something you'd
discussed from the beginning?

Danny: I guess it can't be help but remain cohesive because it is us: 
we're the one's putting out the images [*most of Tool's artwork and videos
are created by guitarist Adam Jones*]. We don't just let the record
company hire artists to work on our stuff like most bands do, so I guess
there's a linear thing that's always happening.

UR: Tool is conspicuously absent from most media sources. Is that because
of a fear of overexposure, or do you just want to choose how and where you
publicize yourselves?

Danny: Well, we did lots of interviews with the last record, and you do
have to get your name out there somewhat, but we just don't want to be
overexposed. There's no reason to make people sick of you. I usually tend
to shy away from doing interviews... I mean, it's fine to communicate with
people, but then there's also a very valuable thing that I think a lot of
bands forget, and that's that no matter how cool a band is or what their
image is, things are usually better in people's imaginations than in
reality. I think that the less you go out and exploit yourself, the better
an image you have in people's minds.

UR: Sort of retaining that element of mystique? 

Danny: Yeah, just letting people's minds interpret it in a freer fashion
rather than limiting it by facts and figures than just drag things down.

UR: Given the band's staunch anti-corporate stance, I was kind of
surprised when you guys did Lollapalooza. Why did you agree to do that,
and what was that experience like for you?

Danny: I don't know, I never hooked the Lollapalooza thing in with a big
corporate nightmare-type situation. It's becoming more and more like that
of course;  it grows and grows every year and it's turning into this big
beast I suppose. But when we did it, we were playing with bands we
enjoyed. I liked Alice In Chains and Primus and Fishbone and Rage... Three
or four of the bands were L.A. bands that we knew, so we were like "Yeah! 
We get to do 40 shows with our friends and have a good time all Summer."
And it did kind of launch our careers in a lot ways, because of the media
coverage that MTV gave that: They noticed who we were and then picked up
our video and things sort of took off from there.

UR: Switching gears a little bit, I wanted to ask you about the band's
complex compositional structures. I'm a fan of classical music and jazz,
and it seems to me that there's a lot more thought put into your songs
than most rock bands who do 4/4, triple-time, double bass-type rhythms.
What's the process that you go through in structuring your songs?  Where
does it begin and how does it evolve? 

Danny: I think the main reason for our music having a little more intense
structure is that we all do it together. People will come in with a riff,
but then they're completely gone over by all four of us in lots of
different ways until we find something that we can grab onto individually.
So all the parts are usually functioning together really well, and that
whole overview takes over the song. It really is all four people picking
apart the arrangements and making sure that the tempo of the song is
flowing in the right way and that it is going somewhere. 

UR: Right. Like "Eulogy;" it goes through so many changes, but it flows
together so well. That complexity is really rare in today's 3-minute,
short attention span, pop-hungry industry.

Danny: We're just lucky that we don't have to have any guidelines. We
never feel like we're being forced to write a pop song: We just play the
music we feel like playing...

UR: Were you guys surprised by how successful _Undertow_ was? 

Danny: Yeah, I think it caught everybody by surprise. I mean, the songs
were good, but we never expected to sell a million-plus or whatever...
But, that's good: I'd much rather have a million-and-a-half people buying
our records than listening to a Hootie record [laughs].

UR: I know that you guys read a lot; what have you been reading lately? 

Danny: The book I just finished was _Cosmic Trigger Part III_ by Robert
Anton Wilson. I really like his view on things, and I think he's got a
great sense of humor. I think his attitude toward the scientific community
is pretty right on, because I think there's a lot of information withheld
just so professors don't lose jobs. I think there's a lot of suppression
of information going on where people are choosing fear over compassion.
They get their little niche carved out and they don't want to lose it, so
they grab onto these things. It's natural self-preservation, I suppose.

UR: Do you find that these things you absorb in your reading end up coming
through in your songs?

Danny: Oh yeah, definitely. We're all influenced by everything we listen
to and read and see, so it definitely comes through in some way or
another... maybe only subconsciously. We try to keep it pure, though,
because one of our aims is to get more in touch with our subconscious
minds and pull things out from there. It's a tough job to do, though; it
take discipline to dig in deep like that.

UR: I've got to ask you about (former Tool bassist) Paul's departure from
the band. What happened?

Danny: Paul just got more into doing his own thing and he had a bigger
desire to be more melodically experimental. With Tool, we have good
melodies going on -- especially from Maynard's end -- but it's more
rhythmic and percussive. He was just leaning towards playing lighter music
that wasn't so heavy, and he's always loved to play guitar too. I
remember, even when we first got the band together, there was a time when
Paul had suggested that maybe we could get another bass player so that we
could have two guitars, but I was like, "There's no way we're getting
another asshole in this band." That's just the way his music was evolving,
and he's always been really sonically experimental too; you could see some
of that show through in his bass playing.

UR: Was it an amicable parting? 

Danny: Yeah, it's no problem. Of course it was a little intense when it
was all going down, but I played on 3 songs on Paul's new project, Lusk,
that has an album coming out on Zoo in January. Actually Chris Pittman
[sic], the guy who did the keyboards and sang a couple of songs on The
Replicants' record (another Tool side project), is doing most of the vocal
work. It's been in the works for a while and they just finished it: it
sounds really good.

UR: You guys could've had anybody you wanted to replace him. What made
Justin Chancellor your choice?

Danny: I guess it was just a chemistry thing. Everything just fit. We were
looking for someone who's harmonic in the way they fit in with us, and
that was Justin. We had auditioned a couple of others, and in fact this
guy Marco [sic], who sings on "Die Eier Von Satan" and who had played in a
band with Chris Pittman [sic] and I, is a great bass player too.  Justin
just seemed to fit in a little more in the Tool way. 

UR: Personally, musically, or both? 

Danny: Actually both, I guess. Justin played in a band in England called
Peach that had been our support band, and we'd hit it off from the first
time we played together. We always got along really well, and we both had
respect for each other's playing. He really loved Tool, and it was great
because by the time he'd joined the band he already knew the
old songs. 

UR: How has he added to or changed the band's dynamic? 

Danny: It's just a new writing style, and being English probably adds a
little bit of a different influence. His bass sound actually is kind of
different too.  Whereas, like I said before, Paul was more guitar-oriented
on bass, Justin really is a heavy bass player so he added like a heavier
low end to the overall sound of the band.

UR: You can tell on the new record, because it's just _so_ rhythmic... 
Actually, let's talk about _Ænima_, because I really love the record.

Danny: Yeah, I'm really happy with it. I think sonically it turned out
really well. It was blowing me away when I was finally able to step back
and listen to it.

UR: The thing that separates it, not only from your other records, but
from most other records, is that it flows brilliantly, almost like a
con-tional [sic], and was there a specific concept behind it? 

Danny: We definitely wanted to make a concept record. If we hadn't run out
of time, we probably would've made it even longer [*as it is _Ænima_'s
77-minute length pushes the data storage capacity of a CD to its limit*],
where even more of it was running together.  But we had our segue pieces,
and it definitely was a goal of ours to make the whole thing flow
together.

UR: I'm into ambient music, and I really dug how the tunes evolved slowly
out of nothing, become dynamic songs, then dissolved into nothing again,
over and over in cycles. What was different going in to this record?

Danny: I guess all of us just felt a little freer to experiment with
different textures rather than stick with the basic guitar, bass and
drums. I got a sampler and it's been a lot of fun experimenting with that,
and Adam's gotten into using more contraptions and pedals that he's built
himself. As we keep evolving and finding new toys, the sound's gonna keep
evolving too.

UR: Some of the rhythmic textures you use -- not so much the sound, but
the syncopation and polyrhythms -- remind me of tribal music. Is that
something you're into?

Danny: Yeah, I've always been open to all kinds of percussion. Playing in
percussion ensembles and things like that, I've always been into ethnic
drumming. Especially a lot of the African things; they've always appealed
to me because of the polyrhythms. 

UR: The new record is really unique in the hard rock field: Was there any
influence that inspired you to want to go in this experimental direction?

Danny: No, it's just the chemistry that come natural to us when the four
of us get in a room together. Our goal is just to make good music and do
what comes naturally to us, but I think that if you stay true to
yourselves like that, you make good records. As long as you're honest and
believe in what you're doing...

UR: I wanted to ask you about this quote: "Our main goal when we're
together is to write music in a forum where we can involve our
subconscious as well as our conscious.  To make this happen we use every
tool available to us, be it sigils, mind-altering chemicals, fragrances,
or whatever modern technology can supply..." Can you expand on that
philosophy? 

Danny: Well, mainly we just would never limit ourselves from doing
anything we can to grow and learn, and I think that's a healthy attitude
to have. 

UR: Right. Not to get too personal, but with the problems of Alice In
Chains, Stone Temple Pilots and Smashing Pumpkins, do you have any concern
about possible addiction?

Danny: I don't think the rules change or anything just because people do
drugs. I mean you're wither in control or you're not in control. I don't
want to lean towards anything that I think I might become addicted to. I
think you have to know yourself to know where your weak points are, and if
you don't, you have to go through things and learn from them.


UR: I'm surprised by your honesty, because I've asked other musicians
about the use of psychedelics in the creative process, and it seems like
people almost want to distance themselves from any association with that
because they're afraid that someone will infer that that is the primary
source of their creativity...

Danny: Well, some people it might work for and some people it probably
wouldn't. It's just about knowing yourself. But I would never condemn
anyone for using psychedelics, even if they did have their most creative
moments doing them. I don't see any problem with that. If you're doing
good work and people are becoming inspired by it, that's the bottom line.

UR: It's odd, though, that most people in today's society are uptight
about what has historically been used in tribal societies for religious
and healing purposes. Nowadays, everyone seems to want to have a "don't
ask/don't tell" policy.

Danny: Yeah, it's a sad state that it's like that, but it's because the
government has made them illegal. Now you have all these people on these
hardcore anti-drug kicks. The government doesn't want people thinking for
themselves -- no one who's in a position of power wants that because it
makes people more uncontrollable. It's because they're afraid, but there
really isn't anything for people to be afraid of. As long as you have
compassion and move forward, you can't go wrong. Drugs are fine for some
people, but for some people they do damage. Everybody that I know who's a
good musician uses drugs. I've never heard a band that spoke out against
drugs that sounded good, honestly... 

UR: What about Hootie? [*Laughter*] 

Danny: Who knows? Maybe those guys did the wrong drugs. [*Laughs*] 

UR: How would you like to see your career evolve from here? 

Danny: I don't know, that's a tough one. As long as wee keep things
flowing the way they are and music keeps coming out and feeling
comfortable to all of us so that we all gain from it. I think that's the
most you can ask for. Who knows? Adam's such a great filmmaker, so maybe
that might be the next step. Maybe we'll make Tool's version of *The
Wall*.  That's an ultimate goal for us at some point, but we'll see....


kabir/akhtar | kabir@t.d.n