Publication: University Reporter (Seattle, WA)
Date: November 1996
Transcribed by Shane Brouse (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Article supplied by Scott of Seattle
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....