Publication: New York Daily News
Date: October 1993
Transcribed by "Steve Reed" (firstname.lastname@example.org)
A quick question: Who benefited most from last summer's Lollapalooza tour? You don't find the answer anywhere near the top of the bill (crowded with the acts like Primus and Alice in Chains). You won't even find the answer on the tour's main stage. Instead, a group that spent half the tour shunted off to a second stage designated for up-and-coming bands wound up with the most dramatic sales boost. The debut album by Tool (a metal-leaning band that manages to work in melody without compromise) started selling during Lollapalooza. Now "Undertow" has inched up to No. 52 on Billboard's latest Top 200 album chart and, according to Soundscan, has sold nearly 300,000 copies, making Tool one of the biggest alternative breakouts of the year. "It was really satisfying for us during Lollapalooza to pull thousands of people away from the main stage," says group drummer Danny Carey. "We knew those people really wanted to see us." Adventurous types have been just as hot to eyeball the group's video. In the midnight hour, MTV has been screening Tool's disturbing clip for "Sober," a grisly piece of animation influenced by the nightmare style of the Brothers Quay. "We like the darker images," says Carey. "It expresses what our music says about life." Which isn't pretty. Lines like "trust in me and fall as well/ I will find a center in you/ I will chew it up and leave" tell you what these guys think of relationships. But Carey says the group explores hideous emotions for a purpose. "It's not about being negative, it's about working through your anger to get to a better place." Tool's music mixes the punishing with the redemptive. Dense, midpaced guitar riffs take precedence over metal's usual thrashing beats or wild leads, making Tool's music more of a slow burn than a hot flash. "On our first EP ["Opiate"] we were more slam and bang," says Carey, "Now we're using more melody." In fact, vocalist Maynard James Keenan stands as one of the few alternative metal frontmen who sings more often than screams. The unusual sonic result meant "this was a hard record to get on the radio," according to Lou Maglia, president of Zoo Records, which signed the band. Drummer Carey says the group chose Zoo over other bidding labels because they guaranteed them creative control. The bargain paid off for the company when Tool devised its own twisted album graphics. Maglia thinks the macabre art work significantly boosted sales. "A lot of kids would have taped this album off their friends' were it not for those graphics." The band was just as shrewd in choosing their video director, Fred Stuhr, a friend who knew how to work on the cheap. His $35,000 clip looks like a million, and it has been worth nearly theat much in promotion. Last week Beavis & Butt-Head declared the clip "cool," which inspired one of L.A.'s key radio stations, K-Rock, to add the song after eight months of resistance. Having stuck to their creative guns, Tool now wants to push the bounds. For the follow-up single to "Sober," Carey says the group favors a song called "Prison Sex." "It will annoy a lot of people," Carey says, "which is half the fun."