Publication: Hit Parader
Date: October 1995
Transcribed by Justin McKinlay (email@example.com)
title: hammering it home author: winston cummings Tool enjoy making you feel just a little bit uncomfortable. Whether it is through the strange, almost unearthly photographs that comprise the cover of their first album, Undertow, or through the haunting imagery that inhabits such videos as Sober and Prison Sex, this Los Angeles based quartet have brought a uniquely twisted musical and visual sensibility to the often predictable confines of rock and roll. Yet for all their unusual posturings, Tool have also proved capable of appealing to the music masses with surprising dexterity. Their debut disc sailed past platinum, and their video efforts won a variety of industry kudos-- especially for their inventive utilization of clay-mation, that painstakingly time-consuming form of video art where clay figures are moved slightly from frame to frame until the illusion of actual motion is achieved. But now the shock value of their initial successes have begun to wear off, and it's time for vocalist Maynard James Keenan, drummer Danny Carey, bassist Paul D'Amour and guitarist Adam Jones to start the whole creative process over again. For many bands the challenge of inventing a new persona even more perverse and perverted than before might prove to be an intimidating challenge-- to these slightly-off- center guys, it's all in a day's work. "I don't think we really stopped to consider making a new album as any sort of daunting challenge," Jones said. "We've never approached our music from the vantage point of commercial achievement. The fact that the first album did well was certainly welcome by us, but it didn't change any of our perspectives. The same, strange things that motivated us last time still motivate us now." Somewhat ironically, for all their apparent strangeness, the roots of Tool's music are actually far more conventional than the band's members might want to admit. Jones says that the group's influences range from folk singers like Joni Mitchell to country crooners like Dwight Yoakam and pedal-to-the-metal rockers like AC/DC and Metallica. But rather than borrowing directly from any of these inspirations, Tool has chosen to take snippets from each, turn those pieces inside out until their guts are showing, then cover them all in the thick, impenetrable, guitar-heavy musical morass that has quickly become Tool's trademark. But just because the band's music on Undertow drew hails from both the metal and alternative communities, the group wants us all to know that we may be in for a big surprise this time around. "The fact that so many of our heavier songs appeared on our first album was something of an aberration," Jones said. "It just happened that was the direction we chose to follow. It was something that kind of developed when we were in the studio. But we didn't feel limited this time; we didn't see any reason to try and duplicate what we did before. Some of our other sides have reared the ugly heads this time around, and I believe people will find that to be very interesting." Apparently, those who felt they knew and understood Tool after their initial introduction to the band will be quite shocked by the band's second attempt to delve into life's dark underbelly. All the "classic" Tool elements are still there; Keenan's cry-from-the-soul lyrics and Jones' soundscape guitar musings. But there are some startlingly different elements housed in these new songs as well. From primitive howls to almost up-beat ravings (at least in the Tool context), Tool's second album is a major step forward for this West Coast quartet. Yet, one must now wonder if this band's initial success wasn't something of a fluke brought on by both radio and MTV's love affair with Sober. Can the band possibly duplicate such a media overload this time around? Believe us, they're not losing any sleep worrying about whether or not they can. "One of the distinguishing things about us is the fact that we'll always place our desire to enjoy what we're doing over the promise of big rewards," Jones said. "People may not believe it due to the nature of our music, but this is fun for us. It was great that the press and radio and MTV got behind us last time, but who knows what will happen next? Quite often those same media people who love you one year turn against you the next. Who knows why? It's just a fact of life. So why should we spend even one second worrying about it? We just proceed like always, just the way we've been doing it for the last four years." It has been a four year journey to the top for the Toolmeisters. Starting out as an admittedly ugly idea in Jones' mind back in 1991. Tool represented a stark contrast from the then-traditional-cars-and-girls attitudes of SoCal rock. Slowly but surely the band's live shows started attracting more and more attention, with their somber lyrics and down-tuned instruments bringing a new generation of fans to the L.A. club circuit. By early 1993 the labels were starting to bang on the band's door, and six months later Tool found themselves in the recording studio laying down the tracks for Sober. While most of the group's initial attention came from the somewhat disgusting photo imagery that graced their disc sleeve, by the time MTV started pushing the band in their "buzz bin", even a blind man could have seen that Tool was headed for the big time. Of course, widely-hailed touring spots at both Lollapalooza and Woodstock did little to derail the band's steamroller ride to the top. "Going on the road was very helpful to us," Jones said. "Some people may have heard our album or seen our video and developed a certain image of us. But once they got to see us on stage, and actually see what we look like and what we do, I think they began to understand us that much more." Indeed the band's unwillingness to place their faces in the videos, or feature them on their album cover only serve to add another element to Tool's fast-growing mystique. It's one "formula" these boys are going to follow again on the new album, not so much to follow any "tradition", but more due to the fact that they believe that the majority of fan interest should be on their music, not their appearance. Will Keenan, Jones, D'Amour and Carey perhaps appear in one of their videos this time around? According to the guitarist, only time will tell. "I don't know if we'll do that or not," he said. "We definitely are going to try some new things in our videos this time, but I'm not sure what that'll be. There are some very creative video directors out there with sensibilities much like ours. In fact, we're discovering that more people than you might imagine think like us-- kind of scary, isn't it?"