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The Tool Page: An Article

Publication: Australian Guitar

Date: September, 2001

Transcribed by
Anthony (anthonybeatton@Yahoo.com)


  page: 36
 title: Tool
author: Paul Southwell

Tool
Publication:Australian Guitar
Date: Volume 24 Sometime in late 2001, can't remember


Editorial at front- Chris Hoare
Having just witnessed a Tool gig at Sydney's Entertainment 
Centre, it struck me that the band flouted every convention 
of what makes up a great rock show. Bands tend to go in one 
of two ways. Either the band likes to go for a "high energy" 
show, that involves a lot of jumping around by the band-
members themselves, which is combined with a minimilistic 
light show. Shihad is a great example of this option. Then 
there is the bells and whistles option, where the band can be 
a little more subdued as the audience's attention is 
captivated by a dazzling light and/or pyrotechnic show. See 
Pink Floyd,m Kiss or U2's ZooTV or PopMart tour as examples 
of this.
Tool on the other hand, decided to go a completely different 
path. There was a barely adequate lighting rig (in fact, singer 
Maynard Keenan was never lit) and the band members were 
all but rooted to the spot dueing the entire show. No dynamic 
energy on display and no impressive lighting rig (although 
there were a couple of video screen displaying Adam Jones' 
disturbing imagery behind the band). So why did it work so 
well?
The answer is refreshing in this day and age; it was all about 
the music. Good musicians playing great music through a 
really well mixed PA. How rare is that ! For those of you not in 
Sydney or Melbourne, there are fairly good indications that 
the band may well return before too long for a proper tour. 
Don't miss it.


FYI- The stuff on the video screen was done by a bunch of 
people called.... not by Adam Jones.


The Actual Article


Tool


For a band as esoteric as Tool to emerge from LA in 1990 
when Motley Crue were at their peak is indicative of how the 
band has always gone against the grain. On the wave of 
critical aclaim that their new album Lateralus has created, the 
cinematic live experience that is Tool found its way down 
under for a whirlwind tour earlier this year. Paul Southwell 
spent some time backstage with guitarist Adam Jones and 
bassist Justin Chancellor.


Your sonwriting process, how do you get your riffs happening? 
Is it purely just jamming, or does someone structure the riff 
and present it to everyone else? Do you let it all filter down?


JC: It;s a bit of a mix. I mean sometimes, maybe in 
soundchecks or in the rehearsal place you might 
spontaneously come up with something. But a lot of times we 
all sort of dabble away at home and bring in individual riffs 
really and then throw them at each other and start pulling 
them apart and jamming on them.


Yeah, so you don't have any egos going "Shit that's my riff, 
you bastards took it out."


JC: Well, we try and leave it at the door.


The creative process, it must be difficult when the music 
industry want to present this sort of thing, a product. How do 
you be creative?


JD: You just do it and listen to yourself and no one else.


I suppose you're going to be touring with it so you've got to 
be happy with it.


JC: Yeah definitely.


[to Adam Jones] What's the stage gear that you're using? 
You've got three amps yeah? One of them is a German 
Diesel amp. Wht's the story with that, its got four channels?


AJ: Yeah, it's a four channel amp, the fourth channel is really 
hard and crunchy and then each channel going back, it's a 
little lighter. It's just got that kind of solid-state non-master 
volume tube amp sound, which is completely, you know, I'm 
contradicting myself.


Yeah, how does that work?


AJ: But, you know, that's what I've found in there and that's 
why I like it. You know, I haven't heard any other amp sound 
like that and it fills in all of the things the Marshall can't do. 
But, the Marshall sounds really good so it's just like, taking 
the spectrum, you know from one to ten. No it's one to 
twenty, it just fills out the spectrum, a lot more for the highs 
and lows. So, it's the combination, it's not just the amp it's 
also the tweaking done to the amps and the kind of cabinets 
I'm playing through, the kind of guitars I have, that's all 
based on the sound.


You've got a Marshall bass head?


AJ: Uh huh.


Your music has been described as bass driven- what sort of 
amps are you using? [to JC]


JC: At the moment I'm using a Mesa Boogie, I got their new 
amo which is called an M-Pulse. I drive that with a Rat and an 
EQ pedal, just the tiniest bit of distortion and it has a bit of 
cut, you know? Then the other is being tun through an 
M2000, one of the older Mesa Boogie amps that has just a 
real low clean sound. Then I use a Demeter pre-amp as well, 
which I put the DI through that. So that's pretty much just the 
sound of the bass,. So there's three channels to play with, 
again it's just like a mix of the sounds.


Do you crank them or on full or do you hold back the pre-
amp?


JC: They're just sort of where they sound sweet enough so 
that on the stage I can hear it and get feed-back and stuff. 
It's not at eleven [with his full British accent...]


Yeah [laughs] don't look at it, don't even touch it. Yeah I can 
recite the whole film, it's a bit sad. 


JC: We all can.


Yeah everyone should be able to. So, with your bass hear, on 
the song Eulogy [from the album Aenima] you've got the 
[Digitech] whammy pedal that you're doing that [with]? That's 
one of the things I think is a signature for Tool in that you've 
got these interesting sounds. When I first heard it I didn't 
know what it was; I thought it might have been a noise 
gate.... there's stuff on the web.... a ridiculous amount of 
info....


AJ: Info and disinfo. A lot of questions are asked about what 
you're asking. It's funny what people think in their head 
versus what it really is. Always, you know [adopts nest 
trainspotter voice] that's an old vintage Korg synthesiser isn't 
it? No, it's just Justin on a whammy pedal. [Justin laughs]


I guess that's it in that you're there to be creative and you 
use what you want to create the sounds in your head and 
translating them to tape. I guess to a certain extent it 
doesn't matter. For instance [to Adam] you using a bass 
head. A guitarist might go, 'hey man, why?' But hey, it gets 
your sound.


AJ: Well I thnk that's the most important thing you know, not 
just listening to one of your heroes and going, 'okay, what 
kind of amp did Jimi Hendrix play?' Then you go and play 
it, 'cos you're not going to sound like Jimi Hendrix unless 
you're in a Jimi Hendrix cover band and you go and you kind 
of discover what's you and what you like. I don't know, we 
just kind of experiment, just keep kind of pushing the 
envelope. How far can you take the instrument, and these 
pedals or how far can you twist things this way or that. Or 
bring other musical instruments in while you're playing.


But by the same token, if you do all this stuff in the studio 
then you've got to play it live?


AJ: That's, it's not just because that's what we write, you 
know? I mean, you add a little spice here and there or add 
something to push things or you maybe double up the 
guitars, which you can't do live. But usually, it's done by the 
time we write, or maybe eighty to ninety percent done and we 
have a couple of songs that were written in the studio. 
Like, 'Triad', the last song on the album [Lateralus]; that was 
really fun and, 'Satan's cookies' [Die Eir von Satan' from 
Aenima] was done [in the studio] and we tried playing it live, 
and it was great. So you know, it's just a challenge. With 
Tool, most of the stuff that we play one a record is what we're 
playing on stage.
JC: Yeah, we already can play it live before we go into the 
studio. That's the layout.


How do you look back at albums like Undertow or Opiate 
compared to now with Lateralus? Do you think that, the depth 
has obviously increased but it was still pretty huge back 
then... How was that album accepted given the [musical] 
climate at the time? I think at the time [of EP Opiate, 1992] 
it was like Warrant or Motley Crue, that kind of shit, when 
Undertow was out [1993] is that right?


AJ: Ahh... it was probably later than that. I think 'Opiate' was 
just at the edge of the glam metal kind of, um, [laughs] 
taking a shit. But, you know, they're just snap shots of the 
time and kind of where you're at and we've grown as a band 
and grown a lot closer and gotten to know each other. 
Especially on a writing and a complimentary music way.


But there's still that sort of sound ['93], there's a lot of 
feedback as intros and at the beginning of stinkfist with the 
whammy bar. All these different effects, the feedback seems 
to be prominent as do a lot of unison bends [one note bent 
to ring with another in sustain] where it's kind of dissonant. 
What inspires you to play like that?


AJ: Well I guess it just depends on the song. like that song 
['Stinkfist'] - to me it's like bending something until it breaks 
[raises hands and snaps imaginery stick] and that's when it 
starts. That's kind of what it needed, or it felt like at the time.


I guess what I'm getting at is that, do you, with Maynard's 
lyrics, do they, do you take them as inspiring how you are 
going to play?


AJ: The lyrics are pretty much last even though Maynard is 
there trying stuff.


So the music comes first?


AJ: Yeah, but then there is fine-tuning. I mean there's 
definitely things that can stay exactly the same or something 
can change completely different... the lyrics or...
JC: Yeah, once the lyrics are almost there, then I guess the 
last part of the process is really listening to the thing as a 
whole and adding a little spice and relating the music to the 
lyrics and kind of reaching to some of the things he's saying. 
Like adding little bits of spice and so it doesn't  just sort of 
end with when the lyrics are down. You know, then there's a 
few more little things to do even live, after the songs are 
already on the album, you certainly feel something new or 
react to something you're hearing and just play something 
slightly different.


So you're always working as a unit. It's not like someone 
does there bit and then... 


JC: Oh yeah, we're all listening to each other and kind of 
reacting to each other.


Okay, and how does a producer help in the song writing 
process?


JC: He doesn't really help in the song writing so much.
AJ: It's more a capturing, you know, what's there and the 
mics and the room and the position of the amps. I mean 
there's a little suggesting, you know, 'hey, how about trying 
this?' But it's rare that it's accepted and I think David's 
[Bottrill] strength with us is just in the proccess of being so 
experimental. We've  worked with other producers and mixers 
and kind of always been like, 'well this is how stuff's being 
mixed now' or 'this is how it's being done now' and Dave's 
like, 'okay' or 'yeah let's try this' or 'how about this', you 
know. So in some ways he's really experienced, he's very 
proffessional, he really knows his shit. But in other ways he's 
really green, he's not tried it that way bur he's really open to 
doing that and that's wat I really like about him.
He's about our age, he's a really nice guy and it's really 
important when you're really protective of your music. I think 
the most important thing of bringing a producer into an art 
process is a fresh ear, You know, someone who hasn't heard 
the songs for a year [laughs], jamming them, taking them 
home, making tapes and being highly analytical about the 
whole process and the way it flows and just coming in and 
hearing it fresh.
JC: Yeah, that is the thing with him. But he also did a lot of 
stuff with world music and different weird sounds. He's got 
this ear when he can listen to our stuff and there's a lot of 
different sounds going on and he's already thinking about 
how he can capture them in the studio. Because I wouldn't 
have a clue personally what mic to use and so on.


[to Adam Jones] So you're basically a Gibson man yeah? And 
you tunings are in dropped D or B?


AJ: Uh huh. Yeah, it's mostly dropped D, and we also have 
drop B, and then we have drop B/E.


You'd have to be using pretty heavy strings there?


AJ: No I'm just using the strings that are there. I mean if you 
take an E string and drop it down to D/A it will have a little bit 
of flop, it sounds kind of evil. When you turn it down to B it's 
just a lot more of a flop. It's intonated you know but....
JC: I actually use slightly thicker strings on the bass for the 
drop B/E tuning 'cos it's a real like...
AJ: 'Cos he's not as evil.
JC: I'm not as evil, and it's like a big kind of strumming riff 
that we do with that tuning and I was getting the strings 
smacking against the pickups.
AJ: Yeah and I guess you kind of know a chord from a bass.


Recording, wouldn’t that create unwanted noise if it’s too 
floppy?


AJ: It’s just the sound you want.


What sort of basses are you [to Justin Chancellor] are you 
using?


JC: The Wal basses.
AJ: They’re awesome.
JC:  Yeah, they’re pretty powerful and punchy.


How did you get into those?


JC: Um, I actually borrowed one at first. I don’t know if you 
remember a band called Failure from America. Well, they 
were friends of these guys [Tool] when I joined the band and 
at the time I had a Musicman Stingray. It was fine when we 
were practicing but when we went to record, it just didn’t quite 
cut it. It needed to push out a little stronger and this friend 
of ours suggested I try his bass player’s Wal. So I went and 
borrowed it and it sounded perfect. It just really sat with 
everything else so I ordered one.


Over here, a Gibson guitar will cost you five to six grand [for 
a signature model], which is pretty dear.


AJ: For me, it’s just all based on the wood, you know. For me, 
it’s one piece of wood, and the way you can check is, have a 
look where the guts are, the electronics. If you open the 
thing you can usually see if it’s one, if it’s routed out, one 
piece of wood. I don’t know, it’s just that the newer Gibson’s 
aren’t very good and I don’t think. I mean, I don’t endorse 
Gibson at all.


Right, you just use it?


AJ: The new Les Pauls are, they’re shit.


Really?


AJ: They’re shit. You know, if you’re going to pay five 
thousand dollars you might as well go to the States and pay 
five thousand dollars and buy one from the late fifties or 
early sixties.


Get a gold top sent over?


AJ: Exactly. I really like the Gretsch guitars too. The old 
Gretsch solid-bodies. Amazing sounds.


Oh yeah. But, would that be a bit impractical for what you’re 
doing?


AJ: No, no, not at all. It’s just the pick up and how heavy the 
wood is, the sustain, they’re all different. I have two guitars 
set up exactly the same from the same year, same make, 
same pick ups, same strings, same hardware and they sound 
[pauses] different.


Do you reckon that would be soldering or anything like that?


AJ: It can be many things.
JC: Maybe even just the grain from the wood, you know.
AJ: Exactly. One of the guitars that I just have a screw that 
someone [the ‘81 custom Gibson, metallic green silverburst] 
screwed in that’s part of the pickguard which I don’t have 
anymore, but the screw is in there. I don’t want to take the 
screw out because I’m afraid it will change the sound. That’s 
how close you get to it you know.


You’ve got a good guitar then [JC laughs]


AJ: It was amazing ‘cos I wasn’t really that attracted to it 
when I saw it. I was like, ‘what’s this black and green guitar?’ 
and I’d been playing all sorts of guitars, trying to find a good 
one, and when I played that one it was just like ‘holy shit’, 
this is the one.


Yeah, but who cares what it looks like as long as it fells good 
and sounds good you know, you’re laughing, that’s what you 
want.


AJ: Yeah.


So they’re all the stock pickups.


AJ: No [when pressed on how they different, Adam Jones 
refused to divulge the secret of his custom pickups]


Active?


JC: Mine are active in the bass, yeah.


Are yours stock?


JC: Yeah I didn’t customise it.


Frets, the same deal?


JC: Ah, yeah, I got 24 frets on my bass instead of 22.
AJ: The frets are the heaviest gauge so they’re custom, it’s 

not what comes with it and the pickup is hot-wired.


What about cabinets, standard Marshall cabs, Celestions, 12 
inch?


AJ: Oh, the Marshall cabinets, they’re um, G12 Blackbacks. 
You can get them in a 1960 Vintage cabinet, but it’s funny 
they make two. They make a 1960 Vintage and then they 
make one called ‘The Vintage’ and they’re two different 
speakers. Then the one I really like is just the standard Mesa 
Boogie cabinet, which has the G12s in them two. Those 
cabinets are awesome. The sound so good.


They’re punchier?


AJ: They’re thicker, and they have all the high-end because 
that comes directly right from the centre of the cone but it’s 
the lingering sustain. The wood’s different, it’s just a heavier 
case, and it’s really well built.


So you can play ‘em and you can go and take a bite and 
they’ll still be going…..


AJ: Right [laughs].


THE END
  

Posted to t.d.n: 01/30/02 19:19:08