Transcribed by (Toolophile@aol.com)
Rock music is supposed to be about rebellion and honesy and soul, characteristics that most so-called alternative rock bands sadly lack. And just as important as those traits is a sense of mystery, a feeling of dramatic uniqueness, that separates truly talented artists from the rest of the herd. From Robert Johnson, the Rolling Stones, and Charlie Parker to Fugazi, Polly Jean Harvey, and Kurt Cobain, a degree of unintended ambiguity in one's art has always enhanced the bottom line. Of course, a bit of flotsam-sifting is necessary these days to find that diamond-in-the-rough musician who possesses both skill and flavor. Los Angeles' Tool, led by enigmatic frontman Maynard James Keenan, is a band whose sense of brutal sincerity and utter lack of contrivance make it one of the most compelling bands of the day. From Tool's almost accidental creation to the purposeful if casual effort that's gone into its forthcoming second album, the band has maintained a strident independence that only serves to amplify its unsettling messages of exploitation and vehemence. Between bites of fish and green-tea ice cream at one of L.A.'s homier sushi joints, Keenan spoke with Warp about his band (which also features guitarist Adam Jones, bassist Paul D'Amour and drummer Danny Carey), his life, and what we might expect from the next record. Is there a timetable or schedule for Tool's second album? "We can't really say even a tentative date at this point. we're still writing songs and letting them progress naturally. What can end up happening is the powers that be jump in and all of a sudden we're working under the confines of some deadline or window. We're not obligated to have the record out by a certain time. there've been hot spots where we end up getting really creative and we'll pump three or four songs out in a couple of weeks, and then there are times where it's hareder and you just work through it." What direction do you see the band heading in with this album? "It's really hard to say. You just never really know. It's a different year now, I've got different things on my mind. I'm a different age, we live in a different place. There's definitely going to be a signature that sounds like Tool, but who knows? It might be angrier, it might be more introverted." Do you care for the recording process? "I don't really like recordings. As for making them, it's kinda fun playing around in the studio, hearing back the sounds. But it really just doesn't compare to a live show. So mouch of our stuff is about moments, you know? A combination of whole lifetime of moments. It's hard to find that in the studio. It's all about takes and retakes. Live there are moments and energy and that's what it's all about. I kinda like the Grateful Dead's approach of just letting people record shows and circulate the stuff themselves." In the past, members of Tool have said that the band served selfish purposes for them, to channel certain personal thoughts and energies. Does Tool still serve the same purposes for you? "I think so. It's really difficult once you get wrapped up in the whole business of making and promoting records, to not lose touch with that. I think tht's why we were cautious with our contract, so we could always take the time we neede. When you start to feel that pressure is when most people buckle under it, and they go with the pressure and try to get the record out because maybe somebody knows better than they do. We know what's best for us." It's been said that Tool stands out from other hard-rock bands due to a vulnerability in both your lyrics and vocal style. Do you think that's an accurate assesment? "I don't know, but I do know that compared to a lot of the bands that we get lumped in with, I do have a more open nature than most of my so-called peers. This totally-male, angst-filled energy is coming off of a lot of these guys, which is probably where that kind of statement comes from. As far as the vulnerability element of my approach goes, I listen to Joni Mitchell, so draw your own conclusions. Most hard-rock or hard-alternative bands have a very masculine, linear approach, while I think there's more of a feminine balance to our point of view. I think that our softer, more compassionate edge is missed a lot of the time, that people think we're all about hate or something. That's not it, you know? The songs are very angry, but anger is a constructive emotion, hate is not. We're not about hate, we're about anger and emotion and intense releases of feelings, and working through those feelings. With some bands the cornerstone of the music is that rage and hate, and you've got to relive it on stage every night. How is it constructive for you to be hateful every night?" You've said that if a song stops having meaning for you, you'll stop playing it. Not many bands take that approach, instead they keep cranking out the same songs night after night. "I just don't need to pick scabs. Like I was saying before, a lot of our music is about capturing those special moments. There were moments, say, in the practice space when certain specific events were taking place in our lives that I felt really angry about, things that I really just need to scream about. So a lot of emotion would come forth in the songs, and then I would feel better after I was done screaming. But then you get stuck having to scream it again, trying to relive that moment, and it ends up not being a release anymore, it's more of a reminder. So you've just got to move on. If the emotion of the music isn't there, who cares about your story?" It sounds like there's a definite therapeutic quality in your music for you. "That's what music really is, you know? All art forms are a way of tapping into those ideals that may otherwise be unconscious." Your music obviously means a lot to you- do you care how fans might perceive you? "It's difficult to say. I kind of like the idea of someone hearing our music and being inspired by it. What we're doing is really nothing new. It's guitar, bass, drums, and vocals working with each other, but I'd like to think that people are hearing it and are then being inspired to do something because of it, rather than just being stuck and never going anywhere with the message. I truly believe that we're not living in a time when we should be looking to someone or something else all for guidance. We all really need to be moving on our own accord, finding the messiah within ourselves that's going to lead us to the promised land, whatever the hell that may be. But I don't think that a lot of people are doing that. They're turning to other things when all they gotta do is turn toward themselves and realize that everything that they need to know is right in there [points toward head], and the more you listen to the voices outside your head, the farther you are from understanding who you really are, where you come from, and where you're going."