Publication: Microsoft MusicCentral
Date: Sometime, 1997
Trent Nakagawa (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Trent Nakagawa (email@example.com)
page: title: The Right Tool For The Job author: Jon Wiederhorn Starting in the early '80s, when Rush surfaced from the metal miasma with distorted, Ayn Rand-inspired rock opera, groups have been saddled with the dubious tag "thinking man's metal." But none have set their conceptual sights quite as high as Tool. The band may not receive much credit for it outside the post-metal community, but Tool is analogous to R.E.M. when it comes to carving out a hard-to-define niche and developing it into a commercial success. Hostile and nonconformist at first blush, Tool's music actually transcends heavy metal's knee-jerk, blind rebellion. Dig through the compulsory bones and riffs, and you'll find the group is striving (surprise!) to promote unity, awareness, and ultimately, prosperity. Its latest album, Aenima, is a Whitman's sampler of cerebral truffles: genetic alteration, geological transformation, and mental mutation-Armageddon followed by Utopia-all from the pagan point of view. The core of the band was formed in 1991by vocalist Maynard James Keenan and guitarist Adam Jones, who met when the singer moved to Los Angeles after a stint in the Army. Keenan's roommates, who were in the band Green Jello, introduced Keenan to their ex-drummer Danny Carey, who eager joined Tool. Last year, Justin Chancellor of Peach signed on to play bass. Tool's first EP, Opiate (1992) stirred up the waters with pulse-pounding songs like "Sweat" and the staggering "Hush," which sounds like an uneasy mating of Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" with Helmet's "In The Meantime." Opiate went gold in the U.S., but it was the follow-up, Undertow, that really established Tool as overlords of metallic overload. The album was propelled by the gloomy singles "Prison Sex," a surging, angst-riddled song about child abuse, and "Sober," an even more oppressive cut embellished with eerie guitar arpeggios and vocals that build from a whisper to a roar. Undertow sold a million copies, paving the way for the band's piece de resistance, Aenima. The first single, "Stinkfist," combines metallic grooves with clanging industrial effects, and "Aenema," a seismic song about "the big one," seesaw between singsong and full-on noise. Though radio stations have largely ignored Tool, the band's conceptual computer art and eerie, stop-action videos (created by Jones) have nonetheless earned them a certain cult status at MTV. The network may have delicately changed the title of "Stinkfist" to "Track #1," but the clip was featured in its Buzz Bin, and that probably had something to do with Aenima's debut at No. 2 on the Billboard charts in its first week.(The album is well on its way to double platinum now.) At present, Tool is playing the second-to-last slot on the Lollapalooza main stage. On the whole, the band members are fairly reclusive, refusing to talk in any detail about their personal lives, and often greeting interviewers with laconic responses to complex questions. They won't even reveal their ages (though Keenan let it slip that he's 32). The mystery and spirituality that pervade their music seem to drive them as individuals as well, and the complex themes they've bestowed upon a typically brain-dead genre could serve as a road map for future alt-metal bands to follow. We recently talked to Keenan, and found him to be articalate, thoughtful, and frightfully well-read. Q: Your new record is a lot more conceptual than your past stuff. How are people reacting to the change? A: For the most part, people are liking the exploratory nature of it. The older people are liking it because it reminds them of some older progressive rock. Q: There's a real industrial edge to it. A: The Young Gods definitely are an inspiration in terms of the experimental way they put their sounds together. (Guitarist) Adam (Jones) is really into Skinny Puppy and Download. I've been really into Einsturzende Neubauten for a long time. Blixa is an artist who has really followed his heart no matter what was going on around him. I can't say that I'm an old diehard fan though. I got into them in '85. I'm a big fan of the Swans as well. Q: You blend really intense subject matter with dark humor. Do people sometimes miss the satire? A: Yes. Generally people choose not to allow things to enter in different catagories. They kind of have to put it in one space, because that's where it's comfortable. It's kind of like the single that we've been pushing on this album. People immediately hear the title, "Stinkfist," and they hear some of the words and they assume it's all about one thing, they can't explore what else it might be, what other implications it has. Q: So what is "Stinkfist" really about? A: It's about alternative perspective about desensitization. It's about how you kind of have your back turned to alternative ideas. It's like that scene in Stargate where James Spader is sticking his hand through the Stargate and he's kind of moving into the next world. First you're finger-deep, knuckle-deep, elbow-deep; (then you) move into this whole new perspective. This whole other reality of the sensual and physical. That's the thread that pretty much sews the whole album together, this idea of evolution and change and alternatve perspective. Q: But your music is so aggressive and ominous. It seems as much about violence as about unity and evolution. A: If you're an advocate, or put any kind of faith into earth changes and pending changes, you have to figure that those are going to be, at first, relatively chaotic and violent. It's gonna be chaotic because there are new ideas, and there is of course resistance to new ideas. The idea of holding yourself together and walking through that chaos takes a lot of focus and faith and clarity. When you realize the whole unity of it all, it just gives you a better perspective. Q: So much of society has to do with dumbing down. How can you believe mankind is evolving? A: All you have to do is look back through history and see how many pompous bastards thought the same thing. In our recorded history it took us about 4,000 years to gather a certain amount of information, and then all of a sudden within 1,000 years we doubled that, and within 500 years we doubled that, et cetera and so on. We're leapfrogging with some of the discoveries that we're coming up with. Just think of the everyday things you're into and just try to place them 20 years ago. Think of the chaos. If somebody were to say right now, "The mothership has just landed on the White House lawn," people would'nt freak out nearly as much as they did when there were radio broadcasts for The War Of The Worlds, and people were jumping off buildings. Q: Aren't many of man's so-called advances leading to his destruction? A: No, we're not just technologically advancing. There's a lot of metaphysical and spirit and emotional evolution that's going on right now. There are huge leaps. World religions are starting to reawaken and realize that they're all pretty much the same. If you really looked at the cores of all those religions, when you get past who's arguing over what land, usually the core message is that unity, and how it connects with our spirit and our eternal nature. I grew up Southern Baptist, and where I grew up, there were no Christian churches around that were teaching anything about crystals or chakras or community, any kind of wacky New Age stuff. But now there are so many churches that incorporate that kind of stuff, and understand more psychology, and incorporate it into what they consider their dogma. Q: Is man open-minded or mature enough now to deal with, or even live through, these changes you're pridicting? A: You have to figure that we're living in the age now where maybe we're being presented with the opportunity to release all the crap from the past. It may be violent for a while, but I have enough faith in humanity and faith in the collective unconscious to know that it's all going to end up working out. Q: What will our transformation and enlightenment involve? A: I have my beliefs, but I can't even discuss that with the average person, because they just think I'm nuts, which is fine, 'cause I am. I'm really left with a choice. Do I want to go out on a limb and alienate people or do I wanna kind of filter out some of those ideas that I'm into that will at least keep people interested enough to explore for themselves? It really kind of comes down to discovering what matters. Do you really need your Porsche? Do you really need all these things, to really evolve who you are? Perhaps the next step of evolution would be the next piece in us that the children that we're bearing today already have. They're going to grow up understanding that unity inherently. I would doubt that our generation has that, but who's to say that the next generation doesn't have that quality in them? It's already being put into them, and they understand it. When you were a kid, were you recycling? Now, we're just completely earth-aware, and we're understanding our responsibility to this globe. Perhaps our children are going to understand, yes, in fact they don't need their Porsche. They can understand alternative medicine and alternative energy sources that don't necessarily cure cancer with cancer. Q: Why express these ideas through music that's loud and agressive? A: You gotta figure that sound in general, vibration, is what makes up everything. That emotional release is going to shake those things loose. It's important, I think. We have a particular demographic and we have a particular group of people that are going to relate to those sounds. Anyway, who's going to reach these kids and talk to them, Danzig, Marilyn Manson? They're serving a purpose and reaching people in a certain way, but there has to be some balance or contrast. And this is the kind of music I grew up listening to, for the most part, and it only follows that this is the medium I'm going to work in. I can only do what I know. Q: Heavy-metal listeners are not traditionally regarded as deep folks. Do you think your fans understand your message? A: It doesn't matter, because it resonates at a total body level, an emotion level. How else could there be kids singing along that know the lyrics to the whole album? It has to be reaching them on some level. Q: Maybe so, but there's a real dichotomy between your positive vibes and your hostile lyrics. Take "Hooker With A Penis," for example. A: The song is actually all about unity. It's all about us being in this together and us having made a decision to be here and to participate. Q: Why unite now instead of divide? A: It's just where my heads at. I'm 32. I've sort of crossed that line. I was a kid who was sort of force-fed holidays like anybody was. I though, "Easter, what is that all about?" That didn't make any sense to me until I understood what actually occurs on that day. And it's the equinox. If you liken the cycle of the moon to the life span of a man, at the beginning of the moon it's a sliver of light, and eventually it comes around and it's this bright disc, kind of like a young man comng to his full energy, his full potential. And it's then that he realizes that the light is emanating. It's not even his light, it's a reflected light from a higher source. And then he goes into the later years of his life, taking that to another level. And the sun and the moon are at opposite. If you're in the right place, you can see that the sun and the moon are on opposite horizons. You can't tell one from the other because they're so intense. That's what Easter is. So I'm at that age when I'm starting to go, "Oh, that's what they were talking about." And if you take the Easter bunny, rabbits have a very procreating nature to them, and the egg itself has a wonderful shape. If you store water in an egg-shaped receptacle, it never stagnates. Q: If you open the Aenima CD, there's a map of the West Coast, and if you tilt the jewel box, California disappears. Do you think California is going to be swept away by an earthquake? A: There's no question that the earth is changing. She goes through changes all the time. People who study tectonics say that California's not going to fall into the ocean. Of course, they aren't taking into consideration some random rise in sea level that has nothing to do with the plate shifting. For example, global warming, where a huge chunk of Antarctica falls off, which has been predicted by geologist, not mysticists. If you raise the average temperature of the globe another two degrees, we're in danger of this huge chunk of Antarctica falling off, raising sea levels quite a considerable amount. Or for example, the magma bubbles within the earth shifting place, which leaves a lot more space for the plates to do some stuff that you normally wouldn't think they would. We don't know anything about the earth, really. We're just guessing. There are things that they're just learning about the core. Q: You're interested in some fairly profound schools of thought. Why not be a philosopher instead of a rocker? A: That's a waste of time. I don't have any original ideas. I'm just expressing what I've read and how I feel about things. I'm just taking age-old ideas and expressing them in a medium I'm familiar with, which is rock. Q: On the song "Third Eye," you make reference to the idea of divine enlightenment. What does the third eye mean to you? A: It is a metaphor for that alternative perspective I've been talking about. It's a metaphor for that state you would get into if you were really exploring the idea of meditation and alternative realities. Breathing and meditation, but also, there is a third eye in your head, physically. It's a gland, where if you were to put your finger in the very top of your head, in the dead center of your forehead and back right there, there's a gland, and it basically is an eye. It's the pineal gland. It has a lens, it faces straight up, and it has all the rods and cones necessary to focus light, but it's not something we've used for a long, long time. If you're one of those New Age freaks who believes that whales and dolphins are more evolved than we are, then you kind of start recognizing the physical characteristics of what that means. They do breathe light through that top part of their head, where that third eye is present in our skull. Q: In the inner sleeve artwork for Aenima, you say "a nonfunctioning mind is clinically dead. Believe in nothing." What do you mean by that? A: As soon as you put yourself into a belief, you've limited yourself, because beliefs are limitations. They're walls, and they're boundaries. So the idea is to knock down the boundaries, to unify all the ideas and all the possibilities, and just keep your mind open to everything.
Posted to t.d.n: 10/28/97 19:09:40