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The Tool Page: An Article

Publication: Microsoft MusicCentral

Date: Sometime, 1997

Transcribed by
Trent Nakagawa (trentn@aros.net)


  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