Publication: Guitar School

Date: March 1994

Transcribed by "Drugg Pico" (

 title: Tool Guitarist ADAM JONES is a Master of Many Trades

The most anyone has seen of Tool lately, outside of their dominating
performances on Lollapalooza's second stage last year, are the distorted
flashes in the band's freaky video "Sober". A disturbing piece of
stop-motion animation and cold genius, "Sober" centers on a pained and
confused Messiah, attempting to deal with a cycle of anger, loneliness and
depression. At least that's what we think it's about.

"There really isn't a story-line, just images," explains Tool guitarist
Adam Jones, the warped mind behind the video. "Different people get
different things out of the images. It doesn't matter what it's about, all
that matters is how it makes you feel."

Feelings are what Tool is all about. On Undertow, the band's latest sensory
numbing release, Jones's guitar lines conjure waves of dread and chaos like
primal scream therapy. But exploring the dark side and all its seething
rage is familiar ground to a band whose members have spent several years
immersing themselves in Lachrymology, the science of crying. "We do it
because it's therapeutic," offers Jones soberly.

Guitar and weeping occupy only a small portion of Jones's universe. An
Illinois film student who once worked in Hollywood doing makeup and set
design (even contributing to Terminator 2), Jones actively sculpts and
paints in addition to crafting bizarre creatures for his band's videos.
Interestingly, Jones seems more comfortable as an artist than as a
musician. "I'm not a good guitar player," he admits, "but like everything
else, I try to take it as far as I can and be artistic with it."

GUITAR SCHOOL: You're a film maker, an artist and a guitar player - a
veritable rock 'n' roll renaissance man!

ADAM JONES: Seems that way doesn't it? I studied film in high school and
actually got a scholarship to go to film school. But I turned it down
because I thought it would screw me up. So, I went to art school - and that
screwed me up even worse. [laughs]

GS: In addition to designing the cover for Undertow and the band's infamous
logo, I understand you built the creepy character for your "Sober" video.

J: Yeah, I built that creature and the "meat tunnel" and the band edited
the video and did all the production. All the art for Tool is done by the
me and the band. The album cover is a painting I made. We were all working
in commercial art and films and music. It's a very cool thing.

GS: It must have taken a long time to do all the animation for "Sober"

J: We wanted to take as much time and effort making the video as we did the
song. The video took a month to plan and a month to do. We did a short tour
while a friend, Fred Stuhr, did the animation and storyboards and stuff.
When we got back, I did the meat pipe and that little Jesus character.

GS: How did you come up with the idea for the video?

J: The song and video are based on a guy we know who is at his artistic
best when he's loaded. A lot of people give him shit for that. I don't tell
people to do or not do drugs. You can do what you want, but you have to
take responsibility for what happens. If you become addicted and a junkie,
well, that's your fault.

GS: Have you recieved much critical attention for the video?

J: We won two music awards from Billboard. It got "Best Video By A New
Artist" and something else - I don't remember. I've seen it on MTV a couple
of times, but I haven't heard the song on the radio. We're working on a
sequel called "Prison Sex".

GS: Did you play guitar while you were studying art and film?

J: Yeah, sort of. I played violin and got into that Suzuki program in the
second grade. I played violin all the way up through my freshman year in
high school, then I played a stand-up bass for three years in an orchestra.
I've always dabbled on guitar, but never took lessons. Tom Morello [Rage
guitarist] and I grew up and were in bands together, so we showed each
other stuff. That's as much guitar training as I think I've had.

GS: Maybe that's why the songs on Undertow don't seem to follow any structure.

J: That's the thing! Guy's ask me all the time "Do you think I should go to
GIT?" I ask them "Well, what do you want to learn? What do you want to get
out of it?" They usually can't answer. I think that if you want to learn
theory, how to read music and scales, then GIT's great. But if you want to
be in a band and write music, then you should just be in a band and write
music. I think people like Steve Vai are so boring. My approach is to be
part of a band that makes music, not hit songs. I mean, we started this
band just to have fun. We weren't trying to "make it"; we just tried to
keep it going. There's a big difference."

GS: What music do you listen to?

J: I haven't listened to much music lately; I've been out of it. The only
thing I've heard that I've really liked is the David Sylvia/Robert Fripp
album - it blew my mind. It's heavy, groovy, trippy, and something you'd
think I'd like. [laughs] There's so much more to music than 4/4 and being
able to dance to it. That's what I love about our music - it'll never be a
hit because you can't dance to it. [laughs]

GS: "Sober" is very close to becoming a "hit", though.

J: That's good, and I'm glad about it, but I know it won't reach that level
where it's on "Top of the Pops" or "Casey Kasem's Top 40 Countdown". It
hasn't been really important to us to get in the Top 40 and that whole rat
race. I'm not into being jammed down people's throats. We have meetings
with our record label to tell them how to market us. If we didn't, they'd
just promote us like they promote everyone else. We could have gone with
much bigger labels and more money, but we wanted to go with a company that
is LA based, all in the same building, and really understands what the
artists want. Zoo has pretty much worked out for us. But we occasionally
bang heads with them because they have to answer to a higher power, too.

GS: Still, Undertow has been a commercial success.

J: What's important to us is not how many albums we're selling and all that
shit, it's making real music for people who appreciate it - it's not
writing a hit song so we can sell as many albums as we can look ilke big
rock stars. There's something very selfish about this whole program we've
put together.

GS: How would you categorize your music?

J: When we got signed, Nirvana's album came out a month later, so everyone
went, "You're grunge!" They want from calling us "grunge" to "heavy metal"
to "industrial". Now they don't know what the hell to call us. I think
putting labels on people is just an easy way of marketing something you
don't understand. As far as the grunge thing, there are three bands from
Seattle that I would call true grunge. I seriously do not think Nirvana is
grunge. The Melvins are grunge. But they invented it, ya know? It's just
silly. It became popular and the music industry made it more popular by
hyping it; they sold more albums. It's all about money. That's why we've
pulled together and tried to...

GS: Keep yourself pure?

J: Yeah, exactly! Thank you. [laughs]

GS: Are you happy, then, with the way Undertow came out?

J: Pretty much. I'm my own worst critic and I think everyone in the band is
a perfectionist. With four perfectionists in the band, we have a hard time
reaching perfection. [laughs] We're all happy, but there are little things
we could go back and do better.

GS: The album has a distinctive mood and really amazing tones that are very

J: I was talking with Ken from the band Failure about tone, and we agreed
that most people who are making music are looking for that "mood tone"
thing. To achieve it, I think it's important not to have a distinct sound.
I mean, Tool has a style, but we try to make all our songs sound different
from each other. I listen to Helmet - and I love Helmet, they're a great
band - but every song sounds the same.

GS: Undertow is vastly different on a dynamic level from Opiate, your first

J: I think we let a lot people down because when they heard Opiate,
everyone thought, "Oh, they're a metal band!" Many of the songs on Undertow
were written at the time Opiate came out. But we picked our hardest
sounding songs, thinking that that was the kind of edge we wanted our EP to
have. When Undertow came out, I think a lot of people who like metal got
bummed. But I don't really care. [laughs]

GS: The album is full of very lengthy songs - one is almost eight minutes
long, and a few are six. Don't you think it's hard to keep people's
attentions when songs are that long?

J: We're more into expressing ourselves than making radio hits. We've had
arguments with people who are saying, "Well, the ear can only listen to a
song for three minutes." That's a bunch of crap! Look at Pink Floyd and Led
Zeppelin; their stuff goes on forever, and it's totally listenable and
totally memorable. I've never worried about how long the song is. When we
played with the Rollins Band, we'd keep songs going until we felt like
ending it. That's what music is about, not how long people can stand to
listen to a song. Make yourself happy first.

GS: Did you meet any outside resistance because of the material?

J: Ron St. Germain, the guy who mixed our album, would mix a song and we'd
come in, listen to it, and go, "Okay, sounds good" or "No, it doesn't sound
good, so do this". He wanted to cut up our songs. He said, "I like my steak
without fat; I like to trim the fat off". We told him, "Fuck you, man,
you're not touching any of our songs!" [laughs] He wanted to take little
parts out of each song and make them follow the formula of what sells. I
don't want to follow formula. We want to have our own formula. But we
respect Ron, and he can make suggestions like that. I'm not putting him
down, it's just that I don't agree with him. I highly recommend Ron as a
mixer and have the utmost respect for him. In the end, we got our way.

GS: The CD is listed as having ten tracks, but when you pop it into the
player, it tracks from nine to sixty-nine, with the 69th track being almost
sixteen minutes long. Was that something to mess with our minds?

J: [laughs] It's just a dumb "pick a number" joke. I wanted it to go up to
one hundred, but we thought sixty-nine would be a little more offensive to
people who find things offensive."

GS: So what kind of guitar does a person who doesn't think of himself as a
guitarist play?

J: I use Gibson guitars; I prefer the Les Paul custom. It's a black guitar
with a greenish burst in the middle. They only made them for two or three
years. I guess a lot of people complained that the metallic finish was
affecting the sound. That's exactly why I like playing it. I have Seymour
Duncan pickups, and I can't get the same sound with any other guitar, not
even another Gibson, without that finish on it. I have two of them. I'd buy
another if I could find one.

GS: What year is it?

J: I think it's a '78, maybe an '80 - I don't really know. People always
ask me and I tell them it's a '93. [laughs] That shuts them up.

GS: You're not a big fan of effects.

J: No, not at all. That's the thing I like about my sound. It's real raw
and very unsafe compared to a solid state kind of sound. Solid state amps
sound compressed and very predictable. If you make a mistake, you kinda
have it covered, which isn't always true with me. [laughs] I'm not a geek
about equipment, I just know what I like. I have two pedals, a delay and an
eq. I personally don't like to use as many effects because when you play
live, something always goes wrong. If you only have a couple of pedals, you
can track the problem down. The rack systems I saw during Lollapalooza made
me sick. I guess some guys are really into it, which is cool, and other
guys are just happy with what they have.

GS: What do you use for amplification?

J: I use a vintage Marshall head: a non-master volume bass amp from 1976.
With the non-master volume, you can get this huge range of tones, all the
highs, all the lows, all the mids - then there's this huge crunch. The
thing I like about it is that I can play soft and it won't distort. Then I
can hit it hard and it will distort. It's such an amazing that I take
very, very, very good care of it; I haven't found another one like it. I take
it on the road with me, and when I'm not using it, I keep it in the

GS: In the 'fridge? Next to the milk and baloney?

J: It keeps the components in suspended animation. I heard about that trick
from someone who used to make Fender amps; they would keep the components
in a freezer until they were ready to be used. You just can't find
components for many of the vintage amps. If you have to replace one thing,
it's going to change your whole sound. So you gotta keep your head fresh.

GS: There aren't any solos on your record. Why is that?

J: I'm not into solos, I'm into lyrics. If I play anything that sounds like
a solo, it's gonna sound like a lyric. Doing the stereotypical solo bores

GS: Even without solos, there isn't any lack of guitar presence on Undertow.

J: Exactly. Everyone in the band is equally important. It's not Maynard's
voice and the band. It's Maynard's voice with the guitar part and the drum
and bass parts and how all those components work on each other.

GS: Paul D'Amour, your bassist, is very inventive. He plays like a guitarist.

J: I'm a bass player from way back and Paul is a guitar player and we've
been in many bands. This is the first group in which I've really played
guitar and Paul has played bass in. When we got together, he said, "I don't
really want to play  guitar, I want to play bass". You're right though, he
does play bass like a guitar, and it's awesome.

GS: Didn't your singer used to be in Green Jello?

J: Yeah, Maynard and Danny Carey were in Green Jello; Maynard did that high
voice on "Three Little Pigs" (sings "not by the hair of my chinny chin
chin" in a high voice). I was working in the motion-picture industry and
helped the Green Jello guys with their costumes. Danny, Maynard, and I all
became friends and met Paul through another friend.

GS: Besides art, film and rock 'n' roll, what other projects do you have up
your sleeve?

J: I have a record company starting. It's called Flesh Records and I'm
putting together music for porno movies. I'm looking for a partner; I tried
calling Ron Jeremy (famous porn star), but he won't return my phone calls."