Publication: Hot Metal

Date: October, 1994

Transcribed by

  page: 20
author: Carl Hammerschmidt

( Note: The contents page displayed this summary...  "Their debut EP
'Opiate', and first LP 'Undertow' were two of the most intense answers to
alternative rock mediocrity that an indifferent public could hope for.
Vocalist Maynard James Keenan talks about art and pain in a corporate
world of making records.  ") 

The best bands often end up in the 'too hard' basket, so Carl
Hammerschmidt and Maynard James Keenan tell us why we need a second bite
at Tool's cherry. 

"It's hard to describe without sounding like a new age fuck. I heard this
theory the other day. I'm not necessarily saying this is what I believe,
but I think it's a very interesting point of view." 
  It's taken a while, but he's finally on a roll. Tool's lyricist and
vocalist Maynard James Keenan is cagey. His reedy, nasal tone gives a
contemptuous nuance to much of what he's got to say. Disdainful accents on
all the topics we discuss, because no ma tter what we cover, conversation
inevitably drifts back to what's wrong and how damn screwy that is. But
now we're drifting inside his head. 
  "God had his right hand man, OK, which was Lucifer," he contemplates,
"and he decided that this guy was getting out of hand so he had to be
taken out ofHeaven. So the theory goes that, perhaps, what we all are is
fragmented souls of Lucifer living on Ea rth, and each piece is self
aware. The goal for us then is to understand that we are all a piece of
this larger idea and we're all working to get back together, and this
particular planet we're on keeps encouraging us to stay separated.. I
think that is k ind of a cool idea." 
  Cool idea, yeah, epecially if you've invested four years stoking the
metallic art machine of conflict that Tool are. As intense as it gets,
they're the rage inducing frustration of unrequited purpose, which comes
from living in a system which tells you one thing and does another. you
are alone no matter how much you come together. They're about being like
everyone else, and how crazy that makes you feel, and how you want to kill
because of it. 
  "I think that we're fragmented," he muses sardonically, "I think that
alienation is inherent. People think that when they are together with
their group of people that they're... together They're not really, they're
an individual in that group. So no mat ter how many people are around you
, you are definitely alone." 
  Tool are a part of the new rock that severed the limb pulsing a blood of
public adoration to glam bands everywhere. They severed it with the sound,
and attitude , of contempt. Glam bands want to party with you, Tool want
to provoke you. If they can, Too l want to fuck with you, because in the
new sexual and social dark ages of the '90's, where so much popular art is
driven by guilt or hate, then that's what's going to come across as being
for all the right reasons. 
  Their music is heavy like Sabbath, expansive like Zeppelin's 'Kashmir',
forceful and retentive like Rollins and Helmet, but with all the inherent
feeling and loneliness of a Tom Waits record. From their debut EP,
'Opiate', Maynard, bassist Paul D'Amour,
 guitarist Adam Jones and drummer Danny Carey, have been individuals who
had to band together so they could express themselves as individuals. They
made weapons out of their imperfections. This is a band whose bio spoke of
profound influence from an obscu re 1949 text. Written by Ronald P.
Vincent, 'The Joyful Guide To Lachrymology' reads as a literal study of
crying. It states, "where there is no pain, there is neither the reason
nor desire to think or create." 
  In space, no one can hear you scream. Maybe so. How about in the white
noise overload of Mainstreet, Anytown? No one can hear you scream there,
either, and even if they could, they probably wouldn't give a shit. To the
million kids that have bought Tool 's debut LP, 'Undertow', that makes
ahell of a lot of sense. 
  "Just living in a big city, there's so many strange things going on."
Maynard's cluing me in on the needs from which the troupe of miscreants
was formed. "The more you uncover, the more you find out, the more
helpless and trapped you feel...Oh...fuck! I t's just everything. The
dying oceans, the ozone, people hating each other for some fucking reason,
I don't know why. I mean, I hate humans in general, but I don't single out
any individually as me hating them more than the oher ones. I like to
spread my hate equally." 
  Tool are a sonic reducer. They go to great lengths and take great pains
in dressing things down to their barest of elements. This ain't no even
flow, it crawls up from the gutter, naked and fearless so as your fears
become naked. It's the gutter of Main street, and shit, what are you going
to do; storm city hall or catch a show at The Love Machine? In living our
lives we fear, hate, eat, sleep and screw. Why pretend that we've anything
more, and why pretend that we are pandered to on any higher level? 
  "Look at so many of today's films and the sexist nature that goes on in
them." Maynard vents. " 'Basic Instinct', why the fuck does that have to
be made? I mean, are we evolving or not? We don't need to see that shit
anymore, the only reason we do is be cause it sells and people have a very
temporary view of their existence, and they're going to cash in and make
their lives more comfortable as quickly as they can." 
  Politics, religion, the media; Tool want to know who's responsible for
distorting the currency of our lives, and until someone owns up. they are
going to twist the wrench and distort things into a caricature that stands
a testament to so much gone wrong . Sometimes the truth not only hurts,
it's the most painful thing you will encounter. I let Maynard flow, he's
at his most meaningful when he's specific and sarcastic. 
  "Even the guys in the Hip Hop scene that portray themselves as being the
homies down in the 'hood, packing their guns, and having to look over
their shoulders. That's garbage, most of them live up past Bel Air and
Beverly Hills in these beautiful homes, and their friends in their BMW's
and Mercedes' come over on the weekends in their polo sweaters and they
sit around and have a barbecue. Not packing anything but a fat wallet,
while there's a million kids out there buying the fashions, packing the
guns and shooting each other over these fucking idiots. They're just
fucking lying and there's no reason for that shit anymore. I just guess
these people don't believe in an after-life or a karmic balance." 
  Whether Maynard and the band believe in this sort of salvation is hard
to determine, "I was raised a Southern Baptist," he says of his upbringing
- part of which he also spent in the military. And despite the priest
sculpture on th cover of 'Opiate', he maintains that he doesn't view
religions negatively. Rather, he looks at leaders and followers with
contempt; the abuse of power, the manipulation of people, and the
motivation of music as a way to break from social constraints. 
  In the world of mainstream rock, Tool commit crimes of the heart in the
same way that Colonel Kurtz did twenty klicks past the Mekong Delta. It's
a forceful sound - drumer Danny plays with the power and feel of few
others - with the sum of each part pulling much more than it's own weight.
All life's ambiguities are racked into the band's complete vision. 
  "I think a lot of the attitudes and music on the album have a lot to do
with a Rapid Eye Movement state, tota dream state." he ventures. 
 Take a look at the artwork for 'Undertow'. With it's surrealistic
fetishism, the weight of a sublime nagging horror, contained in the photos
of the naked obese woman floating over a sea of silk, the sadistic dental
brace worn by Maynard, the forest of acupuncture covering Paul's face, the
shaved pig on a bed of forks, the cow licking it's own arse hidden in the
underlay. These are men who take Gieger's 'Necromonicon' as seriously as
they do John Candy in 'Caddy Shack". Not to mention two of the greatest
stop-motion clips ever made, for 'Sober' and 'Prison Sex'. Watch them, and
find yourself cursing about how criminally weak the medium usually is. 
  "I really like the idea of an undertow," Maynard continues, "just like
that that feeling that you get when you are standing out in the surf, you
just feel like you are being pulled under and out whether you like it or
not. I would hope that the music ta kes you to that place, it kind of
pulls you under and throws you around and you go with it." 
  The band have never done anything with regard for anything, by the same
token, they also play the game with a dose of cunning. Total creative
control has always made for the most emotionally potent material, as well
as material which record companies fi nd the most unmanageable. 
  "I never expected it would have much appeal here, I thought it would in
England and Germany but the record company isn't doing anything, so I
guess I was wrong about the audience." 
  I suggest that, the reason for us conversing is that the record company
are re-releasing 'Undertow', sensing lost opportunity and wanting to make
up ground. 
  "We call it dropping the ball." he quips dryly.
  "Unfortunately creative control doesn't have much to do with some guy in
the distribution office who would rather listen to Take That. It's just
like Soundgarden and Robert Fripp and The Young Gods; it's artists trying
to make sure that treir considerat ions come first, before the machine
ruins what's good." 
  To call them alternative is useless, all it means is they're not Guns N'
Roses, and they're not Phil Collins. They've tapped into an eager audience
which has defined itself by putting the bands they identify with in the
  "I think it's about as big as it's going to get and then it's going to
taper off." It's a tone of hopefulness. " A lot of the young kids are
going to realise, we're not just about fucking and moshing, it's more
about sounds, and so I think a lot of them are going to move on.
  "It's like...," he pauses, searching for the simile. "There's people
that would get into watching me do a card trick because there's a
mathematics behind it that really intrigues them and the joker keeps
coming back up. And then there's the ones that ge t really excited to see
you shuffling the deck, the noise and the cards flying everywhwere. So
that's how I see our audience evolving, the ones that are into the
technique and the emotion are going to be there, and the ones that are
really into the flash of the shuffle are going to move on to some other

(Did you notice the interv iewer writing about 'The Joyful Guide
To Lachrymology' as though he'd read it?!) 

Posted to t.d.n: 10/08/97 12:50:24