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The Tool Page: An Article

Publication: Rhythm

Date: August, 2002

Transcribed by
Nick Wilson (

  page: 66
 title: Lateral Thinking - Danny Carey, The Rhythm Interview
author: Patrizia Mazzuoccolo

His powercharged style has helped shape the sound of one of 
today’s most enigmatic and revered rock bands - Tool.  But 
despite rocking the world with his molten-metal grooves, 
Danny Carey is taking fame, success and the music business 
in his stride.

Tool are currently the biggest rock band on the planet.  Their 
latest album, Lateralus, released in 2001, took four years to 
complete and has, so far, sold millions of copies worldwide.  
Their 12-year career has seen them reap awards and recruit 
new fans like it’s going out of fashion.  Tool, however, are 
reluctant rock stars.  The discomfort displayed when having to 
put their art into words during interviews has earned them the 
reputation of being difficult, humourless musos.  However, 
this is as inaccurate as their music is elaborate.  Rhythm 
master Danny Carey, responsible for the eclectic time 
signatures on the band’s three studio albums, various EPs 
and live performances, is a man brimming with intriguing 
concepts and subtly sarcastic wit.  Born in Payola, Kansas in 
1961, Danny started playing drums at the age of 10.  Though 
heavily influenced by the great fusion drummers of the time, 
and exposed to jazz by through various drum teachers, 
Danny would steal his older brother’s Led Zeppelin records 
decipher John Bonham’s inimitable drum beatings.  He then 
went on to receive a scholarship in High School and attended 
the Conservatory of Music in Kansas City where he gained 
classical training.  Renowned for his intricate, heavy-handed 
style behind the kit, Danny’s playing with Tool has brought 
him a legion of fans, both among Tool aficionados and name 
drummers.  Rhythm encountered Danny while Tool were over 
on a short European tour.  The LA-based drummer was 
affable and relaxed, and sounded genuinely amazed at all 
the attention his playing has been attracting of late.

Rhythm: Lateralus was possibly the most anticipated album 
of the past five years.  What kind of impact has it had since 
it was released?

Danny Carey:  “I guess in the big picture, not that much, but 
maybe among some of the new rock bands we have had a 
little bit of influence.  I’d like to think that it maybe opened a 
few doors and made people realise they don’t have to fit into 
a certain format and they can be a little freer in their 
compositions but still achieve a number one record in 
America.  That was a big surprise for us.  But, you know, 
we’ve had a lot of years together to develop our sound and it 
keeps getting more developed (laughs).  The more we are 
willing to share with each other, the longer the band stays 
together.  It’s like getting in a relationship with your spouse.  
The longer you are together, the more intimate you can be.”

So what kind of impact has it had on your own life?

“Nothing too big.  It was nice to call my mom and tell her that 
it went to number one (laughs) but other than that, the only 
real life-changing thing for me that ever came about from 
Tool was probably in 1989 when I got to quit my day job.  As 
soon as I got rid of my boss, things got a lot better (laughs 
again).  Drumming was an activity that I did on the side at 
first, because I needed to pay the rent in the meantime.”

Most of the album is written in compound signatures.  Why 
the complex composition for a rock record?

“We don’t have any pre-determined structures within our 
minds when we sit down and start jamming with each other.  
We just try and be as free as possible and express what’s 
inside us.  It makes it a lot easier when you have to play the 
songs over and over again.  It’s to do with that chemistry that 
happens between the four of us, without our egos getting in 
the way of the sound.  The music benefits when we can all 
get our egos out of the way and a higher voice can come 
through.  It would be really tough if you had some ulterior 
motive behind your art and then all of a sudden it became a 
big hit and you had to keep pounding that horrible method 
into the ground.”

Which track did you find the most challenging on Lateralus?

“Probably, in terms of physical stamina, it was ‘Ticks and 
Leeches’ because I don’t do that much double bass stuff or 
full-on playing like that, so it was pretty intense.  After you 
tour for a couple of weeks though, it’s not that hard any more 
because you gradually get in shape and toughen up.  I tend 
to hit a lot harder when I’m playing live and after a few weeks 
of doing that, the physical part becomes much easier.  When 
we were recording, we only had a limited amount of time to 
do it.  I never tend to hit as hard when we are rehearsing in 
our little room where we write.  But then, all of a sudden in 
the recording studio, the adrenalin kicks in, I’m playing a lot 
harder and it’s tough to get, to keep a take on that I was 
happy with.”

You recently played Ozzfest at Donnington.  The majority of 
drummers who featured on the bill described your drumming 
as ‘clever’.  How does that make you feel?

“I guess it’s better than saying I’m ‘interesting’ (laughs).  I’d 
rather say that it reminded me of an avalanche or whatever, 
as long as your description could put pictures in people’s 
minds, because ‘interesting is kind of boring.  It’s the first 
time I’ve heard somebody say that about my playing.  I 
guess you couldn’t offer a similar description for a lot of the 
metal drummers’ playing, because most of them seem to 
plod at times.  Things can become one-dimensional in that 
vein of music, rather than it being really creative and 
spontaneous.  It becomes kind of an exercise rather than an 
artistic expression.”

I’ve noticed that the rest of Tool look to you as if you’re 
leading them through the gig.  Is that part of your role?

“I think that’s the drummer’s job - to take the reins and 
establish the tempos and be the emotional leader in some 
ways. Too.  It’s like being the conductor because there is no 
conductor.  What we’re usually doing is trying to keep eye 
contact with each other a lot during a gig, because if we are 
tight and feel good within ourselves, we know it’s going to 
translate out front.  However, there are other times when 
theleader role shifts around the band.”

Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst has previously said: “Tool, to me, 
are the best band on the planet.  There’s something wrong 
with those guys.  They’re too good.  They must know 
something that the rest of the world doesn’t.”  Do you?

“I think everybody knows what their artistic motives are and 
maybe a lot of people decide not to be true to them.  Maybe 
there are other influences that they succumb to, such as 
management, record companies, pressure from these people 
or maybe greed and financial gain.  I would like to think that 
those were the reasons…”

You’ve been playing drums for at least 30 years now.  How 
have you achieved your sound?

“It has happened so gradually that I really don’t know.  Since 
I started playing, at the age of 10, I was pretty much ripping 
off ideas from all my favourite players and I guess it’s a 
combination of all of them which eventually turns into your 
own sound.  I really got into ‘70s fusion heavily at school and 
aside from rock drummers like John Bonham or Bill Bruford, 
my biggest influences were Billy Cobham, Lenny White and 
Steve Gadd.”

Do you still practise?

“Yeah, occasionally, because I don’t really have the time to 
practise on the road other than doing some rudiment-related 
things on a pad before we go on, just to warm my hands up.  
I try to, somewhat, when I’m at home.  The set that I use on 
the road is in our rehearsal space, which is a couple of blocks 
from my house.  I wander down there almost every day, 
working on something.  I may not be practising the drums 
but getting new sounds out of synthesisers or recording 
something.  I mean, it’s my job, so I pretty much do it every 

So how many hours do you work a day?

“Probably six or eight.  There are days when we are running 
around having meetings and it’s not that I can always put in 
so many hours recording or playing music.  You know, there 
are always business things that interfere in it, too, but that is 
also part of the job.”

How do you choose you never-ending collection of Paiste 
cymbals?  How many have you got so far?

“I don’t know.  I’ve never counted them (laughs).  I just 
never really thought about how many there were.  A lot of the 
rock drummers that I was influenced by used those cymbals - 
Stewart Copeland, Carl Palmer - and I just loved how they 
sounded on those records.  I tried out a lot of other brands, 
too, and some of them I really like, but they seemed kind of 
inconsistent.  Early on I used Zildjian but it’s so heart-
breaking when one of your cymbals breaks and you’re never 
going to find another one that sounds exactly like that.  This 
way, I know that I can go out and find an 18” Power Crash 
and the sound will be pretty similar.”

Your most renowned technique is that of splitting rudiments 
between your hands and feet.  Is that something picked up 
at school or has that been a natural learning progression for 

“I don’t know if anyone ever taught me that.  It becomes 
really obvious if you read music and you can see all the 
rudiments and patterns - there are only so many that can go 
on between your hands and feet.  A lot of time when I am 
playing something or maybe working out of a book I run 
across one that’s difficult or find a weak point then I’ll try to 
work on that a little bit.  However, most people that come up 
to me, comment on the beating (laughs).”

What’s your weakness?

“My double bass.  It’s fine for me to use it to embellish 
things but I can’t play double bass like Dave Lombardo or 
some of the speed metal guys.  That’s a totally different 

How has your classical and jazz training influenced your 
drumming style?

“The dynamics of being aware of ensemble playing goes a 
long way, and just extending your compassion towards the 
people you’re playing with helps a lot.  More so on the 
compositional side, though it helps to come up with ideas for 
arranging because when you are aware of the genius 
arrangements of a lot of the classical and modern classical 
composers, those are invaluable tools.”

Are you going to do any drum clinics in the foreseeable 

“I have done three so far and the Paiste guys really want me 
to do more, and I guess the Sonor guys too, but our touring 
schedule has been so intense, I have not had any time to 
concentrate on that side of things.  I may try to do a few this 
year when the tour ends, and might come over to Europe, 
too.  You know, it’s kind of an intimidating thing for me to do 
clinics, because almost everybody has such a monkey show 
worked out, you feel like you almost have to be a circus 
freak.  My band doesn’t suck and most of the guys that do 
drum clinics play in really awful bands (laughs)”

Do you still arrange your drum kit in the shape of a 

“It was never in a pentangle (laughs), but it’s worked around 
movements that seemed logical and seemed to flow for me.  
I just tried to be aware of certain spatial relations, I guess.”

The NME recently ran a picture of you wearing a T-shirt with a 
swastika-like motif.  Can you explain that?

“It’s not a swastika.  It’s actually four hatchets that were 
roped together and it was, in fact, one of the most powerful 
anti-Nazi pieces of artwork in existence, and was made by a 
Jewish guy during World War II who had escaped from Nazi 
Germany to keep from being executed.  That T-shirt of mine 
is actually an anti-Nazi statement.  I haven’t seen the piece 
yet, but I have heard that someone at the NME wrote 
something and was going on about how I was a Nazi or I was 
wearing a Nazi T-shirt or whatever.  I couldn’t believe it!  It 
really irritates me when some blabbermouth journalist goes 
off and says things about something he knows nothing 
about.  If he had an education about these things he would 
know that image is one of the most famous anti-Nazi pieces 
of artwork ever made.”

I thought it might have been a Masonic symbol, given that 
you are the son of a Freemason and are interested in that 
side of things.  Have you ever thought about joining a 
Masonic lodge?

“I don’t know whether I will go through all that and do all 
those things.  In Los Angeles, some of my closest friends 
and I sort of have our own lodge and pick bits and pieces out 
from the OTO (Ordo Templi Orientis) and Masons and the 
different sects you can read about.  We take the best bits 
from other organisations.  I think it’s a bit like a religion, and 
it works best when you create your own by getting pieces from 
here and there.  It then becomes more internalised, more a 
part of you, and more right for you, rather than just jumping 
on someone else’s bandwagon or into an established 


5 Facts

1 - Danny was actually working as a delivery driver up until 
1989 when Tool signed their first record deal.

2 - Both Danny Carey’s father and his grandfather are 
Freemasons (members of a secret - though nowadays not so 
secret - order, which is pledged to brotherliness and mutual 

3 - Danny is an avid reader of texts dealing with the hidden 
side of civilisations and religions, such as ‘Holy Blood, Holy 
Grail’, ‘The Bloodline of the Grail’ and ‘The Hiram Key’, 
among others.  “I have a section dedicated to that subject on 
my website, so if people find that interesting, they can check 
it out there.”

4 - When Danny and Justin picked up a Grammy Award for 
Best Metal Performance for ‘Schism’ in 2001, Danny thanked 
Satan.  “I was sitting there hearing all these insincere people 
thanking God for this and that.  It got so frustrating that I 
said ‘If we win, I am definitely thanking Satan’, because 
there’s got to be some sort of balance…”

5 - The backstage passes issued for Tool’s Down Under tour 
bore this message:  “Very Impudent Parasite: I, the person 
whining before you had absolutely nothing to do with any of 
the creative processes which led up to this event and I have a 
perverse overestimation of my importance here.  Ignore me.”


5 Tracks

1 - ‘The Grudge’
From ‘Lateralus’ (2001)
“This is mostly played in 5/4.  A lot of that came from 
rudimentary exercises that I used to do a lot when I was 
warming up my hands on the Aenima tour, and Justin came 
up with such a great bassline that went with it.  I ended up 
moving that same pattern around the toms.”

2 - ‘Reflection’
From ‘Lateralus’ (2001)
“The drum beat was really the foundation of this track.  It 
was mainly inspired by Japan’s Steve Jensen - I used to be a 
big fan of his.  I reckon he used to be one of the best 
mellow-type drummers around.  He played so subtly, he was 
real minimalist.”

3 - ‘Parabola’
From ‘Lateralus’ (2001)
“I wasn’t very comfortable with this song initially, because 
when we first started playing it, it just sounded so straight 
and it kind of bugged me.  I was worried that it didn’t sound 
unique or interesting enough, but then I went and did 
something cool on the verse and so it evolved, and I ended 
up liking the tom beat a lot.”

4 - ‘Lateralus’
From ‘Lateralus’ (2001)
“Justin (Chancellor, Tool bassist) came up with the main idea 
for it.  Originally it was called ‘9-8-7’, because there was a bar 
of 9, 8 and 7 and it had such a nice hook to it.  I love playing 
it and we had some great jams on that one because you’re 
able to play 3 over the top of it, or 4 almost.  Even though 
it’s almost such a weird, jerky thing in a way, it still has a nice 
harmony to it because the numbers are special in that one 
too.  It turned out that Maynard (James Keenan, Tool’s 
vocalist) came up with these words about spirals which were 
based on the Fibonacci sequence; the 9-8-7 is one of the 
steps in the sequence.  We were so amazed at the 
synchronicity of it.”

5 - ‘Eulogy’
From ‘Aenima’ (1996)
“I was practicing one day, and this particular pattern - having 
the hi-hat on every 3/16 - felt really comfortable.  It kind of 
wandered into the back of my mind until we started jamming 
on this track and all of a sudden there was the perfect place 
to fit that in, which happened to go along neatly with Maynard 
and Justin at the same time.”


Danny’s Gear

Danny has been playing Sonor drums since his first year at 
university, and currently owns a Designer Series.  “Sonor have 
always been the best-sounding drums for me.  I prefer 
drums that have thicker shells, and they are one of the few 
companies that still make thicker-shelled drums.  They have 
a stronger fundamental frequency, rather than so much of 
the overtone stuff, and their sound cuts through the band a 
lot better.  They have a really nice, woody sound, even at 
high volume.  I have two bass drums, two floor toms, two 
toms, a 14” rototom and a 14” bronze snare.”

“I am still using the old Simmons SDX at this point, which is 
kind of an antique now, but it’s the only one that I like that is 
flexible enough.  I have a friend, Vincent Di Franco, working 
on a prototype for a new triggering system that I can use with 
the G4 computer.  The main thing that I am having him 
develop is a system for the pad to know where you hit it on 
the surface, so that you can control parameters from where 
you are striking the pad, as opposed to all the products 
currently on the market that are not sensitive to that.  I know 
the pads have already been manufactured, so it’s a question 
of getting the software worked too, but I should be able to 
use the whole set-up shortly.”

“As far as cymbals are concerned, I have three crashes (18” 
and 20” Signature Power, 18” Full), two Chinas (22” Signature 
Thin and 24” 2002) and a ride (22” Signature Dry Heavy).  
The rest is all little bells, embellishments, things like that.”

Danny batters his Paiste Signature cymbals and Evans heads 
with Trueline signature sticks: “I got hooked on Trueline 
sticks in ’93.  We were playing the Lollapalooza gigs and had 
to go on at 2pm every day.  The temperature reached almost 
100 degrees at every show, and my hands were sweating so 
much.  These sticks had a bump at the handle end and are 
very comfortable.  I designed the stick that I use now, 
because though the company had the idea for the little 
handle, I was never quite happy with the weight and the taper 
of the sticks.  A lot of it is to do with how much rebound you 
want it to have off the head, so I had to re-adjust one of 
their models.”

Posted to t.d.n: 07/16/02 01:46:50