the tool page

this changes everything

This site is no longer being updated. See here for details. Follow me here and here for updates. Thank you for 22 great years. (And yes, lyrics are posted for new album "Fear Inoculum".)


select a year

The Tool Page: An Article

Publication: Revolver Magazine

Date: December, xx

Transcribed by
Andrew Lovell (

  page: 65
 title: Who is Maynard James Keenan?
author: Andy Langer

This article came out this month in Revolver Magazine for 
December 2003. 

Lounging outside a Los Angeles coffee shop, Maynard James 
Keenan is sporting a t-shirt adorned with a simple 
statement: " I Am Not An Artist." Of course, nothing could be 
further from the truth. Keenan is indeed an artist; in fact, 
when you consider the majesty and visions of his bands, Tool 
and A Perfect Circle, you'd be hard-pressed to find another 
modern rock frontman more worthy of the title.
But Keenan's also notorious for keeping his playbook close to 
the vest - he's a cagey let-the-music-do-the-talking type 
who's imfamously press-shy and not anymore chatty wwith 
fans. and yet, across a suprising, sprawling, and exclusive 
Revolver interview, Keenan was unexpectedly forthcoming, 
revealing the motivations, mathematical formulas, and wild 
conspiracy theories that underlie his art.

REVOLVER: People think you're crazy. Is that something 
you've come to accept?

MAYNARD JAMES KEENAN: I'm not crazy. We all have our 
emotional weirdnesses, hang-ups, paranoia, and fears. But 
at the end of the day, why shouldn't we be paranoid? Look at 
what's happening and the way things are homogenized and 
the control issues that come up in a fascist regime or 
dicatorship. Take the music - there's fewer and fewer outlets 
for bands to even rehearse and develop in. And even if you 
do get something going on, unless you're illing to do the 
radio show and go on Oprah, you're out of the loop and not 
part of the machine. Wal-mart is gobbling up every record 
store out there. It's an uphill struggle. And what ends up 
happening are manufactured bands, Fabricated to fit right 
into the Happy Meal slot, Initially, they sell a bazillion records 
because they're being sold like McNuggets. Of course they're 
gonna sell - it's the onl option! It's the only thing consumers 
are presented with as a choice.

R: Where does that leave you as a musician?

M: Fucked. I can only do what i do. Even if i wanted to make 
my work more shallow, i don't think i could. But who am i to 
judge? People have to follow their hearts, and if their hearts 
lead them to Wal-Mart, so be it. But if people are listening, 
then they'll hear something and hopefully crawl out of the 

R: How easily do you do what you do?

M: Not easily at all. It's always a struggle, Because youre 
looking for that magic word - the magic line or sequence of 
sounds that unlocks something. There's a gazillion people in 
recovery and if we could just find the magic word that would 
suddenly heal poeple, we would have probably come up with 
it by now. So i's an endless struggle to figure out what's 
going to work for you. That's all i can really do - try to figure 
out what works for me and feel better about the world around 
me by having expressed something about it.

R: What do you think people most misunderstand about you?

M: I have no idea. And it;s not going to change what i'm 
doing. There are certain behaviors i'm trying to become more 
aware of in my personal relations. But as far as somebody's 
perception, there's nothing you can do about it. It is what it 
is. If you're really good about playing the media the you 
might be okay for a while, but eventually, the music ends up 
suffering and people realize it's the emperor's new clothes - 
a house of cards.

R: But there's a mysterious mythology around you and your 
career. Is that a pro or a con?

M: I have a theory. Most people will agree we're connected on 
some level, be it by these invisible threads of consciousness 
or whatever. I think all of us recognize that ball of light in 
some way. And often, artists who become popular or gain 
recognition have a little more of a grasp than others on 
channeling that light, that chi or aura. But at some point, 
when you pass that threshold and people are aware of you on 
a global level, it can suck you energy - unless you learn how 
to keep those people away. you can see those who pass that 
threshold getting destroyed, getting more guant as people 
take away their life force - there's so many people plugged 
into them and they're taking on more than they're capable of 
handling. You may have a nice mansion, but what did it cost? 
You're a zombie. You see actresses and actors out in a club 
without makeup and it's like "jeez...take a vacation and 
unplug somehow, because people are sucking you dry." So i 
think that the double-edged sword i'm happy with - I may not 
be a household name, But i can go shopping and buy 

R: Do you change you appearance so frequently and do 
things like wear wigs so that you can build a defense against 
the world? Or are the disguises just part of the way you 
express yourself artistically?

M: It's part of the art. Jack Nicholson wil tell you that when 
you put on the Joker outfit, it comes to life on its own and 
has its own personality that has nothing to do with Jack 
Nicholson. Gary Oldman puts on some kind of fucked up wig 
amd make up and he's a whole different person and the 
acting just kind of follows. So yeah, it's part of the art and 
performance, without being corrupt by fame.

R: what do you enjoy about all this? What's the fun about it 
for you?

M:It's a puzzle. I'm trying to figure out life puzzles, music 
puzzles, geometry, word games. Play until you die, you 
know? And the more you learn about different stuff, the more 
references and cross-references pop up that make the 
puzzles and matrixes more fun. It's how you grow and learn 
about yourself. It's how you figure out what makes you tick 
and perhaps how to adjust that or enhance that.

R: All that sounds very mathematical. Isn't self-discovery 
supposed to be emotional?

M: Emotions can be mathematical in nature - everything else 
is. All naute can be described with mathematics.

R: Is that what always appealed to you or did you grow into 
realizing that?

M: No, i just write what i hear. I hear something and 
say "That's a cool idea. Let's see what i can do with that." 
And then something comes up in my personal life and i try to 
see if i can 't get to the bottom of that motivation and see 
what makes that thing tick. I'm like any kid that gets a toy 
for Christmas and wants to break it open to see what makes 
it work. Then the trick is to try and put the toy back together.

R: I would have though that someone as socially conscious 
as yourself would reflect in you lyrics the malaise caused by 
the war in Iraq and other world events. But APC's new album 
is largely apolitical.

M: No, it's not; the sleeping people are in there. Take the 
line "COunting body like sheep to the rhythms of the war 
drums." There are a lot of people - especially in Middle 
America -  that have been asleep. It's difficult for me to 
seperate interpersonal and internal dynamics from 
relationship dynamics and world dynamics. It all has to do 
with listening and compassion. And right now, there's not 
much listening going on in the world.

R: You've often spoken about the late, great counterculture 
comedian Bill Hicks. Is there anybody else out there fans can 
use as a doorway to figuring you out?

M: It's hard to step up to the Hicks. As far as the social and 
political commentary, i hope people would discover David 
Cross and Janeane Garofalo through us - They're amazing 
people. She's so well read and pretty much took the words 
out of my mouth - thank God - when the iraqi Freedom Fest 
broke out, If i'd beed put on camera on CROSSFIRE, i'd have 
been shot between the eyes. She's an amazing individual, 
and David Cross as well. He's got some pretty strong opinion 
that are grounded. Id be running around trying to tie the war 
in with the JFK assassination. He's a little more levelheaded 
than that.

R: What's with you and the conspiracy theories?

M: I'm an idiot with them. I'll start putting it all together for 
you and by the time i'm done you'll think i need lithium, but 
you'll kind of start agreeing with me too.

R: So the point for you is to question things, not necessarily 
to reach an incontrovertible conclusion?

M: On September 11 what i thought immediately was, Start to 
question now. Suspect everything. Don't take anything at face 
value becuase the people that run the country own your 
media. Even if you're wrong about you;re crazy conspiracies, 
at least ask the questions. Because never, ever, in the 
history of man, have you ever, ever, ever been able to trust 
your government.  So why the fuck would we start now? Just 
because something blew up? Start there and draw your own 
conclusions. But definately start the process. And even now, 
you can't get much information unless you really begin to 
seek out alternative sources to try and figure out whats going 
on. And you have to be armed with the skills to do that kind 
of research. And having a father and mother that were high 
school teachers, I can tell you stright from the horse's mouth 
that we've been robbed of the tools and skills necassary to 
even know where to look.

R: Since you feel that way, do you find it tempting to make 
your music more politically focused - to use it as a vehicle for 

M: In a way it is. There's a social commentary in the music 
already that cuts to the bone as far as the social dynamics of 
waking up and questioning. It's all there. You have to listen 
though. It's about looking at your weaknesses and strengths 
and knowing you have to wake up - whether its about 
relationships or substance abuse. television is the biggest 
drug we've ever been introdused to. The effect it has on your 
mind is insane - the way it alters the wayyou perceive things 
and alters your reality, where you're gonna put your money 
amd who you're gonna vote for. It's a mind altering drug.

R: But you watch it?

M: I watch films. But even in films you can see an agenda. 
Jut pay attention - just look and see it. Look at all the war 
movies that came out a year prior to 9/11.

R:Are television and film that different that the conglomerate-
owned recording industry?

M: I;m not Rage Against The Machine. I;n not claiming that 
kind of platform. I'm just trying to make records and express 
myself the best i can. At the end of the day, all the evil 
corporations can really do is not put my records in the stores. 
I'm putting what i want on my record. They're not changing 
that. Nothing is altered. And if they want to not sell my 
records, that's fine with me - I;m still going to bag on them 
and try to undermine the monster. At the end of the day, I'm 
going to get onstage and play. Even if you don't want to sell 
or buy my CD im still going to go out and perform. 

R: Does the performing part come easier now than when you 

M: It's always come easy. It's always been simple.

R: Why?

M:It just makes sense to me. There's and energy in the 
room that makes sense to me. It's all about the moment, 
really. You know you've tapped into something when you can 
replay and equation and get a similar emotional response. 
So every night is a reminder that we're on the right path.

R: Are there things that you'd address with Tool that you 
wouldn't in APC?

M: There's no rule of thumb; things happen as they happen. 
Im sure you have frends that you can try to force certain 
discussions on, but that discussion might be easier with a 
different set of friends. But there's no sacred ritual or outline 
on paper.

R:If you had to do this all over again, would you take the 
same path?

M: I don't think i could change anyting. Im the guy that 
freezes up when you say you have three wishes from the 
genie. Im a let-go, let-it-happen-as-it-will kind of guy. And 
yet i'm a guy with direction. I'm working toward something, 
recognizing the nuances.

R: Are you a happier guy now than, say, 10 years ago?

M: Sometimes im happy and sometimes im sad. Anybody 
that claims to be happy all the time is clear on fucking 
Prozac. You're not supposed to be happy all the time - It's 
the nature of emotion.

R: Do you enjoy being on the road?

M: Absolutely. Its the exchange of energy. the minimal 
amount of energy you put out to deliver your music or have 
your television show or movie come out - theres this sucking 
and drawing because you're nt putting enough out. The road 
balances that because there's a lot more energy being 
generated in that space - it's more of a sharing of energy. A 
lot of that seems kind of new age and very 
McDonalds/Celestine Prophecy/Wal-Mart, but i think you 
really can feel that exchange of energy in a performance 

R: Are you a more powerful performer now than when we first 
saw you?

M:I think I'm just a difference performer now. There was a 
rage that i felt back in 1992, living in LA and being broke, 
that i no longer have. It's the same story with every 
successfull musician: you're hungry and angry and then 
things change. I mean, I'm still pissed of plenty - the traffic 
in LA is enough to drive anyone insane - but then again, I 
have a nice big tub i can get into and cool off. It' not easy 
maintaining that James Brown egde and enjoying life - 
enjoying being comfortable and successful. It's a fine line. 
And it's what takes most musicians down. The record 
company's worst fear is that you'll fall in love or get rich.

R: Do you read what's said about you on online message 

M: No. I can't.

R: do you liek dealing with fans at all?

M: No. It's just too strange a form of adoration. Im not sure 
how to relate to it. I understand that young kids have idols 
and are fans of things, But i would hope that they've learned 
from what we've done is that they can do it too and there's 
no reason to praise me for anyting.  I'm basically just trying 
to work shit out and channel some important emotional, 
physical, spritual stuff that everyone goes through. We're just 
doing our best to put it on paper and get it on tape. But it's 
the same shit everyone goes through, so in theory everyone 
has access to it and everybody should be able to do it. So 
the point of praising one particular set of metaphorical 
vessels doesn't make sense, because i didn't invent the 
emotion, I'm just trying to translate it.

R: And you have particularly adoring fans...obsessive fans.

M: Nah. I don't think we have obsessive fans. Obsessive fans 
are really into the Backstreet Boys this week and will be into 
the next boy band next week. That's obsessive, fly-by-night 
fans. Our fans, if they're really fans, get really into what we 
do and do stuff with it - they write and create. We become 
irrelevant. They just look at that came out of the interaction 
between the four or five individuals and go, "That was an 
interesting result of that set of chemicals. There's nice 
alchemy there." It's like running up to a jar of fucking 
phophorus and going, "Good job!" It doesn't make any 
sense! I realize that fandom is part of the process and this 
business, so i'll acknowledge it. And i'm not going to judge 
the fans for not getting that. But at the same time, Im not 
going to foster that kind of behavior. I don't want to plug into 
it. God, fucking photos at the show are so annoying - flash 
cameras. I know you want to be closer, but nothing pushes 
us further away. As soon as those flashes go off, the 
relationship becomes very parasitic. You're not being very 
compassionate for what we're doing up there if you flash a 
light in my eye. Try to have someone tell you a personal 
story when you're flashing a flashlight in their eye. They can't 
focus on what they're trying to tell you. It's why you can't 
bring a fucking camera to an orchestra while they're playing 
or Baryshnikov when he's dancing.

R: Do you have any regrets?

M:I have no regrets. I've made more mistakes then i'd care 
to list, but i wouldn't change a thing. At the end of the day 
they're not going to matter; there's no asshole with a book at 
the Pearly gates judging you. As i understand it, the first line 
in  that particular book in question is "In the beginning there 
was the word, and the word was God." And the Hebrew word 
for "god" is the same word for "light" and "love". So in the 
beginning there was love - infinite, unconditional, and not 
about judgement. So if you subscribe to the idea that we're 
all connected and there's some sort of source that keeps our 
hearts beating, then there's no judgement.

R: Do you put commercial expectations on your albums?

M: I've done what i can do. All we can do is feel how all the 
songs feel in the order way play them and say "we can 
rearrange that or make the lights do this or that." Otherwise, 
it's out of my hands There's nothing i can do about it. And 
the odds are that whatever i do now, eventually the numbers 
will go down. Espescially in this climate of downloading, 
whatever you do this year or next is going to look like a 
failure compared to what you did the previous year - even if 
you did the same kind of business.

R: Does that frustrate you?

M: No. If you take that personally or to the heart than you've 
let yourself fail. Don't worry about it. The world is changing. 
We get to be alive during the most extreme sets of change 
in the history of our human develpoment since Sumeria. This 
is the time. If you bought a ticket you bought a ticket for the 
right show. In this age of technology and emotional 
development - everything going on and leapfrogging day by 
day - you're in the right spot for the fireworks.

R: And you're in the right spot to interpret those changes with 
your music.

M: Yeah. We can try. But i'm not sure the Chinese will allow 
us when they get over here.

R: They're coming?

M: Yeah. NOt to put on my paranoid hat for you, but get 
used to speaking Chinese.

That is the EXCLUSIVE interview with Maynard James Keenan. 
The next article features APC, but my hands are so tired of 
typing. I need a rest. perhaps i'll submit it tomorrow.....

Posted to t.d.n: 10/27/03 17:21:36