the tool page

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The Tool Page: An Article

Publication: Guitar One

Date: January, 2002

Transcribed by
K[elly] (

  page: 84
 title: Images and Words
author: Bob Gulla

As I sit in an upper floor of an office building in New York 
City, Tool is soundchecking directly underneath me, on the 
building's street-level stage and the noise is unsettling. So 
great the rumble that it quite literally makes my molars 
rattle, and I check the ceiling to see if the already crumbling 
plaster is in danger of breaking completely loose. When the 
noise stops momentarily, the only sound I hear is the 
scratching of my pen. The contrast is dizzying.

But there lies the essence and vitality of Tool. Monstrous 
peals of luminous noise buffeted by deafening quiet, waves 
of motion followed by the hush of stillness, and the cycle 
repeats -- but never in the same pattern or color as before. 
As the clangor starts up again below me, again the floor and 
ceiling feel unsafe. I can't elucidate the effect it has many 
flights up, but I do know it's the same unsettling feeling that 
makes Tool at eye-level such a brilliant and unpredictable 
band. Certainly guitarist Adam Jones can explain it better.

BG: Do you consider yourself primarily a guitarist and 
songwriter? I know there are many facets to what you are.

AJ: Music has always been part of my life, since I was a little 
kid. But I think whatever I do, it will be art standing in the 
shadow music, or music standing in the shadow of art – that 
kind of realm. As long as I get to express myself with visually 
and with audio, I’ll be really happy. It has really opened 
doors for us now because now I’m directing out videos, and 
doing our album artwork, and so I’m getting the release I 
need. Tool is my life. A lot of people get wrapped up in their 
bands, but want to do something else, or they want to get 
away from music. I love this because there are so many 
different things we can do.

BG: Some guitarists think in terms of colors when they write. 
When you sit down to write, so you think in terms of images?

AJ: Definitely. The songs become little moments, and to me, 
that’s what I like in a song. If I let it flow, where does it take 
me? And when I listen to it again, does it take me to a 
different place? The song “The Patient” was called “Red” for a 
long time because that’s what everyone was really identifying 
with, and really felt. For “Parabola,” Maynard was talking 
about how hard it is to walk up a sand dunce, but once you 
get to the top… and I was like, “Yeah! That’s exactly what I 
was thinking!” It’s art and poetry and it’s a weird thing. 
Sometimes I don’t see anything but a cool riff, and it’s really 
fun to play. Most of the time, though, it’s a visually 
stimulating thing that works both sides of your brain.

BG: Your fans are so accepting, and so eager for both the 
visual and aural aspects of the band. That must be fulfilling. 
But does it put pressure on you in terms of creating?

AJ: No, because it’s more about what we like. It’s that old 
saying: The guide to happiness is making yourself happy. 
It’s when you listen to something and love it and want to 
hear it again. And I love our music. It’s not about business. 
It’s not like, “Okay, it needs this and this to get on the radio, 
and then I can have this much money and I’ll buy a house 
and a car.” It’s about letting it flow. There are different levels 
of expression, and if I just keep doing what I like to do, it’s 
going to be successful because I believe in it.

BG: How quickly did Lateralus come together? It sounds 
organic, almost like you did it live.

AJ: This album was the total crucible for us. It’s really 
intimate and vulnerable. This album is totally about us. It 
came together in stages. It makes me mad when people 
say, “This album is five years in the making.” No, it’s not! It’s 
like a year in the making. We had a lot of problems and 
we’re still having a lot of problems. We had to change record 
companies, and there was a potential lawsuit, and we tried to 
improve our business. We lost our manager, and lost out old 
Tool ways, which meant trusting people based on ignorance. 
So, it’s a whole new process of healing and moving on, and 
becoming better businessmen and artists. We’re a 
brotherhood and we have to watch out for each other.

BG: It sounds like a brotherhood, too. Danny and Justin are 
huge on the record. Those guys are the energy behind what’s 
going on.

AJ: Well, we can talk about the clarity – that’s what we went 
for. A lot of times the bass and drums get lost with each 
other. We tried to make it so you could hear everyone. The 
first time we recorded it was like, “Turn up the guitar.” And 
then a guy would go, “Turn up the bass.” And then another 
guy, “Turn up the drums!” and then “Turn up the vocals.” The 
last time, it was a little more sensitive, but people were 
pushing for their parts. This album, I was really amazed, 
because even I said, “I think my guitar needs to come back 
during this part.” If you turn something up or turn something 
down, then it upsets the whole balance of what you’re trying 
to do. We were all starting to hear that clarity, and whose part 
was more important, based on the emotion taking place.

BG: It’s a revelation, though, for you to be able to hear each 
other. You’ve reached an important understanding.

AJ: It’s growing and we’re just becoming better musicians. 
We’re learning you have to sacrifice some things to make the 
whole sound better. It’s not just about one person. Maynard’s 
that way. He sings – and what he says is very important – but 
he also knows that his voice is an instrument, and 
sometimes needs to be pulled back a little. Or you need to 
sit a little closer to the speaker to experience it.

BG: Maynard’s voice as an instrument is similar to yours as a 
guitarist. You know when to step forward and when to move 
back, and he uses that same dynamic.

AJ: Tool is heavy that way. We want the emotion. There are 
so many different ways to go, and we always try to make 
things three-dimensional, instead of two-dimensional or 
formulaic. We just break the rules and do what seems right. 
As far as the writing process goes, we have a place where 
we’re very comfortable jamming. We bring riffs in, and jam 
the shit out of them. We take them down every possible 
path, and then we choose the paths that went well, and start 
arranging them into a song. That’s why it’s not like “We’ve 
got the chorus, now let’s get the verse.” It’s just how the 
song went, and maybe one part that felt like a chorus never 
gets played again.

BG: Do certain points in a jam ever fit into parts of a previous 
jam, so that you can mix and match?

AJ: If you’re going down those paths and something you 
really like isn’t working, then you take that and go to this 
other thing you had jammed on before. It’s all like building 
with Legos – I have this red one and you have these three 
white ones – let’s see how they fit together.

BG: Do you ever feel inadequate as a player?

AJ: Yeah, absolutely. I am not a technical guy. I mean, you 
see these guys from GIT, or wherever, and they know 50 
different chord progressions in C(min)maj7. I’m not there. I 
like Frank Zappa, and Ry Cooder and Stevie Ray Vaughn and 
Jimi Hendrix and all those guys, but after a while the lead 
guitar thing started boring me. So I never really went there, 
and it wasn’t important to me to practice scales. So in that 
respect, I feel really inadequate. If there’s some really good 
guitarist in the audience, and I know he’s watching me, I just 
go, “God, he must think I suck!” I play from my gut, and 
play as passionately as I can, but I’m not a very good guitar 
player, comparatively. I’m really just into what we do, and I 
love writing riffs, and I love challenging myself to play in a 
different time than Danny’s playing on drums, and trying to 
figure out something over the top of it that sounds really 
cool. But as far as being able to fluidly solo over something, 
I’m not into it. That’s why on some solos I’ll pick up an 

Epilady, one of those things ladies use to rip out their hair. It 
has this revolving, figure8, guitar-like string one it; I keep 
my on it to stop the motor, and it goes, “rrrrr,” and then I 
can let it go “reeeh” [gradually increases pitch]. Using delay, 
and other kinds of effects, it can be really powerful.

BG: What gave you the Epilady idea?

AJ: To be honest, I saw Dave Navarro do a solo with a 
vibrator once, and it was kind of cool. I didn’t have a vibrator 
around – I’m sure Dave has several! Just kidding. [laughs]. 
But I started putting electrical things up to the guitar and 
getting really cool results. I got one of those old hand 
massagers, and I could hold the motor and control it. Buzz 
from the Melvins showed me you could take a remote from 
your TV, hold it to your pickup, and make your guitar 
go “beep, boop, beep” – you get different tone right from the 
pickup. Then you put some flange and delay on, and it 
sounds great.

BG: What kind of advice would you give to young guitarists?

AJ: It’s hard because I’ve had kids ask me, “Should I go to 
GIT?” And I say, “Well, what do you want to do?” If you want 
to develop your skills to the point where you can call out 
every note, and know whether it’s sharp or flat, and play all 
these scales, and know about all these different tunings, and 
the history of the guitar and how to set it up – if you want to 
go to school for all that, that’s great. You just have to ask 
yourself what you want. I learned violin and stand-up bass as 
a kid, but I never took guitar lessons. It's just knowing what 
you want, and if you don't know what you want, dabble.

Just as long as what you’re doing is for the right reasons, and 
is what makes you happy. If you want to be a rock star, 
there’s plenty of was to do that, and if you want to be in a 
band and make music, then do it. If you want to be really 
technical, and know more about the guitar than anyone, then 
go to a school and study. I don’t want to say, “Stay in 
school,” and then some kid’s like, “God, that dick from Tool 
told me to stay in school, and I should have never listened to 
him.” Just make decisions from your gut. When I do, I’m 
usually right.

Posted to t.d.n: 12/06/01 02:04:08