the tool page

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The Tool Page: An Article

Publication: CDNOW

Date: June, 2001

Transcribed by
Dave Westermann (

 title: Tool Faces It's Demons
author: Phil Downing

Enter the world of Tool, and you're immediately greeted with 
contradiction and paradox -- vulnerable vocals and bruising 
rhythms, agonized lyrics and tongue-in-cheek wordplay, 
occult symbols and life-affirming sentiment. For Tool, 
confrontation, not complacency, provides the key to the doors 
of enlightenment. And education comes, not from instruction, 
but from creating dilemmas and posing questions. 
Since its inception in 1990, the band -- vocalist Maynard 
James Keenan, guitarist Adam Jones, bassist Justin 
Chancellor, and drummer Danny Carey -- has surrounded 
itself in a veil of mystery and danger. It has decorated its 
albums with inscrutable glyphs and strange artwork; 
embraced the controversial philosophies of Aleister Crowley, 
Carl Jung, and Timothy Leary; and created an innovative 
hybrid of metal, prog rock, and psychedelia that challenges, 
inspires, and provokes. In person, the members of Tool are 
laid back and almost apathetic. They're not interested in 
being rock stars or media darlings. In fact, the band rarely 
does press and frequently dwells in its own darkened 
shadows, wearing masks, facepaint, costumes -- anything to 
hide its identity. Ideas, not people are what Tool wants its 
fans to focus on. And there are plenty of ideas in the group's 
albums, especially its new monstrous, epic, Lateralus. 

The disc is vibrant, visceral, and evocative. Few of the songs 
are under eight minutes long, and they all brim with 
elaborate rhythms, hypnotic beats, and agonized, soul-
cleansing passages. Swarms of guitars create iridescent 
sound clouds; powerhouse rock beats and tribal percussion 
circle each other like possessed warriors; and disturbing vocal 
melodies swirl from the murky depths like bursting geysers 
before abruptly ending in volleys of cathartic screams. Like 
their heroes King Crimson, Led Zeppelin, and Rush, Tool 
builds musical tension, releases it, and then drops back down 
to begin the process anew. Its music is at once chaotic and 
beautiful, evolving gradually, almost spiritually, 
encompassing themes of destruction and rebirth, stagnation 
and evolution, ecstasy and agony. 

CDNOW recently caught up with Keenan and Carey to discuss 
the motivations that drive the Tool machine. 

CDNOW: Your last album, Aenima, came out six years ago, 
and then you entered a period of creative stagnancy. What 

Danny Carey: There were so many distractions we had to 
weed out of our lives before we could get back to being Tool. 
There were these lawsuits with our former record label, Zoo, 
because they didn't pick up the option on our contract in 
time. And then they treated us like shit, so we decided to find 
another label. The legal hassles took a long time to work 
themselves out. And whenever we got together, we wouldn't 
be playing music; we'd be talking about the legal crap, which 
was really frustrating. 

Did you ever think about cashing in your Tools and calling it a 

Maynard James Keenan: I'm sure that crossed all of our 
minds. There was a point when the industry thing got me so 
down that our communication dropped to zero, and I just 
said, "Well, I'm gonna go do something else for a while." I'm 
sure once I took off to do A Perfect Circle, [the side band 
Keenan formed with ex-Tool guitar tech Billy Howardel and 
drummer Josh Freese] the other guys [in Tool] were 
saying, "Well, it's over. We're breaking up." But that wasn't 
the case. It was just a matter of taking a break and 
reminding ourselves who we are, what we want, and what we 
bring to each other's table. 

Were you surprised at how A Perfect Circle took off? 

Keenan: We, as Tool, surround ourselves with positive, self-
sufficient, creative people. Because we all are individuals who 
are creating and are positive forces in this art circle, it was 
bound to happen. It was bound to be good music. Billy 
Howardel's a creative person, and all the people that he 
brought into the fold with him are creative, positive people. 

Are your loyalties now split, or is Tool again your priority? 

Keenan: They're both a priority, and there's equal space for 
both of them. To say I should focus on one or the other is 
like going up to a mother and saying, "Your first kid was 
great, but your second kid was so much cooler than your first 
baby. You should focus on that one. Fuck the first baby." It's 
just a weird argument. I've given birth to some words in 
different forms and reacted to different musicians. I want it 
all to succeed. I want people to hear all of it. 

Lateralus is fiercely innovative and ambitious. 

Carey: It's pretty evident that we're not following templates 
when we make our music. We do what feels good to us. And 
it's bound to sound different or sound new, or break new 
barriers or build bridges between different points. That's what 
we're out to do. It's easy to play formulated three-minute 
pop songs, and we offer the alternative to that. 

Was Lateralus an easy record to make? Did you feel pressure 
creating this record? 

Keenan: I think we felt pressure because of the factor of the 
unknown. Before we started to make it, we were probably 
scared about the process. But when we get together, and we 
actually break down all that bullshit and just get to the music, 
we go, "Oh, yeah, this is easy. This is what we do. There's no 
fear here." 

Carey: It just takes courage to have a relationship with 
someone for 10 years. That's the part that's scary -- facing 
your partner and facing the demons that only come out after 
you've had a relationship that long. 

What are some of those demons? 

Keenan: Well, that would be telling, wouldn't it? 

Your music is intricate and involved. Do you consider yourself 

Keenan: We do have a connection with some of the 
progressive stuff -- Crimson and Yes, and Pink Floyd. But a 
lot of those bands aren't very emotional. They're more about 
the head and the technical stuff. I think we've progressed 
that kind of rock to a point where we've now integrated the 
emotional element. I love King Crimson and Rush, but there 
comes a point where you just have to go and listen to Billie 

Your music is certainly emotional, generating feelings of 
vulnerability and sensitivity, not just rage. 

Carey: It's best to always be passionate more than anything 
else. The worst thing is if someone listens to your music and 
goes, "Oh, that's interesting." You don't want to hear that. 
You want to get an emotional response. That's what it's all 

Is there a conceptual thread winding through Lateralus? 

Keenan: There are some life stories going on that yield 
resolutions of sorts. A lot of things happen when you turn 30. 
There are major life choices and major changes in 
orientation. The entire celebration of Easter is about that kind 
of orientation. Easter is like the Equinox, and the sun and 
moon are on opposite horizons. If you're standing in the 
right place at the right time, you can't tell one from the other. 
They're of equal intensity. Metaphorically, that's kind of the 
re-birthing, the mid-life statement, where the moon has gone 
through its progression from youth of a crescent into the full 
moon. And at that moment of the fullest, brightest that it can 
be, there's the realization that it's not its own light. There's a 
higher source it has been reflected off of. 

Can you put that in terms a metalhead will understand? 

Keenan: We're addressing different ideas. There's the 
communication aspect of coming to terms with and letting go 
of old patterns, and just re-evaluating your purpose: "Why 
am I doing this?" Well, I do it for these reasons, otherwise I 
wouldn't be here. So the whole thing is to remind 
yourself, "Hey, don't get all caught up in all the crap. Just 
remember why you're here. Keep your eye on the ball." 

On your last album, Aenima, you addressed the philosophies 
of Jung, Leary, and Campbell. This record seems to be a 
little less about the philosophical and a little bit more about 
the personal. 

Keenan: It's about taking the information we've learned and 
personalizing it. That's the big thing about education. People 
can be book smart, but not really intelligent about anything 
else. A lot of times they just taking in all this information and 
regurgitate it. It's much more important to process it and 
personalize it. To apply it to your world, to your life. You have 
to walk the walk, or you can't really report about it honestly. 

How would you apply the ideas of your spiritual mentors to 
your personal life? 

Keenan: By experiencing what they were talking about. You 
have to do the personal work and exploring if you want to 
grow. Jung used to talk about staring into that shadow in the 
corner. Just stepping into that shadow and going, "OK, what 
is it that I fear the most? What is it that freezes me up like a 
doe in the headlights?" And then go and do that and see 
what happens. The worst thing that'll happen is you'll die. 

Posted to t.d.n: 06/05/01 20:26:06