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The Tool Page: An Article

Publication: Metal Hammer

Date: June, 2002

Transcribed by
Atte (qlqnen@hotmail.com)


  page: 36
 title: "Hell is other people" -Sartre
author: Neil Kulkarni

(Note: All the errors and [almost all of the] typos are here as 
they are in the article. Don't flame me for fuckups by the 
author...)

Touring 'Lateralus' Down Under, Neil Kulkarni talked to Tool 
to find out about what really makes them tick. And what they 
really think of everyone else - including their fans.

Backstage passes. The holy grail of groupiedom, the key to 
that murky world beyond protection of Revlon or security 
where the stars can be who they are and everyone else is 
looking to be someone they're not. The fag packet sized 
entry-visa into rock'n'roll's inner sanctum, they can play funny 
tricks on the mind, giving those at the bottom of the biz's 
pecking order delusions of grandeur, turning essentially 
middle-management (usually equating to those in the heady 
position of deciding who gets backstage passes) into 
chestbeating little Hitlers, and letting roadies think they 
actually havesome resposnsibility when issued with orders to 
distribute them amongst the daft and big-titted. Backstage 
passes are bullshit because they stop Joe Public from killing 
rock stars: Tools backstage passes are cool. On the back 
they say this: "VERY IMPRUDENT PARASITE: I, THE PERSON 
WHINING BEFORE YOU, HAD ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO 
WITH ANY OF THE CREATIVE PROCESS WHICH LEAD UP TO 
THIS EVENT AND I HAVE PERVERSE OVERESTIMATION OF MY 
IMPORTANCE HERE. IGNORE ME"

Which is kinda how you might think Tool think of everyone 
other than themselves. Ever since the LA four-piece slipped 
under the industry's radar on a misguidedpost-grunge ticket 
in '92, they've been perhaps the most consistently maverick, 
fascinatingly mercurial band in rock, seemingly suffused and 
posessed by a mystique at odds with a rock world of 
immediate explication and exposure. What's doubly 
engrossing is that it's a reverence and awe that the band 
haven't carefully contrived, rather it's the sheer one-off 
musical depth, inspired visual abstraction, and sheer 
monomaniacal drive they've bought to everything they've 
done that marks them out as such a uniquely absorbing 
entity, a secret religion, way more that simply other band.

Over the course of four albums, '92's debut 'Opiate', '94's 
stunning 'Undertow' and '96's equally astonishing 'Aenima', 
and of course, last years leap-into-beyond- 'Lateralus', 
they've established pretty much the most determinedly 
wayward, suberbly inventive catalogue in rock and a trust and 
fidelity with their audience that goes way beyond loyalty and 
starts approaching pure faith. As the disciples gather at the 
end of the world, (Christchurch New Zealand and the only 
thing over the horizon is Antarctica), you're ushered through 
the labyrinthe confines of the Westpac Trust stadium (where 
Tool are three hours away from playing a blinding set) to a 
non-descript dressing room where you wait for the prickliest 
band in rock to come resent your presence. And when you 
figure out that the elfin little chap with the tartan troos on 
who sounds like the campest little genius you've ever met is 
Maynard Keenan you ask him if right now, he gives two fucks 
about the people out there.

"They don't enter your preparations at all", he says, his calm 
register barely hinting at the arabesques and abstractions his 
voice reaches on stage. "You don't see individuals. You see 
blackness, a space and you fill the abyss with sound. But 
whatever goes on tonight has very little to do with any one 
thing. It's the way the day and the place and the crowd and 
us combine. A million different things going into one 
experience."

S'a curious relationship: as listeners we want to decode the 
mystery at the heart of your music. As fans we need to 
believe that in the final reckoning, Tool's music is only 
understandable to those responsible for it. You do little to 
disabuse that notion.

"That's what I always wanted to think about the artists I 
loved. Like Joni Mitchell, you could spend your whole life 
trying to penetrate the mystery at the centre of her albums 
but you'd still be unable to explain exactly how they 
happened, why they work, what the hell is going on and why it 
emotionally connects with you so much. But I think we know 
exactly how little how little we know also. We're none the 
wiser, we're just as staggered by this as everyone else."

Danny Carey, avuncular and ever-amused guitarist, ponders 
his own confusion at the Tool altar: "I think we perhaps get 
closest to understanding what we do because we've been 
involved at every stage. But there's still this element of total 
mystery to it, this sense that it's more that just what we're 
doing, that something is coming through us..."

Maynard: "We just become channels at certain points for 
something higher that's speaking through us. It isn't just 
arithmetic, something you can trace to us and out 
personalities, it's something beyond all of that, beyond 
anything you can see or describe."

So tonight's audience is only expecting the unexpected, only 
care about you not caring about them?

"I wouldn't say that because I wouldn't even try and presume 
what any of them want. And I couldn't ever tell you exactly 
what we want. It's what occurs that's important, what happens 
when us four are in a room together playing. And that 
changes every night because every day is different and 
things accumulate or fall away. What I think you're trying for 
is to puncture our illusions that we can be as indulgent as we 
like. Well, we're just as prone as anyone else, we're just as 
open to suggestion, and we're just as awestruck by what 
happens as anyone else. This isn't about our egos. It's about 
losing your ego."

Y'know, I was bricking this interview. I couldn't think of a 
band seeminglty less willing to throw words around their 
impenetrable magic. Do you resent interest in yourselves as 
people because it implies a misunderstanding of the ego-
subsuming nature of what Tool's all about?

Danny: "I can understand why people want to know about us. 
I always wanted to know everything about the bands I loved, 
and the bands I loved were always the bands that never did 
interviews! That kept the mystery alive, hearing what people 
had to say was always a total dissapointment."

Maynard: "Hearing what an asshole Gene Simmons actually 
was destroyed the myth. It's easy to dig around in 
someone's life and try and find a link to what they're doing 
but that's not what's happening with Tool and it never has 
been. It's never been about where we've been but where 
we're going, what we're aiming for. And that can't be summed 
up by cod psychology or easy motivations. The whole 
interview process is based on the relationship between 
personality and art. And the whole Tool process is based on 
sacrificing your ego for transcendence. How can you talk 
about that? Like Frank said, talking about music is like 
dancing about architecture."

I always thought Zappa was a twat, so we'll continue. Tool 
had to come from LA. It's where the frontier spirit finds no 
direction to push other than into outer or inner space, and it 
provides object lessons, at a rate of knots, in what NOT to do 
with a band. What made Tool happen: right place, right time? 
Luck? Shared desire or shared hostilities?

Maynard: "We were all friends at first and that was crucial. 
Tool was really formed watching so many fucking awful bands 
in LA, being stood in the audience together just thinking, 
fuck, this is so totally antithetical to everything that we 
consider worthwile in music. That hatred coasted us into 
rehearsing together, it was mutual dissatisfaction and the ad 
hoc thought that we might be able to do something different. 
And then when we played together, we knew."

Knew what? Adam Jones: "We knew we had to pursue it, but 
it was also a totally relaxed thing, never even thinking about 
getting signed, never even thinking where it was going but 
absolutely sure that for us personally, it was something we'd 
have to fully explore or feel forever curious about."

Did you ever feel encouraged by the general air of buoyancy 
in rock music during those post-grunge years?

Danny: "That should have made us feel less isolated 
apparently but we've always been utterly uncaring about the 
rest of music in relation to us. If anything we felt just as out 
on our own than as we always have."

Listening to 'Opiate' recently there's a sense in which 
recording was simply the method you had to use to capture 
what happened when you were in a room together - would 
you say you've become more interested in what the studio 
can do for you now rather than being intimidated by it?

Danny: "We'd jam for hours, work ideas out through every 
single possibility. Then suddenly we're in a strange room in 
Los Angeles and you can hear the tape-reels rolling and the 
clock ticking and you've got to get your shit DOWN exactly 
right. We learned the sacrifice that entailed. Recording 
initially for us was a necessary evil..."

Maynard: "...for me for the longest time, it was totally 
subservient to the sheer experience of doing it, always 
necessarily a compromise between what we wanted to do  and 
the limitations of time and space that pressing things onto 
plastic entails. With 'Lateralus' we learned so much though, 
David Bottrill really has brought us to the point where we 
know where to explore, where to just zero in on the band 
sound. It's something we didn't know back when we started 
but those records still capture something of our essence."

Adam: "It's always the case with this band that a month, or 
even a week, after we've finished recording there's a million 
new things that have emerged that it kills you can't be on the 
album."

Justin [Chancellor, Tool's London born-bassist who joined 
after Paul D'Amour left mid-way through the recording 
of 'Aenima']: It's a gruelling process but you have to see it 
for what it is. Cathing a sprite in a bottle: it's not so much 
what we all do rather it's that unofficial fifth member of the 
band, that weird supernatural thing that happens - he's the 
most difficult one to get down on record. I think 'Lateralus' 
sees us getting him on a wax more than ever before."

After 'Opiate', the defining moment in Tool's development 
was '93's Lollapalooza tour: with Tool pulling huge crowds 
away from the main stqage to stage two, a word-of mouth 
buzz started to grow. You could say that the sccidental, 
narrative nature of the band's promotion had characterised 
their whole career.

Justin: "Word-of-mouth has a ot to do with how this band 
gets heard. There's a sense in which we've got to this point 
without the industry's permission, with no official sanction."

Maynard: "Essentially beacause we made the decision really 
early on that the conventional routes of exposure were 
cheapening and demeaning and absolutely nothing we want 
to get involved in. Becuase the way most people first heard 
us wasn't from official channels, it's inspired a much closer 
realtionship for people with our music. They feel like we 
found each other. Not like they were crowbarred into it via a 
fucking commercial or some clever marketing ploy."

Danny: "Bands should hide, should be something people 
have to actively seek out and explore, not on tap to be 
immediately explicated and understood by people who's job 
it is to kill magic."

But at the same time your shows were upping the intrigue, 
your sleeve's (for '93's seminal 'Undertow' and Adam-directed 
videos (for 'Sober' and 'Prison Sex') were getting talked 
about almost as much as  the music. Genuinely intended to 
amplify and elaborate on the mystery at the music's heart or 
slightly informed by a commercial sensibility?

Maynard focuses his eyes on yours: "From the beginning we 
were adamant that absolutely everything connected with the 
band had to go through us, had to be totally controlled by us. 
You can either kill mental possibility with imagery or deepen 
the story. All we did was give more suggestion, more 
provocation."

Danny: "I've always liked albums you live in and absorb 
yourself in; albums where you listen and try and work out 
connections between the sleeve and the record, get sucked 
into the look as much as the music. That's exactly what we 
were trying to do. Everything with our name on it is equally 
important to us."

Between 'Undertow' and 'Aenima' you lost Paul and gained 
Justin. Would you say 'Aenima' reflects that instability or 
remains seamless?

Maynard: "Paul was a guitarist who was sick of being in a 
band and wanted to be a bassist. As we were 
recording 'Aenima' things were getting really frustrating: it 
became clear to both us and Paul that he didn't want to be in 
the band anymore, and the band is a secure unit that needs 
utter unpreciousness and total commitment from everyone 
involved for it to work. After three months of going nowhere I 
went to see a psychic. I was dealing out the cards and she 
said 'Who's Paul?' I told her and she said, 'This is not 
working. This needs to change.' And she wrote down on a bit 
of paper 'London'. She said 'Look to London and you'll find 
the solution to your problems.'"

Danny: "I remember you showing me that piece of paper. It 
was weird. We'd been trying other bassists for a while and 
Jesus that was fucking painful..."

Adam: "...and occasionally highly amusing 'cos some people 
were just disgusted with what we were trying to do musically. 
Didn't get it at all. But as soon as Justin arrived it all clicked 
immediately. that sense of relief was just incredible. He was 
like the missing piece of the puzzle that we'd all been 
looking and waiting for. And we were like, OK, the circles 
complete, now we can begin again." 

A difficult band to join, you imagine. What's odd meeting 
Tool is how they both confirm and confound your 
expectations. Yes, they're very serious about what they do. 
They're also pants-shittingly funny in puntuating any feel of 
pomposity. Fundamentaly, it's less like meeting a band with 
all the attendant laddish conformity that usually entails, more 
like meeting four people who happened to have stumbled on 
the same touchstone of infinity. There's no easy cartoon 
roles to slot into.

Maynard: "We've never really encouraged the usual band 
roles because they're bullshit always. I'm the singer, but I 
don't feel like the 'frontman'. No one's the leader, there 
aren't any camps or pair-offs in the band relatioship. To be in 
our band you have to be comfortable realising that this is 
your own journey, that you have to give as much to the music 
as you're gonna get from everyone else in the room."

So are Tool's the most important thing in your life?

Maynard: "No. Never has been. I think every band kind of 
trades on that cliché that they'd die for it but with Tool it's 
more like four individuals on their own paths to whatever it is 
they're each seeking. That's not just a stance we took on to 
avoid cliché; it's just the way we work together, by 
acknowledging our differences and playing on the spaces 
between us. That individuality is absolutely crucial in making 
the music the way it is."

Adam: "With gang mentalities I think your creativity gets 
stifled because you're constantly thinking about how things 
are gonna play, where they fit."

Danny: "'Band mentality' basically means biting your lip, 
inadequate expression of all your ideas. With this band 
you've got to be willing to fight for your own ideas but also 
combine that with being totally willing to let them be fucked 
with by anyone else. That is a novel way of working and a lot 
of musicians we tried out just didn't have that openness and 
musical vision that Justin had. He was what we were waiting 
for."

If being in Tool started to hinder that sense personal 
liberation and enlightenment would you each feel free to 
leave?

Adam: "Definately."
Justin: "Yes."
Danny: "Of course."

Maynard: "I did. I did join another band. And then I 
countinued with Tool because and only because I was 
convinced that there were still things we needed to do and 
explore. We all have other things in or lives; because mine 
was quite visible it got talked avout as meaning some kind of 
quiet demise for Tool but nothing of the sort ever occurred to 
me. I needed to do something different. I did. I have 
remained in Tool because I still think we're on to something 
that deserves my full attention. Once you start seeing the 
band you're in as this thing that's bigger than anything, this 
project you're signed on to and you feel obligated to 
contribute to, you're not in the band for the right reasons."

All the same, A Perfect Cicle weren't the only spanner being 
thrown into the Toolworks at the time. The four-year gap 
between 'Aenima' and 'Lateralus' proved to be a goldmine for 
those who wanted to crowbar Tool into the conventional 
confines of historical rockspeak. They'd done a 'disappearing 
act', the 'long-awaited' LP getting knocked back and the 
affection the band had spent so long building up had almost 
turned into irritation, so agitated were the band's devotees 
for Tool to complete the next stage, the next chapter, the 
next opus. To the band's credit, they didn't give a fuck.

Maynard: "That kind of frustration seemed a little sad to me. 
I had people saying to me 'man, my whole life's pinned on 
your next album' or 'I'm just biding time until it comes out 
dude' and I'd just think, 'Jesus! Get a sense of fucking 
priorities man!' If you're putting your whole life on hold 
waiting for a fucking rock band to release a record you're got 
serious problems."

Justin: "We didn't feel apart for four years, it's not as if we 
didn't work together or play with ideas. The industry's actually 
to blame for it being so long a wait for 'Lateralus' because 
we've been involved in so much record-company legal shit for 
the past few years we haven't been able to sit down and 
concentrate on the music. WE certainly haven't felt like we 
haven't been doing anything, but because we're private 
people."

Danny; "Our isolation whilst making that record was total. 
Which is what we needed after so long just sitting on our 
hands waiting for all the bullshit to bring itself to an end. 
Listenign to lawyers talk is never a pleasant experience. 
When it came to the actual recording, nothing touched us, we 
were engrossed completely in what we were doing."

In a nuts and bolts sense, how was the epic reach and cocise 
focus of 'Lateralus' achieved? Who decides when a song 
starts or stops?

"We really had everything worked out before we even got to 
the studio," says Justin. "Once we were in there it was really a 
matter of fine-tuning the ideas, there wasn't that much 
change between the songs as we rehearsed them and how we 
recorded them, how they are on the record. It's really a 
matter of making sure that nothing is extraneous: everything 
has to be put in the position of being in service to the intent 
of the song, everything we do is about communicating the 
emotion or idea, whether that's direct or ambiguous, as 
clearly as we can."

Maynard: "You discard the flab, you keep the core."

Justin: "It doesn't feel like we're journeymen of rock or 
anything, it feels like we're opening our mouths and our 
hearts for the first time. If we can keep that kind of naivety 
and at the same time learn from our experiences I see this 
as something with a future that hasn't even begun to be 
explored yet."

In two hours the most intriguing band on the planet are on 
stage. We're reminded as such. One last question, one last 
beam to throw. 'Lateralus' came out last summer and was 
about holding onto both base and transcendent humanity as 
the world spins into madness: would you say it explicitly 
prefigured precisely the spiritual angst America has been 
gripped by ever since? In that sense are you timely and 
political as well as timeless and free from ideology?

Maynard: "We have always been a deeply political band. But 
we're not about victims and martyrs and easy truths: we're 
about all our culpability, all the potential for beauty and 
cruelty that being human entails. That' essentially a political 
message."

Justin: "Even the darkest Tool songs have an element of 
light at the end of the tunnel 'cos simply to express those 
kind of feelings is one way to deal with them. We didn't want 
to paint ourselves into a corner lyrically, we really wanted to 
provide the notion that no matter how bad things get, no 
matter how bad the external world is, there's still something 
intrinsic to humanity that can help it trancscend that, there's 
still thesibilities and the freedom of the imagination to 
surpass it's environment. 'Lateralus' deals with how 
communication between people has been eroded, but in 
itself, its own ability to communicate with the listener, is an 
example of how you can transcend that.'

Not a cult. Not a sect. Not quite a band in the mad bad and 
dangerous to know sense, more like the sanest of all 
responses. Scarcely rock'n'roll because it has no stink of 
death, rather throbs and wails and screams with life. Tool will 
not lie about what they do, this is why they're caricatured as 
over-serious. Maybe it's tome to get serious. Two hours from 
our last words they shake my life again. But that's another 
story. Another night in a room while Tool is happening. Roll 
up. 


Other little nit-bits in the same magazine:

pg. 40: "Video Drone"
"Some of the weirdest promo outings
Tool 'Parabola'
This one out even weirds 'Prison Sex' and 'Stinkfist'! 
Something about searching identities - we think. But basically 
there's a little alien thingy that runs through the woods and 
gets dissected by the eternally ugly trip hop meister Tricky. 
Oh and fat handed pig things in suits levitate and shit from 
their mouths over a table. Uh-huh."

Posted to t.d.n: 07/02/02 16:59:14