Date: March, 2001
Matthew Coleman (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Matthew Coleman (email@example.com)
page: 29 title: Tool - The Ultimate Interview author: Ian Winwood Itís taken them five years to follow-up ëAenimaí. Now TOOL are ready to change the face of music once more. The story youíre about to read is the story of the comeback of the year. You might at first think that the story would be about Guns NíRoses, but youíd be wrong, GNíR may well return this summer with the album of the decade but ñ directed by a frontman whose ëeccentricí tendencies appear to border on the insane, a man who, at best, might be described as ëanonymousí and an alum that anyone has yet to hear ñ there is absolutely no evidence to support this claim. No, the band weíre talking about is Tool. And in exactly two monthsí time the band ñ thatís vocalist Maynard James Keenan, drummer Danny Carey, guitarist Adam Jones and English-born bassist Justin Chancellor ñ will release their third full-length LP, prospectively titled ëLateralusí (though God knows that might change), upon an obsessively appreciative and manically anticipative audience of two million people. And in exactly two monthsí time, you will see, and hear, precisely what all this fuss is about. But weíre getting ahead of ourselves. First of all we have to go back to late January and an afternoon spent in Los Angeles talking to Tool, at the bandís invitation, at Larrabee South North Studios in Universal City on the last day of mixing for the new album. Because Tool are a genuine, hard-fought, hard-earned, nuts ëní bolts democratic unit ñ a state other bands may well pay lip-service to, or aspire to, but a relationship this band genuinely treasure and have struggled hard to achieve ñ the interviews are conducted in pairs. There is one half hour session with Danny Carey and Adam Jones and another with Justin Chancellor and Maynard James Keenan. This is preceded by a playback of five songs from the new album, played on individual DAT tapes through a five-figure stereo system in a listening room at the Larrabee studio. Interspersing all this action, in case anyone might be getting too excited and be close to collapse beneath the pleasant Californian sunshine, we also have hours and hours and hours and hours of hanging around. Larrabee South North studios is the type of place you feel guilty in, even before youíve stolen anything. To the uninitiated ñ and in my case, easily lost ñ it is an air conditioned and sound-proofed maze containing dozens of rooms, miles of cables, millions of dollars worth of state-of-the-art recording equipment, pool tables, coffee machines, television rooms, chrome bathrooms and bowls of fresh fruit. Oh, and a receptionist who checks your name very carefully on her list of who she will and who she wonít let in. In my case she looks at me, looks at her list, looks at me again, looks at her list again and, finally, without smiling, tells me of the one room in the studio Iím allowed to go into. She then calls one of Toolís ëpeopleí ñ management assistants and so forth ñ to escort me to where the album, or at least part of it, is being played. To say that the organisation of todayís press junket is exact and unsmiling is a little like saying that itís difficult to find George ëDubbyaí Bushís direct line number in the ëWashington Yellow Pagesí. Yet things could have been much, much worse. At least theyíre going to talk to me. I flew out to Los Angeles with one journalist ñ thatís a £1,200 flight, all his meals and drinks and Christ knows how much for the hotel apartment they put him up in ñ who, upon arriving, learned that Tool had decided they werenít going to grant him an interview or even allow him up to the studio at all. ìJust go shopping,î he was told. And outside Larrabee studios sits a French writer smouldering with an anger so intense you can almost see vapour trails coming from him, He received a phone call on his mobile at Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris, just as he was about to board the plane to LA International, telling him no to bother as he wasnít going to get access to the band. He figured heíd chance his arm and go t on the plane anyway. He was wrong. Thatís why heís sat outside today, not even allowed to enter the studio. At least Tool are happy to talk to Kerrang!. And at least theyíre going to let us hear the new music. ìOn this album we took the opportunity to just go for it,î is how Maynard James Keenan answers that most boring gambit in the lexicon of music journalism: ëTell us about your new albumí. ìI believe that to be true and I believe that to be a good thing. I think a lot of bands start worrying about how they can double a dollar from their last event. They tend to pare it down ñ perhaps water it down is a better way of putting it-= on their next release. Or they try to second-guess what they feel their audience will want. If youíve had enough success on one record that your rent is paid, then I would that youíve afforded yourself the luxury of going a little crazier, of going off at the deep end or of just exploring. I think itís unfortunate that most bands donít do that, that they just kind of play it safe.î The one thing Tool will never be accused of is playing it safe. Their last album, the exceptional and complex ëAenimaí ñ pronounced ëonemaí ñ displayed a heartening faith in the listenerís intelligence and, as a consequence, still continues to surprise and invigorate almost five years after its release. Not that Toolís faith in their audience wasnít repaid. It was, in full. ëAenimaí sold more than two-million copies and entered the all-important Billboard 200 US album chart at number Two (as did its predecessor, ëUndertowí). To this day, Tool possess a fan-base that is startling in its intensity and its militaristic appreciation of the band. In fact, we might well be dealing with the worldís most significant ëcultí band here. ìI think the reason that people seem to have such a loyalty to us is that the commodity they are searching for is really rare,î is how drummer Danny Carey articulately explains this situation. ìMaybe these people need something above and beyond the pop songs that are everywhere and are inescapable. We offer something thatís not that. Our music is alternative to that, and itís harder to find. Itís harder for me to find something that I really like, and I find a band that I really dig and who sound new and who make me have flashes if inspiration, then I become fanatical towards them also. I think it goes along with being a little more selective, you know, how rabid your fans are.î Sitting listening to the five new Tool songs which the band have deemed ready to play to the handful of journalists and magazines theyíre willing to talk to today ñ including ëRolling Stoneí, a couple of European titles and a Japanese glossy ñ itís difficult to overestimate how far removed these songs are from anything else that is happening today. Even in the atmosphere of almost laughable solemnity conjured up by five journalists beavering away with notepads and frowns under the watchful eye of band management, these songs ñ titled ëThe Grudgeí, ëSchismí, ëParabolaí, ëLateralusí and ëPatientí ñ are something else. Involved and complex ñ no song is under six minutes in length and a couple are nudging the 10 minutes mark ñ the collection is impossible to grasp on a first listen. Perhaps the best way of describing the power of the music to say that the one thing I wanted to do more than anything was to listen to the songs again. Any chance of that happening? Not a chance of that happening, reckon the management. Just for a laugh, I ask if it would be possible to get a tape of the album to take home to England to impress my friends. Iím looked at like Iíve just asked if it would be possible to grab a couple of naked shots of Maynard James Keenan for a private collection. Yet for a band who profess to hate the ëbusinessí end of the music business, Tool are managing to stoke up anticipation for ëLateralusí with the sort of skill that go Ken Livingstone elected to the post of Mayor of London. The album was produced by David Bottrell (sic) (a very pleasant North American, currently living in Bethnal Green, who has worked with acts on Peter Gabrielís One World label), was recorded at Cello studios on Ocean Way, California, the Hook studios in California and mixed at Larrabee South North here in Universal City. And thatís all theyíre willing to say. Theyíve thrown out red herrings for album titles ñ on one MTC site the title changed every day for a whole month ñ and theyëve thrown out red herrings for song titles. They even messed with your head when it came to who would be producing the LP, when they floated the rumour that priapic porn star Ron Jeremy ñ a man more concerned with erection than production ñ might be taking the helm at the recording console. Even a fortnight back, during a supplementary phone interview with Danny Carey, Tool were still loathe to reveal anything about their new record. Apart from the fact that, as yet, no-one from the record company has heard it ñ in fact, your reporter is the only person in the UK to have heard anything at all ñ and the small matter of all those executives up on the fifth floor getting just a little bit angsty about that fact. ìI hope no-one thinks weíre being cynical,î says Danny Carey. Maynard James Keenan talks with a voice so quiet that transcribing this interview involved holding a tape recorder to the left ear and typing, one-handed, with the right. Keenan also has a reputation for being a ëdifficultí subject, either to interview or to photograph (one Kerrang! Photographer professes his love for Tool and A Perfect Circle to be surpassed only by his desire to punch Maynard James Keenan in the mouth). Today, though, he appears to be on good form. Itís getting late in the day ñ nine hours after listening to the music in the playback room ñ when we finally get to sit down together, along with the rustic and handsome looking Justin Chancellor, to get something down on tape. Although diminutive in stature, Keenan appears charismatic in a gentle kind of a way. Wearing a denim jacket and tan-leather trousers, the shaven-headed frontman (he sports an array of wigs in public to aid his anonymity; the Tool 2001 model is a short, strawberry blonde flat-top) asks if Iíd mind if we do the interview in the dark, with just the glow from the glass panelling at the side of the door for light, apologises in advance in case heís called into the mixing room to hear a new take on Toolís work in progress, and sits down to listen to the questions. Speaking carefully and with perfectly constructed sentences ñ absolutely unheard of in an age of musicians whose entire vocabulary is made up of the words ìlikeî, ìshitî and ìyou knowî ñ Keenan begins slowly, sharing each answer with Justin Chancellor. Then he warms up and starts to open up the conversation. Keenan professes to be a little nervous about returning with Tool after so long, a little apprehensive about whether the bandís audience will still be as attentive to their unique challenges and charms. Later in the interview he concludes they will. He talks about his experiences with the bandís last two record labels ñ the now defunct Zoo label and, later, Volcano ñ and the struggle Tool had trying to extricate themselves from the arms of the latter in a legal dispute that ate up so much of the bandís time. He then talks about the difficult y of maintaining a creative edge when business frustrations seem to swamp everything he and the band try to do. ìThe whole record industry is almost designed to pull a band apart,î believes Justin Chancellor. ìWe reached the point where we all had to say, ëStop!í. And we had to think back to what it was that we loved about this thing that we are doing before all this other stuff got in the way. And we had to dig in and get back to that. Thereís no doubt that did involve a lot of personal growth and communication between us.î The conversation drifts to the time when Tool first emerged, blinking enigmatically into the light, with their ëOpiateí EP in 1992. Looking over oneís shoulder at that period of time ñ a time, lest we forget, of Nirvana, of Soundgarden, of Faith No more, of Ministry ñ itís difficult not get (sic) dewy-eyed and nostalgic as the 10-year anniversary approaches. Maynard James Keenan, philosophically, seems to agree. ìYou have to figure that the beautiful thing that Tool and Nirvana and Soundgarden and the Melvins and Rage Against The Machine and Nine Inch Nails and all those bands brought to the table was an ëindieí sensibility,î he says. ìAll of a sudden you didnít have to listen to corporate America, where record companies and radio stations told you what you had to do. In fact you should go against what these interests tell you because itís your responsibility as an artist to defy them. And I think what happened was that all of those bands got caught up in that sensibility of not doing anything to take a stand. ìBut the quarterly numbers have to be kept up,î he continues, ìso the record companies and businessmen went and found themselves the chumps and the clowns who would allow them to keep those numbers up, the chumps and the clowns who would jump through whatever hoops the record companies and businessmen asked them to jump thoughtÖî Who are you talking about specifically? ìThe chumps and the clowns,î Keenan replies, after a pause and a smile. ìI donít want to get specific; theyíve made their choices and they know who they are. I guess those choices were made for the very best of reasons, but I didnít make those choices so of course I can criticise. Thatís just my point of view, I may be completely wrong. But what happens is that you have all this vacant space and even that which is mediocre will fill it up. And itís our fault for leaving space, really. If weíd have been more prolificÖî When you say ëweí youíre referring toÖ? ìAll of us really. The Nirvanas, the Nine Inch Nails, Rage, Soundgarden,î he says, gently wafting his hand through the air. ìAll of us. If weíd have been a bit more diligent about our mission and had filled up the spaces a little more then there would have been a little less of them and little bit more of us. ëCos thereís a finite number of magazine covers and thereís a finite number of hours in the day for radio stations to play music, so all we need to do is create from the heart in order to offer our contribution as to what should fill up those spaces. And people will respond from the heart. ìBut I donít want to be as pretentious as to suggest we were responsible for the downfall of music or anything. I donít think our role is that important. But I do worry that it might now be a little too late. I thought that the Nine Inch Nails record (ëThe Fragileí) was an _incredible_ record, I loved it, but nobody heard it. It didnít have any singles on it and all this other stuff was clogging up the pipe, so people missed it. The Rage record (ëThe Battle of Los Angelesí) did okay, but it didnít do as greats as it should have done because thatís a great record too. Itís a _great record_. So itís hard to say, I like this new Tool record, but we might have waited too long. Who knows?î Another thing Maynard James Keenan is suspicious of ñ he appears to dismay of it, actually ñ is the cult of anger and victimisation that seems to permeate music at this moment. People being angry or wounded, people looking for something to be angry or wounded about. Broken homes, slapped arses, anything. ìI think so much of this stuff seems to display a false sense of anger,î is his opinion. ìI think that when you go back and look at the reality of some of these kidsí lives and their upbringing, well the whole thing just doesnít seem to add up. Letís see, how does living in a five-bedroom house with one other sibling and having a pool, and a car at the age of 16Ö gee, how must that have been for you? That must have been so tough on you.î Itís like the white manís burden, isnít it? ìThatís exactly what itís like, yeah,î he agrees. ìI think a lot of what this is about ñ and I donít think Iím being unusually perceptive when I say this ñ is that people have figured out a way of selling records on the anger of what I would call ëMom and Dadí situations.î Where exactly Tool stand in relation to all these ìchumps and clownsî, amid all this ìmom and dadî anger, is a fascinating point. The band are obviously suspicious of the business end of the music industry ñ not an accusation one could ever level at, say, Fred Durst, for example ñ and have no desire whatsoever for such totems of success as their own vanity imprint record label o their own set of gold-plated keys to the executive bathroom as company Vice Presidents. And good for them. Tool do, however, display a keen, relentless desire to control everything they do, because, after all, they realise, the buck stops with them. So they take responsibility for their actions. This stretches to their attitude to the press ñ although every member of the band was courteous and accommodating, I couldnít shake the idea that Tool were holding a deeply artistic loathing for my profession just beneath the surface ñ and even the fact that, for the first time since Guns NíRoses released their ëUse Your Illusioní sets a decade back, not a single review copy of ëLateralusí will be making its way to a single magazine in any country in the world. ìI think weíve come to break down the barriers between what people expect from a popular rock or alternative band,î believes Maynard James Keenan. ìWhether that be in the format of the songs, the structure of the songs, the different lengths of the songs, the videos ñ all of those things. Another thing that helps me get back to what I was supposed to be doing, artistically, with Tool was going off and doing A Perfect Circle. That was great because, once again, we as Tool ñ or at least I as part of Tool, I being an extension of that ñ proved that the industry doesnít want you to be anything other than that thing they know you as. So I proved that if you have a solid audience if you have people who appreciate what you do as an artist, then theyíre not going to pre-judge what it is youíre trying to do. ìSo we put a band together, went out and toured it and now it has a complete life of its own, in and of itself. And itís almost a completely separate audience. When do A Perfect Circle shows, the kids are outside holding their A Perfect Circle CDs and itís those they want signing, not ëUndertowí or ëOpiateí. So I think itís Tool fans ñ mostly guys, if Iím being honest ñ telling their sister, who theyíve been trying to get to listen to Tool forever, to now listen to A Perfect Circle. So now we as artists have proven, once again, that you can break the boundaries. You just have to really want to do it.î I came to the Larrabee studio thinking thee might be a story to be had involving a conflict between the other three members of Tool and Maynard James Keenan: vis-ý-vis the time the singer spent touring A Perfect Circleís excellent ëMer De Nomsí set ñ itself a million- selling album in the United States ñ and the fact that ëLateralusí has taken more than four years to produce. Not so. ìA lot of journalists and interviewers come in and say, ëWell, this alum was four years in the making,î says guitarist Adam Jones. ìItís like, ëNo itís not!í. We didnít finish the last album and then start working on this one right away, you know?î ìYeah, we toured for like two years and then fought with the record company for a year,î smiles Danny Carey. So with regard to Maynard and his involvement with A Perfect Circle, did this hold up the arrival of ëLateralusí to any degree? ìHmmm,î draws Carey, slowly. ìMaybe. Very slightly.î Even if it did ñ and thereís no evidence to suggest that it did ñ neither Danny Carey nor Adam Jones seems to mind. The pair were my first interview of the day ñ five hours before my second interview of the day ñ and proffered much of the background information scattered around this story. Little facts such as Tool being a true democratic unit that stretches as far as each member taking an equal share of whatever royalties and the money the band earn. Such as the fact tension existed between the four of them during the making of the album ñ nothing unusual there ñ and that tension existed between the four of them during their period of litigation with Volcano records ñ a fact, and a situation, which was unusual. But, still, all the time I talk to Danny Carey and Adam Jones, I couldnít shake a quote from the back cover of the Bret Easton Ellis novel ëGlamoramaí from my head. The quote says, ëWeíll slide down the surface of thingsí, which is very much what Carey and Jones appeared to be doing. They are polite, talking at length ñ the guitarist with melodic, Californian tones; Carey with a voice so low it might actually work as a cure for constipation ñ but both seemed reluctant to speak specifically on anything other than a few subjects. During the subsequent phone interview with Danny, I attempted to broach the subject of Toolís interest in Enochian and Crowlean magick, and the mystique that envelops Tool on this front. Nothing doing there. Does it work like a spell, I wondered? Is it like a religion, perhaps? We could have been on the phone for a fortnight and I still would have been none the wiser. One of the things the pair did seem happy to discuss, however, was Tool itself. And how four years away have changed each member both as individuals and as a band. ìOur band is based on the foundation of friendship,î says Adam. ìThere is a fundamental friendship there, there is respect. Whereas you look at other bands who have recently broken upÖî Here Adam Jones looks at me, pauses for a moment, says, ìOkay,î like Iím an idiot, and carries on. ìÖWell, they got together because this guy was a good drummer, and this guy was good guitar player, and this guy could sing and blah, blah, blah. And all of them hate each other. And all of them cannot stand to be in the same room as one another.î Oh, right! Youíre talking about Rage Against The Machine, arenít you? Adam Jones has a smile as wide as his face now. ìI never said that!î he says. ìI never said that.î One of the things that cements Toolís solidarity as a band, even in times of relative trouble, is a sense of maturity and an ability to communicate ñ ìwhich is probably why weíre still togetherî, reveals Danny ñ with one another on a level that appears to transcend the egos and divisions that so often sour the chemistry of a successful band. Then again, Tool are in the enviable position of being successful without actually being all that famous. Or all that recognisable. ìThat whole ëfameí thing is just not the course weíve chosen to take,î explains Danny. ìItís something weíve never really pushed, because the music seems to fill that space for us, rather than us having to plaster our faces all over our records. Itís become a convenient thing now. I can o out and watch our support bands, even at our own shows, and people donít recognise me. And thatís great. I wouldnít trade that for anything. Not at this point anyway. At the time, I never really realised how fortunate we all were that it worked out that way. Itís really something.î But? ìWeíve been told by people that weíre going to have to start to embrace fame and celebrity a little bit,î says Adam. ìThey say that with the position weíre getting into that itís going to be unavoidable. But weíre going to try and hang on to what weíve got for as long as we can.î Weíll end where we began, with the upcoming release of ëLateralusí. Last December, US music magazine ëAlternative Pressí ran an end-of- year special on the most fervently anticipated releases of 2001. There were plenty of successful or significant bands in the issue ñ Stone Temple Pilots, Sugar Ray, Incubus ñ but it was Tool who made the cover. The tag-line racing across the front screamed ëTheir first interview in years!í like it was really something to trumpet. Which it was. And itís not difficult to see why. It sounds terribly pompous to suggest that music needs the return of Tool, but music does need the return of Tool. After all, if a figure like Disturbedís ëMadí Davey Draiman ñ someone who stares glassy-eyed whenever the topic of conversation stretches further than himself personally ñ can seriously be countenanced as a man of intelligence, then something has to give. If a band like Limp Bizkit can have their phenomenal commercial success mistaken for a creative achievement rather than a triumph of marketing then something has to give. And this just might be it. ìYeah, I think so,î is how Maynard James Keenan responds when asked if he thinks enough of Toolís fans will have endured the wait to make ëLateralusí a commercial success. ìI think so. I think thereís always that dangerous Spinal Tap line of our audience becoming more selective, but I think theyíll still be around. Even if itís based on the last record, how people have discovered that and how it continues to be discovered, even now, almost five years later. If you look at the catalogue chart (Billboardís listing system for back catalogue albums which have fallen out of the Top 200 but continue still to sell, albums such as AC/DCís ëBack in Blackí or Metallicaís ëBlack Albumí) it proves that weíre getting new fans all the time, that new fans are coming to the table all the time. ìI guess the cool thing about it is we make the music we make because we listen to each other,î states the frontman, by way of a conclusion. ìWeíre not concerned with outside influences too much, which puts us in a position of great artistic strength. The last album I think had lots to chew over a period of time. And now weíre about to release another records that has even more to chew on.î ëLateralusí is released on May 15. The ëSalivalí box set is out now.
Posted to t.d.n: 03/15/01 16:41:23