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The Tool Page: An Article

Publication: Kerrang

Date: November, 1996

Transcribed by
Barry Toma (

 title: Harvesters of Sorrow

The most uncompromising band in America have just stormed the US charts
with an album which is obviously filled with anger, pain and despair.  
Except TOOL don't think it is - and no, they don't want to talk about it,
or very much else. "F**k, man, _listen_ to the record," they tell an
increasingly uncomfortable Paul Brannigan...

'F**K ALL those gun-toting hip gangster wannabes. F**k retro anything.  
F**k your tattoos, f**k all you junkies and f**k your short memories'.
This is not a love song.

We're outside a rehearsal room just off Hollywood Boulevard in sun- kissed
LA. From within, rich vocals are coiling angrily around a punishing riff,
the music deep, dark, intense and seething with disgust. For a full five
minutes we stand mesmerised until the last swathes of feedback dissipate
into the muggy air. Then the heavy black door swings open and out steps...
a man and woman of about 60 years of age. This is all getting a bit David
Lynch. No sooner are we informed that the elderly couple are Tool
guitarist Adam Jones' parents than their black-haired son steps out into
the sunshine, followed by drummer Danny Carey and Tool's newish recruit,
Kent-born bassist Justin Chancellor. Enigmatic vocalist Maynard James
Keenan ambles out a few minutes later, spooning the remains of a Chinese
take-away into his mouth.  Unlike his bandmates, Maynard doesn't bother
with friendly small talk, but stands basking in the heat silently. Inside
Tool's rehearsal room, which is also Danny's home, a small plastic bird is
pinned to a wall with a hypodermic syringe. We imagine that working with
Tool might be an equally uncomfortable experience for us. Tool aren't big
fans of Kerrang!. When we first wanted to interview them circa their last
album, 'Undertow', they felt they weren't 'metal' enough for the magazine.
Then they reckoned we had stitched them up in subsequent features,
misquoting them and trying to make them look stupid. During snapper Sean
Peake's phot session it would appear that our worst fears are being
realised. Tool make it clear that they don't like certain types of lens.
They won't pose in certain ways. They look about as interested as the Pope
ina whorehouse. We haven't flown a couple of thousand miles to make Tool
look like c**ts, but frankly, they're not doing themselves any favours...

THE HORRIFIC photo ordeal over, we begin to talk. We wanted to do a
personal profile with Maynard, but we're running into brick walls with
this angle.  Maynard is taciturn, to put it mildly. So what made you want
to be in a band, Maynard? "I don't know if I want to be in a band even
now," he shrugs.  Did you have a liberal upbringing? "In some cases, but
in other cases, no."  Are there any specific examples you can give? "No."
Don't you think your upbringing has a reflection on the way you are now?
Silence. To be honest, we're grateful here for the presence of Danny and
Justin, talented video-maker Adam having already departed to finish work
on the band's new promo. They're intelligent, articulate guys, which helps
when Maynard sits flicking through English music magazines in silence
while we pose the initial questions. We talk about Justin's painless
assimilation into Tool and the band's unassuming attitude to the minor
celebrity which inevitably comes with selling a million records. But we're
not really getting to the heart of what makes this deeply thoughtful band
tick. Time to address Maynard once more. Do you want to talk about the
lyrics on the new album, Maynard? The singer gives a bored shrug. "Sure,
if you want." Let's start with 'Hooker With A Penis', then. "Everyone
picks that one first, the real obvious one," he sighs. Yes, we like
obvious where I come from - it helps promote dialogue... Long pause.
Maynard? "That song is about unity."  Longer pause. What about 'Aenima',
the song we just heard you rehearse?  "That's about unity and change too."
We had foolishly thought it was about your hatred of Los Angeles. So what
do you all think of this wanker's paradise?  "Because I get to hang around
cool people, I feel like I'm on a paradise island here surrounded by an
ocean of shit," says Justin. Danny gives a non-commital shrug. Maynard?
F**k, man, _listen_ to the record," he explodes. "You know, 'Aenima' is
about LA going in the ocean... What do you _think_ I f**king feel about
LA?" Calm down, calm down. So what brought you here in the first place? "I
just followed my nose." Not work, then?  "Yes, it was actually." Why stay
here if you hate the place so much? "Because I'm in this band. And anyway,
I've moved now." Where? "Somewhere else."

TOOL ARE an immensely powerful and somewhat unsettling band, possessing a
genuine depth and emotion rare in these days when designer disaffection is
in vogue. They're also totally uncompromising, with long, involved musical
explorations and song titles like 'Stinkfist' and 'Hooker With A Penis'
hardly pandering to the all-important radio and MTV programmers. And yet,
'Aenima' went straight into the US charts at Number Two. But like its
predecessors, it's not exactly full of love and good times... "You don't
find love and friendship on this record?" asks Maynard. Not really, no.  
"Then you're not listening properly." Danny breaks the awkward silence.  
"Axe murderers are more likely to find their inspiration in happy little
pop songs," he says, "because there is no content there. It's healthy to
dig deeper. People get lonely and disconnected today because things are so
superficial." "It's like that movie 'Independance day'," the vocalist
continues. "Most people come away with a terrified reaction because
they're living in fear. They're not seeing that the whole underlying
message of that movie is unity. You watched the whole world come together
for one unified purpose, even if it was just a purpose built on fear.
"We're all just one consciousness moving in one direction together. That's
the underlying message of this entire album. If you chose to see the
negative and disturbing aspects within the songs, then maybe that's the
part of your consciousness you should be attempting to come to terms
with." We've transcribed Maynard's words here in full to give you an idea
about the thought that goes into a typical Tool answer. Here's another
unedited chunk of Maynard's wisdom... "We don't write songs from a vocal
melody or riff - it's all about sound, vibration and light. If you have an
emotional charge or traumatic incident that's locked in your muscle
memory, sound and light will knock it loose. If you're in the middle of a
concert pit that's bombarding you with some emotion, it's going to affect
you in some way.  The key is to key in on what emotion is being triggered
and take that home with you and work through it. "This isn't about the
kids coming to the show, looking at us on the stage bigger than they are
and going home thinking, 'Wow, I wish I could feel like this forever'.
It's about taking the first domino that is falling in the club and
toppling all the rest, taking it to another level..."

TOOL MAY feel that they've been misrepresented in the past, but the truth
is that no article of this length is ever going to fully get across the
complexity and depth of ideas like this. The band go on to talk about
stuff like ecology, the one-dimensional nature of institutionalised
educational systems and the vacuous nature of clich»d rock 'n' roll
lifestyles, but they hate journalists summarising well thought-out
10-minute answers to complex problems into snappy soundbites, so we'll
respect their wishes. Rock 'n' roll isn't mere entertainment to Tool, it's
a medium through which to share their philosophies and experiences. At one
point, Maynard points out that psychologists use Tool videos and albums to
work clients through problems.  And the whole band take some pride from
the fact that their music and lyrics are so deeply inspiring to so many
people. But in the end, Kerrang! is a music magazine, not a clinical
psychology textbook, and we offer snapshots of the lives of your favourite
musicians rather than any moral and spiritual blueprint for life. "Look,
we're not selling personalities," Maynard states, "we're exploring ideas
and sharing them. Most interviews are about personality, when actually the
interview should transcend the band itself and give you some ideas about
what the artist is trying to achieve - almost like an educational
experience rather than who they f**ked." In truth, our traditional sex,
drugs and rock 'n' roll angle f**ked off to the bar long ago. Hopefully,
you consider yourself Tool-ed up and educated.  Personally, I'm off for
some brainless fun...

Posted to t.d.n: 11/09/99 03:27:59