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A TOOL-Related Article

Publication: Rolling Stone

Date: November 28, 1996 (issue 748)

Transcribed by Travis Commeau (sideshow) (

  page: 41
 title: TOOL: get spiritual and scatological with 'Aenima
author: Jon Wiederhorn

A few nights ago, TOOL frontman Maynard James Keenan dreamed he was flying
like a superhero over rocky terrain.  Gradually the mountains turned to
sand and the singer landed on a round pedestal in an ancient mayan city.
An iron cage suddenly sprouted around him, and jagged spikes began
descending from a rock above.
        "I figured the spikes were close enough together that I couldn't
get around them," Keenan says.  "I I had this overwhelming feeling that
the people who put me there wouldn't allow me to leave, and I'd just be
live there with spikes through my arms and legs, so I consciously put my
head in the way of one of the spikes to end it all."
        Leave it to a psychiatrist to judge whether Keenan is afraid of
being metaphorically imprisoned or impaled, but it doesn't take an
advanced degree to recognise the singer's nightmarish imagery in TOOL's
music.  Since they released their first EP, Opiate, in 1992, TOOL have
brooded in some of the darkest corners of alternative metal and have been
handsomely rewarded.  Their last album, Undertow, went platinum, thanks
largely to a morbid stop-action video, and the band's new one, Aenima,
debuted at No. 2 on Billboard's album chart.
        Dense and looming, Aenima spirals through a bleak landscape of
metallic rythms and industrial textures, mutating at will like a sadistic
demon from an H.R. Giger sketchbook.  Full-fisted riffs disolve into a
poisonous sonic fog, only to be replaced by more potent and convoluted
musical passages.  Through it all, Keenan plaeds like an incarcerated
sociopath, maoning for acceptance on minute, hurling bloodcurdling threats
the next.  But as harsh and unsettling as Aenima is, Keenan says it
revolves around themes that are as cleansing and life-affirmingas a New
Age crystal convention.
        "It's about unity, evolution and alternative perspectives," Keenan
insists from the safety of his home, in Los Angeles.  "Evolution didn't
stop with us getting thumbs.  There are a lot of metaphysical, spiritual
and emotional changes going on right now, and we're just trying to reflect
that.  We're not different from Tori Amos in that sense."
        Maybe not, but Tori doesn't sing about genetic mutation
("Forty-six and 2") [transcriber's note; doesn't that make 46&2 sound so
thin and simple??], and she certainly doesn't advocate sinking California
in to the sea ("Aenema").  "People in L.A. have lost touch with what
really matters," complains Keenan.  "Sometimes it seems like a big fucking
enema would be the best thing for everybody.  It would be the most violent
and terrifying way to start over, I wonder if it wouldn't be for the
        Keenan is only half-joking.  TOOL believe in the betterment of
humanity, but they feel that the transformation comes at a price and that
when people resist change, the cost goes up.  "I really believe that we're
living in an age where it's as if we've just discovered that the earth is
round again," the singer says.  "Just look at the birth of quantum
physics, and alternative medicines and power sources.  There's a lot of
resistance to that stuff, so things are going to be really chaotic and
violent for a while."  
        "Chaos is the undercurrent of everything that happens in life,"
adds the drummer Danny Carey.  "You can equate our music to childbirth.
It's brutal and harsh, but there's still a beautiful thing occuring."
        For Keenan, chaos has long been a fact of life.  The 32-year-old
singer was born an only child in a Baptist family in Akron, Ohio, and
spent much of his youth bouncing from place to place.  By the time he
entered the army, in 1982, he had lived in Michigan, New Jersey, New York,
Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas. 
        When Keenan was 11, his mother died, and although he won't be
specific, he says his childhood was scarred by the other "huge traumatic
things," which he later confronted in TOOL's 1994 single "Prison Sex," a
song about child abuse. 
        Keenan eventually moved to L.A.,where he met Adam Jones, who was
working as a sculptor and special-effects designer.  In addition to
playing guitar with Tool, Jones would later design all of the band's
scintillating videos and artwork, including the Aenima inner-sleeve
hologram of a man who appears to be fellating himself.  Tool's lineup was
completed in 1991 by Carey, whose ex-band mates in Green Jello shared a
loft with Keenan, and bassist Paul D'Amour, who was a friend of Jones'. 
Last year, D'Amour left because of creative differences, and he was
replaced by Englishman Justin Chancellor, whose band Peach had played in
Europe with Tool, in 1994. 
        In Jungian psychology, the "anima" refers to the feminine inner
self.  But in the school of Tool -- which combines the theories of Carl
Jung and noted mythologist Joseph Campbell with the dark vision of
occultist Aleister Crowly and the sci-fi cyber rattlings of writer William
Gibson -- the term is bastardized into a naughty double-entendre.  The
band finds such contrasts titillating, which sheds light on such tracks as
"Die Eier Von Satan," featuring an angry German voice spouting a recipe
for Mexican wedding cookies. 
        "A lot of the songs are pretty serious and introspective, and we
thought some of them should have a comical quality," explains Keenan. 
"It's kind of like those odd moments in a David Lynch movie that come
between the really intense parts." 
        Ever since heavy metal was spawned, devotees of the genre have
explored a wide range of apocalyptic themes.  Tool feed off the same
nihilistic energy as some of their heavy-metal kin, yet they're convinced
that the human race will continue to adapt and survive.  "If you believe
that we are connected to the earth and that the earth does have a
consciousness, you would think that she would make us understand that
connection so we wouldn't destroy ourselves," says Keenan. 
        The singer pauses, then lets fly with a far stranger idea: "What
nature should do next is try to figure out some way to plug the computer
chip into out DNA so that we could become re-aware that we are connected,
and that we have a compassion and a love for ourselves and what's around
us.  Perhaps that's been the message of all those people throughout
history who stood up and spoke out, and were nailed to sticks and burned
to death."

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