Date: November, 2002
page: title: Tool wraps a mystical cloak around it's music author: Parke Puterbaugh Fri, November 1, 2002 Tool wraps a mystical cloak over its music By Parke Puterbaugh SPECIAL TO THE JOURNAL • Tool will perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Joel Coliseum. Meshuggah will open the show. Admission is $36.50. For tickets, call 722-6400. Lateralus, the third full-length CD by the progressive metal band Tool, comes packaged in a severe black slipcase that looks like an electrician's schematic. Its small, hard-to-read silver lettering reveals not much more than the band members' names, song titles and a few crucial credits. The pamphlet inside contains no writing whatsoever. Its clear plastic pages overlap to form a colorful, intricate anatomical study of a human head and torso. Tool cultivates a certain mystique in its music and visual presentation. It is not quite the same ritual infatuation with evil that has propelled metal since Black Sabbath first tolled the funeral bell back in the early '70s. Nonetheless, Tool has left enough room for interpretation in its music that fans of Lateralus have made a virtual industry out of speculating what such songs as "The Grudge" and "Schism," not to mention the imponderable whole, might mean. There has been extensive cyber-conjecture by fans and nonfans that the name Lateralus refers to a cannibalistic dissection rite, that subliminal messages have been encoded into the disc, and that the entire album derives from the Qabala (a mystical, symbolic interpretation of scripture). Adam Jones, the band's guitarist and artistic mastermind, chuckled when some of these notions were put to him. "Most people don't understand what's going on," he said. "They really want these unanswered questions answered, and if they're not, they say, 'They're dark,' 'They're sinister,' 'They're nihilistic.' It's OK, it's fine. I don't worry that someone is or isn't getting the message of the band. It's kind of a selfish approach. The four of us get it, but for anyone else outside the circle, it's up for interpretation." Does he believe that Tool's fans get it? "Oh, no way!" he answered without hesitation. "But it's OK. I'm not saying there's a secret message. I mean, there are definitely ideas and concepts. But it's like this - if you see a painting that moves you and you go, 'Well, this is what I think is going on in the painting and what I think the artist was feeling when he did it,' does it matter if you're right or wrong? It's just perspective, and it's all up for grabs." Tool's densely knit music is challenging and often brutally intense, yet there's also room for a certain amount of minimalist beauty and even a well-concealed touch of humor. "We've always approached it as doing some kind of serious expression that uses both sides of your brain, while at the same time not taking ourselves very seriously," Jones said. He was speaking from backstage at a venue in Lowell, Mass., where Tool would be playing in a few hours. Lowell is the birthplace, childhood home and final resting place of Jack Kerouac - the author and figurehead of the Beat Generation - and the band visited his grave earlier in the day. It's fitting that Jones made reference to painting, because Tool - whose other members are vocalist Maynard James Keenan, drummer Danny Carey and bassist Justin Chancellor - is an art-rock band as much as it is a metal one. Jones was born in 1965 and cut his musical teeth on progressive-rock bands of the 1970s. "The bands I liked were ones where you didn't know what they looked like, they had really amazing artwork, and their music went deeper than what everyone else was doing," he said. Jones named several that rate as key influences. Yes, Rush, Pink Floyd and, especially, King Crimson. "These bands, we are their children," he said. "We are the result of them." Tool actually toured with King Crimson this year in a pairing made in prog-rock heaven. "We mentioned to King Crimson, as a joke almost, about playing with us, and they were totally into it," Jones said. "So we just split everything up the middle and had the show. We went on after them, because lots more of their fans than our fans were buying tickets, but the collective of their fans and our fans were just amazing." "It was just a complete honor and the stuff I learned about relationships and music and the music industry was amazing," he said. "I could die a happy man after that." Tool came together in 1991 when three relocated Midwesterners - Jones (from Illinois), Keenan (Ohio) and Carey (Kansas) - met in Los Angeles. Tom Morello, the guitarist for Rage Against the Machine, played a pivotal role in making introductions. The quartet was rounded out by bassist Paul D'Amour, who was replaced in 1995 by U.K. native Justin Chancellor, late of the band Peach. The first Tool album, Undertow, appeared in 1993, and was followed three years later by Aenima. Legal issues with record companies sidelined the band for several years, but they emerged in 2001 with Lateralus, their strongest album to date. Along the way, they played on a couple of Lollapalooza tours and an Ozzfest, and they've toured with the likes of the Rollins Band and Rage Against the Machine. Despite all the noisy company they have kept, Tool is by far the artiest of any of the bands to which the "metal" tag can be applied. Vocalist Keenan is a wine aficionado who is establishing a vineyard in Arizona and co-owns a restaurant in Hollywood. Drummer Carey came to Tool from Green Jello, "a very artistic kind of goofy costume-oriented band," according to Jones. Jones himself has studied art, sculpture and film, and worked in Hollywood as a makeup artist and special-effects person. This orientation has obviously informed his approach to music. "I look at things in a very layered way," he said. "I see them as you might look at doing a computer program, like an editing program, where you can see the different parts and layers, what works and the harmony of the whole thing. I don't think I have some amazing insight that other people don't have. I think it's just a different perspective of trying to visualize things in three dimensions through sound or through an idea or concept." In terms of what Tool means to accomplish, "we're trying to overstimulate and understimulate at the same time," Jones said. "It's the power of complexity with the power of ... nothing. It is something you find in a lot of things that come in movements, like a classical piece or an art show, something that's a little more complex than one single thing. We're trying to take it as far as you can without overdoing it."
Posted to t.d.n: 11/08/02 13:44:49