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A TOOL-Related Article

Publication: Hit Parader

Date: October 1995

Transcribed by Justin McKinlay (

 title: hammering it home
author: winston cummings

Tool enjoy making you feel just a little bit uncomfortable.  Whether it 
is through the strange, almost unearthly photographs that comprise the 
cover of their first album, Undertow, or through the haunting imagery 
that inhabits such videos as Sober and Prison Sex, this Los Angeles based 
quartet have brought a uniquely twisted musical and visual sensibility to 
the often predictable confines of rock and roll.  Yet for all their 
unusual posturings, Tool have also proved capable of appealing to the 
music masses with surprising dexterity.  Their debut disc sailed past 
platinum, and their video efforts won a variety of industry kudos-- 
especially for their inventive utilization of clay-mation, that 
painstakingly time-consuming form of video art where clay figures are 
moved slightly from frame to frame until the illusion of actual motion is 
achieved.  But now the shock value of their initial successes have begun 
to wear off, and it's time for vocalist Maynard James Keenan, drummer 
Danny Carey, bassist Paul D'Amour and guitarist Adam Jones to start the 
whole creative process over again.  For many bands the challenge of 
inventing a new persona even more perverse and perverted than before 
might prove to be an intimidating challenge-- to these slightly-off-
center guys, it's all in a day's work.

"I don't think we really stopped to consider making a new album as any 
sort of daunting challenge," Jones said.  "We've never approached our 
music from the vantage point of commercial achievement.  The fact that 
the first album did well was certainly welcome by us, but it didn't 
change any of our perspectives.  The same, strange things that motivated 
us last time still motivate us now."

Somewhat ironically, for all their apparent strangeness, the roots of 
Tool's music are actually far more conventional than the band's members 
might want to admit.  Jones says that the group's influences range from 
folk singers like Joni Mitchell to country crooners like Dwight Yoakam 
and pedal-to-the-metal rockers like AC/DC and Metallica.  But rather than 
borrowing directly from any of these inspirations, Tool has chosen to 
take snippets from each, turn those pieces inside out until their guts 
are showing, then cover them all in the thick, impenetrable, guitar-heavy 
musical morass that has quickly become Tool's trademark.  But just because
the band's music on Undertow drew hails from both the metal and alternative
communities, the group wants us all to know that we may be in for a big
surprise this time around.

"The fact that so many of our heavier songs appeared on our first album 
was something of an aberration," Jones said.  "It just happened that was 
the direction we chose to follow.  It was something that kind of 
developed when we were in the studio.  But we didn't feel limited this 
time; we didn't see any reason to try and duplicate what we did before.  
Some of our other sides have reared the ugly heads this time around, and 
I believe people will find that to be very interesting."

Apparently, those who felt they knew and understood Tool after their 
initial introduction to the band will be quite shocked by the band's 
second attempt to delve into life's dark underbelly.  All the "classic" 
Tool elements are still there; Keenan's cry-from-the-soul lyrics and 
Jones' soundscape guitar musings.  But there are some startlingly 
different elements housed in these new songs as well.  From primitive 
howls to almost up-beat ravings (at least in the Tool context), Tool's 
second album is a major step forward for this West Coast quartet.  Yet, 
one must now wonder if this band's initial success wasn't something of a 
fluke brought on by both radio and MTV's love affair with Sober.  Can the 
band possibly duplicate such a media overload this time around?  Believe 
us, they're not losing any sleep worrying about whether or not they can.

"One of the distinguishing things about us is the fact that we'll always 
place our desire to enjoy what we're doing over the promise of big 
rewards," Jones said.  "People may not believe it due to the nature of 
our music, but this is fun for us.  It was great that the press and radio 
and MTV got behind us last time, but who knows what will happen next?  
Quite often those same media people who love you one year turn against 
you the next.  Who knows why?  It's just a fact of life.  So why should 
we spend even one second worrying about it?  We just proceed like always, 
just the way we've been doing it for the last four years."

It has been a four year journey to the top for the Toolmeisters.  Starting
out as an admittedly ugly idea in Jones' mind back in 1991.  Tool
represented a stark contrast from the then-traditional-cars-and-girls
attitudes of SoCal rock.  Slowly but surely the band's live shows started
attracting more and more attention, with their somber lyrics and
down-tuned instruments bringing a new generation of fans to the L.A. club
circuit.  By early 1993 the labels were starting to bang on the band's
door, and six months later Tool found themselves in the recording studio
laying down the tracks for Sober.  While most of the group's initial
attention came from the somewhat disgusting photo imagery that graced
their disc sleeve, by the time MTV started pushing the band in their "buzz
bin", even a blind man could have seen that Tool was headed for the big
time.  Of course, widely-hailed touring spots at both Lollapalooza and
Woodstock did little to derail the band's steamroller ride to the top. 

"Going on the road was very helpful to us," Jones said.  "Some people may 
have heard our album or seen our video and developed a certain image of 
us.  But once they got to see us on stage, and actually see what we look 
like and what we do, I think they began to understand us that much more."

Indeed the band's unwillingness to place their faces in the videos, or 
feature them on their album cover only serve to add another element to 
Tool's fast-growing mystique.  It's one "formula" these boys are going to 
follow again on the new album, not so much to follow any "tradition", but 
more due to the fact that they believe that the majority of fan interest 
should be on their music, not their appearance.  Will Keenan, Jones, 
D'Amour and Carey perhaps appear in one of their videos this time 
around?  According to the guitarist, only time will tell.

"I don't know if we'll do that or not," he said.  "We definitely are 
going to try some new things in our videos this time, but I'm not sure 
what that'll be.  There are some very creative video directors out there 
with sensibilities much like ours.  In fact, we're discovering that more 
people than you might imagine think like us-- kind of scary, isn't it?"

kabir/akhtar | kabir@t.d.n