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The Tool Page: An Article

Publication: CMJ New Music Report

Date: October, 1996

Transcribed by
K[elly] (

  page: 58
 title: What's It Like...
author: Dawn Sutter

Justin Chancellor joined the mighty Tool just before they 
began recording the high-pressure follow-up to their hugely 
successful Undertow. With a video in the works and a massive 
tour looming for most of the rest of this year, Justin spoke 
with CMJ’s Aaron Clow and offered his thoughts on stepping 
into the spotlight.

It’s as if it were an unwritten rite of passage, an initiation 
towards becoming a full-fledged member, that when you join 
an already-successful group, the new guy has to do the 
interviews. And when the guitar player is busy designing the 
record cover and special effects for the videos, you end up 
doing a lot of interviews by yourself. Tool’s new guy (and 
bassist) Justin Chancellor joined the band in '95 and since 
Ćnima is his first album with the band, he’s still paying his 
dues. Admittedly, Chancellor sometimes may seem like he’s 
not sure what he’s gotten himself into, joining a band whose 
first album went gold after just six months. “It’s kind of 
interesting, because I haven’t fully been exposed to how big 
the whole thing is,” he says. Believe us, it’s big. It’s a big 
job, partially due to the involvement that Tool insists upon 
with its projects. The band takes care with all of its product, 
with a hand in every last detail, down to the video making 
and artwork done by guitarist Adam Jones. Jones, a sculptor 
and special effects designer whose talents have been 
implemented in past videos, are further tested in the latest 
video, “Stinkfist,” which is a mix of live action and animation.

It’s this quest for uncharted territory and atmosphere for 
creativity that present an exciting opportunity for the new 
guy. Chancellor is ecstatic about the prospects awaiting him 
as Tool finishes its first video and embarks on an extensive 
tour. When asked about how life on a rock’n’roll tour can be, 
Chancellor exclaims, “I love it!,” then confesses “I’ve never 
actually done it, myself. With my last band [Peach] I toured 
England and about eight days in Germany”, but with new-guy 
enthusiasm he adds, “I’m fucking excited about it!”

Chancellor, though, is more than just a new bass face to 
replace the old one. He plays an integral role in Tool. “I 
joined as a writer -– it’s very much a four-way thing.” And a 
new writer can easily stimulate and nudge a band into a new 
musical direction. “I’m into different stuff than the other 
guys, but Tool was one of my favorite bands before I joined. 
I knew all the guys for years and Peach toured with them a 
couple of times in England. I want to be part of a new fresh 
thing. Coming into, instrumentally, a three-piece band, 
there’s a lot of areas where you can really go off. There's a 
lot more space that lends itself to experimentation. Basically 
we tend to jam out the music quite a bit [in rehearsing new 
songs].” So as a longtime friend and fan who happened to 
go on and join the band, what difference does he see 
between the two albums? “Compared to Undertow [Ćnima]… 
is pretty different. It’s trying to be a little more experimental. 
Sonically, [Ćnima] is more daring, pushing a little bit. [We 
weren’t] worrying too much about one standard sound for the 
album, but just taking the songs where they want to go.

His naiveté about how “big the whole thing is,” and the 
pressures on this band that has been so successful and has 
amassed a large fan base, has also helped Tool’s 
songwriting. “It has been really good because when we were 
writing the album, it was really home-grown. I mean, it was 
just coming straight from us. It was very unaffected by those 
kind of [fan] forces. I don’t think you can worry about that 
too much. You’ve just got to try and maintain integrity. If it’s 
doing better than the last thing, or it’s more accessible, then 
that’s fine. The music is changing even from the first song I 
wrote with them to the last one. It evolved a huge amount.”

Joining a band that was known for its integrity, attention to 
detail, and fierce control over its output, it looks like Justin is 
a natural for the commitment and drive behind Tool. “This 
whole experience is just a big kick up the ass,” says the new 
bass player with a laugh. “You can’t avoid getting better at 
what you’re doing when you have to throw yourself in 
something that intensely.”

Posted to t.d.n: 03/11/02 22:39:39 The Tool Page: An Article

Publication: Gavin Magazine

Date: October, 1996

Transcribed by
K[elly] (

 title: Sink or Swim - A Conversation With Tool's Justin Chancellor
author: Rob Fiend 

Originally formed in 1991 as a therapeutic vehicle to release 
tension, Tool is heavy in more ways than one. Vocalist 
Maynard James Keenan, guitarist Adam Jones, drummer 
Danny Carey, and original bassist Paul D'Amour, who were 
drawn together by shared musical tastes as well as similar 
outlooks on life, quickly became pioneers of an existential 
form of aggressive music highlighted by lyrics that preach 
actuality as opposed to conceptual possibility. By 1992, Tool 
was signed to Zoo Entertainment, and their first recording, 
Opiate, was released. The six song EP was followed in 1993 
by the band's first full-length, Undertow, which achieved gold 
status in its first six months on the market. That same year, 
the band mesmerized crowds on Lollapalooza's eclectic 
second-stage before eventually graduating to the main 
stage, where they converted the masses with their esoteric 

Three years later, Tool has returned with their second full-
length, Ćnima, which again showcases the band's rock 
prowess and blatant opinions on life. The long anticipated LP 
also marks the departure of bassist Paul D'Amour, who left 
the band to pursue guitar playing with his new band Lusk. 
Replacing D'Amour is 25-year-old Justin Chancellor, a former 
London resident who honed his bass-playing skills in a band 
called Peach. 

"I'm into a lot of sonically different stuff," says 
Chancellor. "One of my favorite bands is Fugazi, but I also 
like a lot of Sonic Youth and a band out of Boston called Gun 

Tool is another of Chancellor's favorites, and has been ever 
since his brother, who had access to the band's 1991 demo, 
played him the tape. 

"My brother was traveling in America and met this guy, Matt 
Marshall, who would later turn out to be the Zoo A&R rep who 
signed them," says Chancellor. "Matt and my brother lost 
contact for a while, but when they met up again, they were 
both working for labels and would exchange demos, one of 
which was Tool's. It just kicked my ass!" 

Chancellor followed Tool's progress as a fan after that initial 
taste, and when Peach came to Los Angeles a few years later, 
he was finally able to meet the band.  

"I met Tool through some mutual friends when my band 
came to LA," he says. "My brother had managed to book us 
some gigs through friends of his, so we smuggled our guitars 
into the country and pretended we were just on holiday."

Chancellor hooked up again with Tool in England when the 
band was touring Europe in late 1994. "Tool came to England 
and kept promising they'd get us [Peach] on the bill," he 
remembers. "Eventually we did a little tour of England." 

Over the course of that short tour and another trip to LA, 
Chancellor and guitarist Jones became good friends. When 
Paul D'Amour left the group, the young Londoner was asked 
to audition for the band. 

"Last October, I got a call from Adam who told me they were 
parting company with Paul. He asked if I wanted to try out," 
says Chancellor. "I was really freaked out and shat myself. I 
know it sounds really corny, but Tool was literally the epitome 
of everything I liked about music, it was very unique to me."

Unable to fathom the incredible opportunity presented to him 
and concerned about being loyal to a new band he was 
putting together, Chancellor almost passed on the audition. 

"At first I actually turned it down," he reveals. "Peach had 
split up six months before, and I was in the middle of getting 
a new band together with a friend of mine. I didn't want to let 
my mates down, my head started spinning and I thought to 
myself, 'No, I've got to think about this.' I soon realized that 
if I was honest with myself, I'd fucking kill myself if I didn't 
give it a go, so I called Adam back and told him I was into it.”

The day before Chancellor was to fly to LA for the tryout, he 
went to his bandmates to inform them of his decision to 
audition for Tool. 

"I told them I was going to try out for Tool, and they kicked 
me out of the band," laughs Chancellor. 

Now that the chances of returning to his old band, should he 
fail the audition, were dim, self doubts began to creep into 
the bassist's mind - especially when he discovered that 
Filter's Frank Cavanaugh, Kyuss' Scott Reeder, and Pigmy 
Love Circus' Marko Fox were also vying for the position. 

"I thought there was no way that I was going to get the spot," 
he says, "but at the same time, I was totally happy to have 
made the decision to go for it." 

Tossing aside thoughts of the competition, Chancellor 
concentrated on showing Tool what he could contribute to the 
band. He was only in LA for a short time, so he had to give it 
his all. 

"I was only there a week," he recalls, "so I had no time to be 
modest or hide my light. I had to learn the songs they had 
written, but that was secondary to having new ideas to offer." 

Obviously, Tool was impressed with what Chancellor could 
contribute and invited him to join the band a month later. 
Since the group was scheduled to begin work on a new 
album, Chancellor had to fly to LA immediately, bringing only 
his bass and some clothes. 

Upon his arrival, he immediately began exchanging song 
ideas for the new album, Ćnima. The band had already 
written a few songs with D'Amour before his departure, but 
Chancellor was asked to contribute to the remaining tracks. 

"I've always been in bands that have been pretty 
democratic," says Chancellor, "but there's always some sort 
of control figure. This experience is very much four ways. I 
think everyone in the band is unique in character and offers 
something different. I hope it continues to work that way, 
because you can really feel the diversity in the music. It 
burns in such a cohesive way that it gives the music real 

Not only was Chancellor encouraged to help direct the music, 
he was also involved in choosing the producer. In order to 
fully capture the brutal sound and feeling Tool was looking to 
achieve on Ćnima, they chose David Bottrill (King 
Crimson/Peter Gabriel) to produce the album. "We wanted a 
fifth person to push the envelope a bit and kind of be a little 
daring and experimental," Chancellor explains. "A lot of the 
new stuff we writing seemed more dynamic and a bit more 
risky than previous releases. In the end, we decided to go 
with David."

With several people jockeying for the producer's job, it was a 
surprise to Bottrill when he was asked to take it. 

"When we first met David,” says Chancellor, "his first 
question was, 'Why on earth would you want me to do your 
record? What have I done that can relate to what you're 

"For us, it made sense to have David, because he worked on 
projects that included other sounds that were outside our 
experience. Also, we needed someone we could trust. You 
can't listen to other people's opinions unless you have some 
kind of respect for them. He had never produced anything 
similar to what we were doing, yet he enabled us to go further 
with the songs and helped us to explore the sounds we 

Ćnima is proof that Bottrill was the best man for the job. It 
reflects his use of moods while pushing the musical 
possibilities to their limits. The cohesiveness and limitless 
exploration that Tool enjoys - which is evident on Ćnima - 
stems not only from the band's collective experience, but 
also from Chancellor's musical input and the way he clicks 
with the band spiritually. Tool's songs are known to take a 
harsh look at life's injustices, and at the shallowness of 
humanity, but at the same time, they encourage the listener 
to improve themselves and, by extension, their surroundings. 
Chancellor shares this outlook. "A lot of the songs on Ćnima 
are about evolution and trying to pry open your third eye," he 
says. "You have to excise a certain amount of insecurities 
and misgivings to be in a pure enough state of mind to be 
able to move forward."

"The music is from the point of view of our lives," he 
continues. "It's not some trite thing that's been written to 
make everyone feel happy. It's real personal.” 

Forty-Six & 2, which points to the next level of man's genetic 
make-up, is an example of Tool's awareness. "It refers to 
your DNA," explains Chancellor, "which is at the moment 44 
and two: two pairs of 22 and the x and y chromosomes. 46 
and two is supposedly the next stage our genetic makeup 
that we will evolve to."

Whether or not the next stage will be better or worse 
depends on the natural changes that occur all around us. The 
Earth has a history of catastrophic upheaval. Whether it be 
natural disasters or global warming, anything that changes 
the Earth's makeup will effect everything that's living on it. 

"The earth has its own frequency," explains Chancellor. "I'm 
not a scientist, but change, on massive scales, has occurred 
on earth for millions of years. Some people think we're 
approaching another time of change." 

Some of the earth's changes may be coming sooner than you 
think. More importantly, future changes are likely to be 

On first listen, the song Ćnima sounds as if it's preaching the 
destruction or the sinking of California. (The inside cover of 
the CD even has a 3-D picture of California sinking into the 
ocean). According to Chancellor, however, the meaning is a 
little more subtle than that. 

"Anyone who thinks we advocate the destruction or sinking of 
California is taking the lyrics very literally," he says. "We're 
saying that, of all places, this place could do with a god 
enema; it could do with being totally flushed out. It's 
suffering from the weight of so many fucked up things. 
People have lost touch with their own existence, they're 
unaware of the big picture because of industries that thrive 
here. We're saying prepare yourself for change. Flush it all 
away and learn how to swim."

Despite such lyric intensity, Tool doesn't always dwell on the 
world's infinite madness, occasionally offering something with 
a lighter payload. 

Die Eier Von Satan, a two minute edit between tracks, 
showcases Tool's disguised comic relief by featuring Pigmy 
Love Circus' Marko Fox screaming lyrics in German. It sounds 
like a white supremacist rally, but it's not. In fact, it's not 
preaching anything, it's instructional - and funny. "Everyone's 
German friends will be able to enlighten them on this one," 
ensures Chancellor. "It's not remotely insulting. It's practical 

And there's Hooker with a Penis, considered by Chancellor to 
be the light break on the album. "On the surface it sounds 
like the heaviest sounding song," he says, "but really, to me, 
it's the light relief of the album. It says 'Shut up and buy our 
record' to all those little kids who even suggest that we've 
sold out. Just the idea of selling out - what does that really 
mean, since everyone is blowing to the man? The song is a 
little break in the record, but in the heaviest possible form. If 
you're going to get any relief from Tool, you're going to get it 
right in your face." 

The last track, Third Eye, is a 13-minute psychedelic trip that 
contains a large dose of acid-rock overtones. It also 
addresses the mental or physical states that impede our 
ability to evolve. 

"Third Eye is the ultimate song to me," says Chancellor. "It 
takes you one a trip without the necessity of taking any drugs 
at all. It addresses the fact that there is so much 
misinformation about drugs. They can open a lot of doors it 
treated the right way. For us, everyone does their own thing, 
everyone's up for new experiences, but only in order to draw 
something out of that. Luckily, we have a job that allows us 
to address the things that have come out of those 

Third Eye begins with a sample of the late comedian Bill Hicks 
joking about how most of the music that has enhanced 
people's lives was written by musicians high on drugs. There's 
also a painting of Bill Hicks and Keenan on the CD sleeve. 

"Bill Hicks is on there because Maynard met him and really 
appreciated what he did. I think he's awesome. What more 
could you want from a comedian? He's kind of like Tool in 
comedy. He addresses the real meaty shit that's going on. I 
think what freaks out most mainstream people is that he's 
being brutally honest." 

Brutal honesty is a prerequisite for anything Tool does. 
Unafraid to explore unpopular topics or encourage people to 
think, Tool's brazen lyrics and intense sound will continue to 
ignore format boundaries and will have significant impact on 
listeners as long as they continue to put out records. If 
listening to Ćnima doesn't pry open your third eye, you'd 
better learn how to swim. 

Posted to t.d.n: 03/19/02 01:09:09