Publication: Rocky Mountain News
Date: October, 2002
page: 8D title: FASHIONS COME AND GO, BUT TOOL NEVER WEARS OUT author: Mark Brown Grunge is dead. The nu-metal rappers get pegged as whiners. But Tool's dark, angst-ridden lyrics and edgy music exist in a trend-free zone. Starting with 1993's Undertow, the band struck a chord with its personal, free-flowing lyrics and often-crushing sound. Innovative videos lent an arty edge to the band, which it reflects onstage as well. And onstage is where fans like Tool best. With just three albums in a decade, the band has a fan base that won't quit; it sold out the Pepsi Center not long ago and has shows in Boulder today and Colorado Springs on Sunday. Legal hassles led to a five-year delay before the 2001 release of Lateralus, but fans found that the band was better than ever, with many proclaiming it their best album. "We tried to work a little bit during that period when it was in the heat of it all," drummer Danny Carey says from a stop on the road. "But it was really hard to work at that time. It just ends up contaminating the creative process. We ended up waiting till that was out of the way before we settled down and started writing and working on the album." Listening to songs such as The Patient, it's hard to imagine how such soundscapes are constructed. Carey points out that it's a truly collaborative songwriting process, all the way down to the lyrics, and that the band uses little studio trickery in creating Tool's sound. "We all have our little bits and pieces that we bring in. We jam 'em to the limit, let 'em mutate as far as the parts can go with all four of us working on the pieces. We keep a tape player rolling so we don't forget what's gone by," Carey says. "Then we go back and have listening parties where we filter through these long, insane jams and find really cool bits and pieces out of it. There are always ones that just seem to magically fit together." Vocalist and frontman Maynard James Keenan jams along, coming up with melody lines and vocal hooks. "There are never any words involved until the music is completed, but he's working on melodies and phrasing along the way," Carey says. Before going in the studio, they have the songs completely mapped out. "We know exactly what we want them to sound like. I can't imagine constructing something in the studio, then trying to reproduce it live. That seems backward to me," Carey says. The air and space in Tool's sound "is just the way our chemistry worked together," he says. "We give each other room; every hole doesn't have to be filled up. We're content to make things a little more atmospheric sometimes rather than just slamming the whole time. The heavy parts lose their heaviness if there's no contrast. We've always been aware of that part of it." Tool's boldest musical move is to merge the heavy sound of Black Sabbath or Metallica with the musicianship of progressive-rock bands such as King Crimson (whom Tool actually took on tour). The result was a sort of thinking- man's hard rock. "We've all been into Sabbath and King Crimson and things like that," Carey says, even during eras when prog-rock was considered the realm of dorks and snobs. "When I was a little kid, they were the coolest thing. That was kinda what I started from. But then it did become very uncool, but I didn't pay any attention." He was afraid that that uncool factor could spill over onto the Tool/King Crimson tour, which stopped at Red Rocks last year. "At first we were worried it wouldn't translate to our fans," Carey says. "We didn't want these Tool fans to get aggro on them. But they got a really good response. For me it was a dream come true, because I was a fan for so long." The band's lyrics, often dealing with pain and abuse, are written primarily by Keenan, but with input from all. "Maynard is always quick to bounce all of them off of us. We talk extensively about the feel and vibe of the music before the lyrics are written. Even while he's writing them, he's always checking with us to make sure it's cool and we're into it," Carey says. "It's a team effort in all aspects. We're not gonna censor Maynard if he's gonna go somewhere, but he comes to us if he gets in a sticking place and asks for help." The band's sound is a natural for 5.1 surround sound, but it hasn't happened yet. "I definitely want to do it in the future," says Carey. "I know we'll release some more DVDs, so maybe we'll have some more remixes done. Once I heard a few mixes done that way, I was floored."
Posted to t.d.n: 10/15/02 16:32:19