the tool page

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The Tool Page: An Article

Publication: Rocky Mountain News

Date: October, 2002

Transcribed by
Tamara (

  page: 8D
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 

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 

"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