the tool page

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The Tool Page: An Article

Publication: Tape Op

Date: September, 2000

Transcribed by
Roman Sokal (

  page: 37
 title: The db of David Bottrill: Transatlantic Aural Architect (excerpt)
author: Roman Sokal

[The following is an excerpt from a lengthy feature article about David Bottrill. However, 
the excerpt reproduced here contains the entire section that was devoted to Tool and 
the recording of Aenema. If you wish to know more about Bottrill's work, you can get a 
back-issue of the magazine that has the entire article from]

*TOOLSHED EXCLUSIVE: also included at the end is the entire raw transcript of a small 
chat I did with Danny Carey in May of 2000 which was meant to run alongside the 
Bottrill story. Only a small quote ended up being extracted from it, which ended up in 
print along with additional comments by a couple members of King Crimson.

The cleanliness of Ænima.

    It began with a phone call from Los Angeles. Bottrill recalls with humor and irony 
how his involvement with the band Tool came about. "Funnily enough, they called and 
asked if I would work on [their new album] and they sent me their Opiate [EP] and 
Undertow record. I listened to them and thought 'I've never done anything like this 
before...why would this kind of American metal band be sending me things when all 
I've done was English art-rock music?!?' At first I thought they had me confused with 
someone else so I spoke to them and asked if they were sure they had the right guy. 
As it turned out, Danny [Carey], the drummer, was a HUGE King Crimson fan and 
Adam [Jones] the guitar player's favorite album had been The First Day. The singer, 
Maynard [James Keenan] was a huge Real World music fan. A lot of the stuff I worked 
on happened to be their favorites even though they were musically doing different 
things. They thought I wasn't an 'American rock producer' but they figured they already 
knew what area they wanted and that I would bring something else to their music. So I 
met them in Los Angeles, sat in one of their rehearsals and right away, we hit it off. It 
was an exciting rehearsal despite the fact that I sat beside Danny's ride cymbal which 
kind of made me deaf by the end of the day. They knew what I could do, they knew 
what they and their fans wanted, so I went along with their confidence."

    For the most part, Tool creates a genre of music that is their very own. Its fabric 
contains threads of epic, progressive dark compositions, yet weaves in ethereal and 
mathematical structures. At times the thematic content deals with ‘disgustipation’, 
oppression, struggle, rebirth and self-realization. Even though their strange 
biomechanic arachnid tapestry of sound makes them perfect for post-production 
tinkering such as sequencing and editing, Bottrill dispenses an ironical fact; "They're 
extremely well thought out. Nothing was done to a click track or through a computer. It 
was all live with overdubs."

    For almost four months Bottrill and the band incubated themselves in Ocean Way 
and The Hook studios in regional Los Angeles before eventually sealing themselves at 
Larrabee for the mixing stage. From the first track “Stinkfist”, with its crescendo, one is 
immediately brought into a spacious yet well-defined environment, especially with the 
lively drum sounds. Bottrill reveals his modus operandi; "One of the things on that 
record as well as with other rock bands I work with is that I'll get a small PA in the 
same room as the drummer and place it behind him facing forwards. The close mic'd 
signals that are on the kit's snare, tom and kick are run through the well-EQ'd PA so 
you get this added volume and weight. When you use your ambient mics they pick up 
the PA so it becomes overall a much bigger sound with an exaggerated volume. Danny 
also had extra programmed electronic sounds that would play along with his drumming 
so we put those through the PA as well so the sounds gelled more together with the 
kit." The capturing of the chromatic guitars was done in a logical manner as well, 
allowing organics to be the backbone for the calculating song structures. "[The] guitars 
generally took multiple takes, doubling and tripling with different guitars so as to allow 
for tonal changes by featuring different guitars as opposed to EQ'ing differently for 
different sections."

     When scrutinizing the credits of many Bottrill-related projects, one might also 
discover that he has provided a touch of his own musicianship. Take for instance 
Passion. He is credited for providing ‘drone’. Perhaps the most peculiar example of his 
involvement as musician lies within the morbidly dark and humoristic track from Ænima 
entitled “Message To Harry Manback”. The track features delicate, sparse and melodic 
piano playing with atmospheric beach sounds, which ironically is accompanied by…a 
death threat. Bottrill reminisces, “It was me playing the piano. The threatening Italian 
person was leaving a real answer phone message on Maynard's room-mate's machine.  
Basically it was from a guy who had recently been kicked out of the house for being the 
guest from hell." 

     The manner in which Bottrill deals with natural sounds via his world music 
experience combined with dexterity in the high-tech realm suggests that he should be 
dubbed as a ‘World Engineer’, one that merges the ‘best of both worlds’ for which the 
Tool project acts as a bonafide example of. And Bottrill agrees. He considers Ænima as 
a monument that rests on his curriculum vitæ as a producer, engineer and mixer.


Danny Carey the ultra-dextrous drummer for Tool, shares his reflection of David Bottrill 
from outside the control room window, behind the drum kit.

By Roman Sokal

-What sparked the desire to have Dave work on Ænima?

It was his ability to capture all the ethnic instruments in the past doing a lot of 
engineering on the Passion Sources album and all that. That was what attracted us to 
him. We had all these producers climbing down our backs at the time and everyone we 
talked to said ‘I’ll do this and I’ll do that’. When we came to David he was like, ‘why do 
you want me?’ And that was such a cool attitude to have you know; he wanted to know 
what was going on with the band and what we were about rather than just ‘oh Tool’s a 
big name, I’ll record them!’.  That’s what really won us over. He had a lot of integrity I 
thought in that way, and it shows through in his work. What struck me about his work 
on Passion and with King Crimson and so on was that it didn’t have that ‘producer 
sheen’ on it. He was kind of transparent almost in a way. He just let things shine 
through more than he tried to put his touch on things like that. As the project moved 
along, we got to know him better and it was really cool because after he got a feel of 
what we were about and what we were trying to achieve. He would come up with some 
really good suggestions and good ideas like placing things in the mixes and so on. His 
engineering is what blew me away the most. He was patient, really open to 
experimentation with his mic placements in the room and stuff. He really took his time 
and did it right even though we were kind of pressed for time. He knew where to spend 
the minutes in the right way to get the best results for our budget. In the past we 
didn’t have big budgets so we just worked everything out before we would get into the 
studio and count on someone with the ears and know-how to capture it pretty much. He 
was perfect for that. That’s why we’re definite that we are going to use him on our next 

-Your drums sound really ambient yet up-front and powerful.

I really liked his mic’ing; just how he was aware of the ambience of the room and he 
really tried to capture that. He set up 4 to 6 room mics in different places; like big 
Neumann tube mics. It just really helped to have that natural reverb at your finger tips. 
He really worked a lot at getting those things at the right place where they still have 
some low end going on. That was the whole thing– he really wanted to take control of 
the room.

-How about the PA set-up? 

We would pump mainly just the low-end stuff into a PA. You get that attack and 
proximity effect a little easier when you have that much bottom end pumping out of a 
PA along with acoustic drums. That’ll get you a transient attack. It helped set that 
whole room in-vibration because its kind of hard to get a real heavy present low end in 
a large room of which it always lacks and I’ve always loved the sounds of drums in a 
big room but they start getting so ambient that they’ll disappear when you put guitars 
and stuff over on top of them unless you have that sub-stuff going on. We had a lot of 
trouble with the close mic’ing thing at first when trying to get the real sound of my 
drums. We ended up using Neumann mics on the top and bottom of every one of my 
toms, which at a lot of studios you wouldn’t be able to do. It was great because at 
Ocean Way they have this huge mic closet. We took full advantage of it. 

-Is there anything you would like to experiment with sound-wise as a drummer for the 
next album?

For me, I want to try even a bigger PA! Maybe this time since we have a little bit of a 
larger budget we can even take more time to experiment with some different mics. 
The drum sounds were kind of consistent all the way through our last record and I’m 
hoping this time we’ll have the time to go ahead and try different drum kits on 
different songs. It’s such a time consuming process micing up a drum kit and getting it 
up to our standards. That’s a tough thing and a lot to ask of our budget. Hopefully, 
we’ll be able to take advantage of David’s experimental ideas a little bit more. He has 
some really good mics himself and he doesn’t come in with a preconceived idea. He’ll 
walk into a room and check it out. I remember him listening to me play for quite a 
while and just sort of wandered around the kit. He really understands how to record a 
drum better than a lot of engineers do. 

-Anything else you wish to add about Bottrill?

Yes…at the time I was working with this big magick board. We told him we were gonna 
sacrifice him on it when the session was over with and he didn’t even flee for the door. 
(laughs)…I respected him for that.  I just can’t say enough good things about him.


Posted to t.d.n: 08/23/01 02:00:53