the tool page

no one is innocent

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The Tool Page: An Article

Publication: Australian Musician

Date: September, 2001

Transcribed by
Martyn McDonnell (

  page: 14
 title: Tool: Art for Art's Sake
author: Dan Lander

A stunning new album and a gob-smacking tour have 
returned TOOL to the spotlight.  But as Dan Lander found out 
on their recent Australian tour, they want to make sure they 
are there for the right reasons.

Given the face-painted posturing that is once again 
dominating heavy metal, more than a few folk these days 
find the notion of a hard rock group with any sort of musical 
credibility an unlikely story.  That is, any hard rock group 
other than Tool.

Over a decade long career, the LA art-rockers - who this year 
released the dazzling Lateralus, their first album in five 
years -  have won a measure of respect unheard of in heavy 
rock since the hey-days of Led Zeppelin.

Partly this respect has come through a strong and none-too-
subtle disdain for the hype of the modern media.  Tool are 
notoriously hard to pin down, dodging interviews, photo 
shoots and just about all forms of publicity - as vocalist 
Maynard James Keenan explains it:

"We don't want to just be another face used to sell 
magazines.  We just want to make music."

However, central as this attitude is to the bands credible 
image, there is another equally important factor in their 
enduring success - Tool can confidently say 'let the music 
speak for itself' because they (and everyone else) knows that 
the music is pretty damn amazing.

Tool's new album and recent tour to Australia have presented 
a brave new face for modern rock - art is probably the only 
word to describe it.  Lateralus is a sweeping soundscape, 
swinging from the gothic grandeur of "Parabol" to the 
eccentric intensity of the title track with disconcerting ease.

"It's pretty clear by now that we're not following formulas 
when we write and record," says drummer Danny Carey of 
Lateralus.  "The tunes just take on a life of their own.  You 
just have to be open to what the song is suggesting.  All of 
our parts are formed that way.  Once a song gets developed 
to a certain point, then you do whatever it takes to let it 
develop - it's just us being open with each other and sharing 
enough with each other to let that happen and take it to the 
ultimate level."

Live, the band recreated the album with breathtaking 
accuracy, and more than a little unorthodoxy.  Their stage set 
up featured guitarist Adam Jones and bassist Justin 
Chancellor out front, with Carey and Keenan placed on raised 
platforms at the rear of the stage.  While to some this might 
seem like the ultimate pose, Keenan explains it differently.

"That set up," begins the diminutive vocalist, "came about 
simply for reasons of sound.  When I'm up the back like 
that, I don't have to battle with Adam's guitar and Justin's 
bass so much to hear myself.  With a lot of the new songs, I 
need to really hit notes that are pretty difficult, so I need a 
clear, uncluttered sound on stage.  This set up has worked 
really well so far for that reason - it just gives a much better 
on stage sound"

Another feature of Tool's performance that may have 
surprised a few was the fact that on occasion Keenan picked 
up a headless Steinberger guitar - there were no solos, but 
the singer pulled a few clever tricks out of the instrument.

"I use the guitar mostly as another voice." explains 
Keenan.  "Because I can't sing all my parts at the same time, 
I use simple guitar lines live to approximate the vocals on 
the album.  Most of the time you can't even hear it - all the 
guitar playing you notice out front is still mostly Adam - but it 
helps to fill out the sound."

This style of lateral thinking has long been Tool's greatest 
virtue, and it is a fact that has drawn them a lot of attention 
and recognition as 'serious' musicians.  On this tour, that sort 
of recognition was made clear before the group had even set 
foot onstage.  Prior to the band's set, as the black sheet was 
lifted from Carey's double-bass Sonor Designer series kit, the 
crowd literally went crazy.

"I didn't realise that," laughs Carey.  "People get off on 
some strange things.  But it's nice to be recognised by your 
tools.  Especially when it is something like a musical 
instrument.  You spend so long with your instrument that you 
begin to see yourself in it, and other people begin to see you 
in it too I guess."

At the end of the day, it is this sort of thinking that sets Tool 
apart from other hard rock bands - they are passionate, 
almost obsessive musicians, not celebrities.  Even the 
wordsmith,  Keenan summed up this position beautifully 
when he was talking about some of the vocalists he respects.

"Chino from the Deftones is one of the few singers out there 
that can actually sing - he doesn't get caught up in the things 
that other bands get caught up in, like thinking that they're 
not allowed to do this or that.  But really that's not the point.  
It's not about one person, it's about how four people 
interact.  Don't look at the clown out front, listen to the band."

Posted to t.d.n: 03/19/02 09:36:12