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A TOOL-Related Article

Publication: Austin Chronicle

Date: Sometime, 1996

Submitted by Matt Flowers ( and Ray Clouse (


 title: Another Dead Hero
author: Andy Langer

"This is a Bill Hicks interview, not a Tool interview," declares Tool 
frontman Maynard James Keenan over the phone. Although California's
progressive metalists have  imposed a press blackout in order to protect the
lyrical integrity of their brand new  album, Aenima, Keenan has reluctantly
made an exception to discuss Bill Hicks. After all, the late,  Austin-based
comedian gets big play on Aenima: several of his routines are sampled, there's
a  painting of him in the CD booklet titled Another Dead Hero, and the disc's
back cover inlay depicts  Hicks' California-in-the-ocean "Arizona Bay" theory.
So, while Keenan says  Aenima isn't a tribute to Hicks, he's fully aware what
kind of exposure this highly anticipated  album should give the late comedian.

"[Our fans] will search him out," says Keenan. "That's why we put the  picture
on the album, so they can get a wider idea. It helps people understand where
we're coming  from as well if they can get perspective like that. They'll get
Bill's tapes and listen to what  he's talking about, listen to our album, and
then hopefully have enough intellect to make the leap and  say `I see where
the connection is.'"

Keenan says his own connection to Hicks originally came the same way most 
bands find musical inspiration -- from tapes someone hands them after a show.
"They became a  staple of the road," he says. By late 1992, after citing the
comedian as inspiration on the  liner notes of Tool's full-length debut,
Undertow, Keenan mailed the album to Hicks, followed  that up with a call, and
started a phone dialogue. "He came down to Lollapalooza in Los Angeles  and
introduced the band," Keenan says. "We saw him a couple times after that,
talked to him  a couple times more, and then he decided to check out."

Although Keenan says they had almost worked out details for a  co-headlining
tour just before Hick's death in 1994, the mutual admiration society between
the  musician-turned-comedian and the ultra-political singer developed mostly
by phone and tape exchange. 

"The music is a catalyst for the ideas," says Keenan, who saw Hicks  perform
only once, but nevertheless owns bootlegged versions of the albums Rykodisc is
planning  to release. "His ideas were what really resonated with us. I think
that's what he really liked  about us as well -- that we were resonating
similar concepts. Unity is the philosophical center.  Evolution. Change.
Internally and externally. Individually and globally. That's pretty much the
gist of  his comedy no matter what he was talking about -- music, porno,
smoking. Whatever it was, it  came back to the idea of unity and evolution.
Evolving ideas." 

Initially, finding the ideological middle ground between Hick's  painstakingly
straightforward comedy and Tool's gloom is obscured by the length and depth of
Aenima's  77-minute attack. Still, the most obvious connection are the Hicks'
samples that end  Aenima's title cut and segue into the album-closing, "Third
Eye," a song about the government's war on  drugs.

"It didn't take too much digging," says Keenan of the sample selection 
process. "We've heard the tapes enough to where when we were coming up with
that particular  song, dealing with that particular medium, it was very simple
to pick those particular passages.  They definitely sum up the idea that's
being spoken in that song." 

Keenan says further explanation would constitute a Tool interview, but  agrees
to discuss the painting of Hicks on Aenima's CD booklet -- Kevin Willis'
portrait of the  comedian in a lab coat examining a three-eyed alien's leg. "I
see Bill Hicks pulling my leg,  using the medium he used the best to convey
his ideas: comedy," he says. 

"The message that he's bringing forward in his work is an age-old  message.
It's been around in every major religion and every sub-minor religion. It's
all about unity.  I just think it's important that in his particular
demographic he was spreading that idea. That's the  important thing. We have
such a diversity now of media and information dispersal that it's  almost like
each area has to hit its demographic. In Bill's particular demographic, the
comedy  circuit, people need gut laughter relief -- especially since comedians
themselves are so tortured.  People think that comedians are all happy and
jovial all the time. No, they're pretty sad  people, otherwise they wouldn't
have gone into this medium. So, he served that purpose in that  demographic."

While Keenan admits Aenima, which chart pundits predict as a sales 
blockbuster, is his own attempt to hit the teenage metal demographic with a
message of unity, he  says it remains to be seen if the Hicks/Tool common
ground has limits. "We're speaking the same  message," says Keenan, "but in a
different language." And although the Tool frontman is  saddened by losing the
comedian's artistic feedback, he's also optimistic about Hicks reaching 
important demographics post-mortem.

"If you look at Bill's work and really understand where he's coming from,  you
start to realize he's not really gone, he's just going through a change. Which
is what he said  throughout his entire work.... He's just gone through a
change, whatever aspect of him that  was, whatever part of soul was in that
physical form at that time has just changed form... Even in  the passage when
he's talking about the young man on acid realizing all matter is merely energy
 condensed with soil vibration, he says there's no such thing as death," says
Keenan,  paraphrasing one of Aenima's samples.

"I don't think we lost anything. Perhaps his soul decided it was time to 
check out," Keenan concludes. "I think in the particular medium he was working
in, it was  almost more powerful. It will be more powerful and more effective
if he's not here. It may be one  of those things that end up transcending

kabir/akhtar | kabir@t.d.n