Tool is an American rock band. Their music has been heavily influenced by King Crimson, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and Rush, among several others. Their overall sound has been described as "grinding, post-Jane's Addiction heavy metal" as well as "a primal sound as distinct as it is disturbing". They have been listed as influences for bands of various genres of music including alternative rock, math rock, heavy metal, nu-metal, and trip-hop.
Tool currently consists of:
Danny Carey (drums),
Justin Chancellor (bass guitar),
Maynard James Keenan (vocals),
Adam Jones (guitar).
The band receives a moderate amount of exposure on mainstream television and radio, which may come as a surprise to people who perceive them as a "dark" band. They are known for unusual lyrics, often spiritual or primal in nature, and songs that feature "complex rhythm changes, haunting vocals, and an onslaught of changes in dynamics" which prevalently results in a greater-than-average track length. Additionally, most of their music videos feature stop-motion animation created by Jones, in a style similar to the Brothers Quay that tends to perpetuate the perception of Tool as a "dark" band. Their albums have and continue to be sold by the millions.
Tool is currently working on their fourth full-length album. Tourmates Fant˘mas and Meshuggah have been cited as recent influences. There have been some rumors about the new release, including possible titles, potential DVD releases, and their respective release dates. Since the members of Tool avoid press and rarely grant interviews, there is little evidence to support these claims. Considering the rumor mill preceding the release of Lateralus in 2001, these reports are not likely to prove true. Still, a CD release is widely expected for the third quarter of 2005.
Fifty-one months after Lateralus' original release in CD format, the next official Tool product is scheduled for release, "a double vinyl four-picture disc" edition of Lateralus due on August 23rd 2005. However, it may be witheld until "the end of August," according to Tool spokesperson Blair McKenzie Blake.
The early days (1990 - 1995)
Tool was formed in 1990, when Danny Carey and guitarist/bassist Paul d'Amour met Adam Jones and Maynard James Keenan.
"I met Adam through Tom Morello of Rage (Against The Machine). And I was living beside Maynard. I never auditioned for them. I felt kind of sorry for them, because they would invite people over to play, and they wouldn't show up, so I'd fill in." (Danny Carey)
Tool immediately received recognition for their first commercial release, Opiate, borrowing the name from Karl Marx's famous quote on religion. The six-song EP included the singles "Hush" and "Opiate" which quickly gained attention. A music video for "Hush" was created, but received little airplay due to the high amount of editing that was necessary to meet FCC standards to play the song.
Tool was quick to release their first full-length album, Undertow, soon after Opiate. The band began touring with their fellows in the Rollins Band, Fishbone, and Rage Against The Machine. Eventually, they were hired to play the main stage at Lollapalooza in 1993, where they attracted great attention. This helped to boost the popularity of Undertow and the album eventually went gold.
The band would also receive negative publicity, however. With the release of the 1994 single "Prison Sex" and its respective music video, directed and created by Adam Jones, the Canadian branch of MuchMusic called the band into question by deeming the video too graphic and offensive. In its most direct interpretation, the song's lyrics are about child abuse, and the video portrays this symbolically. Maynard James Keenan, who wrote the lyrics, has been quite clear about his antipathy towards his stepfather during early interviews about the song, and therefore, during a meeting with MuchMusic that was supposed to clarify the situation, the only subject covered was Keenan's past and childhood. MuchMusic Canada never spoke to Jones about the nature of the video.
Another incident took place at Scientology's Celebrity's Centre in May 1993:
"Tool performed at Scientology's Celebrity's Centre, apparently not knowing that this was the home of the cult. Once they found out, they did not take it nicely. Between songs, Keenan, staring first at the lush grounds paid for by devoted L. Ron followers and then into the eyes of his own audience, bayed into the mic like a sheep looking for his shepherd's gate. 'Baaaaa! Baaaaa!' the singer bleated." (BAM Magazine, November 1994)
In September 1995, shortly after recording for their second album began, D'Amour left the band amicably. In November, he was replaced by Justin Chancellor, formerly a member of Peach, an English band with whom Tool had previously toured in Europe.
Ănima, legal issues, A Perfect Circle, and Salival (1996 - 2000)
Some months later, in October 1996, Ănima was released. Once again one of the singles, "Stinkfist", had difficulty gaining airplay: the song was initially shortened for radio play and MTV America renamed the music video for the song to "Track #1" for its offensive connotations. Due to overwhelming fan response, most radio stations were compelled to play the track uncut. Ănima would be Tool's last studio album release for five years.
Ănima was dedicated to satirist Bill Hicks who died almost two years before the album was released. Some of Hick's performances are included on Ănima and Undertow, and include multiple bits about psychoactive drugs and a sample of a bleating sheep. Tool also derived the lyric "Learn to swim, I'll see you down in Arizona Bay," (the chorus of the song "Ănema") from another popular Bill Hicks bit about his distaste for Los Angeles.
In 1997 their label, Volcano Records, filed suit against Tool, because of contract violations. According to Volcano, Tool had been looking at offers from other record labels and were not allowed to. After Tool filed a counter suit and stated that Volcano had failed to use a renewal option in their contract, they settled out of court. They agreed to a new contract, a three-record deal. This legal battle produced a great strain on the band, delaying work on their next album. During this time, Keenan founded a side project, called A Perfect Circle, with long time Tool guitar tech Billy Howerdel.
Word of Tool's breaking up began to spread until the band decided to release the VHS/DVD/CD box set Salival in 2000, spelling an end to these rumors. The box set featured recordings of unique live tracks and B-sides, including a new version of "Pushit" that became extremely popular among fans and a cover of Led Zeppelin's "No Quarter". Although this release did not technically produce any singles, the hidden track "Maynard's Dick" briefly found its way to FM radio when several DJs chose to sneak it onto air without permission.
Lateralus and recent appearances (2001 - 2005)
In January 2001, the rumor mill surrounding the band gained new life when Tool announced their new album, Systema EncÚphale. Only one month later, they revealed that it was actually titled Lateralus and that Systema had been a ruse, much to the dismay of music magazines and commercial websites who had committed headlong to the fake title. Lateralus features songs averaging six-and-a-half minutes in length, unwieldy even for most ambitious disc jockeys. The length of the music video for "Parabola" clocked in at an unheard of ten-and-a-half minutes, almost condemning it from being aired on mainstream music channels. Nevertheless, the album became a commercial success the world over.
After extensive touring throughout 2001, including a 10-show mini-tour with King Crimson in August, their latest tour came to an end on November 24th, 2002 in Los Angeles, CA at Long Beach Arena.
Although the end of the tour seemed to spell another dormancy for the band, they did not become completely inactive. While Keenan recorded and toured with A Perfect Circle, the other band members released an official interview conducted by (long-time toolband.com maintainer) Blair McKenzie Blake in which they answered many questions about the upcoming album, future DVD releases, and the new direction of their music. Members of the Tool Army were also given access to a recording of the three members jamming to some of their new material, sparking increased anticipation for the album to come.
Arguments About Genre & Categorization
Although Tool do not vary greatly in their style and technique from album to album, excepting changes that occur foremost in musical mood, it is difficult to define their place in genre theory. Some consider Tool to be, above all else, a progressive rock band, while others say that this is unfounded and that Tool are best categorized as nu-metal. Tool are inarguably a part of the metal genre, but just where they fall in that genre and how much is the subject of intense debate among both fans and casual listeners.
Those who feel that Tool are progressive rock artists frequently cite the popular (and admittedly broad) definition of prog. It is a style of rock music that seeks to move away from the mainstream by "pushing the envelope" of the rock genre, creating brand new sounds and styles that often possess a characteristically high level of layering and complexity. Beyond this broad definition, however, lies much debate about what really makes any band, including Tool, a part of the prog scene. Even the most commonly cited prog bands, such as Pink Floyd and Emerson Lake and Palmer, challenge the entire notion of the genre by pointing out either implicitly or in their own words the vast differences in sound and style between each of the so-called "prog bands".
Perhaps the band most cited as a Tool influence is King Crimson, who are listed at the forefront of progressive rock and frequently mentioned as a way to establish Tool's place in prog using the transitive property. Longtime King Crimson member Robert Fripp has expressed disdain for the term as an oversimplification, and in an interview with Tool, touched briefly on how the two bands relate to each other:
Robert Fripp: I was very impressed that the visuals and the band were all part of the same performance. It was... seamless. It was something like, "These guys are playing to the same track." But without being external to the film... There was an integrity to it all.
Danny Carey: Thanks... We all kind of grew up listening to you.
Maynard James Keenan (referring to an upcoming concert tour): First of all we're terrified to go on after you, and second of all we're gonna have all these kids in the audience going, "Hey, TOOL ripped these guys off blind!"
Danny Carey: It feels like that sometimes, for sure.
Robert Fripp: Do you hear the influence? There's just one figure where I hear an influence, just one. It was a piece we were developing that we dropped. And it's almost exactly the same figure: three note arpeggio with a particular accent from the guitar. So I don't think you could have heard it. That's the only thing.
Tool Army exclusive interview
So even among the band and their peers there still remains a debate, not only about their place in progressive rock but also about just how closely they resemble their progenitors who are themselves are only debatably established in the genre.
When Tool are not called prog, they are typically referred to as metal, or some sub-category thereof. Many have argued that Tool belong just as much in the nu-metal genre as they do in prog, if not more, due to their great influence within the genre. Maynard James Keenan's unique style of singing has been repeatedly seen influencing new artists, such as Pete Loeffler, Aaron Lewis, and Stephen Richards. Others would include Fred Durst as well, although this assertion is especially prone to debate thanks mostly to the general malaise that many Tool fans hold for him and his band, Limp Bizkit, as well as the noticeable difference between his and Keenan's voice.
Many feel that the idea that Tool are nu-metal simply because Tool have greatly influenced nu-metal is incorrect, citing the backwardness of this logic. If such were applied in other cases, the blues artists who influenced Led Zeppelin could be argued as belonging to hard rock, or the salsa artists who influenced The Mars Volta could be thought of as aggro in some sense. However, some question the appropriateness of this counter-argument, and how well one accepts it is often in proportion to how stylistically distant one feels Tool's music is from that of the bands they have influenced (yet another subject of much debate).
Tool are sometimes given, as other bands that have defied a common classification have, an extended genre that would appear to be specific to the band, such as "psychedelic math metal" (see MTV News: The Pain of Perfection). They have also been listed under many genres that people do not normally consider them a part of, such as jazz rock (a slight reinforcer to progressive rock assertions), and sometimes even trip-hop, although this occurs mostly as an allusion to a unique live set that featured Tricky. There are also many people who are displeased that genre theory is being applied to Tool, either where done with intense scrutiny or at all.
The name "Tool" was alleged by drummer Danny Carey in a 1994 interview to mean that the band served its fans as a tool through which those people would come to understand lachrymology, a pseudophilosophy that the band has alleged was founded in 1949 by Ronald P. Vincent after the death of his wife in a snow plowing accident. However, it is more likely that the band made this up in order to create a unique backdrop for their own beliefs.
Lachrymology teaches the simple belief that crying is the best emotional release and should be encouraged as therapeutic. Tool's lyrical message often reflects this in their candid expressions of anger and frustration. People who endorse lachrymology often believe that it is only through pain (both physical and emotional) and recovery that an individual can advance him or her self, adopting a slight "whatever doesn't kill me only makes me stronger" mentality.
Other beliefs about the origin of Tool's name include a nickname for "brown-nosing" or potentially self-righteous army cadets. Maynard James Keenan attended West Point Prep School, and the first song on Undertow (titled "Intolerance") refererences a military honor code that admonishes all cadets, and which the "tools" follow to the letter: "A cadet will not lie, cheat, or steal, and will not tolerate those who do." In a similar vein, the band created a segue track ("Useful Idiot") for Ănima that borrows its title from Soviet military leaders' name for low-ranking soldiers and citizen volunteers who followed all of their orders without question.
Based on one of the band's early logos and a humorous B-side, the name may originate in a slang term for male genitals.