Tool is an American rock band that was formed in 1990 in Los Angeles, California. The band has sold over 13 million records worldwide, and consists of drummer Danny Carey, bassist Justin Chancellor, guitarist Adam Jones, and vocalist Maynard James Keenan. Tool has hosted worldwide tours and produced albums which have performed well on international music charts.
The band emerged with a heavy metal sound on their first LP at a time when the genre was dominated by thrash metal, and later reached the top of the alternative metal movement with the release of their second LP, Ænima, in 1996. Their efforts to unify musical experimentation, visual arts, and a message of personal evolution continued with Lateralus (2001) and their most recent album, 10,000 Days (2006), gaining the band critical acclaim and success around the world. Due to Tool's incorporation of visual arts and relatively long and complex releases, the band is generally described as a style-transcending act and part of progressive rock and art rock. The relationship between the band and today's music industry is ambivalent, at times marked by censorship and the band members' insistence on privacy.
Keenan and Jones met through a common friend in 1989. After Keenan played a tape recording for Jones of his previous band project, Jones was so impressed by his voice that he eventually talked his friend into forming their own band. They started jamming together and were on the lookout for a drummer and a bass player. Danny Carey happened to live above Keenan and was introduced to Jones by Tom Morello, an old high school friend of Jones and former bandmate of Electric Sheep. Carey began playing in their sessions because he "felt kinda sorry for them", as other invited musicians were not showing up. Tool's lineup was completed when a friend of Jones introduced them to bassist D'Amour. Early on, the band fabricated the story that they formed because of the pseudophilosophy "lachrymology". Although "lachrymology" was also explained to be an inspiration for the band's name, Keenan later explained their intentions differently: "Tool is exactly what it sounds like: It's a big dick. It's a wrench.... we are... your tool; use us as a catalyst in your process of finding out whatever it is you need to find out, or whatever it is you're trying to achieve.
After only a few gigs, the band was approached by record companies, and only three months into their career they signed a record deal with Zoo Entertainment. In March 1992, Zoo published the band's first effort, Opiate. Described by the band as "slam and bang" heavy metal and the "hardest sounding" six songs they had written to that point, the EP included the singles "Hush" and "Opiate". The band's first music video, "Hush", promoted their dissenting views about the then-prominent Parents Music Resource Center and its advocacy of the censorship of music. The video featured the band members naked with their genitalia covered by parental advisory stickers and their mouths covered by duct tape. The band began touring with Rollins Band, Skitzo, Fishbone, and Rage Against the Machine to positive responses which Janiss Garza of RIP Magazine summarized in September 1992 as a "buzz" and "a strong start".
Tool later played several very successful concerts during the Lollapalooza road show, and were moved from the second stage to the main stage by their manager and the festival co-founder Ted Gardner. At the last concert of Lollapalooza in Tool's hometown Los Angeles, comedian Bill Hicks introduced the band. Hicks had become a friend of the band members and an influence on them after being mentioned in Undertow's liner notes. He jokingly asked the audience of 60,000 people to stand still and help him look for a lost contact lens. The boost in popularity gained from these concerts led Undertow to be certified gold by the RIAA in September 1993 and to achieve platinum status in 1995, despite being sold with a censored album cover by distributors such as Wal-Mart. The single "Sober" became a hit single by March 1994 and won the band Billboard's "Best Video By A New Artist" award for the accompanying stop motion music video.
With the release of Tool's follow-up single "Prison Sex", the band again became the target of censorship. The song's lyrics and video dealt with child abuse, which sparked controversial reactions; Keenan's lyrics begin with: "It took so long to remember just what happened. I was so young and vestal then, you know it hurt me, but I'm breathing so I guess I'm still alive." The video was created primarily by guitarist Adam Jones, who saw it as his "surrealistic interpretation" of the subject matter. And while some contemporary journalists again praised the video and described the lyrics as "metaphoric", the American branch of MuchMusic asked Keenan to represent the band in a hearing. It deemed the respective music video too graphic and obscene, and MTV stopped airing it after a few viewings.
In September 1995, the band entered the studios to record their second album. At that time Tool experienced its only lineup change to date, with bassist D'Amour leaving the band amicably to pursue other projects. Justin Chancellor, a member of former tourmates Peach, eventually replaced D'Amour, having been chosen over competitors such as Kyuss' Scott Reeder, Filter's Frank Cavanaugh, Pigmy Love Circus's E. Shepherd Stevenson and ZAUM's Marco Fox.
After Paul D'Amour left Tool, Justin Chancellor came on board, recording of the already-begun Ænima continued. The band enlisted the help of producer David Bottrill, who had produced some of King Crimson's albums while Jones collaborated with Cam de Leon to create Ænima's Grammy-nominated artwork. The album was released in October 1996.
The album was dedicated to satirist Bill Hicks, who had died two and a half years earlier. The band intended to raise awareness about Hicks's material and ideas, because they felt that Tool and Hicks "were resonating similar concepts". In particular, Ænima's final track "Third Eye" is preceded by a clip of Hicks' performances, and both the lenticular casing of the Ænima CD packaging as well as the chorus of the title track "Ænema" make reference to a sketch off Hicks's Arizona Bay, where he contemplates the idea of Los Angeles falling into the Pacific Ocean.
The first single, "Stinkfist", obtained limited and imperfect airplay: It was shortened by radio programmers, MTV (U.S.) renamed the music video of "Stinkfist" to "Track #1" due to offensive connotations, and the lyrics of the song were altered. Responding to fan complaints about censorship, Matt Pinfield of MTV's 120 Minutes expressed regret on air by waving his fist in front of his face while introducing the video and explaining the name change.
A tour began in October 1996, only two weeks after Ænima's release. Following numerous appearances in the United States and Europe, Tool headed for Australia and New Zealand in late March 1997. April 1 of that year saw the first of several April Fools' pranks related to the band. Kabir Akhtar, webmaster of the band's semi-official fanpage, The Tool Page, wrote that "at least three of the band are listed in critical condition" after a tour bus accident on a highway. This hoax gained wide attention and was eventually exposed on radio and MTV. Akhtar later posted an apology, claiming that The Tool Page "will not indulge itself in such outlandish pranks in the future"—a claim that would be belied by later April Fools' pranks. The tour continued the next day as originally announced.
Notwithstanding a decline in popularity of alternative rock music during the mid-90s in the United States, Ænima eventually matched Tool's successful debut in sales. The progressive-influenced Ænima landed the band at the head of the alternative metal genre: It featured the Grammy Award-winning "Ænema and appeared on several "Best Albums of 1996" lists, with notable examples being those of Kerrang! and Terrorizer.
A legal battle that began the same year interfered with the band's working on another release. Volcano Records—the successor of Tool's by-then defunct label Zoo Entertainment—alleged contract violations by Tool and filed suit. According to Volcano, Tool had violated their contract when the band looked at offers from other record labels. After Tool filed a countersuit stating that Volcano had failed to use a renewal option in their contract, the parties settled out of court. At the end of 1998, Tool agreed to a new contract, a three-record joint venture deal. In 2000, the band dismissed their long-time manager Ted Gardner, who then sued the band over his commission on this lucrative agreement.
During this time, Keenan joined the band A Perfect Circle which was founded by long-time Tool guitar tech Billy Howerdel, while Jones joined The Melvins' Buzz Osborne and Carey drummed with Dead Kennedys' Jello Biafra on other side projects. Although there were rumors that Tool were breaking up, Chancellor, Jones and Carey were working on new material while waiting for Keenan to return. In 2000, the Salival box set (CD/VHS or CD/DVD) was released, effectively putting an end to the rumors. The CD contained one new original track, a cover of Led Zeppelin's "No Quarter", a live version of Peach's "You Lied", and revised versions of old songs. The VHS and the DVD each contained four music videos, plus a bonus music video for "Hush" on the DVD. Although Salival did not yield any singles, the hidden track "Maynard's Dick" (which dates back to the Opiate era) briefly found its way to FM radio when several DJs chose to play it on air under the title "Maynard's Dead".
A month later, the band revealed that the new album was actually titled Lateralus and that the name Systema Encéphale and the tracklist had been a ruse. Lateralus and the corresponding tours would take Tool a step further toward art rock and progressive rock territory. Rolling Stone wrote in an attempt to summarize the album that "Drums, bass and guitars move in jarring cycles of hyperhowl and near-silent death march... The prolonged running times of most of Lateralus' thirteen tracks are misleading; the entire album rolls and stomps with suitelike purpose." Joshua Klein of The A.V. Club in turn expressed his opinion that Lateralus, with its 79 minutes and relatively complex and long songs—topped by the ten-and-a-half minute music video for "Parabola"—posed a challenge to fans and music programming alike.
The album became a worldwide success, reaching #1 on the U.S. Billboard 200 albums chart in its debut week. Tool received their second Grammy Award for the best metal performance of 2001 for the song "Schism". During the band's acceptance speech, drummer Carey stated that he would like to thank his parents (for putting up with him) and Satan, and bassist Chancellor concluded: "I want to thank my dad for doing my mom.
Extensive touring throughout 2001 and 2002 supported Lateralus and included a personal highlight for the band: a 10-show joint mini-tour with King Crimson in August 2001. Comparisons between the two were made, MTV describing the bands as "the once and future kings of progressive rock". Keenan stated of the minitour: "For me, being on stage with King Crimson is like Lenny Kravitz playing with Led Zeppelin, or Britney Spears onstage with Debbie Gibson."
Although the end of the tour in November 2002 seemed to signal the start of 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 interview and a recording of new material, both exclusive to the fan club. On April 1, 2005, the official Tool website announced that "Maynard has found Jesus" and would be abandoning the recording of the new Tool album temporarily and possibly permanently. Brian Welch (formerly of the band Korn), who made the same news some months earlier, was delighted. Kurt Loder of MTV contacted Keenan via email to ask for a confirmation and received a nonchalant confirmation. When Loder asked again, Keenan's response was simply "heh heh. However, on April 7 the official site explained, "Good news, April fools fans. The writing and recording is back under way.
The writing and recording proceeded for the follow-up to Lateralus; meanwhile, a Lateralus vinyl edition and two DVD singles were released, and the band's official website received a new splash intro by artist Joshua Davis. The "double vinyl four-picture disc" edition of Lateralus was first released as a limited autographed edition exclusively available to fan club members and publicly released on August 23, 2005. On December 20, 2005, the two DVDs were released, one containing the single "Schism" and the other "Parabola", a remix by Lustmord, and the music video with commentary by David Yow and Jello Biafra, respectively.
Nevertheless, speculation continued: it was alleged that 10,000 Days was merely a "decoy" album to fool audiences until the day of release, which eventually proved false when a leaked copy of the album was distributed via filesharing networks a week prior to its official release. The album opener, "Vicarious", premiered on U.S. radio stations on April 17. The record followed on May 2, 2006 in the U.S. and debuted at the top spots of various international charts. 10,000 Days sold 564,000 copies in its opening week in the U.S. and was number one on the Billboard 200 charts, doubling the sales of Pearl Jam's self-titled album, its closest competitor. However, 10,000 Days was received less favorably by critics than its predecessor Lateralus had been.
After the release of 10,000 Days, a tour kicked off at Coachella on April 30, 2006. The touring schedule was similar to the Lateralus tour of 2001; supporting acts were Isis and Mastodon. During a short break early the next year, after touring Australia and New Zealand, drummer Danny Carey suffered a biceps tear during a skirmish with his girlfriend's dog, casting uncertainty on the band's upcoming concerts in North America. Carey underwent surgery on February 21, and several gigs had to be postponed. Back on tour by April, Tool appeared on June 15 as a headliner at the Bonnaroo Music Festival with a guest appearance from Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello on "Lateralus".
Meanwhile, "Vicarious" was a nominee for Best Hard Rock Performance and 10,000 Days won Best Recording Package at the 49th Grammy Awards. The music video for "Vicarious" was released on DVD on December 18.
In an interview conducted in May 2007, Justin Chancellor stated that the band would probably continue their tour until early 2008 and then "take some time off". He qualified this statement by adding that the band has already written new material and would surely release another album at some point down the road. A possible project until a next album is to make a "band movie", a possibility the band has reportedly considered for a long time. The ideas range from "a narrative story in a surreal fashion with as much money and special effects as possible" to "pockets of all of that or something that's live or the band playing". Although Carey stated that the necessary know-how was at hand due to the many relations to artists working in the movie business, Jones dismissed the idea saying, "It's just talk right now." According to Rolling Stone, after the 50th Grammy Awards, while attending a Sony BMG after party at the Beverly Hills Hotel, Keenan promised another Tool album.
As of September 5, 2008, Tool have three songs featured on the Guitar Hero World Tour setlist; "Parabola", "Schism" and "Vicarious". Guitar Hero World Tour will also sport a venue inspired by the band's art style that has pervaded their music videos, shows, and album art.
Beyond this aspect of the band's sound, each band member experiments within his musical scope. Bass Player magazine described Chancellor's bass playing as a "thick midrange tone, guitar-style techniques, and elastic versatility". As an example of this, the magazine mentioned the use of a wah effect by hammering "the notes with the left hand and using the bass's tone controls to get a tone sweep", such as on the song "The Patient" (Lateralus 2001).
Completing the band's rhythm section, drummer Danny Carey uses polyrhythms, tabla-style techniques, and the incorporation of custom electronic drum pads to trigger samples, such as prerecorded tabla and octoban sounds.
Maynard James Keenan's ability as a vocalist has been characterized more subjectively by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer: After his performance during an Alice in Chains reunion concert in 2005, freelancer Travis Hay saw him as "a natural fit at replacing Layne Staley". Regarding his role in A Perfect Circle and Tool, The New York Times wrote that "both groups rely on Mr. Keenan's ability to dignify emotions like lust, anger and disgust, the honey in his voice adding a touch of profundity".
According to Guitar Player magazine, Adam Jones does not rely on any one particular guitar-playing technique but rather combines many techniques. For example, Allmusic wrote that he "alternately utiliz[es] power chords, scratchy noise, chiming arpeggios, and a quiet minimalism" in "Sober". Additionally, the band uses forms of instrumental experimentation, like the use of a "pipe bomb microphone" (a guitar pickup mounted inside a brass cylinder) and a talk box guitar solo on "Jambi".
The band puts an emphasis on the sound of their songs and attempts to reduce the effect lyrics can have on the perception of songs by not releasing song lyrics with any album. Lyrical arrangements are often given special attention, such as in "Lateralus". The number of syllables per line in the lyrics to "Lateralus" correspond to an arrangement of the fibonacci numbers and in "Jambi" the metrical foot iamb is used. The lyrics on Ænima and Lateralus focused on philosophy and spirituality—specific subjects range from organized religion in "Opiate", to evolution and Jungian psychology in "Forty-Six & 2" and transcendence in "Lateralus". On 10,000 Days, Keenan wanted to explore issues more personal to him: the album name and title track refer to the twenty-seven years during which his mother suffered from complications of a stroke until her death in 2003.
He also stated:
In turn, Maloof and Newquists attribute to Tool an influence on modern metal in its own right in their book The New Metal Masters. Sean Richardson of The Boston Phoenix sees System of a Down, Deftones, and Godsmack as examples of Tool's "towering influence" on the genre. Moreover, Keenan's unique style of singing has been repeatedly seen as influencing artists such as Pete Loeffler of Chevelle.
The band has released eight music videos but made personal appearances in only the first two, which the band states is to prevent people from "latching onto the personalities involved rather than listening to the music." With the exception of "Hush" and Vicarious, all of Tool's music videos feature stop motion animation to some extent. The videos are created primarily by Adam Jones, often in collaboration with artists such as Chet Zar, Alex Grey, and Osseus Labyrint.
The "Sober" music video in particular attracted much attention. Jones explained that it doesn't contain a storyline, but that his intentions were to summon personal emotions with its imagery. Rolling Stone described this imagery by stating that, in the video, "evil little men dwell in a dark dungeon with meat coursing through pipes in the wall" and called it a "groundbreaking", "epic" clip. Billboard voted it "Best Video By A New Artist".
Both Ænima and 10,000 Days were nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Recording Package, but while the former failed to win in 1997, the latter did win in 2006. As art director, Adam Jones created packaging for 10,000 Days that features a pair of stereoscopic lenses for viewing 3-D artwork and photos. Jones has been a lifelong fan of stereoscopic photography and expressed a desire for the packaging to be unique and to reflect the '70s artwork he appreciates.
Following their first tours in the early nineties, Tool has performed as a headline act in world tours and major festivals such as Lollapalooza (1997), Coachella (1999 and 2006), Download Festival (2006), Roskilde (2006), Big Day Out (2007), and Bonnaroo (2007). They have been joined on stage by numerous artists such as Buzz Osborne and Scott Reeder on several occasions; Tom Morello and Zack de la Rocha during their 1991 tour; Tricky, Robert Fripp, Mike Patton, Dave Lombardo, Brann Dailor of Mastodon, and experimental arts duo Osseus Labyrint during their 2001–02 Lateralus tour; and Kirk Hammett, Phil Campbell, Serj Tankian, and Tom Morello during their 2006–07 tour. They have covered songs by Led Zeppelin, Ted Nugent, Peach, Kyuss, and the Ramones.
Live shows on Tool's headline tour incorporate an unorthodox stage setting and video display. Singer Maynard James Keenan lines up in the back with drummer Danny Carey on an elevated platform, while guitarist Adam Jones and bassist Justin Chancellor stand in the front toward the side edges of the stage. Keenan, despite being the vocalist, is known to face the backdrop rather than the audience. No followspots or live cameras are used; instead, the band employs extensive backlighting to direct the focus away from the band members and toward large screens in the back and the crowd. Breckinridge Haggerty, the band's live video director, explains that the resulting dark spaces on stage "are... for Maynard. A lot of the songs are a personal journey for him... and he feels more comfortable in the shadows." The big screens are used to play back "looped clips that aren’t tracked to a song like a music video. The band has never used any sort of timecode. They’ve always made sure the video can change on-the-fly, in a way that can be improvised... The show is never the same twice." During the 10,000 Days tour, the video material consisted of over six hours of material, created by Adam Jones, his wife Camella Grace, Chet Zar, Meats Meier and Breckinridge Haggerty. Some of the material created by Chet Zar has been released on his DVD Disturb the Normal.