The Untold Truth Of Tool

Tool is a band that tends to provoke either rabid devotion or uncomprehending, blank stares, and very little in between. They’ve been subjected to intense scrutiny and the undying adoration of fans, their music dissected, and the band members held under microscopes, particular lead singer Maynard James Keenan. Take the “Holy Gift” reordering of their 2001 album Lateralus, listenable to on YouTube, a well-known, fan-created remix that reorders Lateralus’ tracks to match the ordering of the Fibonacci sequence, which the composition of the album’s title track, “Lateralus,” was based on. This is one, once-obscure and now widely-known truth about Tool, a band of absolute, highly creative perfectionists who doggedly hone their art into a final, minutely-crafted state (at least, while Maynard continues to vint and make music for Puscifer on the side).

There are about 1001 strange and obscure facts about Tool, in fact, who, if it wasn’t obvious, is made up of some awesomely strange dudes. From guitarist Adam Jones’ Hollywood work as a visual effects artist touching up T-1000 bullet wound makeup for Terminator 2, per Ultimate Guitar, to drummer Danny Carey’s occult-derived drum patterns, per a Reddit thread, to the weird moaning sound on the track “Mantra” coming from Maynard squeezing his cat, to their use of the fictional, divine language Enochian on the track “Faaip De Oaid” (Voice of God), which features a well-known call-in to Art Bell’s radio show Coast to Coast about governmental conspiracies, Area 51, and extra-dimensional beings, per writer Sam Woolfe‘s website.

Performance art and refusing to limit oneself

The truth about Tool lies beyond such surface-level facts, however, in the bedrock of their origins as an LA-born, post-punk outfit who made came from the underground scene, per Rolling Stone, and still takes glee in performance art, bathroom humor, and trolling fans, such as when Maynard claimed he’d “found Jesus.” In fact, this may be part of why folks have trouble wrapping their heads around the band’s public image and musical oeuvre: high-minded, lofty, psychedelic, even spiritual lyrics, combined with genital jokes, absurd humor, and body horror, such as in the stop-motion video for “Stinkfist.” Granted, Tool has changed a lot over time, shedding their early juvenile pretensions for perhaps a different kind of pretension, but if the music wasn’t there, people wouldn’t keep coming back.

This delta-T (change over time) is what’s defined Tool. They refuse to define themselves or be defined by others in compact, easily compartmentalized ways: metal, alt-metal, prog rock, psychedelic rock, and so on. It’s just about expression, and growth through said expression, and art as the vehicle. As described in Loudersound, Maynard said their early music, such as their demo passed along to Matt Marshall at Zoo Records, stemmed from frustration with the “dog and pony show” of the LA music-and-film scene. It was about “releasing that primal scream.”

Maynard has done a lot of screaming since then, as have all the members through their instruments, and all the screams together define their truth. 

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