NOTE: The following interview was one of the earliest with TOOL, and appeared in SIN Magazine. We’re archiving it here for your enjoyment…
Tool is an L.A. band that was the next progression from the Seattle Sound that was making its mark on rock music in the early 1990s, when their label released a fresh sounding, hard-edged EP entitled ‘Opiate’ (on the Zoo/BMG label). They project a uniqueness that sets them miles apart. Seeking to find out what kind of sinners these guys really are, Sin Magazine arranged an interview with bassist Paul D’Amour…
SIN: Do you struggle with the band’s identity by being grouped with the bands coming out of Seattle?
PAUL: It’s more irritating than anything else. Why can’t somebody do what they want to do without being compared to everybody else? I mean, I like Nirvana, and Pearl Jam is all right, but they aren’t the total influence on my music. It’s very cool what they’re doing. When music like that is really popular, it’s fucking great! It’s really irritating being compared to Nirvana, because we don’t sound like them at all.
Speaking of that, how would you consider your band, as a rock band, a heavy metal band, or a post-punk band?
I think that the best kind of music is that which you can’t describe.
If you had to describe it to our readers, what would it be? Exemplify your uniqueness!
I have been asked this so many times and I still don’t have a good answer for this. A ‘Heavy Rubber Band,’ it’s heavy music, and it’s on the dark side. It’s a little more cerebral than just being hard rock. It makes you think a bit harder.
Woody Weatherman (Corrosion of Conformity’s guitarist) likes Tool a lot.
Yeah, we did a two-week tour with them out on the West Coast. I didn’t get to know him well, but we hung out. Those guys are great; they went out with Soundgarden and turned them onto our tape. They would play the tape in-between set changes in Europe. It was awesome, man!
Did Tool hit it off with Corrosion of Conformity, and will there be more tours together?
I don’t know. I would. I haven’t made plans to do anything now, except to finish this record.
How far are you into it?
It says here on your bio that Tool came together as a band after one week and that you all lived in the same apartment complex.
Throw that away! I can’t believe that, it should have been thrown away a long time ago. Somebody wrote that about us. We were all mutual friends and were working in the film industry doing different shit. We were never very serious about playing; it was just to have a good time. Danny, our drummer, was playing in Pygmy Love Circus and Green Jell-O, the total fun rock’n’roll bands. Maynard (lead singer), Adam (guitarist) and I were all working in the film industry. I was so burned out trying to find the right people to play with, so I sold half of my equipment. I kept a few guitars because I couldn’t give up the dream. Adam and Maynard were doing something and Danny was just filling in until they found a drummer and I just started jamming with them.
How long did it take you guys to get signed?
Wow, that’s pretty short!
I didn’t know a lot about it, or anybody else’s experience with it then. I do now, but at that time I thought that’s how it happens. Everybody else said, "We’ve been sending demos to every fucking record label in the country!"
Have you found it difficult to work with the label?
It’s hard to work with anyone other than musicians when it comes to your music. It’s your music and you don’t want anyone screwing with it or giving you limitations. Those guys at Zoo are great, all of them.
What kind of work did you do in the film industry?
I was in the art department while working on music videos and commercials. I also built sets.
Are you a hard working band? Do you go in the studio and just go for it, or is it more laid back?
It would have to be laid back; you just can’t force music to happen. You can’t force creativity. When it happens, you go "Oh there it is!" We’ve been in there four days and we’ve gotten one track that we thought might sound good.
What do you do when you aren’t rocking?
It seems to be all consuming. We’ve been on the road for the last three months. Most of our spare time is spent rehearsing and writing material. We have this record coming up and we don’t have enough songs, because we’ve been on the road the whole time where it’s really hard to write songs.
You guys are definitely different from most of the L.A. bands. There are many imitators up here. What are the styles that bands are copying?
It’s pretty obvious; there’s rap and there’s heavy metal. There are also Soundgarden-style bands. We read the paper the other day, and in the musician wanted ads, we saw one for a lead singer whose influences were Soundgarden, Black Sabbath, and Tool!
How does it make you feel when you see guys trying to bite your style? Does it pump you up or do you get pissed?
I don’t think I’ve seen anybody try to copy us yet, but maybe it will happen. We’re not the most original band; nothing is original. It’s pointless to try; it just happens if you’re somewhat unique. Everybody is copying off everybody else. I ripped off Black Sabbath and the blues and whatever. That’s just what it is; life imitating life.
What are the fans like who show up at your gigs? Are they more alternative, or hard rock, or what?
In L.A., I think it’s the average street punk like you or I. There are many different people, skater kids and burnt out heavy metal heads. It’s cool. I think it’s great because there’s such a cross section here.
When you’re playing, what do you focus on?
You get immersed in the experience. The crowd and the music surrounding you, that’s it. Sometimes when I play, I might worry about some dick head in the front row or whatever. As soon as the first song starts, it just fazes out.
You said that the band draws from a lot of influences. What do you think of the bands who sample?
The whole sampling and rap phenomenon is such an art. I don’t think its bullshit at all. You can take some guy’s music, slow it down to a certain pitch, put in something else or speed it up, and whack it all together. It’s amazing! There are some samples that you hear and you’ll have no idea of what it is. I think that’s cool.
Do you like industrial-edge sampling or house sampling?
I like it all. I think each is unique in itself. Actually we might do a little bit of it just to shine up the record a little. I think it would be cool. If you’re in the studio, you might as well do something fun. There’s no way you could completely capture what is live, so why not make the studio more interesting? Do something that you can’t do live.
So you think that skillful sampling is a new form of music. People may come up with this or that, and like what you said earlier, copying is what it’s all about. Do you agree?
To a certain degree. If you come off exactly like Vanilla Ice that’s stupid. But if you’re sampling and it doesn’t completely sound like somebody else’s song, I think it’s cool.
What about Third Bass using the Peter Gabriel riff for ‘Pop goes the Weasel’ when they were bashing Vanilla Ice and having Henry Rollins portray Vanilla Ice?
I didn’t even realize that was a Peter Gabriel song, so I think it works.
Would you like to share any guiding philosophies that you live your life by?
Just do the best you can and give it 100%. Have fun and fuck the world. Too many people take life too seriously and that’s why they’re all screwed up. Have the best times you can, without fucking anyone over and then you are happening.