Tool: Sea Change
GW All four of you seem to be constantly bursting with creativity.
JONES But in our different ways. If you sat each of us down and asked, “What are your views on politics? What kind of music do you like?” you’d find we all have very different answers. What the four of us do is what Tool is, and that’s where that magic happens.
GW A lot of bands have opposite forces, a yin and a yang. What is Tool’s yin and yang?
JONES That’s a pretty broad question. I don’t know. It’s a lot of subtle things: like Justin’s from England and I’m from here. We have similar interests in comedy, music and art and similar views on life, but at the same time we often disagree about certain types of music, art and philosophies. The main thing I like about us is that there’s a friendship, an understanding of communication, compromising and working together. Basically, we’ve been married since 1990. It’s those normal things you’d have with any of your close friends. Sometimes we fight and disagree, but we’re big enough to go, “Well, what did you want out of that?” “I wanted this.” “Let’s meet halfway.” There’s a lot of negotiating going on. It’s not always structured like that; it’s something that we feel. It’s kind of like asking me what I like and don’t like about my mom.
GW Let’s try the opposite approach then. What do you all share in common?
JONES All of the members of Tool agree on sacred geometry, which is a study of taking everything that’s complicated about the world and everything that’s concentrative of our world and breaking it down to the simplest things: simple patterns, shapes, colors, vibrations… all that kind of stuff. To me that is what Tool is, because everyone in my band gets that. My band. It’s my band. I asked Maynard to play with me, so Tool is my band.
I hate when art is forced, when you look at something and go, “God, give me a break!” because you can tell that that person was trying to be artistic and show off themselves as being some weird, arty guy. It’s not from the heart. Life is short, and it’s so rewarding to try to get to a certain point. Is writing songs for Tool fun? No. It sucks. It’s hard; it’s a long process; it can be grueling; but it’s fucking rewarding. When we’re doing a video, throughout the whole process I’m going, “I’m never doing this again. This sucks. Everyone is against me. I’m just trying to get something done.” But as soon as we’re done, I’m like, “Let’s make another one!”
GW What specifically influenced you while you were making this album?
JONES I got into studying polyrhythms and experimental math, seeing what different kinds of math worked together. If they didn’t work, I’d try to figure out why and determine what I had to throw in to make them work. I listened to a lot of classical and electronic music as well as a lot of metal, especially the heavier stuff. I tried to get into as many paths as I could.
GW You can hear a lot of polyrhythms, not only within how you, Justin and Danny played together but also within your own playing. You can especially hear that in some of your tremolo and delay effects, where the tempos seem to change freely yet they remain in sync. How did you do that?
JONES I had some custom pedals made. Our engineer on this album, Joe Barresi, is a pedal god, and he knows everyone. I used a Gig-FX Chopper pedal, which has a nice tremolo. We had them work on the pedal so I could go from a clean sound to tremolo and control the tremolo speed as well. The pedal lets me slow it down and speed it up, which really lends a lot of power for creating motion when we’re going from one part to another. I told Joe that I wished I could do this with any pedal. He came back with this thing that looked like a wah pedal, but you plug other pedals into it; it blends between your clean sound and the pedal effect, so you can fade the effect in gradually, like a breath, instead of just clicking the pedal on.
GW You also played a Talk Box solo.
JONES I always wanted to use a Talk Box—I love Joe Walsh [Eagles guitarist who used a Talk Box famously on his solo hit “Rocky Mountain Way”]—but I never wanted to use it for the sake of using it. We wrote this song and I knew that it was the song where the Talk Box would work really well. Joe Barresi knew [Heil Talk Box inventor] Bob Heil and contacted him. He was just awesome. He gave me free stuff, told me what mics worked best and showed me how to get the best sound.
My friend who works for the Eagles’ booking agent talked to Joe Walsh and gave him my number. A while later I got a message from Joe on my answering machine: [imitates Walsh] “Adam Jones, this is the Talk Box fairy. Give me a call.” I called him and he was totally cool and gave me a lot of advice. I think that the Talk Box on [the 10,000 Days track] “Those Shoes” is really amazing, especially how the harmonies are in each speaker. I’m really happy with how the Talk Box came out on this record.
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