Tool's Adam Jones: the 10 guitarists who shaped my sound

Adam Jones of Tool performs live in 1997
(Image credit: Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)

With their uncompromising blend of tight distorted riffs, tortuous time signatures and tribal rhythms, Tool are a band quite unlike any other. 

We were lucky enough to sit down with guitarist Adam Jones, who let us in on the 10 players who had the greatest influence on his formidable approach to electric guitar.

1. Robert Fripp (King Crimson)

"Fripp’s playing caused me to 'wake up' to music when I was younger.

"Later, when we were to tour with King Crimson, I remember being horrifically nervous to meet him. But he was so gracious and ended up teaching me the two most important things about playing: attitude and discipline.

"You can ask Fripp, 'What kind of equipment do you use?' and he’ll respond, 'That doesn’t matter. It’s all attitude.' His attitude and discipline allow him to explore all the many musical paths you can go down."

2. Adrian Belew (King Crimson)

"People don’t bring up Adrian Belew enough, and I think he’s just as heavy as Fripp. Adrian plays straight from his heart, so some of his lead structures defy the classical approach to scales and teaching.

"He’s also really into new technology, but he uses it in a very thought-out and tasteful way."

3. Trey Gunn (King Crimson)

"I know Trey Gunn plays the Chapman stick and the Warr guitar [a seven-to-15-stringed guitar designed for two-handed tapping], but it’s still 'guitaring' to me. His left- and right-hand approach is like that of a classical pianist.

"He gave me some lessons to improve hand coordination, and I felt like I was learning how to play guitar all over again! [laughs] I still haven’t gotten to the level where I can go back to him and say, “Okay, I’ve got this down. Show me the next thing."

4. Buzz Osborne (Melvins)

"Buzz’s playing has those same qualities of attitude and discipline that I learned from Fripp. The Melvins’ style is also so brutal. They rip their guts out every time they play.

"Where I do more of a shoegazer thing onstage, Buzz will microwave a crowd. Many people don’t recognize the Melvins’ importance, and unfortunately they probably won’t until the band’s dead and gone."

5. Paul Leary (Butthole Surfers)

"Paul Leary’s playing is completely innovative and breaks every rule in music theory and scales. His leads will go in any direction, but they fit so perfectly.

"His playing on albums like Locust Abortion Technician is very eclectic. Every song is different, weird and fucking amazing."

6. Andy Gill (Gang of Four)

"That Gang of Four shit kicked my ass! Andy Gill is a completely underrated guitarist. Back in the '70s, I was just a kid playing in bands and trying to shake off the massive classic-rock influence that I was under.

"Gill’s raw, passionate guitar playing had a very big impact on me. You could feel just how angry he was."

7. Dr. Know (Bad Brains)

"I’d always liked Bad Brains, but I’d never seen them live until I moved to California. They started playing and all of a sudden [singer] H.R. came flying over the drum kit -there must have been a trampoline back there - hit the stage, wiped out and then started singing. It was absolutely amazing.

"Dr. Know was way ahead of his time. Who knows what was fueling his fire, but there was definitely fire being fueled!

8 & 9. Fredrik Thordendal and Mårten Hagström (Meshuggah)

"These guys have taken the Swedish metal genre completely off the path and into an extremely innovative area. I hate to single out Fred, but he’s just great. He has an incredible lead style. But both of those guys are fucking amazing."

10. Ronald Jones (The Flaming Lips)

"Ronald Jones was this completely innovative guitarist that used to play in the Flaming Lips. He used to play with a quarter for a pick, so he could slide it down the strings. I’ve also never seen a guitarist with so many effect pedals.

"But like the King Crimson guys, Ronald was so good at incorporating new technology tastefully. He’s another guy that played from his heart and not his head."

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Brad Angle

Brad is a Brooklyn-based writer, editor and video producer. He is the former content director of Revolver magazine and executive editor of Guitar World. His work has appeared in Vice, Guitar Aficionado, Inked and more. He’s also a die-hard Les Paul player who wishes he never sold his 1987 Marshall Silver Jubilee half stack.