Chances are, if you got a message from Tool guitarist Adam Jones inviting you to get up and play with them in front of 20,000 people, it wouldn’t take very long for the word ‘Yes’ to come out of your mouth.
And then, a few seconds or maybe even minutes later, you might realize you’ve potentially set yourself up for a most spectacular failure – unless of course you make sure to do your homework. It’s the kind of the opportunity that screams for intense and watertight preparation.
That’s exactly what happened to Judas Priest guitarist Richie Faulkner, who guested on the song Jambi with the progressive metal titans at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena on January 29, 2020.
The second track from Tool’s 10,000 Days album packs all kinds of creative twists and turns in its sprawling seven-and-a-half minutes – enough to throw even a well-drilled diehard or seasoned veteran off-course.
As well as incorporating Jones’ trademark pull-through technique, where he pulls off from a fretted note to his open low D string and allows his left hand to quickly ring out the adjacent open A string, there are some head-twisting polyrhythms that start appearing from the third verse, roughly two minutes in.
Look at the charts to any number of Tool songs, Jambi included, and it should be easy enough to see why they’re often labeled math-metal...
Speaking to Guitar World three-and-a-half years after that historic moment, the Judas Priest guitarist looks back on the experience fondly and describes Tool as a band with the utmost integrity. “It was pretty daunting... let’s just say it wasn’t like jamming some AC/DC,” he laughs, talking to us from his home studio close to Nashville.
“What happened was I got a phone call from Cesar Gueikian at Gibson [then CMO, appointed to Brand President in 2021 and recently promoted to Interim CEO]. He knew Adam, but I didn’t at the time. And he basically told me that Adam was a big fan of my playing, amazingly, and asked if I would be up for getting up to jam through Jambi with them when they next came through.
“I said, ‘Of course, I’d be honored!’ without really thinking. I put the phone down and then it dawned on me, like, ‘Hold on a minute, what have I done?!’ I knew the song but didn’t know it well enough to get up in front of 20,000 people [laughs].”
Faulkner spent the next week or so religiously learning the track from the confines of his home studio, rehearsing its various cues and changes so that he could keep up with Jones and his cohorts, as well as add his own icing on the cake as a lead guitarist.
And while he jokes that some of these practice sessions saw him “almost throw up because of how technical the song is”, on the evening of January 29 that year, he brought another level of pentatonic shred to the Tool masterpiece. At one point, the two guitarists even harmonize with each other, adding new layers to the dramatic octave bends heard on the original recording’s lead section.
“Adam was so gracious,” smiles Faulkner. “I only had to play half the song and I still messed it up at one point. After the set, I told him I thought I’d made a fuck up and he said, ‘Oh no, I think that was me!’ He was just being nice. Of course it was me that messed it up [laughs]. They were great to play and hang out with. That production and the way they connect with their fans is unreal...
“You can’t film their shows until the very end, there’s a rule about not getting your phones out until they allow you to. And everyone abides! No-one abuses that rule. They want their shows to be special and not just passed over the internet. It’s about the fans and the band building on this very special moment together.”
As well as the once-in-a-lifetime chance of joining Jones and the progressive metal masterminds in front of an arena crowd – which, let’s not forget, Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett has done on two occasions – Faulkner also struck up an ongoing friendship with the fellow Les Paul devotee and Gibson signature artist. Who knows, maybe we might even see him pop up in Nashville with Tool again.
“Adam’s great – I just spoke to him last week,” adds Faulkner. “He’s become a good buddy of mine. He’s a great artist and awesome to bounce ideas with, always happy to share advice. I’ve got a lot of time for him!”