Tool seemingly exploded out of nowhere in the early '90s with their debut album, Undertow. Unlike other bands, the members of Tool were relatively unknown and seemingly mysterious.
But Tool's four original members (vocalist Maynard James Keenan, guitarist Adam Jones, drummer Danny Carey, and bassist Paul D'Amour) were relatively known to other musicians in LA's growing alternative music scene. Carey and D'Amour played with LA band Green Jellö, and Keenan was longtime friends with Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello.
With their EP Opiate and debut album Undertow, Tool suddenly gained popularity alongside bands such as Nine Inch Nails, Rage Against the Machine, and Soundgarden. Despite their best-selling albums, they've managed to remain highly enigmatic with few media appearances, none of their material on streaming music services, and long gaps between albums. In fact, since Tool's formation in the '90s, they've only released a handful of albums: four studio albums, one live album, and one EP.
With rumors swirling about a new album - their first since 10,000 Days in 2006 - now is a good time to learn some of the weirdest facts about Tool.
Most Tool fans know Keenan isn't just an atheist or a skeptic - he's deeply anti-religion, a theme woven through many Tool songs. That fact often put him at odds with his deeply religious Baptist mother, Judith Marie Keenan.
Keenan addressed the split on the album 10,000 Days, the title of which is a direct reference to his mother, who had an aneurysm when Keenan was 11 that left her paralyzed for 27 years - from 1976 until her death in 2003. Or, roughly, 10,000 days.
He composed both "Wings for Marie (Pt 1)" and "10,000 Days (Wings Pt 2)" for her, and their lyrics are out-of-character in their religious message - one of approval. In the lyrics, Keenan appears to want his mother to have an afterlife to enjoy after her years of suffering on earth.
You're the only one who can hold your head up high
Shake your fists at the gates saying
I've come home now!
Fetch me the spirit, the son, and the father
Tell them their pillar of faith has ascended
Keenan later said he regretted the song, telling an interviewer:
I'll never make that mistake again. It just took too much out of me - too much emotionally, mentally, physically - all those manifestations. Those songs were exploited and misconstrued, people were flippant and dismissive. I won't be doing that anymore.
Tool singer Maynard James Keenan did not plan for a career in music. After a stint in the Army, Keenan attended the Kendall College of Art and Design and then moved to Massachusetts to work as an interior designer for pet stores.
Keenan later moved to LA and befriended a pool of talented musicians, including Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine) and future Tool guitarist Adam Jones. Keenan was so highly critical of the other musicians in LA at the time that his friends spurred him on to start his own band. He joined forces with Jones, reluctantly at first, and put together the roots of what later became Tool.
As Keenan described in his 2016 autobiography, A Perfect Union of Contrary Things:
The frustration I felt at that time is definitely what got this project off the ground then. I'd had good friends in Boston and I'd been successful at the pet store and I believed was on the right path. Then I lose everything and I'm living on $400 a month. I needed to destroy. I needed to primal scream and I needed to be loud enough to make people go, "What the fuck was that?!" I needed to get it out. It was that tipping point where you either become a serial killer or a rock star.
Tool's groundbreaking music video for "Sober" hit MTV in 1993, and the dark stop-motion animation helped it stand out from other music videos at the time. Although Fred Stuhr directed, Tool guitarist Adam Jones's artistic vision helped make it powerful and unique. Jones himself was already an accomplished designer for Hollywood at the time.
He worked with the legendary Stan Winston on multiple big-budget Hollywood films, including Terminator 2, Jurassic Park, and Ghostbusters II. Jones did the effects work for scenes such as when the Arnold Terminator shoots the Robert Patrick Terminator in the chest.
Tool songs can be interpreted in many different ways, and their true nature is often hidden by clues in their lyrics. The band members never confirm fan theories, though. That didn't stop enterprising fans from putting together three tracks from 10,000 Days to form a new super-track that some call "Wings for Marie: 23 Days." Fans laid down "10,000 Days (Wings Pt 2)" on one track, and then "Viginti Tres" and "Wings for Marie (Pt 1)" on a second track.
If lined up correctly, all three songs sync up to create a third song, which sounds incredibly trippy. Although the tracks are virtually seamless when combined, the band has never confirmed whether the songs were really designed to do so.