For fans of Tool, it’s been a rough decade-plus. Throughout their career, they have been notorious for taking their time in between albums, generally taking about five years to drop anything new. After the release of their 2006 LP 10,000 Days, the band decided to outdo themselves. For 11 years, the band has been largely inactive, besides a few runs of shows and festivals here and there and some snippets of new material.
There have been dozens of articles over the years elaborating on their hiatus, some true some not. There have been promises of studio recordings and tons of material, only to have those promises or rumors squashed, to the point that negativity from the fans drew out a public comment from the band. Now, frontman Maynard James Keenan has opened up about the creative process behind the new album, and explains (at least partially) why the album release has been so held up.
When speaking with Joe Rogan on his podcast, he described their (meaning guitarist Adam Jones, bassist Justin Chancellor and drummer Danny Carey) process as “so drawn out.” Keenan continued saying “Their process is very analytical,” and that the process is a “tedious one.”
“And they’re always going back over things and questioning what they did and stepping back and going back farther and going forward and, in a way, they’re laying a foundation, they’re putting in the footings for a house.”
According to Keenan, that makes writing vocals and completing songs (on his end at least) difficult. “So I can’t write melodies until the footings are in place. I can’t write words until the melodies are in place. I can’t build walls and then start decorating this place until the foundation is in place. ‘Cause if they keep chaing the foundation…the melodies change, and then the story, of course, isn’t getting written. So that’s where we are.”
Keenan elaborated further saying “I’ve had instances where I’ve started to write stuff, and by the time I actually got it around and back and we were actually listening and whatever, the song had gone in a completely different direction, so everything that was written, melody-wise or lyric-wise, was completely irrelevant now, and I have to start over.”
The singer notes that the bands process is a contrast to his. “My desire to move forward—go, go, go—and get things done…I’m always butting heads with the guys in Tool to get those things done, and its just not their process.”
Keenan also notes that the pressure behind the passionately anticipated album might have played into the band’s mental state. “…maybe because so much time has gone by from the last album, there has to be a little bit of fear in here. ‘Is this record gonna be as good as the last one?’”
Despite the comments, Keenan says that he doesn’t take the fluctuation personal, and says that what they’re doing is “wonderful…I completely back what they’re doing. There’s no other way for them to do it.”
While we will likely not get a Tool album this year, the spike in activity from the band lately can let fans be cautiously optimistic.