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'They do their own thing': Team Tool on the band's long-awaited new album

On May 2, 2006, revered LA metallers Tool released their critically-acclaimed album, 10,000 Days. Their first record in five years, it was a towering showcase of a band committed to making challenging, progressive music – replete with lyrics coursing with intelligence, spiritual inquisitiveness and even wry humour – and still attaining the kind of success normally reserved for pop and hip-hop acts. Upon release, 10,000 Days hit the No.1 spot on the US album charts and No.4 in the UK – the latest success in the multi-platinum, Grammy Award-winning band’s history. A lot has happened between now and then. To be precise: four world cup finals, three different US presidents spending time in the White House, the emergence of global superstars like Drake, Lady Gaga, Ed Sheeran and even Taylor Swift. Oh, and a little something calling streaming. One thing that failed to materialise in the 13-year gap between now and then, however, is a brand new Tool album. Failed, that is, until this month. On August 30, Tool – that’s vocalist Maynard James Keenan, guitarist Adam Jones, bassist Justin Chancellor and drummer Danny Carey – will finally release their highly-anticipated new LP Fear Inoculum via Music For Nations/Sony Music. Tempting as it is to proclaim Tool’s return as the comeback of the year/decade, their manager Pete Riedling, of Satellite Management, prefers to frame it another way. “They’re not even back,” he smiles, as he relaxes deep into a sofa at Sony’s London HQ. “They never went away.” This is true in more ways than one. In the 13-year gap, Tool have remained a reliably massive touring band, most prominently in the States. But much more than this, Tool “never went away” because at some point the creation of their upcoming album became part of rock’s modern mythology – a nexus of memes and GIFs detailing the agonising wait felt by fans. It has, in turn, created an accrued buzz that dwarfs anything that could be conjured up in a boardroom meeting. Tool have arguably become even bigger, even more mysterious than they already were: not so much a sleeping giant, as a giant preoccupied with other things. Part of this was down to a protracted legal case involving artwork, a complex affair of suing and counter-suing. Though the band eventually emerged victorious, it was a time-consuming, spirit-draining affair. “Oh God, nine years,” sighs Riedling. “It was fucking ridiculous.” Another factor was the exacting musicianship required on any Tool album. Contrary to the fake discography found in their 1996 record Ænima – which listed albums boasting absurd titles like 3 Fat Brown Fingers, Tetanus For Breakfast and Crapsteaks Smothered In Dictators – Fear Inoculum, remarkably, is only their fifth full-length album in a career that winds all the way back to 1990. In case it’s not clear: Tool take their time. “I think if Tool was under the mindset of changing what they do then they wouldn’t be Tool and we wouldn’t be having this conversation,” explains Riedling. “They march to their own drum. They do their own thing and that’s what excites me about it, because we always do our own thing – we do our own thing in everything, when it comes to deals or whatever it may be.” “With everything Tool, they move as they move,” agrees John Fleckenstein, co-president, RCA Records US. “They don’t move with the rest of the world, they do what Tool does. They are an enterprise unto themselves and we have nothing but respect for that, as you’d imagine. They call the shots. I can’t speak for every record label, but I know the way we operate and the way we do business. Our respect for the artist and what they do is where it all starts. There really is no game for us to try to push this band into a place that they’re uncomfortable with because they won’t do it, they do things on their own terms. For us it was more about: ‘When you’re ready, we’ll help you craft a plan that your fans will appreciate, admire and be excited about with partners around the world.’” That moment is now upon us. Everyone involved insists – and Music Week can certainly attest to this – that Fear Inoculum is worth the wait; it’s a magnificent, challenging and mesmerising 85-minute long opus. “There are so many layers, there has been so much thought and effort put into it and it’s so brilliantly done,” says Riedling. “After 13 years, there are such high expectations – those guys have busted their arses to do it. It makes me very proud.” “They’re one of the greatest bands in the world,” adds Riedling later. “If not the greatest.” “Jaw-dropping,” is the verdict from RCA’s Fleckenstein. For Music For Nations label head Julie Weir – who tells Music Week she has been campaigning for the Tool album to be a MFN release since she joined Sony in April 2016 – seeing it all come together has been “a career highlight”. Weir is still super-charged with excitement from the first time she heard it played over the hi-spec audio set-up in the Sony boardroom. “The sheer depth of sound, and intricacies in there make it a many faceted beast of an album,” she beams. “It’s an album that will keep on giving to the listener for some time, and maybe only stop doing so when the listener stops digging themselves. Fear Inoculum is a body of work that, in my eyes, is a career best. And something that the band deserve to feel incredibly proud of.” But, amazingly, the release is only part of what makes this such a fascinating return. For the team bringing Tool’s vision to life, it’s been a two-pronged campaign: with pressing affairs concerning the past and the future both fighting for oxygen in the present... Last month, Tool’s vocalist Maynard James Keenan appeared live on the Joe Rogan Experience Podcast and not only revealed the name of their new album, but also some other big news. “This new thing called digital media and streaming… We’re going to try it out,” he deadpanned, before giving the faux-Luddite addendum. “Have you heard of it?” In real time during the podcast, Keenan proceeded to post to Instagram that Tool would finally be putting their back catalogue on all streaming services. It was a momentous moment: for years Tool had been the proverbial white whale to Spotify, Apple et al’s Ahab. Indeed, not only had they been one of the most high-profile artists not to embrace the streaming revolution, they had even previously resisted the humble download of yesteryear. The question is not so much why go on streaming and download now, but rather why not years ago? Many theories have taken root, the primary one being that the band did not want to have the intricacy and connective tissue of their albums lost. Joe Rogan asked why they had nothing on streaming prior to this… “Yeah… No… I can’t…” Keenan replied. “I love my brothers. I’m just going to take the Fifth on that one.” It’s only natural, then, for Music Week to try and shed some more light on the situation, with help from Riedling… “The reason Tool weren’t on streaming wasn’t so much streaming itself, it was downloads more than anything,” he says, speaking about the band’s initial resistance to the digital revolution. “The basis of the whole discussion was that it had to be an album-only download.” So there was some truth to that rumour about keeping the integrity of the whole album? “Yeah,” nods Riedling. “And that’s an overall integrity and artistic thing. It was all compressed. Now it’s completely different and it’s way better.” So technology caught up with Tool’s expectations? “To what we wanted, yes,” he adds. “High Quality files. When you hear the band at the shows it sounds amazing and you hear the band on CD it sounds amazing, but put it on iTunes and it used to be much more compressed and you didn’t have to listen as a body of work. When you listen to a Tool record there’s interludes, there’s this, there’s that, they connect into each other.” And so it was that on August 2 Tool’s back catalogue – bar live/rarities album Salival – was made available on streaming, and will be followed on August 30 by Fear Inoculum. What transpired was, in the words of Julie Weir, “a tsunami of Tool-related emotion!” “It’s been a pleasure to watch the numbers racking up,” Weir continues. “The responses so far to the body of work going live has been immense… They have 3.3. million monthly listeners on Spotify already.” That’s just for starters. Tool have since re-entered charts everywhere, their 1996 classic Ænima gate-crashing the US Top 10 some 23 years after its release. Every bit as promising has been the response to the new material, such as Fear Inoculum’s self-titled lead single. “Utterly bonkers would be the words,” observes Weir of the digital reaction to Fear Inoculum. “The track has been streamed nearly four million times on Spotify already, with well over 5m streams worldwide, and 6m views on YouTube in five days. The single landed the No.1 spot on the iTunes main chart in New Zealand and Canada and No.2 in Australia, Finland, and Sweden. Tool are absolutely dominating the iTunes rock and metal charts, achieving the No.1 spot for both genres in several markets such as Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Finland, France, the UK, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Sweden.” On top of this, the single has been added to global Spotify playlists such as Rock This (4.5M), Kickass Metal (876K), Rock Hard (652K), New Metal Track (420K), All New Rock (219K), New Music Friday (194K), This Is Tool (149K), Rock Nation (92K), and Rock Out (59K). “Thirty-five markets added the track to their NMF playlists – including the UK, along with amazing No.1s in Germany, Switzerland and Austria – placement and playlist cover,” grins Weir. “And this is a song of over 10 mins in length – no radio edits here!” Normally if you told a label that the artist’s lead single was a 10-minute, 21-second odyssey, they would burst into tears, possibly while shredding their radio strategy. For Tool, however, the reaction has proven that listener attention spans aren’t as short as we’re often led to believe. Stateside, Tool just set a new record with their labyrinthine lead single becoming the longest ever song to crack the Hot 100 chart. It is to state the obvious, then, that streaming has not changed Tool, but they may yet change streaming. Many is the artist in Music Week’s pages who has recently expressed the desire to get to a song’s chorus in 30 seconds or less in order to prevent people skipping the track. You could say Tool don’t exactly share their concerns... “Good luck with that,” chuckles Riedling, referring to anyone searching for the chorus of Tool’s new track 7empest, which cruises north of 15 minute mark. “You’d be fast-forwarding for a long time!” Most exciting is the prospect that, among those numbers, are the people Fleckenstein refers to as the “kids growing up going, ‘What is this Tool thing?’” “I think the biggest thing for us in streaming is that we need new fans,” explains Riedling. “We want to open Tool’s music up to new fans. All the band are super-excited about the younger [fans].” Within this opportunity, however, also lies a challenge, one extremely particular to Tool. Preserving the artistic whole is the central pillar – and challenge – involved in the campaign. Their catalogue may now be available on streaming, meaning people are free to cherry-pick tracks instead of listening to the whole album, but that’s a challenge the team are savouring. “If you’re a fan of Tool, these albums are meant to be listened to start to finish,” says Fleckenstein. “They are experiences, they are not bite-size things you listen to for three minutes on the subway in the morning. That’s not what they’re meant to be. They’re true musical journeys and they go places that, frankly, every time you listen to it – even years later – you’ll find something new in. They’re really meant to be a sit-down, put the headphones on, close the door and listen to it start to finish [affair]. Look, between the physical world they grew up in and the digital world they live in now, you’ve had this mass unbundling of the album. Streaming’s taken that even further where you’re making it even easier for people to pick off the songs they like the most – that’s a challenge. That’s a challenge for them to preserve what makes them Tool.” Rest assured, however, there is a plan in place regarding the way they will roll out the music… “I think they will find a way to showcase the music in a way they believe is right,” says Fleckenstein. “And I don’t think it will be any less exciting. They’ll figure out a way to still deliver their artistry and message in today’s world like they have in the past.” To that end, Tool are delivering something entirely unprecedented when it comes to the physical release of Fear Inoculum… If that thing doesn’t win a Grammy, I don’t know…” muses Pete Riedling of Fear Inoculum’s special edition physical release, before pausing. “I’ll run through Trafalgar Square naked...” Now, Riedling may be laughing when he says this, but he is also being serious. You might think this is a bold statement, but given Tool’s track record, his confidence is extremely well grounded. In 2019, talk of the intricacies of packaging don’t tend to rank highly – and that’s if the artist in question is even committing to a physical release. Not so with Tool. It is arguable that no other act in music has gone to the lengths Tool have to preserve the sanctity of the physical music experience – lest we forget the CD packaging of 10,000 Days being released with in-built 3D glasses to interact with the artwork. “Tool have become synonymous with high-end packaging, so fans were expecting something special,” says Weir. “The band seem to have outdone themselves this time, though!” So brace yourselves, folks: Fear Inoculum will be released on CD in limited edition packaging – conceived by and directed by Adam Jones – featuring a 4” HD rechargeable screen with exclusive video footage, charging cable, a two watt speaker, a 36-page booklet and a digital download card. It will retail for £79.99. Fleckenstein stresses that the result is “spectacular”, while also admitting “it has not made our lives easy on the production element, but that is what we do. I’m very, very excited for it come out.” How difficult, you may wonder? “It’s been several months to put it together,” he says. “That’s about as much as I can divulge. It’s quite special and I think what people have come to know from the band is that it’s not just the music, it’s the experience. I’ve never seen anything like what they’re going to put out.” The price may be high, but the team are confident Tool’s fans – perhaps more accurately labeled apostles given their devotion – will be purchasing the record, and not just streaming it. “The physical will still be exciting for fans and the collectability around what this will be, I would imagine, would be very compelling for anybody who’s a fan,” says Fleckenstein. “I would think physical [sales] in this case would be pretty strong, unlike the vast majority of the releases out there.” Everything is teed up for Tool like never before. In the UK, they already have an excellent track record to follow-up on. Their full-length debut album Undertow has sold 61,804 copies to date according to Official Charts Company data, 1996’s Ænima 83,538, 2001’s Lateralus 113,173 and 10,000 Days 96,642 – with their debut EP Opiate standing on 29,143. “It’s been a long time coming, but it’s great to see Tool back with an outstanding body of work,” says Phil Savill, MD commercial group, Sony Music. “It’s doubly exciting that they are also now allowing access to the DSPs for catalogue and new material. It’s taking them into a totally new realm and opening up their material to new legions and generations of fans, which is a very exciting prospect for the label, especially as Music For Nations released the band’s material first time round. It feels like a perfect home for the new album in the UK. We’re proud to be working with such a respected and influential band.” In terms of getting the word out to UK fans, Julie Weir notes Tool are gracing various magazine covers this month, including Kerrang! and Metal Hammer, and working through both traditional (print and outdoor) and digital marketing. This is on top of the band’s mesmeric, ecstatically-recieved headline set at Download Festival back in June. “It’s about keeping the staunchly loyal fans on side and making them feel special, whilst being able to reach out to a new generation who consume in a different way,” she says. Where, then, does this leave Tool in 2019 ? 10,000 Days went to No.1 in the States in 2006, but can they do it again in the era of Drake, Ariana Grande and Ed Sheeran? “Who wouldn’t want a No.1 album?” says Fleckenstein. “But I don’t put that kind of pressure on it, of course. And I don’t think that conversation has even come up with the band. That’s not where their heads are at. As a record label, we’re as competitive as anybody else; we want to be the best at everything. Of course, we’re going to want to have a great result. But more than anything our mission has been to help them move into this digital space with their catalogue and then frankly deliver upon the artistic vision around the music and the packaging and everything they’ve done. And in a way that they feel good about, and we all feel good about.” And as for Pete Riedling’s take on the possibility of a No.1 album in 2019? “We’re not bothered about any of that stuff,” he concludes. “What we’re bothered about is that the music, the integrity and the art gets pushed forward in the right way. That’s always so close to the band’s heart. It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish.”

Hitmakers: The songwriting secrets behind Shakespears Sister's Stay

Shakespears Sister’s Stay is still the longest-running No.1 song by a female group. But it also drove a wedge between Siobhan Fahey and Marcella Detroit. The reunited pair remember writing the song that would make them – and break them… Siobhan Fahey: We’d written about five songs for the Hormonally Yours album. Dave [Stewart, of The Eurythmics and Fahey’s then-husband] dropped me off at Marcy’s to start work one morning and he came in for a minute. He said, “Why don’t you write a song that highlights Marcy’s amazing voice?” He started strumming the chords and warbling the melody. We took the idea and she hit the keyboard and I hit the lyric pad… Marcella Detroit: That whole album was a concept album based on this 1950s sci-fi B-movie called Cat-Women Of The Moon. We wanted to buy the rights to it and put ourselves into the film. And so most of the songs were written about that movie. There was one scene where my character falls in love with an earthling who’s come to visit and then he has to go back to earth, so my character is singing “Stay with me”. SF: People think of it as a deeply emotional song, which is so weird, isn’t it? You really have no idea of the way a song will affect people. I’ve also learned to be careful what you write over the years. I listen back to some of the songs I’ve written and you really do manifest some bad shit just by writing it! So that’s why that happened to me; I wrote about it a couple of years before it happened! [Fahey and Stewart divorced in 1996] MD: But even though the song is about the film, when you’re writing, you have to have empathy. We are all human beings, we all have the human condition, so we are writing from that point of view. You put yourself in the place of that character or that person and there are times when we’ve all been in that position, where you’re about to lose somebody. So it came from a place of authenticity and human experience. We did the demo at my house and brought it over to [producer] Chris Thomas. We said, ‘Here are the songs we’re working on’ and Chris said, “That’s a No.1 smash!” We were like, “Whaaaat?” But he was right… SF: Who could possibly have imagined that, though, ever? It got a bit embarrassing being No.1 for that long, going on Top Of The Pops like, “I’m sorry, we’re back again!” MD: It was crazy. Unfathomable. I remember walking around Covent Garden with people shouting, ‘Hey Shakespear’. I thought that was very cool, but it got out of control. SF: Everyone remembers the video but it wasn’t much fun for me. I spent 12 hours watching them film Marcy, waiting for my bit. It got to 9pm and I knew the wrap was at midnight so I was feeling really sidelined. I hit the vodka, got very, very drunk and then at 11 they went, “OK you’re on”. Hence my performance! MD: It was great though! It was what you needed to do to play the part so well. SF: [After Stay], there was this iciness that grew between us. MD: It was mainly due to certain people around us and miscommunication. And both of us wanting things and feeling uncomfortable and insecure… SF: It’s still difficult to perform. Like, what do I do for the first two minutes every night? It’s easier on tour, but when we did Graham Norton I couldn’t make a grand entrance halfway through like I did on the video! But it’s humbling that it’s such an important song to people. To have been part of making something that’s comforted people in all sorts of horrible situations. It’s just such an honour that life has bestowed on you. Writer’s Notes Publishers Warner Chappell Music/Campbell Connelly & Co/Universal Music Publishing MGB Writers Siobhan Fahey, Marcella Detroit, David A Stewart Release Date 13.01.92 Record label London Total UK sales (OCC) 305,559 (post-1994 only)

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