Is Tool Really a Band for Stupid White Trash?
By Jaime Lees
Fri, Jan 22, 2016
The music we like is often seen as a shortcut to express who we are or what we’re all about, so the world will pre-judge you based on the bands that you listen to and the musical cultures with which you affiliate. For the most part these assumptions sit in nice little established boxes: Grateful Dead fans are hippies, politically aware dudes love Rage Against the Machine and any man in an Eagles t-shirt is automatically assumed to be a dad with a cover band. (Too soon?)
As a teenager in the ’90s, my favorite albums were by Nirvana, Elastica, Otis Redding, Echo & the Bunnymen and, weirdly, Tool. My group of dude friends (now grown men who I still affectionately refer to as “The Basement Boys” because we always seemed to be hanging out in someone’s unfinished suburban basement) introduced me to Tool right before the release of Ænima in 1996. I thought that some parts of the Undertow album were alright, but that all of Ænima was awesome.
The Basement Boys fancied themselves quite the teenage intellectuals and they’d sit for hours and debate the merits of an album, a song or a drum solo. I thought the other 90s “boy music” that they liked was mostly okay (Deftones were cool but I had no love for Korn) but we didn’t talk about those bands nearly as much: it was always Tool, Tool, Tool.
There’s a bunch to talk about when it comes to Tool, really. The lyrics were dense and you could spend hours unraveling and attempting to decode the possible meanings behind some phrasings. Even in 1996 there were already rumors that the members of Tool were into exploring psychedelic realms and sacred geometry. (Ideas basically proven by using Alex Grey‘s art on their album covers and drummer Danny Carey’s admitted occultist leanings.) Also, this was a time when we barely had the internet (!) so most of these revelations were passed on from person-to-person, which just served to heighten the band’s mystique.
Because of all of this, I’d always thought that Tool was for smart, thoughtful people. (And possibly even pretentious people.) But the more Tool fans I met the more wrong I felt about that assumption. I’d go to Tool shows and feel overwhelmed by the audience. Nearly all of the people in attendance were Busch-chugging, thick-ball-chain-necklace wearing, violent-at-any-moment aggro young men who were super pumped on adrenaline. For the most part, these were not people who appeared to be thinking deep thoughts about the universe and synchronicity and fractal vegetables. These were people who were out to rage and then possibly smoke some meth. I expressed this thought to a friend and he said, “Duh, everybody knows that Tool fans are stupid white trash.”
The reason why Tool is so successful now twenty years later is because the people who became fans back then somehow managed to stay fans. This is truly an against-all-odds success story for the band. Being a Tool fan is a unique experience. As some genius put it nearly a decade ago:
“Tool can do no wrong in the eyes of its fans. In fact, the band inspires so much respect from its audience that it’s nearly creepy. Tool gets away with things that would cause lesser bands to be written off or completely forgotten: There have been huge gaps between album releases (up to five years), infrequent tours, high ticket prices and band members who have been known to play in the dark and barely address the audience. But all of this somehow works in Tool’s favor. Far from feeling slighted or ignored, fans are supremely excited when an album comes out and are willing to pay as much as necessary for the rare live show. And instead of regarding band members as egotistical jerks, fans view them as mysterious and humble. This kind of blind worship is part of what makes the Tool experience so amazing.”
Add to all of that the fact that Tool singer Maynard James Keenan recently called fans of his band “insufferable people.” Do you know what most fans thought? They thought it was funny.
There is absolutely no way that this band should have such a devoted following in the year 2016. There is positively no way that each Tool show should sell out immediately. There is certainly no way that anyone should pay around $90 for a ticket. But they do. And I recently did, too.
About a month ago I was out with a dude friend and we wound up in a conversation with a couple of young construction workers at a bar. They weren’t the brightest bulbs in the box (one of them actually believed that the Earth was flat) but they were friendly and chatty in that amusing potential-alcoholic kind of way. They switched topics from conspiracy theories to music and they were shocked that I could talk about Tool with them. Many high-fives were exchanged. I was pleased with myself for being able to impress them and started delving into some deep thoughts on Tool’s last album, 10,000 Days. They smiled but stared at me blankly and then the more boisterous of the two cleared his throat and said, “Well, I don’t know about all of that, but that guitarist rips!”
Yeah, that’s true, too. Maybe these dudes didn’t care about Carl Jung or Bill Hicks, couldn’t give a crap about abstract definitions of prog and wouldn’t know the Fibonacci sequence if it kicked them in the face, but they did know that Adam Jones rips. And I guess that’s enough. So if I see them at the show tonight I will buy them both a Busch while I try to get over myself, because as Tool fans we’re all equals. Morons, but equals.
– link: Riverfront Times
10 Things We Could Do with $1.1 Billion Other Than Build a New Rams Stadium
By Jaime Lees
Mon, Jan 4, 2016
So building a new NFL stadium in downtown St. Louis will cost $1.1 billion. Yeah, billion.
With floods devastating much of our area, unforgiving winter weather approaching and regional tensions high, it’s increasingly difficult to see how a new stadium for a failing football team could possibly be any kind of priority.
Not all of that $1.1 billion would be from our tax dollars, of course: the majority of the project wouldn’t be paid for by residents. (Though it’s not like we get a vote in it.)
With all of this money talk floating around, we got to wondering what else St. Louis could do with $1.1 billion. We could renovate what needs renovating. We could preserve what needs preservation. We could donate huge amounts to HeatUpStLouis.org and the thousands of other worthy charities in the area.
But how much is $1.1 billion, anyway? It’s such a big number that it’s hard to get a mental picture of what $1.1 billion could do. We made a list of examples to help us understand.
Here are ten St. Louis-specific things that we could do with $1.1 billion.
1. Pay admission for 92 million visitors to the City Museum
2. Order 11,000 more statues of Chuck Berry that don’t look like Chuck Berry
3. Cover the cost of sending 110 million visitors to the top of the Gateway Arch
4. Buy 367 million people a concrete from Ted Drewes
5. Gift four years of undergrad tuition to 5,813 students at Washington University
6. Pay off more than 74 million City of St. Louis parking tickets
7. Bail out KDHX … like, at least twice
8. Ship a $50 care package from Imo’s Pizza to 22 million people
9. Purchase 6,419 beers for each of the 19,150 people in attendance at a capacity St. Louis Blues hockey game
Lest you doubt our math on that last one, here’s how we got there:
a. Forest Park is 1,371 acres. And one acre equals 43,560 square feet. That means Forest Park is 59,720,760 square feet.
b. One gooey butter cake is one square foot. That means it would take 59,720,760 gooey butter cakes to cover Forest Park.
c. The average price of a 12-inch gooey butter cake? $11.
d. The price of 59,720,760 Gooey Butter Cakes at $11 each would be $656,928,360.
e. 1.1 billion minus $656,928,360 = $443,710,640.
Would you rather have that stadium or all of this? Decisions, decisions.
link: Riverfront Times
Bob Pollard of Guided by Voices visits Planet Score Records
by Jaime Lees
Mon, Nov 9, 2015
Our world-class local record stores are visited by famous shoppers all of the time, but Planet Score Records is just a newborn and it’s already had one very important shopper come around to count its little fingers and toes.
In a story we published a couple of weeks ago, we introduced you to Joe Stulce and Tim Lohmann, who co-own Planet Score Records. Their new shop in Maplewood opened just before Halloween and it was open less than a week before getting a visit from Robert Pollard of Guided by Voices.
The store was named after one of Pollard’s songs. Owner Stulce is a major GbV fan and was looking for a unique name for his business. He says that, “being a big dork,” he posted about his idea for the name onto a GbV message board and requested feedback from other GbV fans.
He certainly got some major feedback, too. The people who run the message board do business with Pollard and passed on this bit of information. Within 24 hours or so Stulce had Pollard’s blessing to use the name. But the store wasn’t open yet and wouldn’t be open for some months. Stulce was sure that Pollard had moved on and forgotten about the whole interaction.
Then, just five days after opening, Stulce got an email from Pollard’s wife saying that the couple were driving into St. Louis from Dayton, OH to visit the store the next day.
We visited the store this weekend to get the story about Uncle Bob direct from the source. It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining bright and the shop had Status Quo’s Spare Parts playing on the sound system. (Oh yeah.) It was the perfect record store afternoon.
The small store had more customers than you’d expect for a place that just opened. Friends were popping in to say hello, regulars from the business’ old location were visiting to see the new space and neighborhood shoppers were scoping out the new guys. Everyone there seemed happy and happily busy.
Stulce was no exception, and we asked him questions about Pollard’s visit when he had breaks between helping customers. Stulce’s smile spread wide and he nearly bounced with excitement when relaying the story. He says that Pollard arrived, indeed, and was apparently more kind and thoughtful than anyone could’ve ever even hoped. Pollard stayed at the store for a few hours that day, just shopping and hanging out and patiently signing all of Stulce’s GbV vinyl. He also posed for many pictures and was kind to fans who were shocked to see him just kicking it in the store.
So if Bob Pollard of Guided by freakin’ Voices thinks that Planet Score Records is cool, chances are that you’ll think that it’s cool, too. Check out the new kids on the block at 7421 Manchester Road in downtown Maplewood.
Guided by Voice’s “Planet Score”
link: Riverfront Times
Gang of Four Guitarist Andy Gill On His Band’s Wide Influence
By Jaime Lees
Gang of Four is the post-punk band by which all other post-punk bands are measured. A label applied to a host of acts from the late ’70s and early ’80s, post-punk groups are thought of as those that took the DIY ethics of punk, dropped the safety-pinned fashion statements and added an element of lyrical intelligence. It’s punk without self-imposed, clichéd boundaries and sonic limitations.
Leeds-born Gang of Four excelled at embodying that spirit. And though its contemporaries are seen as bands such as the Mekons, Wire or Mission of Burma, Gang of Four’s classic albums Entertainment! and Solid Gold have quietly molded a whole generation of musicians. Those who claim to have been influenced by Gang of Four include St. Vincent, Michael Stipe, Adam Jones, Carrie Brownstein, Tom Morello and James Murphy.
“It’s funny. It does seem to kind of resonate,” says Gang of Four guitarist Andy Gill. Speaking from his home studio in the center of London, Gill is polite, whip-smart and full of the charmingly poetic idioms of his countrymen.”It seems to get around. I think so many people have gotten things from Gang of Four or caught a vibe from it. They got a stylistic or a certain lyrical approach.
“A lot of people think it’s their own little secret,” he adds. “But there’s lots of them out there.”
In addition to his cutting (yet danceable) guitar work, Gill has long been in demand for his producing skills. His list of album credits is varied — from the Jesus Lizard to Michael Hutchence to the Red Hot Chili Peppers — and, 36 years into his career, he’s still frequently called upon by unexpected fans.
“Gwen Stefani,” he says. “She’s a big fan, you know. And she’s been asking about me, Gang of Four — she wants to write with me and stuff. Which I’ll be very happy to do. I think she’s a great pop artist.”
So why do these very different acts seek out Gill? He humbly explains:
“I think what happens is the people who get in touch with me tend to have something in common with me already. I was going to pull some example out of the air, but if I say Madonna is not going to call me, she’ll probably call me tomorrow,” he says. “And I’ll have to say no because I’m on tour. So, you know, the people who get in touch with me and want me to do stuff tend to have some level of association…. You can kind of hear this connection in between our music.”
His production work has afforded Gill and Gang of Four some unique opportunities as well.
“I produced a band in China, which is the first time I’d been in China,” he says. “In December 2012. It was really interesting. They got in touch with me — they really wanted me to do it because they knew my band’s work — so they asked me to come over there. And I just wanted to do it; I thought it was really interesting. It was a great opportunity for me to go there and suss out a few things.
“And then I met a lot of people there, and then went back and did some gigs there,” he continues. “And made friends with a few people that I probably wouldn’t have done otherwise. It’s incredible that things like that can happen.”
Despite his obligations to other artists, Gill says he always makes sure to put his own music first. Gang of Four’s newest album, What Happens Next, was released earlier this year; the band kicked off a 25-date American tour in support of it late last month.
“I think the last few years the new music is what’s been getting my loving care and attention,” he says. “I don’t really want to put it off to the side. I want to go full steam ahead.
“It’s very tough to get everything done,” he adds. “Sometimes I feel like I don’t really have a chance to stand still and reflect on where I’m going or what I’m doing with it. But I’ve already got half of the next album demoed, so if I could just get some time in the studio for a bit I could get some things done.”
8 p.m. Thursday, October 8. Old Rock House, 1200 South Seventh Street. $20 to $25. 314-588-0505.
link: Riverfront Times