DANNY CAREY Describes TOOL's 'Painstaking' Songwriting Process

March 26, 2024

In a new interview with producer and YouTuber Rick Beato, TOOL drummer Danny Carey spoke about the evolution of the band's songwriting process. He said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "In the old days, like '89, '90, whatever, when we would write the song, we were just all in the room together, just jamming out, and they would come together really quickly. And as the songs became more complicated, or our writing got more ambitious, I guess, Maynard [James Keenan, TOOL singer] would end up feeling like we were kind of wasting his time, in a way, 'cause we're arguing over stupid little phrases… and he's just twiddling his thumbs, waiting for us to figure it out. He didn't need to be there when we were going through all that. So now it's just me and — at that time it was Paul D'Amour [then-bassist] and Adam [Jones, TOOL guitarist]. We just would hash the stuff out, for the most part, and then he would come in when it was pretty much there. And we'd get it more and more arranged as time has gone on, before we lay it on him, because it's such a big commitment. The way we write, it's all kind of piecemealing jams together. And a lot of it's the jamming part, then we record everything and then take it home and find the jewels that have happened along the way of the jam and then go, 'Okay, there's the good one. Let's fit this with this,' and then come in the next day and kind of the building blocks start putting these songs together. And that's kind of how we compose every tune. It's painstaking, but the end result is we're all completely committed to our parts and we all have belief in what we're playing, 'cause it's been through the filter, so it's good in that way. Then once we get there, though, then we lay it on Maynard. And we'll make some adjustments, of course, if he wants to dig in and sing another verse or extend the things; I mean, we're flexible."

Asked if he is surprised sometimes with the things that Maynard comes up with, Danny said: "Oh, every time. It takes it to another level. He's incredible. I mean, we're proud of it when we lay it on him, and then it's just, like, 'Oh my god,' It just goes to a whole 'nother level… It's amazing. That's his gift. It makes my hair stand on end thinking about it. It's special."

In a recent interview with Metal Hammer, TOOL bassist Justin Chancellor said that fans won't have to wait another 13 years to hear a new studio album from him and his bandmates, referencing the gap between 2006's "10,000 Days" and 2019's "Fear Inoculum".

"Danny is 62 now, so there's no thought of taking 13 years if we're gonna do it," he explained. "We're gonna have to be more efficient, and we've been talking of ways that we can do that. Maybe taking a leaf out of how me and Peter [Mohamed, Justin's bandmate in side project MTVOID] work with MTVOID — instead of staring at each other going 'Come on! Get it out of ya!' maybe we could do a bit more at home. We'll see!"

Chancellor added that he and the rest of TOOL have begun working on music for a possible new LP. "We put a little work in before this tour," he said. "We gave it a stab for a couple of months. We ended up compiling all the ideas we had; normally when we do that we start writing pretty soon after, but we had a lot of stuff coming up, so we didn't dive all the way in. When we're done with Europe, we're gonna dive back in during the second half of the year."

In a separate interview with Revolver magazine, Chancellor and Carey talked about a possible follow-up to "Fear Inoculum". Addressing the fact that "Fear Inoculum" marked the band's first full-length effort in 13 years, due to creative, personal, and legal issues bandmembers encountered since the release of "10,000 Days", Justin said: "It'll be different this time. Everyone's life is different, and everyone's expectations are different. Time is precious now, so you try and look for ways to be more efficient with the process. We've had a lot of discussion about that and how we can bring a new record to fruition in a slightly different way."

Speaking about the TOOL songwriting process, Danny said: "Our filter system is pretty intense. If it gets by the four of us in the band, then we figure it's going to work. It's a really painstaking process that we go through to finish [an album], and get it where we are all completely convinced. It pays off in the long run because we never really get tired of performing our songs. It gives rise to a vehicle that we can all believe in."

As for a possible musical direction for TOOL's next LP, Carey said: "Who knows? It could flip-flop and we could just go back to doing an 'Undertow' [type of] record" of shorter songs. "That's kind of appealing to me. I always like change, whatever direction it goes."

Another possibility is a new EP rather a full-length release. The songwriting process has already begun, according to Carey, and "it's going well so far."

"We're free agents now," he added. "We aren't signed to a label anymore. We are free to do whatever we want."

Quite possibly the era's most highly anticipated album, "Fear Inoculum" arrived in August of 2019. Debuting at No. 1 on Billboard's Top 200, the album earned heaps of critical praise with NPR saying, "'Fear Inoculum' was worth the 13-year wait," Revolver proclaiming the album "a masterpiece to be dissected for years to come" and Consequence saying the release finds "TOOL in peak performance."

In 2022, TOOL released "Opiate2", a re-imagined and extended version of the 1992 EP's title track and an accompanying short film, marking the band's first new video in 15 years. The band also unveiled the first incarnation of "Fear Inoculum" vinyl, dubbed the Ultra Deluxe edition, the limited offering included five 180-gram vinyl discs emblazoned with a unique etching and accompanied by an elaborate pictorial booklet including never-before-seen artwork.

TOOL formed in 1990, releasing five studio albums: "Undertow" (1993),"Ænima" (1996),"Lateralus" (2001),"10,000 Days" (2006) and "Fear Inoculum" (2019); two EPs: "72826" (1991) and "Opiate" (1992),and the limited-edition boxset "Salival" (2000). The band has won four Grammy Awards: "Best Metal Performance" (1998, "Ænima"),"Best Metal Performance" (2002, "Schism"),"Best Recording Package" (2007, "10,000 Days") and "Best Metal Performance" (2020, "7empest").

TOOL is Danny Carey (drums),Justin Chancellor (bass),Adam Jones (guitar) and Maynard James Keenan (vocals).

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