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Adam Jones was lost, but now he is found. Tool's occasionally elusive guitarist went missing during our scheduled interview time, but we managed to track him down just an hour before he and his bandmates take the stage as Thursday night headliners at Copenhell, the annual multi-day metal fest in Copenhagen, Denmark. "I'm sorry about earlier," he says, noting that even his manager couldn't reach him on his cell phone. "I went to go buy a new bag, and I didn't know I wasn't getting reception in the building. I apologize."
We've got plenty of questions for Jones, who is not only responsible for all those lumbering, psychedelic Tool riffs but also plays a key role as the band's resident visual artist, using his background in makeup effects and sculpture to help create the elaborate album artwork and animated music videos that have become synonymous with the band. But first, he's got a few questions for us. He wants to know when the article is coming out. He also wants to know if the audio recording of our interview will be posted online. "You're not gonna play my voice, right?" he asks hopefully. "That's why I don't like doing radio interviews. I always get stiff when I do those."
Once assured that his words will only appear in printed form, Jones — who became a father twice since the release of Tool's last album — opens up about the band's long-awaited fifth full-length, Fear Inoculum, parenthood, his eternal love for Planet of the Apes and more.
HOW DID YOU APPROACH THIS ALBUM DIFFERENTLY THAN 10,000 DAYS?
ADAM JONES Well, we're older. It's harder to get us all in one room. Everyone's got their own thing going, so we kind of wait until everybody's ready to start the process. And that can be on and off between other stuff. But I don't know how different it is. It's different but the same, same but different. We really do try to rediscover why we're a band and why we started and that fire that's burning inside us. We're trying to rekindle or restart that. But it's pretty much the same. We jam stuff to death and edit and use stuff we jammed a long time ago with stuff that's new. At some point, Maynard comes in and starts laying lyrics down and we start recording.
SO THE PROCESS HASN'T CHANGED ALL THAT MUCH OVER THE YEARS?
The writing is the same, and that's the thing I really like about it. We really suffer for our art — which you should do. If it's worth having, it's worth suffering for. We're not trying to worry about if it's going to be accepted or is it gonna be like the last record. You take the same path but then go on a different path and then just make sure the four of us are happy. It's a reflective process.
WE'VE HEARD THAT THE NUMBER SEVEN IS A RECURRING THEME ON THE ALBUM. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THAT A BIT?
That was a weird thing about this record. I really wanted to call it Volume 7, because it's our seventh release and most of the songs have 7/4 [time signature] in them. We didn't go, "Let's write another riff in seven," though. It was more like, "Whoa, there's another one in seven!" So it was kinda strange. And then with some of the ideas I discussed with Alex [Grey, the renowned psychedelic artist and frequent Tool collaborator], that number kept coming up. Very cool. But I like the name we went with.
WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE ALBUM TITLE THAT YOU DID END UP CHOOSING, FEAR INOCULUM?
That has to do with getting older, too. Things like, "I'm gonna wear socks with sandals. I don't give a fuck what people think. I'm just gonna be comfortable." [Laughs] So it's about the little things in life. It's making those choices that are important to you and moving on and growing. There's a little bit of Frank Herbert's Dune in that, so I'm into it. I'm so excited for this new record. The songs are very long, but they're like movements. It's like two or three songs in one, but they relate. They flow. So I don't know. We'll see how it goes. But I'm ecstatic.
YOU MENTIONED ALEX GREY EARLIER, WHO'S DONE A LOT OF ARTWORK FOR TOOL. WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE ART FOR THE NEW RECORD?
Well, we approached Alex Grey at about the same time he approached us. [Laughs] And he was very into doing something with us again. We talked and he had this thing called The Great Turn, and it's basically this being that has two sides. It represents the two sides of anything — good and evil, light and dark, yin and yang — and then there's this net of geometry that flows between them and connects them. So a lot of it relates to the songs. It's this observation of life, these choices we make, these things we all deal with. But I think you're gonna be really into it when you see it. It's very different, and I'm very into it.
YOU ALSO WORKED WITH MACKIE OSBORNE, WHO'S DONE STUFF FOR THE CIRCLE JERKS, RANCID AND THE MELVINS — AND SHE'S MARRIED TO BUZZ FROM THE MELVINS.
Mackie is just a monster. She does our layout. She's helped us on our last three or four records. She's very talented and very cool. We have packaging ideas and concepts and we go to her. She helps sort it out and then we take it to the record company. It's really cool because the record company in the past has not always been ready to jump off what is the normal track of how you do things. They always say, "You can't do this," because they don't wanna make waves. But we wanna go balls out. We always wanna make things special, because it's special for us, you know?
Our model has always been to do what we would want. We'd want a T-shirt that's quality, that doesn't fall apart after one wash. You'd want a really cool CD case that's collectible and doesn't cost an arm and a leg. Or maybe it does cost an arm and a leg, but it's still really cool. [Laughs] We also want people who hate our band to go, "Wow, that's really cool."
WHAT HAVE YOU GOT PLANNED VIDEO-WISE?
We have big plans for videos. We've got a couple in the making, and you'll see them when they come out.
FAIR ENOUGH. OBVIOUSLY, IT'S BEEN A WHILE SINCE THE LAST TOOL ALBUM. HOW DID ALL THOSE YEARS OF PEOPLE ASKING, "WHEN IS THE NEW ALBUM COMING?" AFFECT YOU?
Thank you for not saying, "Your album is 12 years in the making." [Laughs] But yeah, it has been a while. I never felt pressure, though. I felt anxiety because they would blame our singer, and it's not his fault. We all have our own things going on — lives, families, other projects, other interests — so it's ready when it's ready. But I appreciate the dedication from our fans — the very strong dedication. [Laughs] But the record turned out cool and it's very different than our last record. I think that's what we all wanted.
THE PREVAILING FORMS OF SOCIAL MEDIA — FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM, TWITTER — DIDN'T EXIST, AT LEAST PUBLICLY, WHEN YOUR LAST ALBUM CAME OUT. IN THAT SENSE, DO YOU FEEL THAT TOOL IS RE-ENTERING A COMPLETELY CHANGED WORLD WITH THIS RECORD?
Yeah, it's amazing: the future and technology. It's put a dent in the industry of music, but you've gotta adapt. The old way is a huge ship sinking, so you've gotta jump off and swim over to the new ship, which is digital and free music and a whole different approach to how you get your songs out there to people. It's exciting.
I remember in the early Nineties, I saved all my money and bought a 16mm camera and I put an intervalometer on it and it cost me, like, $9,000. And now you can do it with your phone and an app. [Laughs] I can do animation that looks just as good now for free. It's hilarious. But it hasn't spoiled anything we do. We make our money playing live and selling merchandise and selling products that are really unique that people appreciate and feel like they got their money's worth. It's not just about music anymore. The commodity has changed.
WHAT DO YOU SEE AS THE PROS AND CONS OF SOCIAL MEDIA?
It's great to be in touch with everyone. Maynard and I both do Instagram. I think Danny has an account, but I don't know how often he uses it. But I know Justin is not really into it. For me, it's great to reach people and be reached. I like to connect with my friends, so I put on personal stuff. And I like to connect with the fans, so I put on Tool stuff. I really like Instagram. I don't really wanna do Facebook anymore. But I love taking pictures. I love trying to find that shot and then sharing it. I finally got Buzz from the Melvins to get an account. He takes excellent pictures.
I have a Twitter account, but I don't really use it. I can't really think of something to say every day, but I can share a photo or something artistic that someone would appreciate, which I would appreciate. It's a reflective process, too. [Laughs]
YOU'VE BECOME A DAD TWICE SINCE THE LAST TOOL ALBUM. HOW HAS THAT AFFECTED YOUR APPROACH TO THE BAND?
I would say I'm a much happier person. It does really change you. Your friends have kids and they go, "Oh my god, it's so amazing!" And you're like, "Yeah, OK. Shut up." [Laughs] But then you have your own kids and it's true. It's mind-blowing. I love my children and I miss them when they're sleeping. It really has inspired my playing and the art that I do. Now it's kind of like I'm doing it for them, not just for myself. My five-year old is just starting to get it, you know? He knows daddy plays guitar onstage and writes music. It's wonderful to share that with someone.
ABOUT TWO YEARS AGO, THE L.A. WEEKLY PUBLISHED A PHOTO OF YOU AND YOUR WIFE IN YOUR BACKYARD, NEXT TO A GIANT STATUE OF THE APE LAWGIVER FROM PLANET OF THE APES. WHERE DID THAT COME FROM?
A friend of mine, we did makeup effects together, and way before Tim Burton or anyone did Planet of the Apes remakes, he approached the studio and told them he wanted to make museum-grade reproductions, with museum-grade silicon and glass eyes and make it really look authentic. So he went into business with them and did reproductions from the actual makeup molds that were used for the actors in the film. The Lawgiver is the one from the movie, so it's very authentic. I've had it a long time.
WHAT KIND OF EFFECT DID THAT MOVIE HAVE ON YOU WHEN YOU FIRST SAW IT?
Oh, huge. I was a little kid, so I couldn't see it in the theater. I saw it on TV for the first time, with commercials. It's so real at that age — and just mind-blowing. And the philosophy that the apes had, this kind of mystical belief and wonderment … It really touched me inside. There's lots of stuff like that. If I could have a life-size statue of Christopher Lee as Dracula in my house, I would. [Laughs]
But I'll tell you: Those kinds of movies and comic books and things like that help my music and my art. The stuff from my childhood that I'm still into, you know? When I see a movie, I try to appreciate the time it took to make. Like when someone says, "I hated Doctor Strange" — or the way they did his cape — I'm the one going, "Well, it's better than my movie." I try to regress to being a 12-year-old, because when you're 12, you like everything. So I try to surround myself with stuff like those kinds of things.
YOU'RE A PRO WRESTLING FAN, TOO, AREN'T YOU?
I like wrestling for the same reason. It makes me feel like a little kid, so I love it. That's reflected in me writing riffs and doing stuff for Tool: thinking young and being appreciative. I hear that stuff about music, too: "Don't you think music sucks now?" No! It's exactly the same, man. [Laughs] When I was a kid, people were complaining about the Osmonds and Leif Garrett and all that pop music stuff. It's no different today. You just gotta roll with the times. Which is a lot of what the record is about.