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Paul D'Amour

Paul D’Amour Explains His 1995 Exit From Tool And The Band’s Exhaustive Creative Process: “You Don’t Need To Spend 10 Years To Make An Album”


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Tool‘s fans are often characterized as an exhaustively rabid bunch who can tend to border on the overzealous. In the past some of the band’s admirers have taken their fandom to the extreme, allegedly issuing death threats to the group over the extremely protracted work ethic in place regarding new music.

With multi-year waits having now ballooned into decades between the quartet’s releases, members of the band themselves have more recently expressed that the luxury of time is not something they can rely on forever.

In intentionally keeping the press at arm’s length in their earlier years, the multi-platinum alternative metallers were able to craft an enigmatic air of mystery about them. As traditional media gave way to the internet, it was perhaps this well established wall of mystery that inadvertently birthed the feverish fandom and attention to detail that became pervasive among Tool‘s online following.

Of course nowadays, social media and somewhat frequent interviews have all but shattered that secrecy. But it’s still intriguing to find out about the inner workings of the group when it came to their first few albums that quickly propelled them to mainstream success. Case in point, this now fully published interview with the band’s ex-bassist Paul D’Amour.

Conducted by Bass Player, a previous excerpt from this chat found D’Amour detailing how he trained his eventual replacement in the band, Justin Chancellor. Tool were already well into the writing process for their 3x multi-platinum 1996 sophomore album “Ænima” when D’Amour exited the fold in 1995.

His songwriting contributions to that album included five songs, among them fan favorites like “Stinkfist“, “Eulogy“, “Pushit” and more. D’Amour opened up on his exit from Tool in this new chat with Bass Player, while also discussing his contributions to the band and more. When asked about what led to his decision to walk away, he offered:

“I think at the beginning of the band, we were all happy to be there. I’d written a bunch of stuff beforehand, and then those guys had some riffs. It was already kind of there in a weird way; we just had to sort of nurture it.

We nursed that for several years and multiple tours, playing those same songs, and all that success came. And honestly, I feel like all of a sudden there was this sophomore slump. People started overthinking all the parts, and I never was that way as a musician. I was always somebody that writes out of instinct.

When we got to writing ‘Ænima‘, we spent a year and basically wrote five songs. That, to me, was so frustrating. And I think Adam [Jones, Tool guitarist] was really in this moment where he was trying to find his voice as a guitar player.

He was just so unsure about everything, and playing the same parts over and over and over. And I was just like, ‘Oh, my God, I can’t!’ I really couldn’t deal with it, you know?

I just felt like that was never going to end, no matter how much we beat that into the ground and talked about this and that. I’d probably would have left that band 10 times by now because they still operate the same way.

They make great music – but dude, you don’t need to spend 10 years to make an album, you know? They’re great riffs, but they’re not that complicated.”

When it was pointed out that the band take a long time in-between albums (the wait between “10,000 Days” and their most recent effort, “Fear Inoculum” was roughly 13 years), D’Amour responded:

“And I think they’re all frustrated in that. I don’t know how those guys stick it out. So I just felt frustrated, and as you know, in that band it was always like, ‘Okay, the bass player can only write the bass parts. A guitar player can only write the guitar parts.’ No one can comment on anything regarding the song except your part.

But not to me – I don’t think that’s how creative things happen. If you’re in a band, you’ve got to listen, hear each other and expand on ideas. It just felt really stifling for me as a person; I just started doing other shit because I was bored.

People don’t always realize that I worked on ‘Ænima‘… I’m proud of how the band went on to bring these sounds to the next level

I did that Replicants cover album, and it was the funnest thing I ever did. It was the first time I got to experiment with keyboards, different pedals, play guitar, do vocals – whatever. I realized that’s what I need to be doing as an artist.”

As for his contributions to “Ænima“, he offered:

“People don’t always realize that I worked on that record. You can hear a big transformation of the sound of the band there and they give Justin credit for bringing that to the band. We already wrote and recorded half of that album before I left the band. He just re-recorded my parts verbatim. Actually, someone posted the originals of those songs on YouTube. I’m just wanting people to know that he did not invent that sound out of whole cloth.

I’m just setting the record straight on this stuff – I’ve never really commented on this before. I also want to make sure that I don’t come across as sounding angry or regretful at all. I’m quite proud of how the band went on to bring these sounds to the next level.”

When it was pointed out how he was relatively graceful with his transition out of the band, D’Amour responded:

“I mean, it definitely was painful. It’s like, you pour your heart and soul into something, watch it blow up, and the whole world is excited about it.

And then you have this gut feeling that it’s not making you happy anymore. It was really hard to do that. But I knew I couldn’t sustain that in the end with those personalities there – and I’m not gonna name names.”

While much of the wait between output from Tool has been attributed to the punishingly laborious creative process detailed above, it’s not the only contributing factor to the group’s shrinking quantity of sonic output over the years.

The outfit’s vocalist Maynard James Keenan recently revealed to Metal Hammer that the luxuries of success also made keeping the group locked in the studio, or at least less reliant on keeping up with consistent releases of new material, less exigent.

As Keenan put it, “When you have to actually struggle to find the food, find the shelter, find the clothing, there’s something to be said for that friction. It’s where the art happens. But when you’re rich and cozy, time is a beast, ’cause there’s no sense of urgency.”

You can find the rest of this chat with D’Amour, which also touches on his current work with industrial metal legends Ministry, over at Guitar World.

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