"It's a career best": The inside story of Tool's first album in 13 years

In the new edition of Music Week, we dive deep into the return of revered, multi-platinum, Grammy Award-winning LA metallers Tool as they release their first album in 13 years.

After numerous delays – including a protracted lawsuit – the group comprised of 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 on August 30.

In our huge feature, we speak to the band’s manager Pete Riedling, Music For Nations label head Julie Weir and RCA Records US co-president John Fleckenstein to get the story of a comeback campaign like no other.

“The sheer depth of sound, and intricacies in there make it a many faceted beast of an album,” Weir told Music Week of Fear Inoculum. “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.”

Part of what makes Tool’s return so unique is the double-headed nature of it.

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: their discography was finally going to be made available on streaming sites. For years Tool had been one of the most high-profile artists not to embrace the streaming revolution, they had even previously resisted the humble download of yesteryear. When 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.”

Naturally, Music Week tried 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 said, 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 the rumour about Tool wanting to keep the integrity of the whole album?

“Yeah,” nodded 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 added. “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.”    

 

The reason Tool weren’t on streaming wasn’t so much streaming itself, it was downloads more than anything

Pete Riedling, Satellite Management

 

Within the opportunity to score a new generation of fans via streaming, however, also lies a challenge, one extremely particular to Tool.

“If you’re a fan of Tool, these albums are meant to be listened to start to finish,” said 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.”

Fleckenstein was confident that going forward Tool will find compelling new ways of rolling 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.”

Music Week subcribers can read the full Tool feature here.

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