Emerging in the early 1990s, Tool bridged the gap between classic heavy metal and alternative rock, mixing grinding guitars, dark thundering rhythms, and challenging lyrics. The band never appeared in its own videos, which were typically intense and macabre, yet their brooding sound found a large mainstream following.
Maynard James Keenan was born the only child of a Baptist family near Akron, Ohio. He joined the army in 1982, after spending his youth in Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Texas. He eventually landed in L.A., where he met guitarist Adam Jones, a sculptor and film special-effects designed who had worked on Jurassic Park and Terminator 2. With bassist Paul D'Amour and drummer Danny Carey, they formed a band, originally called Toolshed.
Within a year Tool signed with Zoo Entertainment, and in 1992 released an EP, Opiate. That was followed a year later with Undertow (Number 50, 1993), which explored themes of inner turmoil with a sound that merged prog rock with punk energy. The album included the Modern Rock radio hits "Sober" and "Prison Sex," a song about child abuse. During the recording of Aenima (Number Two, 1996), D'Amour quit to form a new band, Lusk, and was replaced by Justin Chancellor.
Long periods between albums frequently led to breakup rumors, also fueled by the formation in 2000 of Keenan's band A Perfect Circle, which released Mer De Noms. Rumors were put to rest when Tool released Lateralus in mid-2001. The record was a commercial and artistic triumph, reaching the top of the Billboard charts, netting the best reviews of the band's career and garnering the group their second Grammy. Tool followed the album — as had become the norm — with a period of relative hibernation while Keenan occupied himself once again with A Perfect Circle.
In 2006, Tool reconvened for the release of 10,000 Days. Though not as universally well-received as Lateralus, the record still found the group exploring the fringes of heavy metal. The songs were long and exploratory, confronting both televised violence and human mortality with the same grim tone. The album's packaging was even more elaborate than Lateralus, featuring a pair of "binoculars" that added depth and contour to the album art. The record was followed by a tour, which showcased again the group's inimitable flair for the visual. After the release of 10,000 Days, Keenan embarked on another side project — this one called Puscifer. In 2009, Tool embarked on a brief summer festival tour but did not play new material.
Portions of this biography appeared in The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll (Simon & Schuster, 2001). J. Edward Keyes contributed to this article.
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