Tool Drummer Goes to Circus - Rolling Stone
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Tool Drummer Goes to Circus

Danny Carey beefs up with Pigmy Love Circus

While drummer Danny Carey — all six feet five inches of him — towers over his Tool bandmates, he’s merely average, maybe even a bit on the scrawny side, when stacked up to his behemoth Pigmy Love Circus mates. Carey’s size (not to mention his prodigious drumming skills) may even be the reason he was recruited to join PLC in the early Nineties following the departure of previous drummer Anthony Martinez. Unfortunately, Pigmy Love Circus were never able to take full advantage of Carey’s services (or his size) before he was lured away by Tool’s occult-tinged art-metal and eventual super-stardom.

But with Tool singer Maynard Keenan currently dedicating his time away from Tool to A Perfect Circle, Carey has reunited with his Pigmy pals for a little low-brow grunt rock. The result of that unholy reunion is The Power of Beef, the band’s first full-length album in more than a decade. But don’t call it a comeback for Pigmy Love Circus. “We’ve been here all along,” says Carey without a hint of irony.

If you don’t know a thing about Pigmy Love Circus, however, the first thing you need to know is that the members — vocalist Michael Savage, bassist E. Shepherd Stevenson, guitarist Peter Fletcher and Carey — are comfortable taking liberties with the truth. It’s not that they’re lying, exactly, more like myth making. All done in the name of fun.

Pigmy Love Circus aim to provide a kick in the crotch to all the uptight and overwrought rock bands moping around MTV. The band’s live shows are legendary for the thunderous biker metal and Savage’s bizarre antics, not to mention an imposing stage presence thrown by the entire band. The power of beef indeed.

“We’re a big, scary band, but we also get people to laugh,” says the gruff-voiced Savage, who looks remarkably like a muscle-bound Billy Bob Thornton. “Sometimes they laugh out of fear when they see us, but afterwards when they meet us they realize that we’re OK.”

Savage is Pigmy Love Circus’ ringleader and has fronted the band since its inception in 1987. His massive tattoo-covered arms and grizzled profile give him the appearance of a just-out-of-the-slammer ex-con who’s seen a lot in his life. This image may, in fact, be more intimidating than the man himself, but his down-and-dirty lyrics are based on real-life experiences.

“Oh yeah, a lot of them are,” he says. “I like the characters in life. They’re what makes life interesting. Strange, alien people; dangerous folks; weird, nutty people — I’ve run with a heavy crowd off and on through my life. It’s not a badge I wear going, ‘Yeah, I’m bad,’ but I’ve known a lot of really hard-core people.”

Seedy tracks like “Livin’ Like Shit,” “Bone Orchard,” “Headless Horseman” and “12 Gauge Kiss” may focus on society’s seamy underbelly, but, at least in Carey’s mind, they are one of many aspects that he believes sets Pigmy Love Circus apart from the “corporate ca-ca.”

“The sincerity of delivery is what always strikes me when I hear a good band,” he explains. “It’s artist-expression driven, as opposed to being record-producer driven. There’s a huge difference. One’s motivation is impure, while the other is the highest form of expression, so that’s what you aim for.

“We’re not doing this for money, we’re doing it because we love it. There’s no way that a little boy band or some of the other bullshit pop music out there can make a claim like that.”

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