TOOL bassist Justin Chancellor spoke to Bass Player about the progress of the songwriting sessions for the band’s long-awaited follow-up to 2006’s “10,000 Days” album. He said: “We’re pretty deep into the writing process now, and we’ve narrowed things down to big groups of ideas.
“For the past few months, we’ve been working on one of the newer songs fairly exclusively. We get the gist of it and find the main themes that make up the skeleton between verses and choruses. Then we explore different ways we can depart from that and come back to it and flip it upside down, and take the time to see what else is there.
“Everyone knows we take our time. We’re really trying to be responsible with ourselves in trying to discover ideas that haven’t been discovered before. It’s kind of an alchemy, how we experiment.”
Asked what causes such large gaps of time between TOOL albums, Justin said: “Writing is a grueling process for us, and once we finish an album, we go on tour for a couple of years. Plus, we’re always very involved in our own business, so we need a break when we come back. We’ve also been through a lot of difficult lawsuits, which we deal with ourselves, and they’re a bit of a bummer and not inspiring creatively. But we’ve fought to be in this position, and it’s almost a responsibility now to take the time to explore special concepts while we’re on this planet.”
He continued: “We’re our own worst critics; we’re doing our best to find something that blows us all away, and we want each other to be completely happy with what we produce. I’m excited that there’s going to be another album and the material will be very inspiring. So why rush it now?”
Justin added that it’s “understandable” TOOL fans are constantly asking the band when the new album is going to be done. “It’s a compliment that people are excited to hear it,” he said. “But it’s difficult to hear that and not feel some kind of guilt. All I can say is that we’ll go back Monday and do our best to finish it for you, although that’s not really how it works. But we know the listeners will be happy with it when it’s finished.”
Chancellor also spoke about the TOOL songwriting process, explaining: “Adam [Jones, guitar] and I usually have the source material we’ve come up with together here. We’re playing pretty much nonstop right now, so a lot of ideas are coming out. Often, Danny [Carey, drums] and I will be playing something and Adam will rush into the room and tell us to record it, and then we’ll spend the rest of the day working on it to see if it’s worthwhile. And of course we have a whole treasure chest of ideas on our phones that we record on our own. Basically, Adam and I have riffs and Danny has rhythms or different time-signature beats, and we try to keep them basic before bringing them in to see what the other members will do with them. We establish a riff so we and the listener can identify it, and then we say, Okay, now how far away from it can we go on this journey?”
TOOL frontman Maynard James Keenan recently pushed back against accusations that he’s been “lazy” about working on the band’s new disc, telling The Wall Street Journal: “I really love LED ZEPPELIN, and it’s a shame they’re not making more records, more records. But I got up this morning without any problem. We’re working on it… Do I appear to you to be a lazy person who doesn’t want to get that done?”
Keenan said that his approach to making music is the same as his approach to other aspects of his life, remarking: “If the fruit’s not ready, I can’t pick it. If it’s not ready I move on to something else.”
Jones reportedly told fans during a meet-and-greet session in October that he, Carey and Chancellor have been working on new music three days a week.
While he said that they have two albums’ worth of material prepared, he added that only five of those songs meet the “TOOL standard” and that Keenan has yet to write or sing lyrics for anything.