Tool: My Grand Canyon Musical Influence
What Up-and-Coming Artists can Learn from a Veteran Rock Band
My name is Daniel Wagner: a music industry servant, marketing mastermind, and the host of the Stars Underground Podcast—helping talented musicians become underground stars through personal growth, mindset shifts, and proven tips and tricks for getting the most out of your marketing and promotional efforts. For more, head over to Starsunderground.com and get your free copy of “Shameless Plugs and Reintroductions: and 9 other ways to supercharge your online promotional efforts”
Maynard James Keenan, front man and vocalist for the Tool, A Perfect Circle, and Puscifer, has never disappointed me when it comes to “expect the unexpected.” That night Maynard came out on stage donning a matching lace bra and panty set and high heels, and still rocked the house. I remember thinking, why in the hell is he…
I vividly remember going to see Tool live in Wichita, KS. Typically at concerts, I would be moving around place to place, dodging gorillas in the mosh pit, and generally having a party of the show. However, this show was different. It was the first time I stood in a single place through the entire show and was somehow hypnotized by the spectacle of it all.
It was just cool to see.
Tool has always been a huge influence for me when it comes to nearly all creative pursuits in my life. Everything from my writing, drawing, woodworking, etc., has been hugely influenced by certain elements this band (and brand) represents.
There was an interview years ago that has stuck with me in which Maynard commented on why the band never put out any DVD box sets of their live performances. He compared witnessing the live shows to seeing the Grand Canyon. You can look at the beautiful canyon through photographs, but it just does not have the same impact to your soul as actually standing at the edge and absorbing it through all of your senses. Looking at it through a screen or in a photo takes away from the grandness of it all.
A great thing that intrigued me about this band is that it has always been about the art first. While most bands are trying to drop another album every year or two, Tool, at the bare minimum, would only release an album about five years or so. They took the time to actually create a familiar sound but there are no two songs that sound alike; as if they let their creations ferment and age like fine wine—and I feel the world is better for it.
When it comes to the “marketing” (for lack of a better term) of the music these guys really did a number of things right. By making the decision to not release a box set, for example, kind of forced their fans to actually buy a ticket to the show to get the full experience.
But what was that experience?
In the early days of the band, it was a constant mystery who these guys were. While the live shows were spectacles in and of themselves, the stage was always backlit so that you only saw silhouettes of the members. The music videos never featured the band playing their instruments or performing; instead they were these creepy Claymation mini movies that played in time with the rhythm. It was certainly a one-of-a-kind experience, to say the least.
See Tool’s “Sober” video here:
I think up-and-coming artists can learn a ton by looking into the way Tool came to be; how they grew and how they achieved such a rabid and dedicated fan base. It just goes to show that you don’t have to shoot out music like a garden sprinkler to keep fans coming back.
It’s about quality over quantity.
It’s about the mystery and intrigue.
Also, it’s about time they put out their next album in my honest and humble opinion.
Do you have any awesome stories about a unique live show experience you had? Tell me about it in the comment section, I’d love to hear about it.
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Professor David Philp is Assistant Professor Music Management & Popular Music Studies at William Paterson University. He is the co-host of the only FREE advice college radio-based music & entertainment industry talk show in America, Music Biz 101 & More, which airs live most Wednesday nights and is available as a podcast HERE every night (days too). Reach him at PhilpD@wpunj.edu or find him on LinkedIn HERE.