Tool has proven to be a band that doesn’t cave to convention.
Since forming in Los Angeles in 1990, the Grammy award-winning heavy rock band known for hits such as “Sober,” “Schism” and “Stinkfist,” has enjoyed global success, critical acclaim and garnered hordes of die-hard fans even though it has experienced extended periods of inactivity and has only released four full-length albums.
Amid circulating rumors back in March that vocalist Maynard James Keenan (who also fronts rock acts A Perfect Circle and Puscifer) had entered the studio to lay down vocal tracks for the band’s fifth album, its first since 2006’s “10,000 Days,” Tool announced a batch of North American tour dates that included its previously announced headlining sets at the Boston Calling Music Festival on May 28 and The Governors Ball Music Festival in New York City on June 2.
Though Southern California was left off the initial announcement, a month later the band teased an aerial photo via social media of a sprawling outdoor concert venue with the Tool logo Photoshopped onto the grassy lawn, along with the date, June 24. Savvy local fans instantly picked out that the venue was in fact Glen Helen Amphitheater (formerly San Manuel Amphitheater) in San Bernardino, however the image sparked further rumors of an album announcement or release date for fans elsewhere.
“There are a good variety of fans that are very passionate about the next record we have coming out,” Tool guitarist Adam Jones said in a recent phone interview.
“They’re always like ‘But it’s been 10 years,’ but we just go by our own rules in what we do and we’d like to do another record, but it has to be right for everyone and the timing has to be right. For those fans, any taste of anything that’s obscure and they’re wondering if it’s something for the new record or they’re looking for a sign. It’s nice that they’re passionate about it. That’s a very good thing. It’s rewarding to have your fans wanting more, but we just have to do it in our own time and by our own rules.”
Though the ambiguous posted venue photo wasn’t a hint at when a new album will drop, it was announcing Tool’s Glen Helen Amphitheater appearance on Saturday, June 24, as something more than just a regular stop along this tour.
Electronic duo The Crystal Method had been tapped and announced as support on this particular leg of the jaunt, however Tool revealed that it had added several other acts strictly to its Southern California gig including rock bands Primus, the Melvins, Clutch and Fantômas, a rock supergroup fronted by Faith No More vocalist Mike Patton.
“We’re not using the ‘F-word’ on this – you know, festival,” Jones said. “It was just a nice opportunity since we were playing that outdoor venue to be like, ‘We’ll let’s add one more band. OK, wait, let’s at one more. OK, maybe one more.’
“Our band has always taken the route of what would we want if we went to a show and what I would want if I bought a ticket, a T-shirt or a record, is to get my money’s worth. We didn’t have to up the price of the ticket or anything like that for this show, we just had to fatten the budget a little so we could have more bands and just make a fun day of it. It’s definitely not going to be like Lollapalooza or anything, just a day with bands that you can come out, enjoy and have a good time.”
The show does have an earlier start time, kicking off at around 2 p.m. to accommodate the eclectic mix of performances and Jones did note that, of course, Tool does have a couple of things up its sleeves to share exclusively with its hometown crowd. He’s also unsure if this sort of event will become something Tool does on an annual basis at Glen Helen Amphitheater, though he doesn’t rule out the possibility of future Tool-curated shows at the venue.
“We’re a band that has always tried to do something different the next time we come to town,” he said. “Early on in our career we played the Church of Scientology Center in Los Angeles just to like do it because we wanted people to go ‘Oh, remember that show? Remember it?’ Now a handful of people think we’re Scientologists, but whatever, the point is to have something different, so we will see if we do this again. Let’s maybe get the record done and start to figure out that kind of stuff first.”
As far as the new album, Jones confirms that the band is diligently working on that, obviously taking a month-long break from the process to head out on this tour. It is a welcome interruption, Jones said, and collectively the group is just excited to be back out in front of audiences.
“You’re on the road and it’s still work, but it feels like a vacation,” he said with a laugh, noting that the band would finally be headed into areas it hadn’t performed in a decade or longer, like New York City. “We could play to 20,000 or 30,000 people or get in front of 100 people and I’d rock out just as hard. It’s true. It’s just what we do. We’re all still very passionate about what we do, but we’re older, we have families and people have other projects so it’s a little harder to get together and commit and we’ve had some legal battles, and still kind of do, so that does get in the way of being creative.”
The band has been playing one new song out on the road called “Descending,” though the track has certainly morphed and been added to in a variety of ways since it debuted in the set back in 2015. Jones said that the band has been incorporating several bits and pieces of new material into its live sets via a series of jams.
“The best way to explain it is that it’s like when a new movie is coming out,” he explained. “It’s a really anticipated movie, so the first trailer is really obscure and you’re like ‘Wait, what?’ That’s what we’re doing. We took the song that is finished, it’s called ‘Descending,’ and we just took the most obscure bits and put it together to give a little taste of what’s coming.”
With: Primus, the Melvins, the Crystal Method, Clutch and Fantômas
When: 2 p.m. Saturday, June 24
Where: Glen Helen Amphitheater, 2575 Glen Helen Parkway, San Bernardino
Tickets: $39.50-$125.50 at 800-745-3000 or Livenation.com
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