Tool's Adam Jones toggles between artistic interpretations and arduous practicalities

The guitarist took time to talk to Postmedia ahead of the band’s string of Canadian dates, including a concert at Rogers Place in Edmonton Oct. 25

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Adam Jones of Tool is being questioned about his band’s latest album, Fear Inoculum, and the interview is slowly disintegrating into an amorphous puddle of words.

“You’re asking someone as an outside observer and you’re trying to understand, but sometimes it’s… impossible,” the guitarist says kindly after going back a few times over his words, trying to find an honest answer to a badly phrased query. “Why do birds fly south? Well, because it gets cold, but it’s also a little bit more than that.”

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To be fair, Jones isn’t trying to be unclear or evasive with his avian analogies. He’s responding to what are rather standard questions about influences and working methods, and correctly dismissing them as tiresome and clichéd. Not in a mean way, but simply letting the interviewer know he knows how predictable they are, and he’s attempting to offer some kind of insight into art.

After all, he and his bandmates (vocalist Maynard James Keenan, drummer Danny Carey, drummer and bass player Justin Chancellor) have been barraged with many of these questions since the album dropped in 2019. Why was there such a long period between Fear Inoculum and 2006’s 10,000 Days? Was there any truth to the rumours of inter-band conflict? How were the songs written?

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“Well, we all have different tastes in music,” Jones says about his band, whose collective experiences have resulted in a post-metal sound that’s influenced countless other outfits but has never been successfully replicated. “It’s not like we’re all listening to Led Zeppelin and thus we sound like Led Zeppelin. It’s very collective. I mean, you know, I can’t stand some of the stuff that a few of my bandmates listen to. Other times I hear something and I think, ‘Oh man, I could actually get into this, it’s cool.’ Then there’s the approach to music, people who learn by ear while others are technically schooled.”

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Jones and his bandmates, who kick off their Canadian dates Oct. 22 in Kelowna, certainly worked hard at Fear Inoculum, but they weren’t camped out in the studio night after night grinding it out. Side projects, a lawsuit, and a motorcycle accident slowed things down for a period, as did an understanding that nothing would be released until it was good enough. Tracks were scrapped or redeveloped, and personal schedules prolonged the recording schedule. At one point, Jones, who works in special effects and set design on the side, got a call from friends at a special effects studio.

“We had some downtime, and Legacy Studios were like, ‘Come on and help us,’” he says. “They were working on the new Alien movie. ‘Come on over to Prague.’ I would have done it but then I started working again with the band. But it’s all good, I’ll return — you need to keep doing the things you’re passionate about, whether music or other stuff.”

A quote from Keenan is brought up where he talks about how recording a Tool album is a battle of sorts.

“Sure, there is a battle but there’s also a really beautiful click when it works out,” Jones acknowledges. “I hope he was communicating that it’s a successful battle because I think it’s one of those things where you curse the conflict, and when it’s done you say, ‘Let’s do it again.’”

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Are both of us dancing around discussing Fear Inoculum itself? Sure we are, because at this point it’s impossible to talk about the tricky rhythms and inventive bass and guitar lines intertwining through songs like 7empest and the title track itself without descending into guitar magazine tech talk. All we can do is shift questions and answers back and forth discussing the wide sonic territory Tool can range over and still keep their substantial fan base.

“We were never trying to get signed,” Jones explains. “Music was always a side passion project and I think that has a lot to do with our viewpoint. A lot of people have to play the game, especially in places like Hollywood where you need to kind of keep up with modern trends. That wasn’t something we were ever interested in. Like, when we first got signed or offered our first record offer, we laughed for three or four weeks. So sure, it’s a pinch-myself kind of situation. We have the luxury to do things by our own rules.”


When Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.

Where Rogers Place

Tickets Starting at $59 in advance from

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