The members of Tool aren't at all jealous of frontman Maynard James Keenan's commitment to his other band, A Perfect Circle. They enjoy the downtime. And when they get antsy, they can get to work on new ideas without having a hands-on singer getting in the way.
For months, drummer Danny Carey, guitarist Adam Jones and bassist Justin Chancellor have been jamming together, and they've already got the framework for 10 to 12 new songs.
"They're very much in the infant stage, where we have all these different jams and we start piecing them together," Carey said. "There are no true arrangements yet. We like to develop ideas, but we don't want to solidify anything too much until Maynard gets involved."
Tool will continue to write as a trio until mid-June, when Keenan finishes touring with A Perfect Circle. Then they'll work through the songs with their singer for another two or three months before hitting the studio, Carey said. While it's too early to get an overall read on the new songs, Carey described the material as heavier and more intense than the group's last disc, 2001's Lateralus.
"There seems to be a little more brute force going on in the music, rather than being lighter and more intricate like some of the stuff on the last record," Carey said. "It still has quirky time changes, but so far we've been working on really heavy stuff."
In part, the aggressive vibe of the material has been a reaction to Tool's tours with thunderously intricate bands like Fantômas and Swedish death-prog band Meshuggah.
"[Fantômas singer] Mike Patton and [Fantômas/Slayer drummer] Dave Lombardo — those guys are a good, heavy influence," Carey said. "And we did most of the dates on our last tour with Meshuggah. They're incredibly heavy, so it was a good kick in the teeth playing with them."
Carey said he hopes the new Tool record will be ready for release by the end of the year, but he added that it may not be issued until early 2005 in order to avoid being lost in the Christmas shuffle.
In addition to rehearsing new songs from noon to 4 p.m. every day, Tool-minus-Maynard have also been putting together a DVD of footage from the Lateralus tour, which they plan to release this summer.
"It's going to be something really cool," Carey said. "It won't be just another band-playing-live video."
Tool are also editing footage of a lengthy conversation between themselves and Alex Grey, the psychedelic painter who created the artwork for Lateralus, for future release. "Alex is in the process of releasing a book on his function in the Lateralus tour with his artwork, so we're thinking we might release them as a package together," Carey said.
When he wasn't working with Jones and Chancellor, Carey spent his free evenings in his home studio writing and recording with Pigmy Love Circus, a band he originally played with before joining Tool. Following a reunion gig at the House of Blues in West Hollywood last year, Pigmy wrote the record The Power of Beef, which Carey drummed on and produced.
"It's a good-time, straight-on power band," Carey said. "Tool is a lot more intricate and more dynamic, but there's nothing like playing full-ahead, balls-out, raw power, too, and I don't get to do that as much in Tool."