Tool might be among rock's most revered artists, but don't think for a second that they don't care about selling albums. When 10,000 Days, their first LP in five years, debuted atop the Billboard albums chart this week, bassist Justin Chancellor said he was a bit relieved.
"You never quite know if anyone's going to care anymore when it's been so long, so it's nice to know people are still into it," he commented on 10,000 Days selling 564,000 copies in its first week (see "Tool, Pearl Jam Claim Billboard Chart In The Name Of Rock"). "With it being five years since the last one, you don't really know what's going to happen. None of us are complete experts on the industry, but we were happily surprised — I mean, we were hoping for #1."
There was some doubt that the disc would sell as much as it did, Chancellor said, given the album leaked to the Internet the week before it was released.
"You never quite know," he said. "We were really bummed out about [the album leaking]. We took a lot of precautions to stop that from happening. But you can pretty much guarantee it'll leak as soon as the finished packaging and CDs are put in the trucks to be shipped to Alaska or whatever. As soon as that happens, you can guarantee that it's going to get leaked. We sort of expected it, and we were pretty much pleased that it managed to last that long without getting out there, and even happier people wanted to go out and buy it anyway."
Tool began writing for 10,000 Days 18 months ago, Chancellor said, years after the release of 2001's Lateralus. The bandmembers worked on material individually before convening in a studio setting to perfect the songs.
"We had a lot of ideas that were left over from [the Lateralus sessions], and all of us worked on coming up with riffs and ideas," he explained. "We just made a big pile in the middle of the room of ideas, and you start playing around with them and you start jamming. It's kind of a process of exploration and discovery. And at some point, the ideas started coming together in groups and they become songs."
The actual recording of the LP, Chancellor said, proved a much more "fluid" process for Tool, "because everyone was getting on much better this time, and the attention to detail was a little more involved on everyone's part. I think we worked a lot more with [frontman] Maynard [James Keenan] during much of the process, so there's a lot of interaction between the music and the vocals. It was a more positive experience on my end. The last album was a real hard road and a little like pulling teeth at times. These sessions were more enjoyable."
Tool are wrapping up a brief run of U.S. clubs and will perform Thursday night (May 11) in Kansas City, Kansas. Dates are booked through May 21 in Boston. Most of the stops along the trek sold out in mere minutes, leaving several of Tool's fans out in the cold. But Chancellor said the band will be back on the road in August, and the group is mapping an eight-week arena trek that'll carry the group through the end of September. "People will be able to get tickets for that tour," he cracked. "Right now, we're basically doing a bit of a warm-up run. We haven't played in a couple of years and we need to get our chops back together."
When the late-summer tour launches really depends on the weather, he said. Keenan, a wine connoisseur, plans to return to his Merkin Vineyards in Sedona, Arizona, at some point this summer so that he can overlook the harvesting of this year's grape crop. Later this year, Keenan plans to release a 2004 Nagual de la Naga, a 2004 Nagual del Sensei and a new Primer Paso.
"There are a few weeks where he has to be back and doing that, and we appreciate that it's his passion and he wants to be hands-on with it," Chancellor said.
Now that the long wait's over for Tool fans thirsting for new material, it begs a very obvious question: Will Tool force those same loyal fans to wait another five years before there's another new LP? Sure, they're working on a live DVD and are in talks to be featured in the forthcoming "Guitar Hero 2" video game, but what about another studio effort?
"If a band [puts out an album a year], how can you live any life? How can you evolve? How can you have anything new to say? Maybe you can, but I don't hear it. You win on one level and you lose on another level that way. With us, it sucks — you don't get any music for a long time, but when you do, it's something you can sink your teeth into. It lasts a little longer. Think of it like fast food — sure, it's instantly satisfying, but it doesn't really sort you out in the long run. I don't know which is better, but that's just how we roll, you could say."