Former Tool Bassist Goes Pop With Lusk

Not what you'd expect from an ex-Tool guy.

"Lusk is probably the first thing I've ever done that I'm truly

pleased with," Paul D'Amour tells me on the phone from his digs in Seattle,

Washington. Coming from the former bassist of one of the hottest bands in

modern metal, that statement is a weighty one to be tossing around. You see,

D'Amour left Tool just as they was beginning work on their most recent album,

Aenima. But he and Lusk co-founder Chris Pitman don't want me to mention

that band at all because they're afraid -- and rightly so -- people will

assume Lusk falls into the same grind 'n' growl category.

Quite the

contrary. Lusk's debut release, Free Mars, is anything but. Awash in

harmonized vocals, neo-psychedelic guitars and lush string arrangements, Lusk

sounds like what would happen if Pink Floyd, the Beatles and the Beach Boys had

jammed together in 1969. "We both have our definite prog-rock roots," D'Amour

explains. "And a definite love for crafty songwriting via the Beatles and the

Kinks and bands like that."

But please, don't lump them in with Oasis. "We

didn't know about any 'Britpop' stuff," Pitman says. "That's the only bad

thing, because now people say, 'Oh, you must be inspired by Britpop,' and I'm

like, 'No way.' "

Pitman attributes their sound to a plum California studio

where he and D'Amour hooked up a year ago. "We were just going to do an

experimental record," he explains. "But we got this rehearsal space where

Fleetwood Mac and the Beach Boys and all these people used to rehearse. It's

kept the same way it was back then, and it's really nostalgic. I think that

rubbed off into what we were doing."

Even so, Free Mars is not

without its experimental leanings...



Even so, Free Mars is not without its experimental

leanings, owing to the duo's long-standing involvement in a side project called

Zaum which includes musicians from several Los Angeles bands. They also

recorded an album in 1995 under the name the Replicants, covering songs by Paul

McCartney and the Cars. After jamming together for a few years, D'Amour decided

he wanted to work with Pitman on a more permanent basis.

Zaum's roster

spilled over into the Lusk sessions. Although D'Amour and Pitman take most of

the credit for vocals, guitars, keyboards and arrangements, the album includes

guest appearances from Brad Lannery of Medicine, Greg Edwards from Failure,

Tool's Danny Carey and at least one ghost.

"We had a woman come in and

play harp," D'Amour says. "That's actually Harpo Marx's harp on the record. She

inherited it."

So the spirit of Harpo Marx is on Free Mars?

"Oh,

absolutely. Probably more than you know," he laughs.

Lusk made an

impression on attendees of this year's South by Southwest convention, but their

first set of tour dates didn't go so well. "We got thrown in with this bar-band

stuff, which we hated," Pitman explains. "They put us up with a band called

Orbit; they're kind of a metal grind, and it was bad."

In the future, Lusk

plans to include some unusual musicians in their on-stage line-up to dispel any

preconceived notions. "If you throw up a giant concert harp and cellos, people

will know that the approach is really different," Pitman says.

D'Amour is

currently plotting a video for the bouncy first single, "Backworlds." "We're

blowing up a child," he says. "Well, it's sort of implied," he continues,

refusing to explain further.

The duo is equally vague on the source of

their name. "It's the 'linear undulating savvy kangaroos,' " Pitman deadpans.

D'Amour says it comes from a poster in the rehearsal studio depicting two

stoic male busts facing one another with the word "Lusk" underneath. "It just

stopped you in your tracks. You go, 'what the hell is that?'"

Pitman

elaborates. "It's pretty much like the band, you don't know what the hell's

going on."

While the group's record might take some getting used to, the

duo say they intended it that way. "We just tried to make it really versatile

for the listener, not a one-dimensional record where once you hear the first

four songs, you might as well just turn it off," says Pitman.

"The one

thing I really wanted to accomplish was making a record that people didn't

'get' instantaneously," adds D'Amour. "You gotta put a little into it before

you can get something out of it."