Interview: Adam Jones of Tool — "I always looked at what I wanted to do in life like a movie soundtrack or a film"
Tue, 06 Jul 2010 17:11:39
Adam Jones is today's Jimmy Page.
On each of Tool's albums, the guitarist conjures a symphony of distorted bliss and polyrhythmic elegance that's as complex as it is catchy. Pummeling riffs often give way to an eerie hum, teetering between psychedelic and psychotic, but always remaining unforgettable. However, just like the Led Zeppelin mastermind, Adam's artistic talents extend far beyond the sonic realm…
An accomplished visual artist, Adam's pieces evoke the same delicate darkness that his guitar playing does, while his music videos for Tool function as entrancing representations of the quartet's aural wizardry.
In addition to touring with Tool at the moment, Adam's entangled in a myriad of artistic projects. He's writing and producing the X Files/30 Days of Night graphic novel series with Steve Niles, and his art will be on display at Alternative Press's 25th anniversary group exhibition at the Merry Karnowsky Gallery in L.A. The gallery's opening reception is July 9th, while Tool is crisscrossing North America on another mind-blowing live jaunt. The art show officially opens on July 10th and runs through July 24 at Merry Karnowsky.
Tool guitarist Adam Jones spoke to ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino in this exclusive interview about the similarities between visual art and music, the Alternative Press show, X files/30 Days of Night and who would direct the Tool story…
Do you feel like making visual art and writing songs come from the same creative place? Are they similar thought processes?
That's a great question! Absolutely! For as long as I can remember—even as a little kid just closing my eyes—I always looked at what I wanted to do in life like a movie soundtrack or a film. I think the two go together. Kind of being a nerd and a loner, I was always involved in music, drawing and sculpting. Sound and art both complement each other. You can make a poster or you can write some music, but when you put the two together, then you make the poster or the images move.
You can do both separately, but when they come together the effect is even more powerful.
It's very passionate. It's totally in my heart, and I wouldn't want to just do one without the other.
Which works of yours will be at the Alternative Press show? Is there a certain story associated with this art in particular?
I was at the Mark Ryden show in New York. It was the last opening, and it was really cool. I met Norman Wonderly from AP. AP has always been very supportive of our band. We're one of those bands that falls between the cracks of other publications. We're too prog for metal, we're too metal for rock or indie and we're too this for that—like The Melvins [Laughs]. AP has always got us though. On that level, I was thanking Norman, and he told me about this show. He asked me if I wanted to contribute something, and I got really excited because I've been studying oil painting with Phil Hale for three months. I lived in England and sat right next to him one-on-one and just learned. He's a huge hero of mine. I really wanted to do some oil paintings and put them in the show, but I don't think I'm really there yet. However, I'd done this sculpture. Our bass player Justin [Chancellor] was in this band Peach during the early '90s, and that's how we met him. I was really into them. After Justin joined Tool, he was releasing Peach's album in the states, and he asked me if I'd do the cover art so I did this sculpture that they used. I was really happy with it so I bronzed it and I've been selling editions of it. I put one of the editions in the AP show, and I'm really excited it's there.
What resonated with you about the X Files/30 Days of Night project?
I met Steve Niles [Comic Book Author, Novelist], and we instantly became friends. We hang out all the time now. He and I are cut from the same cloth. We're the same age, and we like the same stupid shit [Laughs]. We're both geeks. We're really into Hammer horror movies, muscle cars, comic books, shooting guns, being losers and playing too many video games. He asked me if I wanted to do some comics with him, and I was like, "Yeah, but I'm a little hesitant about drawing a comic. There are people who can do it better than I can." He said, "No, I want to produce and write comics with you." I instantly said, "I'd love to write, man! I've never had a chance to even get my hands into writing and I feel like I could really do something good." He and I started doing projects. The publisher approached him and they started talking about doing a hybrid. They came up with X Files, and we got Fox to okay it. We received free range to use all of the characters, and it was like throwing gasoline on a fire. It was amazing. We're on issue #5 now. Steve and I work together so well, and I've learned so much from him. I hope it leads to other things. I'm in fucking heaven.
It's similar to music. You have an arsenal of different influences and you bring them together into one song or album. That's like what you're doing with this comic book—bringing two unique worlds together.
Yes, and it is an influence. I'm a huge X Files fan, and I love 30 Days of Night. I was the guy going, "Hey, read this comic!" All of my comic friends were saying, "I don't really like the art." No, it's fucking amazing, man! Look at what happened. It got really popular. It became a movie, and they've taken different paths with it. It was funny when I met Steve; I didn't picture him being how old he was [Laughs]. I thought he would be a much older guy like a lot of the other comic book writers from the era. It's been great! There's so much influence. Comic books, literature, stand-up comedians, painting and all of these other things influence the music. People always just go, "What? I don't get that. That's not music. What bands influenced you?" It's like, "Okay, I can list those all day." However, you've got to understand I'm shaped and the stuff that comes out of me musically is shaped by music and art. I'm glad you said that about the two.
Music, movies and books can all influence each other equally. Your art doesn't have to be simply influenced by another piece in the same medium.
Right! That's why I think it's so important that children take art and music classes early on because it really develops a three-dimensional manner of thinking. When they get to algebra, it starts taking form instead of just going, "Okay, I'll study this, but I don't get it." Then you instantly forget it. You have to have that three-dimensional thinking. There's something harmonic to how we learn, what we take in, what we have to know, what we're passionate about and all of that stuff. I guess it's along that same concept of when I meet people that don't collect anything and I go, "That's really weird. You don't collect anything?" Then I'm like, "What movies do you like?" Their answer is, "I really don't like movies." Is that a result of someone who didn't take enough art classes or someone who didn't have enough exposure to art? I don't know.
If the Tool story were to be made into a movie, who would be the perfect director for it, other than yourself of course?
Wow, if it was made for TV, it would probably be Roger Corman. If it was a feature movie, it would probably have to be that German director Rainer Werner Maria Fassbinder, and it'd have to be in German with subtitles [Laughs]. I'm being positive but my life in Tool is exactly like Spinal Tap meets a Shakespearian play.
So Spinal Tap meets Hamlet?
Exactly, but in a good way [Laughs]. I really love being in Tool. I love what we do and the result of everything. There's a lot of dysfunction but, at the end of the day, it's amazing.
Well, you can't make great art without all of those facets of human experience?
That's true. I was talking to my friend who's a really great artist and he said, "If it wasn't for stress, I wouldn't be as good as I was." I thought that was really cool.
Will you be checking X Files/30 Days of Night? Are you going to see Tool live on this tour?