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Justin Chancellor

Sep 6, 2019

Justin Chancellor, bass player of Tool, joins us for the release of their brand new and long-awaited album, Fear Inoculum. Justin discusses the Tool songwriting process, band dynamics, the best and worst parts of his job, the story behind his joining the band some 25 years ago, releasing all their music on streaming platforms, and much more!

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Transcript

Speaker 1:
Welcome to an Ernie Ball podcast. It starts now.

Evan B.:
Hello. My name is Evan Ball. I'll be hosting Striking A Chord, a podcast presented by Ernie Ball. We'll be putting out episodes that feature a wide variety of guitar players and bass players, with the aim of delivering insights, stories, inspiration, tricks of the trade, and hopefully exposing you to some new artists. In this episode, I speak with Justin Chancellor, bass player of Tool. We're very excited and fortunate to talk with Justin, especially in light of the fact that Tool is just releasing Fear Inoculum, their first album in 13 years. So we'll cover a lot of ground. We dive into the Tool songwriting process, how Justin records his bass, and after being one of the last hold outs, his thoughts on releasing Tool's music on streaming. We'll talk about how almost 25 years ago, Justin was asked to join Tool, but almost didn't do it. We'll get that story and much more. So without further ado, ladies and gentleman, Justin Chancellor.

Evan B.:
Justin Chancellor, welcome to the podcast.

Justin C.:
Thanks for having me.

Evan B.:
All right. Before we get to the new album, I want to go back in time briefly. I know you joined the band in 1995.

Justin C.:
That's correct.

Evan B.:
I want to back up just a couple years for some context. This was a pretty pivotal time, early '90s, for rock music in general. You see the underground rising up in a lot of places. You see bands that previously didn't fit the popular mold breaking through to large audiences. We have the grunge scene, the punk scene breaking through. The metal scene is changing. I see Tool not necessarily fitting nicely into one of these genres, but definitely part of this overall landscape. I remember I first came across Tool on MTV with the Sober video, as most people probably did if you're old enough. It felt new, it felt almost eerie and edgy, not just the music but the imagery in the video.

Evan B.:
So initially, you were playing in a band called Peach, touring with Tool at this point.

Justin C.:
Well not quite touring, but we did a few shows.

Evan B.:
Oh, okay. That's the connection originally, though.

Justin C.:
Yeah.

Evan B.:
Okay.

Justin C.:
It was more of a favor than an earned spot.

Evan B.:
Okay. I'm just curious how you viewed this era. Did it feel like there was change in the air? Did it feel at the time like you were on the ground floor of something big?

Justin C.:
Well, yeah. I was actually, for the first time, really pursuing being in a band full-time. I went to university for a few years until I realized I was done with being in the dead-end of education, as far as I was concerned. So I quit and I moved to London, and I was in a band full-time. But before that, I remember, I guess Guns N' Roses came out with Appetite for Destruction. There was Nirvana, Nevermind. All that stuff was pretty huge at the time that I left my college, I guess you call it in America. University. That was probably about '92. Somewhere in '92 and '93. I was just starting to get into heavier stuff. I was really into the End of Silence by the Rollins Band in that environment. And coincidentally, Tool ended up touring with them.

Justin C.:
Basically, I was very excited about being in a band. A lot of it was more in my kind of taste spectrum, you know. So when I moved to London, I had already been playing with Peach. We were actually a little more relevant than we may have been a few years before. Our mixture was kind of indie. I was into a lot of that shoegazing stuff that was going on. It was more of like a mixture between indie and heavy. I was into the heavier stuff, and a couple of the other guys liked the more My Bloody Valentine kind of thing. It actually accidentally kind of worked at the time, a little bit. We didn't have a great success. But yeah, it was exciting to be creating something that you believed in that was very organic from the four of us. It actually was, in a way, relevant. Because if it had been ten years before, it would have had to be one or the other.

Evan B.:
Sure. Right, right. Okay, so 1995, Paul D'Amour exits the band.

Justin C.:
D'Amour.

Evan B.:
D'Amour?

Justin C.:
Yeah.

Evan B.:
Okay, exits tool. So what happens from there?

Justin C.:
I basically got a call. I got told that there was a call at my flat. I think I was actually doing a gig with Peach. "You got to call the guys from Tool back." At this point, they'd be really courteous to us as friends. I mean, that's a bit more of a backstory, but we'd done a couple of shows supporting them in London. When they did their London shows, they asked Peach to support. We'd also gone to LA with the help of some of their people and done four shows in LA as Peach, which was incredibly exciting. You could still smoke on the plane back then, so I remember sitting in the back smoking cigarettes all the way of LA and ordering drinks. Just the four of us were very excited about it.

Justin C.:
So anyway, I got the call. I called them back quite nervous. You know, I'm like, "What do they want?" It was Maynard, and he ... I think it was Maynard. They were like, "We'd like you to come out and audition to be in the band." It was a little too much, really, to absorb and take in. I think right on that first call, I basically immediately just said, "Oh, I can't do that. I can't do that." Out of total fear. Just intimidation. Again, the details are a little sketchy at this point in time.

Justin C.:
So anyway, essentially I said, "Thanks very much. This is very nice of you, but I don't think so. I'm way too busy here."

Evan B.:
So were you guys interacting a lot on those shows when you played together? Did you guys hit it off? [crosstalk 00:06:03]

Justin C.:
Yeah, we were kind of friends before. My brother was friends with the guy that signed to them, Matt Marshall. They met randomly in America years before, but they both ended up in the music industry working for record companies. When Matt signed Tool, we heard about Tool. Almost the first people in England got to get their demo tape. When they came over and did really well, we actually took them out to the pub and stuff, and hung out with them. That's how we first met and became friends. It was very non-musical, in a way. So we showed them around town, a little bit.

Justin C.:
So yeah, I had turned it down at first. Basically, my brother ... I told my brother, somehow, and he literally got in the tube and came over to my flat, and just started yelling at me. He was like, "Are you out of your mind?" I mean, a part of it was that I was very determined. I was writing music with this band. I'd left university to pursue this, to be in a band, and I was very committed to it as well. So that was part of the reason that I wasn't going to just suddenly get up and leave. Almost for a moral reason, and just the integrity of what we were doing.

Justin C.:
My brother said, "Look, this is crazy, man. You've got to take this. You've got to try it." He's like, "What does it matter? Even if you fail, what a great thing to be asked to do. You have to go and try it." I didn't, in any way, feel musically on a level with them, you know?

Evan B.:
That entails moving to a new country, too.

Justin C.:
Absolutely.

Evan B.:
Not a small step.

Justin C.:
Not a small step at all. I mean, things weren't amazing, but I was pretty happy to be in this zone of not being stuck in this endless thing of education. Whatever I was learning, English and history and Russian studies. Where am I going? All I was doing was obsess with music. So I was in a happy place in London. I was on the dole. I was like, "Yeah, I'm finally one of the people." Part of it was a bit of a shock. I thought we were really going somewhere. I got to clarify this, actually. Peach had finished by that stage, and we'd started a new band. I believe our singer, Simon, had left to go and pursue ... He was a geography professor.

Evan B.:
Oh wow.

Justin C.:
He sort of packed it in, and we ended up, me and Ben Durling, my guitar player who I was at school with, we ended up creating a new band called Sterling. We'd actually been offered a record deal by Beggars Banquet. It was quite exciting at the time. It was new. That was another quite intense thing, that we'd actually got somewhere and we'd been offered a deal. Now, I'd been offered this thing, so it was almost too easy just to say, "No, I can't. I've got a deal." But my brother really was like ... because he knew how much it meant to me, and how much I liked the band. So I had the difficult thing of basically calling them back, and saying, "Would it be all right if I changed my mind?" I come out, which everybody will tell you is not something that would normally work. People would, "No, no, no, no. You made your choice." They'd already have moved on, you know?

Justin C.:
Anyway, they were really cool and they said yes. That's pretty much how I ended up coming out [crosstalk 00:09:33].

Evan B.:
That's awesome. And you come in basically when they're recording Ænima?

Justin C.:
They'd written about three and a half songs for Ænima.

Evan B.:
So you were part of the writing process on that one?

Justin C.:
Yeah. They sent me ... When I said, "Okay, I'm going to come." They got me a flight and they said, "You're going to come out for a week. Come and audition." They sent me three and a half songs on a demo tape. I remember sitting on the tube in London, just like, "Whoa. I've got the new Tool stuff." To be honest, it was really quite crazy to listen to. It was Pushit and Eulogy, but very broken down. I don't think it had any words on it or anything. Even Ænima had the [inaudible 00:10:15] end bit. Just nuts. But I had to sort of get my head around it and learn it a little bit. Then the other deal was, "You got to bring some stuff out with you that you've written. Anything you've got to bring to the table is welcome." I got kicked out of my band, because as soon as I told them I was going for this audition, there were fireworks. Everyone got really upset.

Evan B.:
Well, it's great knowing there was room to bring in someone to write, too. It's not just a hired gun. You're coming in to be part of the process.

Justin C.:
Absolutely, and that was part of the deal. They actually explained that to me. They said, "The reason that you came up was because you create and you write music, as well. We like your bass playing. You got a great look." No, I'm kidding. "We need someone that actually is involved in the writing process. We need a contributor to the songs." So when I was sitting in an archway, I'd moved again to North London, I was getting ready to go out there, but I was assuming that the future was looking pretty open because I didn't have a band anymore. There's no way I'm going to get the Tool gig. So I'm sitting there writing music frantically, for my new project. I was excited, actually. I was really stoked. I'm like, "Okay, now I'm finally going to get to do exactly what I want to do. I'm going to put it together." I had this period of two weeks of really focusing on the future.

Justin C.:
Actually, I wrote the riff of Forty Six and 2 in that period.

Evan B.:
Oh wow.

Justin C.:
I ended up bringing that with me, and that was one of the first things that me and Adam wrote together, once I joined.

Evan B.:
That's awesome.

Justin C.:
Yeah.

Evan B.:
So all the Tool fans have to thank your brother for giving you a little nudge.

Justin C.:
Yeah, absolutely. Thanks Jim.

Evan B.:
All right. So that was 1995. You guys are at almost 25 years of the same line-up, which is rare and impressive.

Justin C.:
[crosstalk 00:12:12] as rare as a dog that speaks Norwegian.

Evan B.:
Yes.

Justin C.:
Wrap your head around that.

Evan B.:
Yeah. Bands are inherently difficult. Do you have any advice for people in bands trying to keep the peace? How did you guys survive differences? I'm sure you guys have had differences through the years, like any band. How do you get through all that stuff?

Justin C.:
I mean, there's many answers to that. I mean, fortunately, everything is split four ways. We're four equal members. Nobody calls the shots. Everything is done by ... support bands, what songs. Everything is I guess you'd call it a democracy.

Evan B.:
Go ahead.

Justin C.:
No, you-

Evan B.:
I was going to say, which is kind of ... what's hard about a band, it's like running a company with four or five bosses.

Justin C.:
It's very hard. [crosstalk 00:13:05] I was about to say that. That does make it very hard, too. So you can have one guy in charge, and then three people that are happy to be there. You're doing really well, but maybe that's a little creatively suffocating. If you are creative. I mean, I guess some people are happy to do that. But just the way it worked out makes it actually really difficult, and also really gives it a great lifespan, I think. But for us, to this date now, I mean it's so exciting that we're about to release our album on Friday. That was probably the hardest period to come through, when you're all getting older. You've had success to a good degree. Everyone's thinking about maybe doing their own things. I mean, Maynard's done a bunch of his own things, as well. Things with other people. So there could be a point where it's like, "Well, is it worth it? Do I want to move on?"

Justin C.:
But I think everyone realizes that this is completely unique. It's as a good as it gets. When you're 25 years in, or 20 years in, it's like you're pretty much quite a bit of the way through your lifespan. To think that you've been part of something very unique like this is something to be cherished and kept very sacred. Another thing is just to ... It's a tough one, because we're all artists and musicians, whatever, to keep your egos in check. Once you sort of get carried away with your ego, and you start to think that it's all about you, it's your thing, and then you'll find out very quickly when you go off on your own, it's not quite as good as when I was with those other guys, is it? I mean, you know you had a great part to do with it. I know this for a fact, because I try to write stuff of my own. Even the stuff that we wrote as a band, if I'd have written it myself, it wouldn't go down the way it goes down with these guys. It needs the opposites to temper each other.

Evan B.:
So I have to ask. Have you seen Bohemian Rhapsody?

Justin C.:
I have, yeah.

Evan B.:
There's a great scene when Freddie goes solo, and then he rejoins the band. He comes back and says, "I did the solo thing. Everyone did exactly what I wanted them to. They played the parts. But the truth is, I need you guys. I need your annoying criticism. I need Brian May to rework my parts." And in the end-

Justin C.:
That was the best part of the movie, I thought.

Evan B.:
Yeah.

Justin C.:
That was great. I mean it's a cliché for sure, and it simplifies the whole thing a little bit, but it is the truth. That alchemy of when it works, and we're talking about anything. But we're talking about music and bands. You can't make that up. If I had joined the band and it hadn't worked, it wouldn't have worked. You know what I mean? So you have to even appreciate that. Wow, okay. By calling them back and going for it, that would never have happened. The band would have been a completely different thing. I'm not saying it wouldn't have been successful, but the fact that it was, you've got to really cherish that and really take it seriously. If you want to be doing music all your life and be happily successful, and make a living out of it, you can't just treat it ... You can't just think you're the shit and just kind of do whatever you want. You have to really see the path you've come down and respect it.

Evan B.:
Yeah, yeah. All right, we're going to take a quick break and then come back and talk about the new album.

Evan B.:
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Evan B.:
Okay, the new album, Fear Inoculum. Quick FYI for listeners, we're actually recording this podcast a few days before the release of the album, and the podcast will likely come out just after Fear Inoculum is released. If I sound as if I haven't heard the album, it's because I haven't heard the album yet.

Evan B.:
All right. So Fear Inoculum, pretty big deal, Tool releasing an album at this point. You guys have sort of reached this upper echelon of rock bands. Critically acclaimed, super-fans across the globe, Grammys. I would assume that status sort of carries a little pressure when you're releasing new material. Add to that, that anticipation for this album's been building for 13 years. Is that true? Do you guys feel a little more pressure this time than maybe in the past to get things just right?

Justin C.:
I think so, yeah. The first time I was involved in an album doing Ænima, that's what we were just talking about earlier, it was just full steam ahead, no looking back. Nothing had really been ... I mean, not nothing had been achieved, but for me, it was just right into the deep end. There's no time to second guess, you know?

Evan B.:
Yeah.

Justin C.:
People are going, "That's good, that's good. Keep moving, keep moving." And a much quicker process. So for sure, this time I think there were moments where you have this fear that perhaps you kind of self imploded a little bit, and the purity of what was good about what you were doing as the four of you has been compromised a little bit by overthinking and over-calculating everything. I think the pressure is more about wanting to do something pure and honest from the four of us, rather than what we think should be produced.

Justin C.:
Of course, you want people to like it, but I don't think that was really ever a pressure. I think people would appreciate the work that goes into it. I think the way that we work and the way that people play their instruments and interact, I think it would have always had value, and it'd have been interesting. There's lots of bands where they've got this weird album where it came out towards the end of their career, and people are like, "That's the weird one." But it still has a part in their history. You know?

Evan B.:
Sure.

Justin C.:
And it's appreciated by the people that like them. And maybe, by some people that never really were in ... It might open up to other people. I think we have confidence in ourselves. But I think just to try and achieve something that we'd achieved naturally in the past by not really thinking about it, this time we were kind of going, "All right. How did that work again?" Everyone's kind of gone away from each other a little bit, and it's not quite as natural when you come back together to just pull that off. It's a little more calculated. I think the time it took reflects that. We had to kind of break that back down. We had to explode a few times, and start from scratch again.

Evan B.:
I was wondering about that. There have been a few pronouncements through the years that the album is almost done, or it would be released a certain year. Were there times that you were actually close, and then went back and scrapped completed songs?

Justin C.:
I mean, there were times where it felt like we were on the way. Just so you understand, there were never full songs written. But there was a great body of work that we were working on, some of which followed through into what we have now. But a bunch of it didn't make it.

Justin C.:
And as a whole body of work, we were working on these piles of ideas at the same time. We all see it differently, but you start to have an image of how the whole thing is going to look, if you could make it into an image or a landscape. I know for myself, I would get really excited about it. I'm like, "Okay, and then we have this idea here that's going to completely add that to it, and complete the whole picture." But other people are having different ideas. Maybe that was a different way that we worked that didn't work.

Justin C.:
I think before, we were a bit more like one song, the next song, the next song. We kind of worked a little more chronologically like that. It was just different. I think, almost like we had to get back to basics a few times. You go, "You know what? Let's just concentrate on one thing. Who likes what? Which idea are we all into? Okay, let's start working on that." After having a month away from each other.

Evan B.:
Yeah. I was wondering about that, because your previous album, 10,000 Days, was released in 2006. With that time span, I'm sure you guys had a ton of ideas built up to sift through. Did you guys have a ton of ideas banked, and if so, was there was a process to go through all these different ideas?

Justin C.:
You mean before we started writing this?

Evan B.:
Yeah, and as you're writing it, I guess. [crosstalk 00:21:51]

Justin C.:
Yeah. I mean, we do. We all have accumulating ideas the whole time. There's stuff on this album that was written before I was in the band. There's riffs that Adam had that we included on songs in this album. But even while we were writing, we were all individually coming up with ideas. Like the old iPhone's great for that now. I got shit loads on my computer. There's so much to go through. And Adam's a real advocate of that. I'm sort of like I put my head down and I just keep going forward, and I'm really excited about the next thing, the next thing. I have a personal philosophy that if I wake up in the morning and the idea is gone, unless I recorded it, if I wake up the next day and it's gone, it was never good enough to stay.

Justin C.:
Also, the comfort is that there's going to be something amazing coming out next. You're making room for a new idea. Adam's got a bit more of a philosophy that, you know, "Do you remember that thing you wrote? That was great. Do you remember?" And I won't remember. He'll play it to me. "Okay, this is great. We've got to use this." Almost like a bank of ideas.

Justin C.:
So combined to be ... We get frustrated with each other because we'll be working on something from an old idea, and now somebody would have a new idea. Like, "What about if we did this?" And get really, really excited about it, and the rest of the guys are like, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, reel yourself in. Just put that on the side because we're working on this right now." I kind of get carried away with that. I guess that would be more of a prog rock thing. Just to kind of go off on a tangent.

Justin C.:
But yeah. I don't even remember where we started with the question.

Evan B.:
No, this is all good. Where do most of your best ideas come from? Are there certain settings or scenarios that help you to have ideas pop into your head?

Justin C.:
Yeah. I mean, I talked to Tim about this when we did our Ernie Ball ...

Evan B.:
Oh yeah.

Justin C.:
The little ... what would you call it? Speaker 4: String theory.

Justin C.:
String theory. Thank you. I like to be outside. I like to dig in the soil. I like to hike. I'm into sailing. Just generally an outdoors type of person. And I do get a lot of ideas when I'm on my own out in nature, walking around.

Evan B.:
Without a bass around you.

Justin C.:
Absolutely.

Evan B.:
Just in your head.

Justin C.:
For me, if I sit down and spend an evening, which is not all the time, on my own playing my bass, I might have a few beers and I'd go down to my studio and I'll come up with some ideas, melodic ideas on an instrument. But most of the time, a lot of the ideas that make it onto Tool records are kind of rhythmic and percussive. Their beats that kind of come into my head when I'm walking around. And then after that, I'll apply a melody to it. So I'll get a crazy beat [crosstalk 00:24:52] and I'll count it out. Something [inaudible 00:24:54] normally, that is ... You can count it however, but you figure a way to cycle it. Then I'll go up and I'll apply some kind of melody to it. Normally, too much melody, and then you're subtracting stuff. It's almost like a pulse that starts the whole thing.

Evan B.:
It's my impression from what I've read is that you guys might have a riff or chord progression, some song idea, and then you'll fairly exhaustively experiment with it from very angle. Whether it's beat, tempo, even time signature instrumentation. [crosstalk 00:25:30] Is that true?

Justin C.:
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, it always makes you laugh when you listen to the radio and people are doing interviews, and they say, "Yeah, it took me two minutes to write that song." There's this great, wonderful thing about that. For us, it's not like that at all. I mean, I don't think that's ever happened. I don't know if it's happened ... Maybe it's happened for Maynard writing lyrics. I don't know. I've had a few little moments of writing where I was like, "Okay, that's really cool." And it kind of comes out of nowhere in a way. It wasn't developed. But as far as writing a piece, we've always experimented every which way you want. And maybe that's part of the reason the band's what it is, because some of the parts I write end up being guitar parts, or some of the parts Adam writes end up being drum ... We'll even go like, "What's Adam's guitar part? Danny, play that on the drums just as a rhythm. Or even it play it on the notes of your electronic pads. And now Adam can play something different, and react to that."

Evan B.:
Is Danny pretty instrumental, no pun intended, in the process of your experimentation?

Justin C.:
Oh yeah. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, we're all just searching, going around. We really enjoy playing together. You know what I mean? That's the best part of it. So it's actually kind of fun experimenting with all that stuff. It is a fact that if you do look around and you mess around the ideas, sometimes you can find something greater than the original thought. Then other times, you'll come back to the original thought, and it'll be so evidence that it's the strongest thing, that original, basic percussive riff or whatever that you had. You've tried to add layers to it, you've had everyone else try and play it, but in the end, it comes back to what the original idea was. We'll do that as well, but we'll exhaust every other avenue on the way to getting there.

Evan B.:
Yeah, okay. So this process that we're talking about right now, is this fairly separate from the vocal process? The music and the vocals?

Justin C.:
Yes.

Evan B.:
Separate stages in the writing process?

Justin C.:
Yeah, it is. Yeah. The band, the musicians ... Well, not that he's not a musician, Maynard, but the people playing instruments, not the voice instrument. [crosstalk 00:27:50] But any one of us. Yeah, that process is exhausting for anyone that wants to write vocals over it because it keeps changing. It's not even just the melodies or the length of the song, it's the whole structure of the song. If you're trying to write a piece that's cohesive and poetic, and it's full of language and thought, if the band keeps changing the ideas behind it, it's really incredibly frustrating. Unless you're singing a pop song where you're like ... and you just keep repeating the same words, you can probably fit that in anything.

Justin C.:
But yeah. He basically waits for us to be-

Evan B.:
Okay. You guys figure your shit out, and then [crosstalk 00:28:39].

Justin C.:
Yeah. He's like, "Don't even call me till you're set on this." And we've done it. We've been through that before where we send him something, and then we carry on working on it, and he's already started working on an idea that's deeply emotional and sensitive, and he's excited about it. Then we'll go, "Well, we changed this a little bit." It's kind of not cool. So we've figured that out this time ... And also, in a way, that will stretch it out even longer, because suddenly we're like, "All right, we've got to really be happy with this now before we send it to him." So we spent a couple more years like, "Oh, all right." Perfecting it [inaudible 00:29:17], because there's no turning back after that, as far as we're concerned now.

Evan B.:
Is there anybody in the band who could be deemed the biggest perfectionist?

Justin C.:
I don't think so.

Evan B.:
No? Okay.

Justin C.:
I don't think so. I think everybody's pretty much ... I don't think it's even perfection, it's just really like everyone's creative juices are flowing. You get really excited about an outcome of an idea, and you kind of get your heart set on it. I mean, I'm sure when people paint, they're like, "Oh, yeah, that's it." But when there are four of us, everyone has a different perception of what that is, so you kind of have to constantly let that go. Especially, I'll come home from practice, I'll be like, "It sounds so amazing. I can't believe we did that today. We put this bit with this bit and it's just everything I dreamed of." Within a week, I've got to let that go. I'll be sitting in my studio still listening to that CD like it was my little precious thing. But that song is gone. It's changed completely because that wasn't everybody's idea. You know?

Justin C.:
Even Maynard would send vocals which I was like, "Oh my, this is amazing. This is so perfect of the music." On the album, it's completely different now. By the point we got to record, he'd changed what he wanted to hear from himself. So you have to kind of let that go constantly.

Evan B.:
Maybe a B side album down the way.

Justin C.:
Whoa, yeah. I mean, it's like- [crosstalk 00:30:41] I've got booklets and booklets of CDs. Every day we recorded practice. It may be interesting to a super-fan, but really tedious to listen to for any ... You'll get an idea of how exhaustive the process was of going through, and over and over, and trying different little increments of-

Evan B.:
Sure. How about song titles? Is that solely the domain of Maynard?

Justin C.:
Oh, yeah. Yeah. I mean, when it comes to the lyrical content, that's all him. I mean, he'll react to the music. We'll talk about it sometimes, like we'll have a few get togethers a year before we record, and stuff, and go through where we're at. But mostly, he'll call for rhythm ideas, or have me count out the ... He won't quite understand how the rhythm of something goes, so I'll help count it out for him. But when it comes to the actual poetry of it, it's all him.

Evan B.:
You guys don't really weigh in on the lyrics? That's his thing. You guys trust him there. [crosstalk 00:31:41].

Justin C.:
No. No, no, no. He'll talk about it, and then we'll ... It's real inspiring though, because he'll start to see patterns in the way that it relates in numbers to the words and stuff, and we'll explore that. That kind of branches off into the artwork. That fuels the artwork, a little bit, because now you have a discussion about, "Whoa, that's crazy. I was thinking about this. You reacted to our music and sang this. Now I'm telling you that this is what the music is saying, mathematically."

Evan B.:
Wow, yeah.

Justin C.:
Then you'll talk to Alex Grey, and he's like, "Well I've been working on this painting." So yeah.

Evan B.:
You mentioned artwork. Real quick. Are the rumors true? There's going to be a physical copy of the CD too?

Justin C.:
Yeah.

Evan B.:
Equipped with a screen and speakers?

Justin C.:
That's correct.

Evan B.:
Wow.

Justin C.:
Yeah. It's epic. [crosstalk 00:32:30] It's so exciting. I'm actually getting a copy today, I think.

Evan B.:
Oh wow.

Justin C.:
I'm quite excited about it. I've seen it. It's crazy.

Evan B.:
We might as well talk about videos. Are there videos, actual music videos for songs on that physical-?

Justin C.:
No, no, no.

Evan B.:
Okay.

Justin C.:
It's just part of the package. It's like a ... I don't know how you would describe it. Almost like a billboard, a moving billboard, but it's an eight-minute song.

Evan B.:
It's loaded with a couple tracks [crosstalk 00:32:54].

Justin C.:
No, no, no. There's just the one track.

Evan B.:
Okay. Just one track.

Justin C.:
But it's not on the album. It's a separate thing. So you open it, you look at it, and you listen to it.

Evan B.:
Are videos planned in the future?

Justin C.:
Yeah. We're working on one, actually. It's all in the works.

Evan B.:
Are these directed by Adam Jones, your guitar player?

Justin C.:
Yeah. I mean, there's a bunch of people working on them. We've had some footage that we haven't used for a while that we're trying to incorporate. We've got a couple of others guys that do CGI. It's a bigger collaboration, I think, than it's been. You'd have to ask Adam for the specifics. But it's a bigger collaboration than it's been before, and it's going to be a bit more of a mix of media. Yeah, there'll be video.

Evan B.:
That's great.

Justin C.:
It'll be cool.

Evan B.:
That's why you guys are Tool. Blending the mediums. How do you see your role in the band?

Justin C.:
I'm the bass player. [crosstalk 00:33:50] I'm the groover. I don't know. I guess I'm a work horse. I'm really proud to be able to write music and have a place where I can write crazy stuff. I mean, I didn't really think about it. I just always thought these ideas would be cool if they were played by a drummer, and a guitar player could play them with me. It never really was the case that I was in a group of people where I could pull that off. This is a place where, for the last 25 years, I've been able to come up with some crazy stuff. Danny just looks at me and goes, "Yeah." And just starts playing with me immediately. Adam loves it, or he'll come up with something completely against it. Creatively, that was my dream, really. You get a great idea, and you want to just go, "This is a great idea," and play it the world. But a lot of times, people get pressured into just molding it and conforming it a little bit to what everything else sounds like. I have the lucky chance and the happy place of being able to do that freely.

Justin C.:
I'm not saying they like everything, but I've managed to get ... There's some stuff on this album which I'm so excited about people hearing that's just really nuts. They help me make sense of it and make it into something.

Evan B.:
Your bass playing is definitely such a big part of the Tool sound. One thing that stands out to me is the clarity you get in your bass, especially with riffs that are kind of complicated or moving across different strings, when bass can get messy and muddy so easily. Any secrets you can divulge to people on how to get that clarity, either a technique or EQ effects?

Justin C.:
There's all kinds of stuff that goes into it. I definitely, when I record, I give myself a lot of options. I have a dirty amp. I have a clean amp. I have a direct signal. This time, I had two direct signals. One that had all the effects, so it hit the DI and went through all the effects. The other one missed all the effects. So you've always got a clean DI, as well. And then when you're mixing a certain part in the song, when you play with those balances between those four different ... It sounds over the top, but sometimes, as you say, to hear the clarity all the way through the scale, the bass, sometimes you need to push a little more of the ... And depending on what the guitar is playing or the drums are playing, you need to push a little more of one or the other. So like the crunchy, distorted sides a little more high-end, maybe you need to push that a little bit and it'll cut through on a certain drum fill. That gives you options if you do that.

Justin C.:
And it's not that difficult. You can have a direct signal that's clean, and you have a signal going into your amp. I actually have two amps, which is pushing the budget a little more. You got to have a splitter and put the dirty signal into the other one. But for recording purposes, that really is something that we play with that helps find the balance in each part of the composition.

Evan B.:
Gotcha, okay. What kind of strings do you use?

Justin C.:
Oh, Ernie Ball.

Evan B.:
Really? What gauge do you play?

Justin C.:
Well, I guess they were Super Slinky. It's .045, .065, .085, and then it's supposed to be .105, but I play .110 on the bottom.

Evan B.:
Oh, okay.

Justin C.:
And then I have to get a separate string just for the drop-D tuning. I also play some stuff in B, E, which is not on this album, but I use the five-string set for that. I use, I think it's the .135 for the drop B. And then the E, I'd use a .105. I just kind of try and balance the gauge to the note, really, and I find it makes a massive difference. It really does. If I play the .105 in the drop B, it's really flappy. Everyone plays differently. I play with a pick, and I hit it pretty hard. I think you just got to find what works for you. I think you just got to find what works for you.

Evan B.:
Great. You guys held out on streaming for quite a while, and recently released your collection onto all the streaming platforms. So not only do you guys have a new album, but you also have sort of re-birthed all your songs into the world. After being resistant for a while, are you guys content with being in the streaming world now?

Justin C.:
I mean, it's pretty epic. The last couple of weeks have been incredible, seeing it come out and be available. Also, it blows my mind that it's been kept that ... the piracy of it used to be a real worry. And somehow, our stuff really never ... I mean, you can get it on YouTube. You go on there and listen to the album and stuff. But we really put a lot of effort into this release. We remastered every single album for the digital format. So we sent Bob Ludwig up in Portland, Maine, who does all that. He masters all our records. He also remastered all the old records for the digital format after having had, I guess, I don't know how many years, but five or six years of high-end experience of mastering stuff that goes out on a digital service, and hearing it back on the radio and getting feedback. I think it's really the cutting edge of how good it could sound now. It sounds a little different than the original CD version. There's some pros and cons.

Evan B.:
You guys broke some records releasing them all at once.

Justin C.:
Yeah, apparently.

Evan B.:
A number of tracks at the top of the charts. And I think, yeah, Fear Inoculum was the first song over ten minutes to hit the Billboard Hot 100, I think.

Justin C.:
The Hot 100 [crosstalk 00:39:49]. Yeah, yeah.

Evan B.:
That's awesome.

Justin C.:
Honestly, it's been really exciting. There really was no choice at this point than to do that. I mean, we're not selling any CDs. It's also an opportune moment to do it with our record coming out. We also worked really hard with the record label to make sure that we were compensated properly. It's been a really crazy couple of weeks. I've had family out so I've been distracted, but I've been going on my phone looking at the charts. I mean, it's really incredible.

Evan B.:
It's probably interesting because all the counters get set to zero. You release all your music. I don't know if it's interesting that you see what songs actually people are listening to the most.

Justin C.:
[crosstalk 00:40:29]Well yeah, I know Lateralis, the album is still in the iTunes album charts in the top 20. It's been there for three weeks, which is really blowing my mind. But I mean, it's exciting. We just played a tour. We went to Europe and we played a bunch of festivals. We headlined them and did our own shows, as well. Doing our own shows in Europe, after ten or eleven years or something, that doubled or tripled in size without us actually having released anything. This is before we released all our catalog. It's just a very fortunate moment, really, for everything to collide in this way. I think you can feel the impetus with the relief of finishing our new album. It's just all sort of like a perfect storm, I guess you would call it.

Evan B.:
Yeah. Any tours coming up?

Justin C.:
Oh yeah. You'll find out on Friday.

Evan B.:
Okay.

Justin C.:
Yeah, it's going to be great.

Evan B.:
All our listeners already know.

Justin C.:
I can't wait till you hear who's supporting us. It's going to be fantastic.

Evan B.:
Oh man. You don't want to do any early reveal here?

Justin C.:
I can't. I wanted to, but I can't.

Evan B.:
Yeah, I know.

Justin C.:
It's not quite lined out all the details. Speaker 4: It's Bon Jovi, right?

Justin C.:
Of course.

Evan B.:
Do you have a favorite track on the album?

Justin C.:
I guess it keeps changing. The first track we wrote, I guess it was Descending. Once we were done writing that, I never wanted to hear it again. All of a sudden, years later we finished the whole thing, it's actually one of my favorite tracks now. I really, really love it. Yeah, I don't know. It keeps changing, honestly. I love the last track, Tempest, it's really epic. It's 15 minutes long. It really combines me and Adam's vibe as far as the riffs, and stuff. Then it just goes off with Danny. The vocals are beautiful on it. It's really self-indulgent, but epic. I mean, the guitar solo is like seven minutes long.

Evan B.:
I can't wait.

Justin C.:
It's full of crazy time signature changes, but it still is a really slamming rock song. And that's the last track on the album, on the CD format.

Evan B.:
I think, was it Lateralis you guys put out a phony track list before the album?

Justin C.:
Yeah. Well, I think before that, the album before, someone got a hold of the songs. Someone released them, the song titles. Which is all a bit of a bummer when you're excited to just give something to the world.

Evan B.:
Of course.

Justin C.:
In its entirety. Excuse me. So that time, we decided to just make up a bunch of fake songs and actually release them so that people would think they had it. I think we also ... I remember we did a European release of Ænima, or one of them, with all our previous available albums where we made up ten different fake albums that were available. Just crazy stuff, like Live at the Acropolis. That old dirt road.

Evan B.:
Yeah, yeah. Okay.

Justin C.:
Tetanus for Breakfast.

Evan B.:
Any pranks coming up here in this new one? [crosstalk 00:43:47]

Justin C.:
You know what? I don't know. I mean, it wouldn't be a prank if I told you.

Evan B.:
Beware, everybody. So who are your biggest influences? Either bass players or bands.

Justin C.:
Well, I mean it sounds cliché, but Jimi Hendrix is a huge influence on me. I love the freedom in everything he did. I like just the uncompromising awkwardness of his playing style. There's no worry about sounding perfect. It's all about pushing boundaries and just feeling the moment. I find that really inspiring, especially playing live. Bass players, most of them have passed away. I mean, Jimi's gone as well. Cliff Burton was great. When I was a kid, I was fascinated by Phil Lynott. Amazing. Thin Lizzy. I love ... do you know Andrew Weiss? He played for Rollins Band for a while. He also plays for Ween and stuff. I remember seeing him with the Rollins Band. Just insane bass player. Really inspiring. There was a band called The God Machine when I was a kid. Not a kid, I was in London, but I was like 21. It feels like being a kid. Jimmy Fernandez. He was amazing. He's gone as well. Eric Avery, Jane's Addiction bass player. I mean, you can't mess with those bass lines.

Justin C.:
I mean, I could go into music. I mean there's so much music that I like. I really like a wide gamut of stuff that I'm into. I like electronic music. I like indie music. I like all kinds of stuff. Probably less of the heavy stuff. I like really heavy ... I'm into Behemoth at the moment. I met those guys recently. You know, it sort of makes a difference when you meet people. You get a warm welcome into their world.

Evan B.:
Sure.

Justin C.:
And you start to have a different appreciation for their music. I like Wolves in the Throne Room. I like some of that really heavy stuff. I guess they call it dark, black metal. But I'm not concerned with categories, really. I think it's kind of stupid. Just tons of different stuff. But Wolves in the Throne Room, they were really ... to me, they sound like Mogwai. You know what I mean? Just expansive, sonic stuff. I think we get to do that on tour as well, a little bit. Real atmosphere, and then tighten up into heavy ... I mean, I think that's the difference, that we've been afforded that privilege in Tool is to do a bit of everything. There are some really beautiful vocals on the new album. It's a whole different mixture of stuff that you've heard before. I'm really a big fan of music.

Justin C.:
When we're on tour, I actually do a little DJing when we have a day off the next day.

Evan B.:
Really?

Justin C.:
I'll do a thing called Shower Club for the crew and the band. We have a day off the next day after everyone finishes their job. It's like one in the morning, we'll get some food in, extra booze, and I'll DJ for a couple of hours that night which I find really fun.

Evan B.:
Where? Where would this be?

Justin C.:
At the venue.

Evan B.:
Oh, okay.

Justin C.:
Yeah, so we set up at the venue, and we don't have to roll out immediately because we don't have to go to another city the next day, so we'll just get like a barbecue or something going. I love doing that. I love going in my head and just following the vibe, which is a DJ's dream, really. You just kind of react to the audience.

Evan B.:
What's the best and worst part of your job?

Justin C.:
Oh my gosh. The best and worst. The best part is playing live, for sure. Playing a show, the real tangible thing where you stand in front of a crowd, and you play exciting music and they have a great evening. You know? There's nothing better than that.

Evan B.:
Do you guys have the no cell phone rule at shows?

Justin C.:
Yeah, we do. We do. Since you brought it up, we just did it in Europe. Actually, we did a show, I think, two weeks in America before that. I was horrified when Maynard told me. He's like, "I'm going to tell everyone they can't use their cell phones, and they'll get kicked out if they do." I'm thinking, "This is not ... It's a great thought, but this is not ..."

Evan B.:
Only so many bands that could pull that off.

Justin C.:
That's not going to be cool with everyone, you know? And for sure, it was unbelievable. We had an announcement going on before. Nobody did it. I mean, you could see the stuff on YouTube because people have little things in their hats, or whatever. But to play a show with none of that in front of your face was just epic. I think everyone else enjoyed it, as well. And then at the last song, he'd say everyone can take out their cell phones. So we'd do Stinkfist at the end, and people could film it, and they would come up like this. It was kind of like a theatrical moment, though. All the iPads come up.

Evan B.:
Is the reasoning, are you trying to help them enjoy themselves and just be?

Justin C.:
Yeah. Yeah, yeah. I mean, it's going to get recorded and go on YouTube, whatever, but it's a respect to us too, to actually concentrate on the experience. You can't do that when you're looking at your phone. You know what I mean? After a week or so of doing it, I'm just like, "Man, that's genius." A really ballsy move because you don't want people to be upset. I think he did it with Perfect Circle before. He said, "I'm going to do this, and you'll see, there's going to be a lot of hate. We're going to get some backlash, but I really want to do it." It's just distracting as well, to have people ... you know, like that. You want to see people's faces, too.

Evan B.:
Yeah. [crosstalk 00:49:34] People are more worried about documenting their experiences than actually having the experience.

Justin C.:
And most of those people don't ever look at it again. You know what I mean? Maybe for a second the next day. [crosstalk 00:49:44]

Evan B.:
Yeah, to post. Yeah.

Justin C.:
But some people put it on YouTube. I almost have respect for those people. At least they do something with it. But the majority of people really don't use it for anything. So it's just kind of a bad habit. You know what I mean? It's just a bad habit. I think most people really enjoyed the show not having that stuff going on.

Evan B.:
That's great. I think I cut you off. Any worst part of your job?

Justin C.:
Not really. I mean, no ... I mean, just the business is tough. You have to be ... I used to take a backseat, but you have to be responsible about that. You're responsible for a lot of people's jobs. You're dealing with a lot of different aspects, financial aspects. You have to be kind of responsible about it. You're generating this income. You're getting a bigger entourage of people that work for you, and sometimes it goes south and you hit those lawsuits and stuff. It used to be horrifying. But you have to kind of be prepared for it. It's something that comes with the territory. The more you are aware of it and wrap your head around it and are prepared for it, you can actually avoid a lot of the bad stuff if you really take an interest in it.

Evan B.:
Great. Well, the wait is almost over. I can't wait to hear the album. Justin Chancellor, thanks for being on the podcast.

Justin C.:
You're welcome. Thanks for having me. Awesome.

Evan B.:
Thanks for tuning in to Striking A Chord, a podcast presented by Ernie Ball. If you enjoyed it and would like us to make more episodes, please leave us a review through iTunes or your preferred podcast app. If you have suggestions for guests you'd like to hear on the podcast, email strikingachord@ernieball.com.

Evan B.:
Are we good? You want another beer? Speaker 4: We got time.

Justin C.:
No, I'm good actually. I'm good. Speaker 4: Do you want another water?

Justin C.:
Can I keep that? Speaker 4: Yeah.

Justin C.:
Yeah, I'll take another water. Yeah, no, I've got to do the Radio 1 thing actually.

Evan B.:
Radio 1. That's a British thing?

Justin C.:
Yeah, it's Radio 1, man. It's fucking Radio 1, man. It's only 15 minutes, but it's Radio 1. Like my mom's going to hear it, you know?

Evan B.:
Radio 1, okay. I remember the TV system was like channel four. There's [crosstalk 00:52:03].

Justin C.:
BBC1. BBC1 is Radio 1.

Evan B.:
That is Radio 1. Okay. [crosstalk 00:52:07]

Justin C.:
It's pretty old school, you know. So the fact they have us on Radio 1, it's pretty serious, yeah. There's a guy there, he's Dan P. Carter, I think his name is, and he's a Radio 1 DJ, but he does a rock show in the evening. So he's interviewing me.

Evan B.:
Oh, okay.

Justin C.:
Yeah, it's exciting.

Evan B.:
Cool.

Justin C.:
It's just a short one. I'll have a beer after that.

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