Bast are a UK sludge/black/doom metal band that really do cross the divide of metal’s many genres. Their songs are long, experimental, loud, narrative based beasts, so it’s no surprise that they share a love for Tool. Bast’s drummer, Jon Lee, shares what Tool means to him.
If I had to choose one band that’s had the largest influence on me as a both musician and a music fan, it would most certainly, without question, be Tool.
I first happened upon the band in the early 2000’s. The music video for Stinkfist was on a free VHS tape included with a Metal Hammer magazine. Initially I was grabbed by the otherworldly nature of the music video, and immediately rewound it to watch again. The uncanny manner in which the characters moved was so captivating and disturbing, haunting grimy interiors of a bleak, unknown location somewhere between a shower block, hospital, and surreal hallways, stitched together with dream logic. I liked the music outright, but my initial impression was that of the video. It’s vague allusion to a plot that I didn’t understand, and the unsettling nature of the visuals kept me re-watching over and over.
The next week, I picked up Ænima on CD. Excessive watching of the music video meant the opening track was already a firm favourite, but I actually struggled with the rest of the album. Nevertheless, I was determined to persevere with the record (being in the era where you could only afford one CD every few weeks), and slowly but surely, it began to open up. Tracks that initially didn’t grab me started to unfurl into highly compositional journeys, rewarding patient and focussed listening.
It was around this time that I lent Ænima to Craig (guitar/vocals in Bast), and I remember him having a similar experience with the record – instantly digging Stinkfist, then gradually unpicking the rest of the album. It might have been the same year that Lateralus – in my opinion, their masterpiece – was released.
Craig got it on CD and lent it to me. Even this album proved to be a grower, but grow it did, and I still think it’s the finest and most ambitious record I’ve ever heard, to this day. I vividly remember trying to learn some of the songs in the early days of my drumming, foolishly thinking that, because they were slower than other bands I was listening to at the time, their songs must be easier to play. Boy, was I in for a rude awakening. I still can’t get a handle on the vast majority of their songs almost 20 years later, such is the complexity and polyrhythmic nature of the performances.
What sets Tool apart – however – is how all of the aforementioned technicality seems hidden beneath the hood of excellent song-writing. The musicianship is always in service of the song first and foremost, no matter how wild it gets, and it gets wild!
The title track on Lateralus alone is a masterclass of compositional writing, musicianship and attention to detail. Tonnes has already been written online about the framework of that particular song, and how it uses numerology and sacred geometry as a basis to inform the time signatures and movements of its progression.
Even the syllable count of the lyrics is dictated by the ever expanding pattern of the Fibonacci sequence. The Fibonacci sequence, as you may know, is a mathematical pattern which appears all over the place in nature, art and design, and can be transposed visually to create the Golden Spiral (a spiral that gets wider -or further from its origin – by a factor of φ for every quarter turn it makes). Mind blowing stuff from a technical perspective, but also – I feel – from an artistic one.
The mechanisms of the song’s construction effortlessly intertwine with the subject matter of the track itself; the attempt to bridge the gap between human creativity and experience, and the fundamental underpinning of reality, ever expanding outwards in possibility and grandeur. It’s one of the most astounding pieces of music I’ve ever heard.
All of this has had a huge impact on our approach to music and art, I – and the others in Bast – absolutely lack the technical abilities showcased in Tool, but their approach to meticulously creating music their way, despite whatever else may be happening in the music scene, and to their own glacial schedule, certainly has rubbed off on us.
Danny Carey – Tool’s drummer – has had the most profound influence on me of all. In the first few years of my drumming life, I was most inspired by the guys who could play really fast, but the more I listened to Danny’s playing, the more interested I became in trying to play creatively, contributing as musically as I could with more of a focus on dynamics and composition. I think drums can be one of the hardest instruments on which to have an instantly recognisable ‘voice’. There are those guitarists whose tone and idiosyncrasies immediately tell you it’s ‘that guy’, but there are fewer drummers, and I feel Danny Carey is a perfect example of just that.
So there you have it. Tool. A band I discovered in a time where music was far less accessible, from an age when buying CDs with pocket money was a monthly occasion. When you had to persevere with an album, to examine and appraise it, scrutinising in much greater detail. It is this process which really allows Tool to shine, and lesser artists diminish to superficiality. They transcend trends and have maintained relevance, gaining fanatical popularity across a huge spectrum of genres whilst belonging to no ‘current’ sub-genre, movement or decade. All the while, maintaining a monsterously sparse release schedule.
Here’s my top 5 favourite Tool songs. It was a super difficult list for me to choose, because I love so many of their tracks. Especially with the recent release of the new album – Fear Inoculum – this list could be subject to change. (The songs Pneuma and Descending are already proving to be serious contenders…)
1, Wings for Marie – Pt.1 & 10,000 Days – Wings Pt.2 (together as one song!)
4. The Grudge
5. Forty Six & 2
Many thanks to Jon for taking the time to share his love of Tool. Bast have two full length albums available. 2014’s Spectres and Nanoångström from 2018. The title track from Nanoångström is, by Jon’s admission, a nod to Tool. The middle section of the song is pure Tool worship.