Tool music famously takes a long time to be created – the band released four albums between 1993 and 2006, and then their fifth Fear Inoculum in 2019. So what's the band's process and why does it take so long? Tool bassist Justin Chancellor explained in an interview with Let There Be Talk that the band simply likes to look at their material from all angles and figure out the best way to proceed.
"To be fair we, after those early years where they obviously were a new band, it's a little easier. Stuff comes a little more naturally when you're writing music, of course. Obviously it's gotten famously labored, our creative process. So talk about Maynard getting bored, he's like 'come on guys. Get your songs together. I've already been through three different character changes while you're writing this music.' I understand the creativity going on with his presentation, you know?"
He continued: "I think that happens with everybody. Especially if you have success, because it's a surprise in itself, the success. It's like, how do we do that exactly? Often the first instinct is to maybe try and replicate that, or you find yourself trying to write the same song. It doesn't work that way, you know? You have to blow it apart and try and approach it from different angles. Often that means just taking time away, stepping away. Or when it's not working, when it's not happening, [you need to make sure you're] not forcing it and getting rid of that. 'It's not working, let's leave it alone and try something else or take a break.' It gets very psychological where you have to start from scratch again and try… and like I guess almost like, meditate and let everything out of your mind to come from a pure place again."
Chancellor continued, adding that the band spends a lot of time listening to their own demos in the car to and from practice. Which means that right now, there very well be CDs of unreleased Tool music floating around as the band works on their next record.
"Adam [Jones, guitarist] has bunch of ideas, we keep it very simple. We try not to over-develop our own ideas, when we bring them in for Tool, so that we can present them as a building block, and then bounce it off each other. And then, we just learn each other's stuff, and start playing around with it. Some days, at the beginning of the process, we'll play for hours on one riff, and it's really enjoyable, and then it can get to a point where it's really [not] enjoyable [laughs]. [Then in] like a week, you're like 'all right. Maybe we should go back to that [idea], that bit where our hair stood on end.
"We do record everything while we're doing this. Being that we all live in LA, there's a lot of traffic driving home, so we would make CDs every day, sit in the car and carry on working basically. I'd listen to it all the way home. That way you're absorbing everything, listening to what you did from a different perspective from when you're actually performing it. And then [we] come in the next day with some ideas that stood out. But yeah, you can find stuff from bouncing around like that, but often there's a lot of worth in the pure, original idea."