A Career in T(r)o(o)l(ling): A Brief History of (1/3)

This is not the article where I talk about my history of internet trolling, sorry to the disappointed few. No, this article is where we talk about the antics of one of trolling’s true pioneers in recent memory, the metal/prog/alternative/industrial/noise/ambient/whatever-the-fuck-rock group Tool. I don’t actually remember the first time I ever heard a Tool song, but there would be some very memorable moments way down the line, like the time I listened to “Disposition”, “Reflection” and “Triad” from their Lateralus album while peaking on three hits of acid, habitually smoking weed and inhaling nitrous oxide in the middle of the woods beside a campfire. A true story. But anyway, that sort of behavior is just one of many reasons Tool has always had a true transgression and animosity toward their fanbase, at least since they skyrocketed to popularity in the mid 1990’s. Since then, it has become a tried and true tradition for Tool to fuck with, agitate and outright alienate their fans, and their fans love it and keep coming back for more. It’s not often that a band’s frontman can get away with calling their fanbase “insufferable retards” and “that smelly kid in the back”, but Tool has sailed the course unbroken and anticipation for this band has never reached the fever pitch that we’ve reached here in 2019.  For that, let’s take a look back at Tool’s history of trolls, and the times they were also trolled in return, for better or for worse.

Tool was formed in 1990 in Los Angeles, California. In 1993, Tool released their debut album Undertow which followed up their 1992 debut EP Opiate. Tool’s album ended up becoming extremely popular due to the airplay of the single “Sober” on MTV and radio. This article isn’t about the music, so a lot of the music talk is going to be short and punctual like that. At some point during their rise to popularity, Tool and specifically Maynard James Keenan began claiming Undertow was a concept album in interviews. The album was said to be based upon a book titled “The Joyful Guide to Lachrymology” authored by Ronald P. Vincent. You may remember that in April of 2018, I published an article with this exact title, which simply contained the text of an infamous example of troll retribution against Tool repeated several times. That was a troll response to the release of A Perfect Circle’s new album and a reference to this infamous starting point of Tool becoming the trolling entity they have come to be defined by. “Lachrymology” was a pseudo-science psychology that studied the effects of crying, Ronald P. Vincent never existed, and Tool’s Undertow was absolutely not a concept album. Yet, that was the story they stuck to, and as their popularity grew so did the propensity of their trolling efforts.

In 1996, Tool released Aenima.  I’m not copying and pasting that stupid symbol for A-E combined. Fuck that. On this album, Tool released 62 minutes of defining heavy-prog-alt-art-psychedelic-metal-rock-whatever and 15 minutes of trolling to hit a 77 minute total. You see, among songs you’ll still hear on any self respecting rock radio station and sprawling works like “Pushit” and “Third Eye”, Tool also thought things like “Useful Idiot”, “Message to Harry Manback” and “(-) Ions” were timeless tunes. While Undertow relegated it’s bizarre afterthoughts to track number 69, and Opiate had the classic “Gaping Lotus Experience” hidden after the title track, Aenima spread the wealth throughout the album on 6 tracks I never even bothered to rip digitally. You can of course get all those and more like the unforgettable “Cesaro Summability” digitally now that Tool has caught up with modern technology, but nobody wants to listen to a literal crying baby or four minutes of arcing electricity. Tool thought you did though.

On April 1, 1997, Tool suffered a serious bus crash in which most of the members were critically injured. Except they didn’t, and thus began a Tool tradition to this day. Tool have taken advantage of April Fool’s Day every year since then, and the claims have grown more outrageous as the years have dragged on. In 1998, they claimed their hard drive containing material for their third album failed and they had never backed it up. In 1999, they claimed MP3s of demos for upcoming songs titled “Anagram” and “Floorpail” were leaked online. That one was sort of ahead of it’s time, coming a full year before Metallica launched their hilariously misguided lawsuit against Napster. In 2000, there wasn’t an actual April Fool’s joke launched by anyone from Tool, but April 2000 saw the release of the debut album from A Perfect Circle, the classic Mer De Noms. That album isn’t an April Fool’s, unlike 2018’s Eat the Elephant. However, 2001 may have seen Tool’s greatest April Fool’s trolling attempt yet, and it came long before April.

On January 15, 2001, Tool announced the track listing for their third album Systema Encéphale; “Malfeasance”, “U.V.R.”, “Numbereft”, “Encephatalis”, “Musick”, “Coeliacus”, “Pain Canal”, “Lactation”, “Smyrma” and “Riverchrist”. On January 16, 2001, Tool announced the track listing for their third album Evasion; “Prescipissed”, “Bindlecup”, “Alcawhorlick”,  “Alcaharlot”, “Bushwacker”, “Munge”, “Poopy the Clown”, “Gullabored”, “Smell Me”, and “Buzz’s Revenge”. But as we all know now, the album was actually called Lateralus and had none of those songs. Still, in an era where media was as archaic and limited as pre-9/11 2001, it takes some superhuman trolling to go out there and straight up publish fake news to media outlets and the internet like that before actually announcing your album several months later. Then a couple days after officially announcing Lateralus for real this time, they said Danny Carey quit the band.

Thankfully, this time around, Tool’s trolling on the record was limited to two very short and inconsequential segues and the final song on the album. Lateralus might have boasted a running time of 78 minutes and 58 seconds, but that was actually worth listening to for the entire time. In 2002, Tool announced the upcoming release of a live album titled Gammon available for purchase for one hour only at midnight on April 1st. That of course never happened. However, Tool’s greatest April Fool’s joke may have been the one announced in 2005. On March 31, 2005, the Tool fanpage Toolshed.Down.Net received an e-mail from Maynard James Keenan himself which simply read

hi, kabir. i thought it only fair to inform you first, before you hear it second or third hand. some recent events have led me to the rediscovery of jesus. tool will need to take the back seat. this may come as a shock. i just thought you should know considering all the support you given us over the years. all my faith, Maynard

Now the obvious answer here would have been it was the traditional April fool’s joke. Another thing to mention at this point is that Toolshed.Down was the longest running Tool fanpage on the internet at that point in time, and remained so until it’s retirement in 2016 on the 10th anniversary of 10,000 Days’ release. Kabir, the webmaster, had been a diehard Tool fan since their inception and had gone on to collaborate with Maynard himself for, you guessed it, these April fools’ jokes. He was often the source of these incidents of fake news to begin with, and various radio stations, media outlets and MTV often just picked it up and ran with it without question. 2005 was still not the era of intertwined social media and internet available in your pocket that it is now. This would end up being the biggest Tool April fool’s joke since the bus crash in 1997, picking up enough traction to result in this hilarious report from MTV’s Kurt Loder wherein a certain Brian Welch stated “This is a beautiful, beautiful outpouring of the Holy Spirit”. Brian Welch, who readers might recognize as then-former but now-current again Korn guitarist Head, infamously quit the band to become a hardcore born-again christian in February 2005. Maynard’s response ended up being a succinct “heh-heh”, the Tool fanbase had a good laugh about MTV and Head’s gullibility, and then a short year later the whole album release cycle thing started up again with 10,000 Days.

With 10,000 Days came quite a lame April fool’s joke on Tool’s end in the form of “listening parties”, which seem to only exist in 2019 for this upcoming new Tool album because streaming exists and nobody wants to go to a concert venue to listen to an album over the speakers anymore. On the other hand, 10,000 Days inadvertently launched a whole new form of trolling tactic when the album leaked to the internet that April. Many people were convinced that the album they were listening to was in fact a decoy album and that the actual album would only be released in the physical disc on release day. The explanations were hilarious and I wish I had the time to find links to threads on various forums from back in that period, but instead I’m just going to paraphrase some of the greatest hits of the “evidence” of the “decoy album”. One was that the leaked album was “Right in Two”, in that “Vicarious” and one other song were real and the rest were fake. Others claimed there was no way Maynard was the singer on “The Pot” because of the falsetto vocals on the intro verse. Another theory was that the album title itself was a parody of a then-recently released Disturbed album called 10,000 Fists and was thus somehow proof 10,000 Days was a fake album. All of this was wild internet speculation guided and preached by trolls trolling trolls, and of course they ate their words when the CD came out and was the exact same album as what had leaked, plus some cool goggles and pictures of the band casting spells and posing with eagles. The album itself did however contain the usual moments of Tool trolling listeners with songs like “Viginti Tres” and “Lipan Conjuring”, these ones being slightly longer and more annoying than those found on Lateralus.

Which, for the sake of simplicity, let us skip straight ahead to 2019 and where we are now in the Tool sphere. Tool performed two new songs on their 2019 tour, which was shocking and unexpected as ever. They would later go ahead and add a backdrop to their stage show which simply read August 30th, and now here we are a week away and chomping at the bit to hear this new Tool album. It’s a surreal moment in time for the Tool fanbase, the time nobody expected to ever come. In the past years, Maynard has tried to carry on the legacy of the Tool April fool’s on his Twitter account, saying dumb things like Sammy Hagar was the new lead singer of Tool or that a video of crickets chirping for half an hour was a new Tool song. These feel very underwhelming compared to the days of Tool April fool’s of yore, or even the impending doom of Fear Inoculum. For that matter, Maynard has kept in the spirit of announcing things as troll-like as possible; he announced the album title while appearing on the Joe Rogan podcast and gave his first TV interview in nearly a decade on an obscure TV show hosted by Sammy Hagar and Guy Fieri (who may or may not be brothers, and Guy himself may just be Deftones singer Chino Moreno anyway).

The last thing we have in store for this is when the trolls bit back. There have been a few notable instances where trolls got their responding blows back at Tool, and they have lived on in internet infamy. A big part of this is the laughable nature of the stereotypical Tool fan, something both the band and bystanders have taken notice of. Back in 2001, the worst music critic of all time, Pitchfork’s Brett DiCrescenzo, gave the world’s most nonsensical album review since Brett DiCrescenzo’s Pitchfork review for Radiohead’s Kid A with his review for Lateralus, rated 1.9/10. While this review in particular has gone down as one of the prime examples of Pitchfork’s pompous and aloof attitude when it comes to certain types of music (see Brett’s review of The Fragile by Nine Inch Nails for further evidence), it certainly begat a series of increasingly hilarious takes on the band. One such example can be found here on my own website in the article An Excerpt from “The Joyful Guide to Lachrymology” by Ronald P. Vincent (1/3), which itself was a copy-paste job of an internet forum post long lost to the abyss of the internet. Sure is getting painfully meta in here. In 2016, the newspaper Dallas Observer unironically printed a sequel to the “Tool paragraph”.  Another great example of this was the “You Must Have a Very High IQ” meme, which was originally based on the TV show Rick and Morty, but came to have variants based on all sorts of progressive metal bands like Meshuggah, Opeth and of course Tool. Very recently, a firebrand southern Baptist preacher inexplicably located in Hawaii went on a beachfront rant against everything and anything Maynard James Keenan, even titling the Youtube upload “Maynard James Keenan is Going to Hell”. However, the most brutal take on this subject may have come from Cincinnati based news outlet The Riverfront Times, who penned the scathing article “Is Tool Really a Band for Stupid White Trash?” back in 2016. This is trolling the troll back in it’s final stage; it’s the ultimate example of Poe’s Law when it comes to Tool. A final and hotly debated example of the trolls’ revenge came in the form a Twitter account named “IWas17HeWas36” and whether or not this was genuine was never confirmed, but outspokenly denied by Maynard James Keenan himself. This account publicly accused Maynard of sexual assault on an A Perfect Circle tour in 2000, and afterwards there was lots of speculation but never any further concrete answers. At this point in time, it seems like it was the result of a horrible trolling attempt gone wrong.

That’s about it, that’s the history of Tool being trolls and the times trolls fought back against Tool, sometimes to an extreme too far. I’m sure Maynard James Keenan really cares about all those death threats from “insufferable retards” as he counts his pile of money buried in his vineyard next to his pizza truck. It may have taken a very long time for Fear Inoculum to arrive, but these guys didn’t even make it halfway to 10,000 days between albums, what a bunch of spoil sports. In the next installment, we’re going to talk about bands that did make people wait longer than the 13 and a half years Tool made people wait, and how much those albums lived up to the hype. Until then, spiral out and pry open your third eye or whatever it is this band tells you to do, buy their new record, fuck you buddy.

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