“I’d probably would have left that band 10 times by now” – Paul D’Amour shares his reasons for leaving Tool

Author Benedetta Baldin - 15.5.2024

Tool‘s fanbase is often described as fervently passionate, sometimes bordering on the extreme. Over the years, some fans have taken their devotion to the band to extraordinary lengths, allegedly even resorting to issuing death threats due to the band’s famously protracted creative process for new music.

With waits stretching from years to decades between releases, the band members themselves have recently acknowledged that they cannot indefinitely rely on the luxury of time. During their early years, Tool maintained a deliberate distance from the press, cultivating an aura of mystery around themselves. As the internet began to dominate traditional media, this mystique inadvertently fueled the intense fandom and meticulous attention to detail among Tool’s online following.

While social media and more frequent interviews have since diminished some of that secrecy, delving into the inner workings of the group during their early albums remains fascinating. A recent interview with the band’s former bassist, Paul D’Amour, sheds light on this era. In the interview conducted by Bass Player, D’Amour discussed his role in mentoring his eventual successor, Justin Chancellor. D’Amour’s departure in 1995, amidst the writing process for their triple-platinum sophomore album “Ænima” in 1996, marked a significant transition for the band.

I think at the beginning of the band, we were all happy to be there. I’d written a bunch of stuff beforehand, and then those guys had some riffs. It was already kind of there in a weird way; we just had to sort of nurture it. We nursed that for several years and multiple tours, playing those same songs, and all that success came. And honestly, I feel like all of a sudden there was this sophomore slump. People started overthinking all the parts, and I never was that way as a musician. I was always somebody that writes out of instinct. When we got to writing ‘Ænima‘, we spent a year and basically wrote five songs. That, to me, was so frustrating. And I think Adam [Jones, Tool guitarist] was really in this moment where he was trying to find his voice as a guitar player. He was just so unsure about everything, and playing the same parts over and over and over. And I was just like, ‘Oh, my God, I can’t!’ I really couldn’t deal with it, you know? I just felt like that was never going to end, no matter how much we beat that into the ground and talked about this and that. I’d probably would have left that band 10 times by now because they still operate the same way. They make great music – but dude, you don’t need to spend 10 years to make an album, you know? They’re great riffs, but they’re not that complicated.

Regarding the infinite time between releases, he states:

And I think they’re all frustrated in that. I don’t know how those guys stick it out. So I just felt frustrated, and as you know, in that band it was always like, ‘Okay, the bass player can only write the bass parts. A guitar player can only write the guitar parts.’ No one can comment on anything regarding the song except your part. But not to me – I don’t think that’s how creative things happen. If you’re in a band, you’ve got to listen, hear each other and expand on ideas. It just felt really stifling for me as a person; I just started doing other shit because I was bored. People don’t always realize that I worked on ‘Ænima‘… I’m proud of how the band went on to bring these sounds to the next level I did that Replicants cover album, and it was the funniest thing I ever did. It was the first time I got to experiment with keyboards, different pedals, play guitar, do vocals – whatever. I realized that’s what I need to be doing as an artist.

When it comes to ‘Ænima‘, D’Amour comments:

People don’t always realize that I worked on that record. You can hear a big transformation of the sound of the band there and they give Justin credit for bringing that to the band. We already wrote and recorded half of that album before I left the band. He just re-recorded my parts verbatim. Actually, someone posted the originals of those songs on YouTube. I’m just wanting people to know that he did not invent that sound out of whole cloth. I’m just setting the record straight on this stuff – I’ve never really commented on this before. I also want to make sure that I don’t come across as sounding angry or regretful at all. I’m quite proud of how the band went on to bring these sounds to the next level.

Leaving a group can be painful, and so it was for D’Amour as well.

I mean, it definitely was painful. It’s like, you pour your heart and soul into something, watch it blow up, and the whole world is excited about it. And then you have this gut feeling that it’s not making you happy anymore. It was really hard to do that. But I knew I couldn’t sustain that in the end with those personalities there – and I’m not gonna name names.

Maynard James Keenan recently revealed to Metal Hammer that success made the group locked in the studio, or probably less reliant on keeping up with consistent releases of new material, less exigent.

When you have to actually struggle to find the food, find the shelter, find the clothing, there’s something to be said for that friction. It’s where the art happens. But when you’re rich and cozy, time is a beast, ’cause there’s no sense of urgency.