An Open Letter to Maynard James Keenan

by: Heather Fawn

A letter to the frontman of the band Tool, who wants nothing to do with the band or their fans anymore…

Maynard James Keenan

Dear Asshole,

Do you have any idea the impact that you have had – and continue to have – on people?

I’m not just talking about knuckle-dragging stoners or trend-whoring neckbeards who pontificate on anything and everything they read about on 4chan, if they saw it first. I’m talking about the people who have strapped into the backseat of this vehicle we call “your music,” and were content to stay along for the whole ride.

I am writing to you regarding recent comments about Tool fans. Mainly, that we are “insufferable people” “and “retards.” While you have called your fans more creative and more accurate things in the last couple of decades, you have certainly made it clear that our affections are not reciprocated. Sure, there are always assholes in every fanbase and for my money there is no better-deserved, nor as finely executed a hate-letter to a fan that I know of, than “Hooker With a Penis.” It is a gratifying retort. Both a middle finger and a confession. And most people who enjoy your music can take that one on the chin, knowing they’d never say anything so pretentious or presumptuous to you if they had the chance to even mumble a “hello” in your direction.

The truth is, for people like me, we know the music isn’t about us. We know it’s much bigger than us, actually. About once a year I get really curious and read over whatever interviews or commentary I might have missed in the world of Tool. I’ve listened to several interviews. I’ve read your comments on matters such as consumerism, the possible future of international politics, and pop culture. I’ve only just now stumbled upon your Phoenix New Times blog. Most importantly, I’ve listened to your music with regularity and conviction since I was a depressed, anxiety-prone teenager who desperately grabbed at whichever rock album helped me to figure out how the fuck people kept on living. “Under a dead Ohio sky,” no less.

And so I ask – and this is rhetorical – how the fuck could your sense of humor be lost on the best of us? You’ve had your tongue in your cheek for your entire life, as far as I can tell. An anomalous sense of humor seethes beneath nearly everything the band has created. The name is Tool, goddamn it – the band t-shirt with the wrench shaped like a dick – I remember that one from high school. YouTube’s got the “Ronnie Dobbs” clip from the “Puscifer” appearance on Mr. Show. You have an album called Aenima with a song of the same name about a tsunami flushing L.A. like it’s a toilet full of shit. You all appeared naked in the “Hush” music video. “Stinkfist” makes use of the very obvious metaphor of fisting, “Prison Sex” is a delusionally romantic name for rape. “Disgustipated” finds Reverend Maynard preaching to a congregation of sheep.

My boyfriend and I sometimes quip to one another in implacable accents, “You’re gonna die of cancer, I promise,” (“Message to Harry Manback”) and it’s hilarious every time, because Tool juxtaposed that hateful voicemail with thick, tragic-sounding piano on Aenima and who doesn’t love the absurdity of it? You chose to use audio clips from Bill Hicks’s War on Drugs stand-up on Aenima’s “Third Eye,” too. I’ve never had the privilege of seeing Tool live, but I’ve seen photos and heard anecdotes of the performances, and I’ve seen footage of the time you sat on an idiot who jumped onstage, while continuing to perform “Pushit.”  Even the intense 10,000 Days contains humor (“Rosetta Stoned”). We get it. Tool is funnier and more talented than most bands, and you have continued to be just as much of a snob about your craft as any other rock star. Congratulations (that’s sarcasm – get it?).

Although we have to dig to find engaging information on Tool, it’s quality information we are after, anyway, and worthy of the hunt. The best interviews, the most compelling social commentary, the clearest concert, takes a little bit of searching. Tool doesn’t just put every little idea they have onto the Internet. A fan has to respect the information presented because that information is a conscious choice – not just a reach for attention. With that in mind, are you truly sure we haven’t been paying attention? Tool fans, if nothing else, actually have a longer attention span than most music fans. We have to, since the songs usually last for 7 minutes or more. And furthermore, I am a curious person. I have to know something about what it is I’m listening to – who they are, where they come from, what their intention is. To me, it’s all important. Just by reading Tool lyrics, without ever having another context, it is easy to see that Tool is a thoughtful, insightful band. Wouldn’t it follow, then, that your music would draw other thinkers to it?

Much like the father and step-father I loved until I knew better, you insult me even as you benefit from my existence. I know it’s nothing personal. Same as the aforementioned men, you don’t know me and never will. However, unlike these sorry motherfuckers who are only in my rearview, a part of you will always be with me. The impact that Tool – not Puscifer, not A Perfect Circle, but Tool specifically – has had on my life is profound. So I’ll tell you the thing you would least like to hear, though I’m sure you have heard it many times, from fans: “You are a part of me.

Few albums I have come upon have had the ability to conjure the stillness of being that Tool albums evoke. Tool, both lyrically and musically, are undeniably real. Sometimes painful, sometimes raw, sometimes spiritual, and sometimes downright fucking comical, Tool has been there for me the way an intimate friendship would, and the way a father figure never has been. There have been words of wisdom, of resolve, of decency, of experience, of hope, and of the unknown, all shared between us. And your music will reverberate through me forever.

I’m sure a lot of people who do a lot of drugs have listened to all of the Tool songs on repeat. But the music was never about trying to transcend or escape through substances (I don’t even do drugs). For me, the music has always been the substance, the escape, the catalyst, as well as the telepathic, belligerent, soiled and sacred voice of The Void. Perhaps this is amusing to you. Or maybe I sound crazy. Everyone in each passing generation has their version of The Beatles, artists such as Elvis, Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan, and Johnny Cash have played this role for fans. But even more than I’ve wanted to watch you perform, I’ve wanted to listen to you. Tool has cut through the bullshit of my life with a razor’s precision, and I’ve always clung to that sharp, shiny metal no matter what I have been doing with myself. Your music has a relevance for me that rises beyond logic, reason, or words. I feel that in some way, Tool has saved my life and made it better at the same time. I can honestly say there were times when I have only been able to pull myself up or get through a period of time with the clarity of your music.

Tool started out as an articulate “fuck you” and continued to get better and more expansive over time, evolving into something I am fairly certain neither you, Danny Carey, Adam Jones, Paul D’Amour, nor Justin Chancellor could ever have even dreamed of. It’s big shit. Bigger and more believable – to me, anyway – than most other bands I’ve ever had the chance to listen to. You wanted a megaphone and you wanted a place to say your piece and you wanted a stage on which to prove your point and I am fucking listening, damnit. Tool’s body of work is and always will be a huge part of my life, the crux of my formative years, a place where my beliefs are mirrored. With or without a Tool fan’s ability to overanalyze or misinterpret lyrics or intention, I continue to be engaged with the music.

Because of Tool there has been A Perfect Circle, and because of A Perfect Circle I have been able to repeat silently to myself, “I choose to live” even when it was hard. A Perfect Circle is another band that sonically resonates with me. It is another place to hang my hat, and I am certain that Tool’s success made A Perfect Circle possible.

Puscifer is fun. It’s so clearly yours. It’s the place where you can do whatever the fuck you want. I respect that and I like it. It seems to simultaneously be where you let loose and take yourself really goddamn seriously simultaneously. Again, would there be Puscifer without Tool? Who knows? I know that being a Tool fan gives me a context in which to enjoy Puscifer that I might not otherwise have. It is what it is.

As for your wine, I’ll drink it when you make it available in Japan. Stop bitching. Christ.

In closing, I can respect the disdain you have for a certain type of fan. And as for humanity as a whole, I personally find it hard not to generalize that we are all shitty and insufferable. But you keep making music, and I keep listening to it, and for whatever reason this arrangement is working out well for the both of us. That gives me some kind of perspective on the matter, and I’d like to think that under your veneer of disdain, there is a bit of a sarcastic smirk to be seen.

Affectionately Yours,

Another Asshole

4 Comments

  • It is a band nothing more. You put too much stock in it, by far. I’ve been a fan of Tool fan since the beginning, but they are just a band, and one I have moved away from over the years mainly because Maynard it the ultimate tool. He is a self-centered egomaniacal loser to be honest. A metal dude that thinks he is better and smarter than everybody. Quite the oxymoron. The more I think about it, he is right, Tool fans are clueless.

  • Sooo…you start off your rant with insulting a proportion of their fanbase that you’ve determined are “knuckle-dragging stoners or trend-whoring neckbeards”, then have a protracted moan about Keenan doing the same thing?

    You do realise you’ve just stuck yourself on a big ol’Maynard-shaped pedestal, right?

  • I’m a huge TOOL fan. I discovered them over 15 years ago, when I was a teen and fell in love with not just the lyrics, but the music too. Just saw them in concert on June 7th for the first time in my life, and was blown away. Defiantly going to every Michigan show they do from now on. I had to give my opinion on this. Honestly, who gives a fuck what he said about anyone. People talk, all the time. He has an opinion like everyone else. If we call ourselves TOOL fans, and yet we can’t take what he has to say? Makes no sense. Its music, its art, its therapy, its his job. True fans would love him no matter what he said, because what he said has nothing to do with the music. The music speaks for itself, and if he really hated all of us, he would be choosing to be here, right now.. Hold on… Sorry, that was perfect, haha. He has millions of fans, millions of people watching his every move. God forbid he calls one retarded fan a retard. I do not take offense and do not think it was directed at me as a person. No matter what you say or do, someone is offended, and we need to stop expecting perfection from everyone. Because you will always be let down. Learn to appreciate honesty and blunt statements, and you will enjoy more of life.

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