Tool: Awesome and Underrated

Tool, Schism 2010
Tool, Schism 2010
Photo by Luki.r – Flickr

Tool. What can I say? For those of you who don’t know the band, they’re a multigenre band from Los Angeles who’s been around since 1990. They are my No. 2 favorite band, behind U2.

I don’t write about music often because it’s often too close to my heart. However, if I practice what I preach in some if you want to write posts, that’s exactly what I should do – be honest and open.

Chances are if you grew up in the ’90s, you know Tool. They emerged around the same time as Nine Inch Nails, Rage Against the Machine, Nirvana, etc. You know, when music was actually good.

They’re considered metal, but I classify them as multigenre because they embrace industrial, rock, and many more.

For this reason and more, here’s why they are awesome and underrated:

Unique: Many bands try, but no one comes close to sounding like them. Maynard’s voice is one of a kind and often hypnotic. Tool is the only band I can sleep to anytime. The lyrics are deep, sometimes dark or fun, and always powerful. The bass is heavy, and the band has some of the best bass lines I’ve ever heard. Other bands try to cover Tool songs, and often fail because no one can replicate them.

They do what they want: Tool releases and album every five or so years. In fact, the last album came out in 2006, and there’s talk of a new one, but fans know until it comes out, it’s just talk. They do whatever and play whatever they want. As one of the biggest bands in the metal genre, their music is not available on iTunes. They tour occasionally, but Maynard has two other bands and his own winery, Caduceus Cellars. Musically, they don’t care if you like them or listen to what they put out, they just do it. And do it well.

The live show: I’ve been lucky enough to see them twice – Lallapalooza ’97 and in 2012 in Georgia. Two very different performances, and both were unforgettable. At both shows, the crown sang every word to every song. I haven’t experienced that at any other show; no other fans are as die-hard as Tool fans. The light shows are like what I would think an acid trip is like. The music hits hard and resonates deep in your body and soul.

Maynard James Keenan: Tool could not be Tool without the entire band, but I have incredible respect for frontman Maynard. The beautiful thing is he doesn’t act like a frontman. He doesn’t have to be in the spotlight; in fact, he avoids it. At the 2012 show, he stayed in the dark silhouetted the entire show. Some criticized him for it, but if you know him, you know he may have not felt it that night. He may also have decided to show he’s not the only member who is important. Whatever the reason, he always does what he wants. He’s not a diva about it, either.

The music: I have been a Tool fan for 20 years. I can listen to them no matter what mood I’m in. There’s so much power and emotion in the music, it can make me angry or evoke emotions I’ve suppressed. It’s not a bad thing because the music allows me to admit and confront the issue. On the other hand, sometimes it calms me in tough time. I remember playing the song Aenima on repeat after a pet’s passing. I can drown out and forget the world when listening to Tool. Not many bands can do that for a listener. It’s an experience.

So, there you have it. Feel free to share your thoughts below, and check them out if it’s your thing!

Artist Spotlight: Blake Best

We at RevPub love music. It’s pulled us through good times and bad, and there’s truly nothing better than a good concert. This month, we’re spotlighting Nashville-area musician and guitar instructor, Blake Best. Be sure to reach out to him and show your support!


Contact info: Best Guitar Instruction, 615-406-7268,

Instruments played: Acoustic guitar, electric guitar

RevPub: How long have you been playing, and what made you want to play music?

I have been playing guitar for 15 years. My parents were both avid music fans, and my father was a professional guitarist, so I grew up surrounded by music.

RevPub: What is the most important thing to you in regard to your music?

The most important thing to me is for my music to retain my thoughts and feelings. I write music for me, and I always have. It just happened that others appreciated it and felt a connection to me through it. I also play multiple styles, which has helped keep me versatile and has kept my creativity flowing. I toured for five years as a member of a signed and well marketed metal band, but never gave up playing the rock and alternative music that defined me in my formative years.

RevPub: Who/what are your biggest influences/motivators?

What a question! There’s so many…Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, John Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls, TRUSTcompany, Adam D and Joel of Killswitch Engage, Boston, Alice in Chains, Robert Englund (an actor but one of my greatest creative influences), my Mom and Dad, and my fiance Lisa. She has always been supportive of me and of my music career. She is my soulmate and encouraged me to continue on my musical journey.

RevPub: What are the most important things you’ve learned throughout your musical career?

Patience and gratitude. The music business is a cut-throat industry full of hard knocks and bumps. I strongly believe that if you’re patient, you’ll get your chance to show everyone what you can do. I also believe gratitude is important. Be thankful of everyone who supports you, because without them, what would you have?

RevPub: Why is music such a big part of your life and who you are as a person?

Music is just part of who I am; it’s natural to me, like breathing. I’ve always found music to be a source of comfort and peace, and I enjoy sharing this with others. Though I enjoy playing and recording and being involved in the music industry, I began teaching guitar in order to share my passion for music in a way I could never do as just a performer. Teaching is a way for me to ensure that others have the opportunity to enjoy music as much as I do. Hopefully, my sons will want to learn so my musical legacy lives on!

Lost Boy, Lost Girl

Story of the Month: The Quest for the Stereo and the Spirit of the 90s


It’s strange that the 90s still feel “new” to me. The early 2000s feel passé and ancient. Things about the 90s still stick with me and despite the “convenience” of new technology I miss some of the aspects of “inconvenience” of my teenage years. Columbia Record Clubs, VHS and DVD rentals, Magazine research…it’s all stuff that, though it may still exist, isn’t a main part of the culture anymore… My first CDs came from Columbia record Club! And I could only play them in my Sega CD….through a mono-TV.

Thinking of this reminded me of buying my first stereo. It was 1997. I’d had them given as gifts before, Christmas and Birthday presents. The one that I was replacing was indeed a birthday present from my 15th Birthday. It was a TWO disc changer. And it seemed so cool. It had two trays on the top and they would swap places when the discs were changed (I knew so little I once tried to put my Full Throttle PC-CDROM into it to play the great Gone Jackals soundtrack… It didn’t work… But I DID get that soundtrack…from Columbia House!). The stereo started to skip and the changing mechanism didn’t work. I’d saved up some money and went to get myself a brand new stereo. We started out early, about 10 AM. I was kind of excited.

In the 90s, in my area, there were only a few places to go. Circuit City, H.H. Gregg, and Media Play. I usually went to Circuit City, but I remember H.H. Gregg had a sale on them so my mom drove me there. I picked out an AMAZING 5 disc changer. Brought it home, hooked it up, ran my TV and video games systems through it. Connected my parents’ old MASSIVE JBL speakers…and it didn’t work. I tried repeatedly and it didn’t work. So we took it back. H.H. Gregg said they would only offer to fix it, we explained it was a BRAND NEW item and they reluctantly let us exchange it. Unfortunately they didn’t have the one I bought so I downgraded to a three-disc changer, OK with the savings in money, and brought it home. I went through the rigmarole of hooking it back up and…guess what… It didn’t work. Acted like there was no CD in the tray. So we boxed it up and brought it back. The store manger came out and didn’t believe us that it didn’t work. I remember he went in the back and came out with a CD on his finger. He put it in, pressed play, and….it didn’t work. He said “It’s like it’s not reading the CD at all…” My mom, if I recall, responded “No shit.” We got my money back and went to Circuit City.

Old Circuit City buildings had these cool entrances with red-plastic floors covered in circles. it felt like something out of Total Recall. Shopping here was like being in a sci-fi movie…

I felt more comfortable here. We’d purchased PCs from here before with 2 year warranties. Typically when they died after 18 months or so we’d activate the warranty and they’d replace the PC with one that cost the same NOW as the one we got THEN. It means essentially a free-upgrade system if the PC went bad. They quit doing that after a few years.

I found a nice Philips 5 disc changer and took it home. I quit hooking up all my stuff to it and took to just opening the box, plugging it into to the nearest outlet and trying it. I plugged it in. The CD played! I changed discs…and…the mechanism sounded like a pepper mill and it just sat there. We tried it again and…nope. No disc-changing. By this time it was after 3PM. It had been all day. We boxed it up, took it back, and I remember distinctly the woman and man salespeople saying, “Oh I’m sorry… I can’t believe it… Luckily this is Circuit City!” They gave us another one and we took it and went home.

It didn’t even get all the way out of the box. I pulled it out and noticed the back of it looked like it had been kicked in. We just looked despairingly at it and shrugged. I remember saying, “Screw it if it works I don’t care.” It didn’t. It didn’t even power on.

So we took it back…it was after 5PM. Walking back to the stereo section the two salespeople were standing there chatting and I remember the woman turned and saw us, looking stunned she said, “Oh you’re kidding…” I explained it looked like it someone had used it for batting practice and she said, “That’s our shipping…it’s just a box to them.”

Of course they didn’t have the one I picked out. I went to the deep end. I found an amazing-looking Sony 50-disc CD changer. It was 200 more than I planned to spend but I had it. After much consideration I bought it… Took it home…took it out of the box….and…glory be. It worked! It sounded amazing.  in fact it STILL works. It STILL sounds amazing. It as surround sound ports built in. If I want it will play all 50 discs loaded one after another.  It evens started my love affair with Sony products…in all the years I’ve bought them I’ve never had a bad one…

It's an MHC-F100.  Aftermoving it to and from college for four years, from room-to-room,'s still busting it old school.
It’s an MHC-F100. Aftermoving it to and from college for four years, from room-to-room, furniture-to-furniture…it’s still busting it old school.

Yes portable music, iTunes, Bose, have all changed the way we play music, but that experience plus the quality and awesomeness of this system still sum it up for me. Nothing sounds better than a CD…and it sounds all the sweeter knowing the system I found at the end of that capitalist-consumer quest is still alive and kicking. A bit like the spirit of the 90s to me.

Weird Al and the Cycle of Pop Culture

Off The Top of My Head

With the release of a brand new Weird Al album this week, I got to thinking about my personal history with the Great Yankovic’s music and noticed an alarming trend….

When I was a kid I listened to a lot of Disney albums and dinosaur-centered kids’ records. The first album from a specific musical artist I ever received was literally a WEIRD one. An older kid whose mom was friends with my mom gave me my first Weird Al album. And it was a doozy. Dare to Be Stupid.

As a six year old I did know some popular music. I of course knew Michael Jackson, some Madonna, the Bangles “Walk like an Egyptian,” for some reason “Cruel Summer” by Bannanrama sticks in my memory from this era. But I didn’t know much beyond that. The only song I recognized at all from the Dare to be Stupid was the Madonna cover “Like a Surgeon.” I knew “Like a Virgin” from the radio, however to be honest I listened to the Weird Al album so often I still can’t hear the intro to Madonna’s original without singing the lyrics to Yankovic’s parody.

Of the rest of the songs on the album I only vaguely knew “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” so I knew the tune, but I couldn’t even define “parody” well enough to realize Weird Al was lampooning a popular song. The rest might as well have ALL be Al-originals. I didn’t know Huey Lewis beyond Back to the Future and “Lola” was unknown to me but I sure knew Star Wars well enough for Al’s “Yoda” to resonate.

I was an instant fan, whether I knew the original artists or their songs or not.

A couple years later I received Polka Party and the self-titled album. Off this album I knew NONE of the original popular songs but I still know every word to the Al parody, even though I still don’t know what some of the originals ARE. Off of the self-titled, I only recognized the Joan Jett cover of “I Love Rock ‘n Roll” well enough to know “I Love Rocky Road” was indeed a parody of it. Though these albums cover artist from James Brown, and Tom Petty, to Queen, and Mick Jagger I only knew Al.

For a while I forgot Weird Al as a novelty of my youth until I rediscovered him in middle school. I was now more familiar with popular music so when I found old used tapes of Even Worse and In 3D I recognized the songs as older hits. “Bad” and “Fat” were both such big hits they transcended lack of knowledge of Al or Michael Jackson. I also knew the “I Think I’m a Clone Now” track from the cover of “I think We’re Alone Now.” From In 3d Eat it was the huge hit, another I recognized from Michael Jackson, and I recognized a lot of the oldies in “Polkas on 45.” It was nice to know a lot of the music Al was lampooning and it added to the parody as you could see how he changed the song and used the original artist’s music to create a whole new song.

As a teenager I knew the modern popular music of course so when I got Off the Deep End, Alapalooza, and Bad Hair Day, nearly every parodied song I heard I had heard the ORIGINAL first. Often over and over. It wasn’t until this era when I personally realized that, of course, Al parodied the BIGGEST hits of a few years of music. Nirvana, Coolio, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, very well known to me at the time, Al’s tracks were just as great (if not greater) and knowing the newer songs as well as I did made the Al-bums even more enjoyable.

Then something strange happened… Right around Running With Scissors I started to lose touch with popular music again. I knew the songs he was parodying but the original lyrics no longer fought for control in my brain when I heard the Al version. By the time Poodlehat and Straight out of Lynwood arrived I knew OF the songs but can honestly say I never heard “Confessions” or “Ridin” before the Al parodies. Though I did know American Idiot it was the only one I could have named the original title of off of Lynwood.

When Alpocalypse came out I was six years old again. Trying to figure out which of the tracks were parodies and which were Al originals. The additional fallout to this is while walking around whistling “Party in the CIA” to the rest of the world I was jamming to Miley Cyrus…

It’s a strange circle of pop culture life. From not knowing the originals and only know Al’s parodies, to knowing a bit of the originals but more of Al’s, to knowing the originals well AND Al’s, to knowing Al’s parodies better than the originals, and back to ONLY knowing the Weird Al tracks.

It speaks to Al’s longevity and versatility that he has had a successful music career that spans nearly my entire life thus far.


I’m eagerly awaiting Al’s latest offering, “Mandatory Fun” though to be honest, even if the track list HAD been leaked, it wouldn’t have mattered…I wouldn’t know the popular originals anyway!

My Christmas List

Off The Top of My Head

My lovely and talented RevPub colleague posted her favorite and least favorite parts of the holiday season.  In the same spirit, I thought I’d do a short and less creative list of my top five favorite holiday films, with a little bonus of holiday music at the bottom.

Christmas movies tend to follow a typical pattern, usually revolving around the “miracle” of Christmas and/or togetherness.  That’s all well and good, but like any cliche it can get less entertaining as it’s used repeatedly in both movies and TV specials.  Of course any “Christmas” movie will have that theme somewhere in it, but the ones I like tend to be the ones that either give that a twist (without devolving into pure anti-holiday, which seems like an easy way out in films) or use the holiday premise to make what might seem like a NON-holiday movie.  Here they are, my top five Christmas movies!

5.) Die Hard:  I used to say this was one of my top Christmas movies in high school and people looked at me like I was crazy.  “That’s not a Christmas movie!”  Since then, it’s kind of become accepted as indeed being a Christmas movie.  The whole movie is set around the holidays (that’s why John McClain went to visit his wife after all) and references are made to Christmas all throughout (“It’s Christmas, Theo, it’s the time for miracles,” Run DMCs “Christmas in Hollis” at the beginning, and the holiday tape John uses at the end).  Though the sequels diminished the premise, the original stands as one of the best action movies, and one of the most non-traditional, but still traditional, holiday films.

4.) The Ref: During the height of Dennis Leary’s MTV/standup rant-off, this movie came out as a good vehicle for the fast-talking comedian.  Starring Leary, Kevin Spacey, Judy Davis, and a great ensemble cast of character actors, the film revolves around a cat burglar who bungles a job and has to take the world’s most dysfunctional family hostage.  You have bickering spouses, annoyed relatives, and the mother-in-law from hell; all while we sympathize with Gus, Leary’s character, trying to remain in control.  It’s far from perfect, but full of SO many great moments (two words: Sink Sprayer), and is so much fun it has always been a Christmas favorite.

3.) Home Alone: I went through a period in high school of Home Alone hate.  I remembered it as Macaulay Culkin running around screaming.  It wasn’t until last year that I came full circle and realized what a great Christmas movie it is.  Probably the “most traditional” (whatever that means) movie on the list, everyone knows the premise and knows it has the “miracle” ending, but in between there is so many hilarious and memorable scenes; Angels with Dirty Faces used on visitors, the “Rocking around the Christmas Tree” automated party, great dialogue exchanges (Marv: “Yeah kids are scared of the dark…”  Harry: “You’re afraid of the dark too, Marv…”), and of course the booby trap bonanza at the end.  Some consider it schmaltzy, but it is so much fun and emotional without being overly so it holds up better than ever.

2.) Lion in Winter: I came to this film relatively late.  Obviously, a kid won’t be interested in a dialogue-heavy period piece from 1968, but college-me found how amazing this film is.  Starring Peter O’Toole, Katherine Hepburn, Anthony Hopkins, Richard Dalton, and a bevy of other terrific English actors, it’s set around Christmas time at the court of Henry II.  He lets his rebellious wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, out for Christmas and the two of them scheme over who will inherit Henry’s kingdom (the noble but devious Richard or the dimwitted but supposedly-loyal John, middle son Geoffrey is largely overlooked).  Though the premise is kinds and queens, it is actually just another messed-up family at Christmas and that’s what makes it great.  I’ve never had a kingdom to bequeath, but many of us have seen parents bickering, kids taking sides, and random shocking admissions during family get-togethers.  It’s an absolutely brilliant film, and one of my favorite movies, in addition to being a great holiday movie.

1.) TIE Scrooged & Nightmare Before Christmas: Richard Donner’s great retelling of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is still my favorite Christmas movie.  Perfectly cast, perfectly acted, wonderful moments of both emotion and humor.  My RevPub counterpart did a masterly review on it previously and rather than just say it all again, here are her comments.  I’ll just add, “I agree!”  Nightmare Before Christmas is great because it’s both a Halloween and Christmas movie.  It has all the terrific imagery of a Tim Burton film and explores the nature of one’s true-self and personal happiness.  Even though it doesn’t have the typical “Christmas miracle” message, instead substituting a message of finding your place in your own world.  It has wonderful music, a great story, and is perfect for TWO holidays!

Christmas Music:

Christmas music tends to have a grating effect on my psyche.  There are only a couple notable exceptions and here they are in no particular order:

3.) Anything Heavy Metal: Raven posted a hard rock version of my favorite traditional Christmas song on her Good Things About Christmas post, and I tend to like the heavy rock versions of Christmas songs.

2.) Tales from the Crypt: Have Yourself a Scary Little Christmas:  My friend Kate at my previous job introduced me to this album.  It is ridiculous, goofy, and sometimes so bad it’s good (the Crypt Keeper was like that…his puns…) but it’s so dark and wonderful, and a great change of pace for the holidays!

1.) John Denver and the Muppets A Christmas Together: My family doesn’t have a LOT of holiday traditions, but this is one.  Every Christmas during the present opening we played this album.  I know Muppet versions better than original versions of almost all of the songs on the album!  I still play it at least once every year, and it’s one of those things that truly takes me back to that time when the world was simple, and sparkling lights and decorations made the world that much better of a place.