Section TOOL


When did you start to draw and to paint ? Very young, were you certain that you’d become an artist, or is there anything else you wanted to do and/or to become ?
I guess I was about 8 when it occurred to me that I might be more interested in making art than most other kids, but I really wanted to play drums. I didn’t get a kit until I was 13, so I got a late start and practiced like mad. But about 2 years into that, I broke a couple bones skateboarding and couldn’t play for a while, and that’s when I got more focused on the idea of art as a way to entertain people, and spent a ton of time drawing. My parents, to their credit, enforced a rather strict work ethic, and us kids always had to have after school and summer jobs, so I got the idea pretty quick that I’d need to make money to survive. Well, by 17 I had started making some dough with illustration, and sold some of my own work through shows and galleries in the area, and that pretty much sealed it. I moved out when I turned 19, and went straight to work.

When you arrived in Los Angeles, you showed your early works to art directors : what were their reactions, and what was the result ?
Well, I was a long-haired freak teenager from the woods of Santa Cruz, CA., wearing mostly army surplus, with this clumsy lap-full of original pieces, and nothing remotely resembling an actual presentation. So as you might imagine, the reviews were somewhat mixed. Those looking for the slick, just-out-of-Art-Center type of portfolio usually told me to come back when I was "ready". But many others could see that I was self-determined and were very supportive, and actually liked that I hadn’t been through the standard training. I made plenty of mistakes, but I was super motivated, and began getting regular work. But it was a mixed bag of stuff, and I did many different types of work as an artist before getting more established as an illustrator.

You specifically worked for the cinema industry ; how was that experience, and which movies did you enjoy working for and why ? Are you still working sometimes in that domain, or would you like to do it again ?
Oh, shoot, I don’t know. That's also a mixed bag, given the many ways to work as an artist for that industry. I started as a sculptor for a make-up effects studio. But the owner figured out I could draw, and had me start coming up with design concepts for creatures. During that time, I did a bunch of designs as part of a proposal for Jacob’s Ladder, and that was kind of a turning point for me, because I learned how much more fun it is to draw directly from my imagination, around a story, than it is to illustrate for ad agencies selling products, which I had done for many years before. And yes, I’m still very much involved in that sort of work, primarily for the 3D CGI film effects, animation and interactive industries. I really enjoy it, because I get to do so many different types of creative work, from preproduction concept design and storyboarding, all the way through production, doing visual development and sculpting, right up to the end doing graphic interfaces for interactive projects. But really, I just work to support my family and my own personal projects, so I haven’t kept track of the shows I’ve worked on too well.

You and Adam Jones worked together then. How did you meet each other, and in what terms did he start talking about his band to you ?
Adam and I met during the time I was working at the make-up effects shop. He was already working there when I arrived. We shared many of the same influences, had similar aesthetics, and we got along and hung out a lot. That was about 3 or 4 years before Tool formed, and prior to that Adam and I played together in a band briefly. It was fun, but I couldn’t commit to something like that, and Adam moved on from there as well. It was just a short time later though that Adam mentioned Tool was forming, and he asked me to draw the very Freudian, and now somewhat iconic "wrench", back around 1991. I guess that set things in motion, because I worked on most of what followed for the next decade.

Indeed you created most of Tool artwork from the first demo to Salival. What was the process : did Adam have specific requests, did you put forward your own ideas ?
Plenty of both. Adam has a ton of ideas, and voluminous sketchbooks. But it wasn't uncommon for him to go through old sketchbooks of mine and say "Hey, let’s develop this.", or in at least one instance he saw something I was working on in my studio, and just told me to hurry and finish it up. But there were lots of late nights spent sitting at diners, or wherever dreaming stuff up. We’d talk about it, and I’d go off and work up various drawings. Usually, it was a process of picking bits and pieces from various iterations, and reassembling them for the final design, painting or whatever.

Can you say more about the origin, the idea behind some specific artworks which are emblematic for Tool fans, like :

- the "wrench"

Definitely Adam’s idea. This was the first piece of art I did for them, and I used pen and ink so it'd Xerox easily for the promotional flyers they were doing in the very beginning. But this led to the look of a fairly large number of T-shirts I designed for them as well.

- the Opiate priest

This was based on a drawing I had done a few years before of a snarling old man with huge eyes, and irises that squirmed around like amoebas. Adam liked it, added the 6 arms in a praying position and made him a catholic priest. That thing was really hard to do. I had been working round the clock on the sculpted parts, along with all the other package layout, design and artwork to get it ready for press, and Adam was busting ass recording the album and keeping track of everything, as well as putting together that wonderful box-full-o-memories that was used on the inner liner. We had it photographed by a friend of mine, and had to have it done that night. Both Adam and I were completely exhausted ; I don’t know how we got it done.

- the "Smokebox"

The "SmokeBox" was something I had already done, and Adam saw it and felt like it'd work well as an image to play on a big screen at their live shows. I think that was the first time they had done this sort of thing. I was surprised at how powerful it was, projected that large. After that, Adam had the idea to use the lenticular jewel-case to animate it on the cover of Ænima.

- "Gnats"

"Gnats" was the first digital painting I did using an organic approach ; basically, just using brushes in Photoshop to paint the whole image one stroke at a time. I was about 2/3 done with it, and Adam came by the studio and asked if I could be done in two days for the Ænima package press date.

- "Ocular Orifice"

In addition to "Gnats", Adam wanted something for the back cover of the CD, and he liked the eye treatment I had done for the demon in the "Gnats" image ; it had two irises in one eyeball. So he asked if I’d do a large version based on just that part, so I had to get that together really quick as well. I really rushed it for the album deadline, but a few years later I reworked it, thereafter referring to it as "Ocular Orifice".

- the Salival figure

Adam had the idea of a figure that wrapped its arms around the DVD package, and had done some schematics. He, Chet Zar and I got together and discussed it. Adam wanted these strings coming out of the hands and back, Chet suggested a color treatment for where the strings hit the spine, and I did a quick sketch of what became the basic figure ; it was pretty collaborative. I then went back and did the painting, and then took that to Chet who had made a Lightwave model of the back of the figure, which we then mapped, using the painting as a texture. I made an alpha, basically a digital stencil, to break up the light that cast across the figure, and the final render of that is what you see on the cover of the Salival package.

You also did a lot on most of Tool videos ; can you tell us about your involvement there ?
Yeah, I did a bunch of concept drawings and visual development work, designing characters to be sculpted as puppets for stop-motion animation, or possible staging and sets, particularly those seen in the "Schism" video. And in a couple instances, I worked some very lengthy hours on set doing full body painting of people performing in those videos using live action. These were also based on designs I had done just prior to going into production.

What's your opinion about the other artists working with Tool ? (Chet Zar, Spiral Eyes, Osseus Labyrint, Alex Grey…)
They are all great, of course. Chet is a terrific artist who works equally well in many different mediums. I haven’t seen too much of what Spiral Eyes is working on, but what I've seen is always inspired, and inspiring. Osseus Labyrint are two of the most dedicated artists I've ever met, and possess otherworldly skill and creativity. Working on the "Schism" video, I spent more than 20 straight hours painting their bodies, while they stood naked on a cold cement floor, and neither of them uttered a single complaint. Once finished, they then went immediately out on set and performed magnificently. And the astounding Alex Grey certainly doesn’t need to hear me gush about his amazing abilities. Not that any of them need to hear it from me, but I have enormous respect for all of these gifted artists.

If you don’t mind, can you tell us more about what happened for this great combination to cease ?
Well, I appreciate your interest and concern about that, and I’m sure it’s coming from a good place, but I don’t think there are enough who actually care, to warrant spending much time on it. But I’ll just say in more than 10 years of working together, I contributed as much as I could, and I love Adam like a brother. Working with him was always a meaningful challenge, and I appreciate the experience. But they’re clearly in good hands with the list of super talented artists you mentioned so I don’t assume they have any particular need of me, and I have way more projects of my own than I can possibly manage.

You make CGI like Chet Zar, and added some sounds to them thanks to Lustmord : is it important for you to give more dimensions to your art ? Is there more you’d like to do in that way ?
Well, I wouldn’t say I actually make CGI, but I do work in a variety of digital mediums, and do a lot of design work for the CGI community, as I mentioned. I did put together a short animated clip to enhance the Carbon Core CD of Lustmord’s always deliciously chilling soundscapes that he put together as part of the Happy Pencil project. That may be what you’re referring to. But again, I do want the things I make to entertain the viewer in some way, and I don’t necessarily want to limit the way I go about that. And yes, there's always more that I want to do in that way, and many others.

You must have been approached by many bands with the proposition to work with them ? Would you be interested in doing more artworks and videos ? Do you have other projects or wishes ?
Yeah, sure, but like I said my time is all messed up. I have so many other things in the works, and more to get started, and I’ve had to become a lot more selfish with my time now. I’m still wired to want to help, and it’s really hard for me to say no. But I guess I’m just saying yes to my own personal projects more often these days. But I love music, and there are certainly bands out there that I’d jump at the chance to work with : Mats/Morgan Band, Porcupine Tree, Karnivool, and bunch of others.

Like Chet Zar, I think you should be a lot more famous than you already are, but you told in an interview that you’re "self-promotionally retarded". Is there a part of you who don’t want too much exposure ?
Well, thanks so much for that. I appreciate the notion I might be better recognized, but I readily admit I suffer from a, shall we say, "diminished" self-opinion. This causes some confusion and conflict in the area of self-promotion, which I know is critically important to getting your work out there. This is why I started the Happy Pencil project in the first place. It was a way to treat my own work as a third party, so I don’t have to feel like I’m actively engaged in a game of "Hey, everybody, look at me !" It makes perfect sense if you’re stuck inside my head, but it’s an aberrant approach promotionally speaking, because there’s an obvious disconnect between the art and the artist. I guess I’m hoping that folks will be sufficiently entertained to look closely enough to discover me on their own, but I realize that’s an unfair expectation. I’m trying to realign my thinking lately, and I rationalize it this way : I love live music, and I’m always grateful that musicians have the nerves to get out there and share their work in person. Granted, making art can be a much more solitary endeavor, but I’ve been inspired by the musicians I admire to take a more personal responsibility for its display.