Six Degrees of Tool Separation

Last week, we ran an essay on how Tool's move to streaming services could bring people closer to the band and its music. This week, local musician and writer Tom Reardon talks about the distance he and others feel from Maynard James Keenan's most popular creation in the state the frontman resides.

There's a theory that we're all connected through six introductions. Consider it, for a second, if you will.

You're six handshakes away from Maynard James Keenan.

In 1993, a wonderful film called Six Degrees of Separation explored how our need for connection, when multiplied by our degree of detachment from the life or person we want (or want to be), can bring tragic results. Sometimes, though, this theory works oppositely.

Just a sec, there, pardner … What does this theory have to do with Keenan? Why did you bring up the wine-making lead singer of Tool?

Sometimes, we are separated by someone or a band by six degrees because we have zero fucking clue why anyone would want to be one or two degrees apart from them ... a band like Tool.


Tool? You want to be six degrees away from Tool? Poppycock! (Side note: Poppycock would be a great name for a Tool record.)

Some of us feel distant from Tool, unfortunately. It’s to the point where support groups should be forming. PWDUOLTA (People Who Don’t Understand Or Like Tool Anonymous) and PWAFWPWDUTAAAA,S,QDITA (People Who Are Friends With People Who Don’t Understand Tool And Are Ashamed And, Sadly, Quite Disappointed In Them Anonymous) will be the most well-attended groups, particularly in Arizona.

There are six key degrees of what separates Tool fans. For our purposes, there are the Tools and the UnTools, or "those without Tool." These degrees are easily defined and are intended to help build a bridge of understanding between the two groups.

Degree 1: Everyone Should Like Tool, Damn It

This degree captures so many UnTools. The Tools just don’t get it. Tool fans are speechless when an UnTool mentions the notion that Tool is not the greatest fucking band of all time. You should like Tool. Do it. Now. Pretend, if need be.

Degree 2: You Are Just Not Into Prog

Prog rock is not for everyone, but this is where Keenan’s bandmates, drummer Danny Carey, bassist Justin Chancellor, and guitarist Adam Jones shine. Their style is prog above all else. For example, Chancellor has some great bass tones, but his sound is firmly rooted in traditional prog-rock oeuvre while meshing seamlessly with Carey’s poly-rhythmic mastery. UnTools who don’t like this technical genre are never going to appreciate this.

Degree 3: Odd People Scare You

This degree is pretty self-explanatory. Tools often see Keenan as a god-like figure, but he’s just an unusual guy. UnTools in Arizona are frightened by the fact of the simple geographic proximity to Keenan is decreases their degrees of separation by a factor of "Forty Six & 2."

Degree 4: You Missed Out On Grunge Or You Are Stuck In The Grunge Era And Can’t Get Out

Many Tools and UnTools enjoy grunge music. Tool came of age during the heyday of the grunge movement. Bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Pearl Jam (the Anti-Tools) ruled the world. For Tools, though, if you compare the aforementioned bands from Seattle to Tool, who came from Los Angeles, those bands are sophomoric at best in terms of song structure and lyrical content.

Degree 5: Tool Sounds Too Much Like “Fool” For Your Taste And You Pity The Fool

Mr. T is definitely an UnTool. Who doesn’t want to be like Mr. T?

Degree 6: You Are A Bad Arizonan

For UnTools, it is excruciating to listen to how amazing Keenan is because he owns and operates businesses in Arizona, including Caduceus Cellars and Merkin Vineyards. It’s great and all, but the UnTools who live in Arizona know this because in-state Tools keep bringing it up. They share multiple stories about how they thought they saw Keenan in a restaurant in Jerome. Stop this practice immediately. With a moment of "Reflection," maybe the Tools and UnTools will finally get along.
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Tom Reardon has written for Phoenix New Times since 2013. He's been in several notable bands over the last 25 years including Hillbilly Devilspeak, North Side Kings, and the Father Figures.
Contact: Tom Reardon