The alternative misfits in Tool are masters of mood and expression. Dread and inner chaos, primal screams and stark guitar lines are the very fiber of the each of the bands three releases to date; Opiate (EP), Undertow and Aenima. Frustration, and discontent come naturally to the bandmembers, who have spent several years immersed in lachrymology, the science of crying. ("We do it because it's therapeutic," offers Jones soberly.) Guitars and tears occupy only a small portion of Jones' universe. An Illinois transplant and film student who once worked in Hollywood doing makeup and set design (even contributing to Terminator II), Jones still sculpts and paints, often crafting the bizarre creatures that appear in his videos. In fact, Jones seems more comfortable working in clay than music. "I'm not a good guitar player," he admits, "but like everything else, I try and take it as far as I can and be artistic with it."
Guitar.com: Between film, art and guitar, youre a veritable rock 'n roll renaissance man.
Adam Jones: Seems that way, doesn't it? I actually got a scholarship in high school to go to a film school. I turned it down because I thought it would fuck me up. But I went to art school -- and that fucked me up even worse [laughs].
Guitar.com: Did you play guitar the whole time you were studying film and art?
Jones: Yeah, sort of. I played violin and got into that Suzuki program in the second grade. I played violin all the way up through my freshman year in high school, then I played a stand-up bass for three years; that was in an orchestra. So I've had that technical training. But I've always dabbled on guitar and never had lessons. Tom Morello [from Rage Against the Machine] and I grew up together. We were in bands together and showed each other stuff. That's as much guitar training as I've ever had.
Guitar.com: Maybe that's why many of your songs don't seem to follow any structure.
Jones: That's the thing! Guys ask me all the time, "Do you think I should go to G.I.T.?" Well, what do you want to learn? What do you want to get out of it? They usually can't answer that question. If you want to learn theory, to read music, scales and all that shit, G.I.T.'s great. But if you want to be in a band and write music, then you should be in a band writing music.
Guitar.com: Your playing is more about mood than showboating.
Jones: That's another thing I stay away from. I'm so sick of gimmick. Every guitar player in L.A. has a gimmick. Guys like Steve Vai are so fucking boring. My approach is to be part of a band that makes music, not hit songs. I mean, the band was started for fun, and it's still fun. We weren't trying to "make it". We're just trying to keep it going, which is a big difference.
Guitar.com: Tool is a hard band to categorize - there are so many elements at work.
Jones: When we got signed, Nirvana's album came out a month later, so everyone went, "You're grunge!" They went from calling us grunge to heavy metal to industrial, and now they don't know what the fuck to call us. I think putting labels on people is just an easy way of marketing something they don't understand. That whole grunge thing -- there's three bands from Seattle who I would call true grunge. I seriously do not think Nirvana is a grunge band. The Melvins are grunge. They invented it, you know? It's just silly. It became popular and the music industry made it more popular by hyping it, and they sold more albums, and that's all it's about, about money. That's why we've pulled together and tried to.....
Guitar.com: ....Keep the purity intact?
Jones: Yeah, exactly! Thank you. [laughs]
Guitar.com: You play with a lot of dynamics and record some long songs.
Jones: We're more into expressing ourselves than making a radio hit. We had arguments with people who were saying, "Well, the ear can only listen to a song for three minutes." That's a bunch of shit! Look at Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin; that stuff goes on forever and it's totally listenable and totally memorable. I've never worried about how long the song is. When we were playing with the Rollins Band, we'd keep the song going until we felt like ending it. That's what it's about, not about how long can people stand to listen to it. Make yourself happy first.
Guitar.com: Has anyone youve worked with objected to the epic nature of your material?
Jones: Ron St. Germain, the guy who mixed Undertow, wanted to cut up our songs. He said, "I like my steak without fat, I like to trim the fat off." We told him, "Fuck you, man, you're not touching any of our songs!" [laughs] On every song, he wanted to take these little parts out to make it more commercialized and palatable and to follow the formula of what sells. I don't want to follow formula. We want to have our own formula. We respect Ron, and he can make suggestions like that. I'm not putting him down for that, it's just that I don't agree with him. I highly recommend Ron as a mixer and have the utmost respect for him. But we got our way.
Guitar.com: So what kind of a guitar does a person who doesn't think of himself as a guitarist play?
Jones: I use Gibson guitars; I prefer the Les Paul Custom. It's a black guitar with a greenish burst in the middle. I think it's a 78, maybe an 80. They only made them for two or three years. I guess a lot of people complained the metallic finish was affecting the sound. That's exactly why I like playing it. I have Seymour Duncan pickups, and I can't get the same sound with any other guitar, even a Gibson, without that finish on it. I have two of them. I'd buy another if I could find one.
Guitar.com: You're not a big fan of effects.
Jones: No, not at all. That's the thing I like about my sound. It's real raw and very unsafe compared to a solid state kind of sound. Solid state has compression and is very predictable. If you make a mistake, you kinda have it covered. I'm not a geek about equipment, I just know what I like. I have two pedals, a delay and an EQ. I personally don't like to use a lot of effects because when you play live, something always goes wrong. If you only have a couple pedals, you can track the problem down. The rack systems I saw during Lollapalooza made me sick.
Guitar.com: Your amplification set-up is also quite basic.
Jones: Yeah. I use a vintage Marshall head, a non-master volume bass amp from 1976. With the non-master volume, you can get this huge range of tones, all the highs, all the lows, all the mids. But then you have this huge crunch. The thing I like about it is that I can play soft and it won't distort. Then I can hit it hard and it will distort. It's just an amazing amp that I take very, very, very good care of it, because I haven't found another one like it. I take it on the road with me, and when I'm not using it, I keep it in the refrigerator.
Guitar.com: The refrigerator? Next to the milk and bologna and cheese?
Jones: It keeps the components in suspended animation. I heard about that trick from someone who used to make Fender amps. They would keep the components in a freezer until it was ready to be used. Most of the vintage stuff, you just can't find the components. If you have to replace one thing, it's going to change your whole sound. So you gotta keep your head fresh.