The origins of Tool are as unusual as the band’s music, and were strangely dependent on the comedy band Green Jello formed by Hollywood resident Bill Manspeaker. In the late 1980s Green Jello had a pool of 50 members and future Tool drummer Danny Carey began playing among them after being invited by Green Jello's guitarist. “I had a whole scene going there,” Bill said. “At three o’clock in the morning there would be 80 people at my house jamming, creating costumes [for Green Jello] and being creative. Anybody that needed a place to stay could stay, so there were always 10 or 20 people living in the house, and we just fed off each other and played. I didn’t care if I had 20 guitar players, 14 bass players and seven drummers all jamming."
Soon after, Bill met future Tool guitarist Adam Jones, who had a good career working in Hollywood on movie special effects and had no intention of joining a band full-time. Around the same time, Adam met Maynard James Keenan through a friend the singer was dating. The two musicians soon became good friends. “One day, Maynard played me a tape of a joke band that he was in. I went, ‘Maynard, you can sing. You sing good.’ So I kept bugging him to start a band on the side with me, just for fun,” Adam said in a 2008 interview. Hoping to convince Maynard to jam with them, Adam brought him to Bill’s loft, where he was introduced to the Green Jello team. Maynard, who was engaged by Green Jello’s scatological humour, joined the band as their second singer.
Bill tells "When someone would come to the house, I had to tell them first, ‘My roommate Jim is a little grumpy. He doesn’t mean any harm, he’s a good guy. If he says something rude or weird just ignore it. He’s a good person. So, Jim joins us and is creative. Then Jim cut his hair, and decided his name was going to be Maynard."
As time went by, Maynard tired of working on music video sets all day for less than $50, so he decided that his creativity might be better applied in a professional band. Thus the beginning of Tool. It wasn’t long before Tool had a handful of solid songs, which they eventually split between 1992’s Opiate and 1993’s Undertow. While Tool became more psychedelic and lyrically profound in the late 90s, they were initially motivated by being broke, living in a smoggy, overcrowded city, hating their neighbours and other pet peeves. Maynard recalls "I’d say we owed a lot to Nirvana. Nirvana opened the door for most music guys around town who were chasing their tails trying to find the next big thing. They hear us, and we don’t sound like most of the other stuff going on. So they don’t really get it, but they knew that it was different.”
As Tool continued to attract more mainstream listeners – Undertow would eventually go double platinum – the band started questioning why its subversive messages were winning over commercial audiences, and whether they had turned the wrong corner somewhere. In addition, personality conflicts erupted, and being in a crowded bus for months at a time exacerbated tensions within the band. By the end of the tour, the four musicians that had been best friends needed some space, and parted ways with Paul D’Amour due to creative and personal differences. Maynard recalled “We started to really see that the business is a tough one to fucking navigate and get away from. I think we went from zero to jaded in under 30 seconds. The honeymoon was definitely over.”
But the band’s creative and commercial success had only just begun.