11 Hypnotic, Close-Up Minutes Watching Tool’s Legendary Drummer Danny Carey in Action

Like the great prog drummers of old—Bill Bruford, Neil Peart, Phil Collins—Tool’s Danny Carey is an artisan. They don’t make drumming like that anymore. He says so himself (sort of) in an interview with Music Radar about his side project Legend of the Seagullmen with Mastadon’s Brent Hinds. Remembering how Robert Fripp would stand on the edge of the stage, watching Tool play when King Crimson opened for the modern prog-metal giants, Carey remarks, “We weren’t syncing to some bullshit like so many other bands. We were actually playing live. It’s a sad thing when almost every band you see isn’t doing that. It’s the clicks and backing tracks that are keeping time. I’ve never played to a click on stage in my life.”

A “click track,” for those who don’t know, is exactly what it sounds like: a playback of clicks (or any percussive sound) to the desired tempo, pumped into a musician’s earpiece to keep them playing in time. A useful tool of the recording studio, many musicians, as Carey says, now use it on stage, along with vocal pitch correction software and pre-recorded backing tracks to make sure everything sounds exactly like it does on record.

All of this technology ruins the feel of live performance, Carey maintains. He would know. He’s been playing live since the 80s and playing with Tool since the band formed thirty years ago. He also jams every other month, he says, “with these weird dudes who played with Miles Davis or Mahavishnu Orchestra.” So… yeah. The dude’s got some classic chops.

But technology isn’t all bad in live music, far from it. Being a drummer used to mean that hardly anyone could see you on a big stage. You might be the most talented, best-looking member of the band, but you were hidden away behind your kit with the singers and guitarists soaking up the glory. Even when certain celebrity rock drummers get their own stages (with their own mini-roller coasters), it can be impossible to see what they’re doing up close. No longer. Thanks to unobtrusive cameras that can stream video from anywhere, no corner of the stage need be obscured. We can watch a Tool show from over Carey’s shoulder, as in the video of “Pneuma,” live in concert, at the top, produced by drum equipment company Vic Firth to demonstrate Carey’s new signature sticks.

It’s better to let Carey’s playing speak for itself, but for reference, “Pneuma” comes from Tool’s very eagerly-awaited 2019 album Fear Inoculum, just one of many tracks “filled with twist after turn, conventional song structure be damned,” Ilya Stemkovsky writes at Modern Drummer, “with Carey at the center of the storm, providing the heaviest, most massive bottom possible. He even gets his own solo percussion track, ‘Chocolate Chip Trip,’ on which he incorporates gongs and bells, among other sounds.” Maybe this live view, and Tool’s well-deserved Grammy Win for Best Metal Performance this year for “7empest,” will inspire more drummers to drop the click and bring back what Carey calls the “dedication to your vibe” from the days of artisanal drumming.

Related Content: 

The Neuroscience of Drumming: Researchers Discover the Secrets of Drumming & The Human Brain

Witness Rush Drummer Neil Peart’s (RIP) Finest Moments On Stage and Screen

What Makes John Bonham Such a Good Drummer? A New Video Essay Breaks Down His Inimitable Style

See Why Ginger Baker (RIP) Was One of the Greatest Drummers in Rock & World Music

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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Comments (17)
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  • Tammy Miller says:

    Absolutely breathtaking to watch. Thank you.



  • Charlotte Banks says:

    Kinda late to the party, ain’t ya?

  • Suzanne says:

    I was thinking the same exact thing!🌀🤘🏻🌀

  • Shaun Ashmead says:

    Insane drummer!!! All songs are mind-blowing psychoabstract and I’m stoked as shit having this album. I’m stoked as shit it exists! I’m stoked as shit Tool exists! I’m stoked as shit about all kinds of shit worthy of being stoked about!! \m/

  • David Swanson says:

    Was at their Dallas show, Jan. 22, 2022. Danny is amazing on the drums!

  • Nathan Beardsley says:

    Tool … The band .and listening then being able to actually watch Danny play(WOW)over the man’s shoulder,is absolutely amazing!I have listened TOOL since their beginning.i want to say thanks to the Band as a whole for helping me through the roughest times and and the best times to of my life.
    They will ALWAYS be my muse n musical hero’s.. and my son’s as well..thank you so for letting me see and want to live my life better in a complex,soulsearching, spiritual way…GO TOOL!

  • Aaron says:

    I caught a drumhead that Danny frisbee’d into the crowd in 2001 after a show in Madison, WI. Signed with his name, a pentagram, and the illuminati eyeball… Still have it.

  • Brice says:

    This video is old, got me excited that maybe they posted new vid, now why make a whole struggle about such an old video?

  • Chev says:

    Phill Collins is neither prog rock nor a drumming great

  • Nektosha says:

    They did mention that Phil Collins is a drumming great ,so they are a bit slow

  • James hershel Skidmore says:

    Dammit man my shits getting stoked just reading of other peoples when they listen to some of the best shit in the world

  • Timothy M Snead says:

    I caught the same drumhead in Virginia Beach 01.

  • Tonya Bedwell says:

    Listen to the Genesis albums from the 1970s. Then you’ll understand that Collins is both prog rock and a great drummer.

  • Robert Bedwell says:

    Actually Phil is a great drummer. Listen to any Genesis album from the 1970s. You’ll understand

  • William H Featherston says:

    Why do you even bother acting so cool.ppl will stumble upon greatness and talent always. Regardless if its well known to most or the new best kept secret. Man fans are somthing else!!

  • William H Featherston says:

    Are you a tool? Really?wow

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