(From the January newsletter)
Q: Can you tell me something about the 'terrible' secret that one of the songs on the new record speaks of?
A sustained bell-like tone filled Tool's studio/rehearsal space. In the dimly-lit back room, Danny and I were experimenting with his new Paiste rotosound #2, placing microphones at various distances when suddenly there was a loud knock on the heavy door. This turned out to be our friend Bill Manspeaker * who was holding what looked like a small photo album. There was something he wanted to show us he said somewhat excitedly over the still ringing percussive sound in the monitors. Alright, but still whatever happened to bringing a twelve-pack, I wondered?
* As many of you know, Bill was one of the founding members of Green Jell-o, a band that both Danny and Maynard played in briefly prior to the formation of Tool.
Before removing some photos, Bill told us that he had recently taken a trip to the California high desert - to a place where friends had told him that strange things were happening to some of those who went out there. These strange happenings seemed to involve certain features that many would associate with the UFO phenomenon, including anomalous lights, feelings at times of a technological presence beyond the spectrum of tangibility, and even classic 'alien' abduction scenarios (however, sometimes with a new twist involving implanted thoughts or telepathic commands informing potential abductees of mysterious grids that acted as safety zones of sorts). Here was something strange indeed!
When Bill finally went to check out the place, taking photographs of the decidedly 'alien' topography, something rather odd later turned up - something that wasn't visible to the naked eye. Whether or not this was an artifact of the film (?) process or simply something on the camera lens, I do not know, but clearly the photos he showed Danny and I did contain some anomalies. As I listened to his story, from various descriptions of place, I quickly realized that the location of all this apparent weirdness was in Landers near the site of George Van Tassel's famous Integratron, a 16-sided, domed structure build for cellular rejuvenation (and other specific technological purposes) using esoteric knowledge imparted to him in the early 1950s by '"alien" intelligences with names like Sylvanon, Solgonda, and (somewhat more humorously) Knut (who, of course, "brings love."). That night, I asked Bill to email me a couple of the photos, but then pretty much forgot about the story, probably because while living in Southern California for over 25 years, one hears so many tales of high strangeness in the desert.
It wasn't until a few weeks later that I had a chance to visit the area. On a Saturday morning, Camella called from the Reeder Ranch where she was rehearsing with Butcher, wanting to know if I wanted to meet her (and Great Dane, Diablo) later that afternoon at the Yucca Inn for pool-side drinks and then to go watch the sunset at nearby Joshua Tree National Monument. Both her nephew Joe and Heather were up for it I was told, so after getting some lunch, we loaded both the silver and gold Coleman into the back of Heather's black SUV, and hit the road. But in Los Angeles, that's when things can and usually do go wrong.
Due to traffic gridlock, we didn't arrive at the Yucca Inn until well after dark. And by the time we got to Joshua Tree, all the campsites were taken (not to mention the wet tee-shirt contest canceled). There was nothing to do now but return to the quaint motel, order pizza delivery and maybe have some tropical drinks out by the pool. But nothing seemed to be going our way. (Even the pizza place screwed up our order.) Around 9:00 PM the temperature outside dropped considerably, so much so that only a couple of Marines from 29 Palms and their girlfriends stripped down and braved the pool's Jacuzzi (fortified by shots of "Captain Mo", so one of them informed me). At 11:00, we decided to call it a night, but not before I suggested to Camella that we get up early and go check out Giant Rock and Van Tassel's Integratron. It was, after all, only about a half hour drive from the Yucca, and a chance to salvage the trip. The California "badlands" might even prove to be a good location to shoot some video footage in the future. And besides, Diablo would be happy... still pissed as he was about Papa John's blunder.
"We're going to look at a rock?" Heather asked as Camella and I compared map coordinates between sips of StarBucks. "It's only the world's largest free-standing boulder" I informed her... "that is before a large portion of it split off about six years ago as was prophesized by certain Native American tribes as the beginning of a new era for humanity." "So we ARE going to look a rock." With a majestic John Williams/Gustav Holst (Herbert von Karajan, please!) score playing in my head, I looked into the lovely's eyes and said: "Heather, I need you to see this rock with me..." (orchestral crescendo)
As a researcher/writer of things ufological, over the years I'd been to numerous sites associated with the mystery, particularly those in the American Southwest, including some 50-plus trips to the perimeter of the Groom Lake Complex (AREA 51), the exceedingly ominous Archuleta Mesa on the Jicarilla Apache Indian Reservation in Dulce, New Mexico (as well as Roswell, Socorro, White Sands, Sandia, Corona, The Plains of San Augustin, Magdalena, Datil, Pie Town, and seemingly every inch of that oft-buzzed state). In California, I'd made excursions to the Tejon Ranch ("Ant Hill" Facility) in the Tehuchapi Mountains, and traveled to Mount Shasta to look for evidence of Lemurian colonies. I'd checked out both the Tujunga and Topanga Canyon contacts. I'd even been to the fabled Kokoweef but, for whatever reason, I'd never made the pilgrimage to Giant Rock, the home of all those flying saucer conclaves in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. The place where many say it all started. But all that was about to change... (pizzicato strings ala "Close Encounters")
Heading north on Sunburst, turning on Golden and then again on Reche, before we knew it, we'd arrived at the powerful geomagnetic vortex of 2477 Belfield Blvd. There, on a fenced compound amid the desert scrub, with the usual desert trappings of decrepit trailers and disembowled vehicles, stood the engineering marvel known as the Integratron (or, more accurately, perhaps, the domed structure that housed the device called the Integratron) - that constructed on "a natural cone of receptivity" by the channeled wisdom of Ashtar and Zolton, and other ultraterrestrial emissaries with funny names (and about $42.000 in donations) which involved coordinates (and, naturally, shared harmonics) in some geo-mystical relationship with the Great Pyramid of Egypt.
Built without nails or any metal whatsoever (wood would be the sole construction material) that would, according to communications from the "omnibeam", disrupt the powerful geomagnetic forces that were critical to the functioning of the device, with it's Rejuvenation Sound Chamber, here was the key to prolonged life as well as to such exotic concepts as antigravity and even time travel. Upon completion, Van Tassel had planned to escort 10,000 people a day into the Integratron. Unfortunately, he died in 1978, before the high-tech Fountain of Youth was completed.
Getting out of Heather's SUV while mumbling something about loving natural ley lines, sadness broke over my face as I read a sign posted on the barbed wire fence surrounding the silo-looking energy condenser. Unlike most churches in the Yucca Valley and elsewhere, the miraculous Integratron wasn't opened on this bright Sunday morning - a real pity, too, as I was looking forward to stepping inside the monolith of the Mojave, as it's been called, for a treatment, keeping in mind that Van Tassel had told at least one prospective client that there was "an automatic adjustment factor" which would prevent a middle-aged "rejuvenee" from turning back into a child, an infant, a fetus, or even just the gleam in his father's eye. Oh well, if we wanted a sonic healing session (sound bath) inside the acoustically perfect chamber, we'd have to come back next weekend. However, all was not lost. Just up a sandy dirt road marked with paper plate signs was the sixty-foot-high, 22,000- ton boulder that I wanted to see even more than the legendary Integratron itself.
Climbing back into the SUVs, we drove on until, within minutes, the enormous boulder came into view on the sandy, wide valley floor. Parking a short distance away, the first thing that I noticed was that the small airport café that I'd seen in so many black and white photos taken during the glory days of Van Tassel's Giant Rock Interplanetary Spacecraft Conventions had been bulldozed. The second thing was all the graffiti that now marred the once pristine symbol of early saucerdom. While walking across the eerie desert landscape, as swarms of bees hummed over creosote bushes (the only sound heard for miles), I tried to imagine the place as I'd seen it in photographs and UFO documentaries, back when it was filled with thousands of flying saucer enthusiasts gathered around stalls of books, photos, and souvenirs while listening to speakers on the lecture circuit, all part of what is now known as the contactee phenomenon.
At its height of popularity, as many as 5000 spectators attended a convention hosted by Van Tassel (which included seventeen in all, starting with the first one on April 4th, 1954). Kindred spirits they must have been, those who congregated in the desert to listen to such saucer luminaries as Adamski, Bethurum, Angelucci, Fry, Williamson, Menger, and other second-tier contactees who were given a platform to describe their encounters with the benevolent space brothers, some of whom existed outside the threshold of perception. And then there were the colorful tales of joyriding voyages throughout the solar system, the spacecraft piloted by handsome, blonde, Christ-like figures with names like Orthon, A-lan, and Valiant Thor (and occasionally strikingly beautiful female occupants like the Clarionite aeronaut Aura Rhanes) who hailed from idyllic planets with utopian societies. At a time when there was so much anxiety about the menace of Communism, and nuclear annihilation seemed almost inevitable, along with philosophical messages, ultimately came dire cosmic warnings from those in tight silver uniforms - a string of platitudes about the dangers of atomic weapons. But while some of the platitudinous warnings conveyed by the saucer-ride boys concerned how we of earth were upsetting the balance of the entire universe, others appeared to be more concerned with why a sliver of pork should have first place over a whole can of beans (as in the familiar label, Pork & Beans).
And in this climate, where sprang up all sorts of pseudo-occult groups, UFO clubs and every kind of quasi-religious cult imaginable, as the technological angels spread their message of peace, it would only be fitting that at the same time malevolent forces were conspiring to thwart the galactic brotherhood with their tell-tale $2.50 lapel pins (or was it out of necessity in order to find out just what the hell was going on here?) After the 1947 flap, one can only imagine how such conventions like Giant Rock were teeming with FBI and CIA suits (though for the occasion their agents probably donned golden robes enveloped with a bluish radiance). One has only to guess which cream of the crop contactees were in reality agent provocateurs, or which had infiltrated the saucer organizations for a particular agenda, or which contactees were actually intel-created crackpots to be laughed at and ridiculed by the masses. A hall of mirrors, you bet... and a tangle of lies, with the FBI wanting to know what the CIA knew, and where Men In Black were fitted in costume (complete with hats of the Homburg style) to attempt to find out who these Men In Black were that mysteriously appeared and tried to suppress witnesses to the extraordinary (all the while trying to eat green Jello through a straw). On and on it went, until finally a new menace appeared on the scene: roving gangs of bikers that scared away all the conventioneers in their station wagons and Airstream trailers, both the die-hards and hard-boiled skeptics... even the hippies, leaving only an enormous boulder.
In looking around the place, somewhat sadly, I quickly realized that I preferred the black and white photos of the Giant Rock as it appeared in the so-called halcyon days. The way it was before it was scarred with graffiti, with even the exposed sparkling granite interior spray-painted with swastikas, 'occult' clichés and some pimply tweaker's homage to "Slayer."
The natural cone of receptivity was now the hangout of meth-heads and crazies - a snapshot of man's destructive nature with half-burnt mattresses, rusty deteriorated grills, assorted waste, and bullet-riddled empty beer cans. Anonymous desert rats on noisy dirt bikes and colorful three-wheelers trample over what remains of the sandy airstrip's shack, oblivious to the fact that a mere fourteen steps below, some fifty years ago, an apostle of the new age named George Van Tassel received messages from advanced beings via the omni-beam. In fact, so vandalized was the place now that I even began to doubt the prediction of 1950s showman-psychic, Criswell that World War III would begin here. What was it that Aura Rhanes from the planet Clarion had said regarding man's future: "The water of your desert will mostly be tears."
Walking on the remains of a tile floor, I began thinking about the strange things Bill Manspeaker had told me... about those who still camped out here at night, attracted by Giant Rock's history... by its mystique, some probably even looking for UFOs. The lonely California badlands... What a perfect place, I thought, for someone to find human guinea pigs, the unwitting victims of Uncle Sam's black ops and MILABS (military abductions), especially in the "safety zones", an altogether different animal from the Klaatu-like space brothers (?) with their perfect teeth.
And then I saw Dave. At first I thought it was just a mirage, but there he was in his van with the Phish sticker, door beads, and embroidered tapestries. I recognized him by his frizzy hair, dressed in a tie-dye tee, Baja hoodie and hemp pants, with the familiar Birkenstocks, kicking the hackiesack. So, the biker gangs didn't scare all the hippies away after all. They were back! Looking at him, I realized that Dave was the kind of guy who would hold tightly in his palm a certain piece of metal while repeating the word "Kazik." Well, at least he'd put something in that pipe of his and smoke it.
Watching him there in the bright sun, I had a flash of insight. Again I recalled the message of the Clarionite, Aura Rhanes: "The water of your deserts will mostly be tears." And didn't a spaceman tell 50s contactee Orfeo Angelucci that the earth was called "The home of sorrows." Were the space brothers with their funny names speaking in a cipher - messages coming from the Nation of the Third Eye? And was it time to finally understand now that the Giant Rock had split in two. Is that why the "Sage of Giant Rock" - he who left us a wonderful device for physical rejuvenation (with its non-metallic framework) - Van Tassel's communications came from "The Council of the Seven Lights?" And now, Dave, too, was dialing in wave-lengths. But I had to wonder whether or not if he ever managed to separate the true vibrations from the discords if someone would have to change him like a baby.