Wow, that Waitangi Day sure sneaks up on you! But, while many are celebrating in New Zealand, here I am stuck at my desk working on the February newsletter. Have an Aubby Gobby Nana muffin for me, though, will you mate! Anyway, closer to home, let’s see what’s going on in the world of Tool since we last checked on them… Hmmm… That much, eh! Actually, before sharing what I believe many of you will find to be a very interesting e-mail (seriously, as it was written by a neuroscientist and involves “10,000 Days”), I’d like to respond to some of the e-mail and comments on fansites about January’s offering.
Why do you suppose it is that some Tool fans are so negative? Bleak winter surroundings? Medications? Bee in the bonnet? When the small winter tour was first announced, some were bummed out about the news, thinking that a new tour was merely another distraction that would keep the band members from working on the new record. When I countered that the tour would be the perfect opportunity for all four band members to work together on new material (which they have been, with very positive results, thank you), these same people then started complaining about the set-list most likely being the same as the previous tour. Once they found out that the band was, in fact, playing several songs that they haven’t performed live in many years, these same people (for some reason) decided in their minds that Tool were only doing this as a token offering before calling it quits for good. That’s right, a mini tour in the secondary markets with a few older tunes and they might as well break up. JEEZ!!! Nothing could be farther from the truth. They all realize that December 21, 2012 is fast upon us (NOT to be taken as a release date or promo for dependable Chevy trucks… out of gas).
As another example of some of the negativity out there (and, again, I’m only speaking about a very small percentage of fans), when I decided to pepper the last newsletter with some common “roadie slang”, (because the focus of much of it pertained to the backstage area), when I mentioned the term “feeding the fish”, some took this as being of a derogatory nature - meaning that the band members no longer carried about their fans. They even tried to connect this with some recent tour posters that contained drawings of fish. Whatever the actual meaning of these drawings is (if anything?!), I can tell you that they have absolutely nothing to do with any negative feelings towards the band’s fans or audience. Let me repeat this for those sitting way at the back of the class huffing dog jenkem and/or melted magenta crayons. The posters featuring the fish have nothing to do with any negative feelings towards the band’s fans or audience. The term “feeding the fish” is nearly as old as rock music itself and is what roadies call it when the band tosses out souvenirs to their audience at the end of the show in appreciation for being a great crowd. As examples of other roadie slang that I used in the newsletter, there’s “bog” (referring to the toilet on a tour bus, though, in the case of Tool, at least, not to jenkem!), “bar carp” (“Goldfish”-like snack crackers), “clag” (tools or small items without cases), and bunk sock (which hopefully needs no translation). For those who haven’t figured it out, the DayQuil-induced January newsletter is essentially about how so many people will go to such great lengths to try and acquire a backstage pass, not realizing that even if they SOMEHOW managed to get one, a Tool after show is not the Shangri-la many think it to be. Far from it. In fact, you’d have a better chance of meeting Maynard at a Buford Wyoming Laundromat than backstage at a Tool show. The newsletter was also about the powerful attraction of a particular casino slot machine, which via continuous subliminal messages beckoned me away from my friends at the Mandalay Bay concert. (It wasn’t a pill given to me by security, after all – it was that oil tycoon, Ted, and the promise of striking it rich with nickels!)
But, getting back to the roadie lingo, let me share with you a story of what I once “fed to the fish” back in my prog-rock days. This wasn’t a guitar pick, plastic bottle of water, or even a ripe orange autographed in purple ink. No, this was an actual ‘fully functioning’ analog synthesizer… and one that is now considered to be extremely rare and highly sought after by vintage synth aficionados. Many of you know that Danny has an amazing collection of rare synthesizers. These include Moog modular behemoths, Buchla oddities, EMS systems the size of a VW microbus, Serge, Roland, Emu, all housed in massive cabinets, as well as seemingly dozens of older-generation Oberheims and those science project ARP 2600s in all three colors. But what you might not know is that this synth museum of his lacks the early 1970s Italian made Davoli Davolisint analog monosyth. Although this little shiny black 2-oscillator wonder is now generally considered to be a good candidate for the worst monophonic synthesizer ever made – lacking as it does any filters, mixer, envelope generators, etc, it is nevertheless highly sought after by zealots of anything with a pitch lever (which, in the case of the Davolisint, comes in the form of a funky metal stick called “extend” - never mind that when you pull down on it, the pitch sweeps up!). Why, then, is the Davolisint so collectible? Surely not because of its pitiful single waveform, predetermined amount of portamento, or Farfisa organ-like vibrato. Nor that its oscillators could be detuned for a moog-like portliness (using a little imagination, that is). No, it’s because so few were produced.
But guess who once owned one? Yep, I most certainly did – having purchased it brand new when they first came out. It didn’t take long, however, for me to realize the Davolisint’s many limitations (did I mention a single waveform and fixed portamento?) So, I soon set my sights on a Mini-moog. When the joyful day finally arrived, I drove to “Ye Olde Music Shop” in Marissa, Illinois, a store once owned by Bob Heil (inventor of the Heil “Talkbox” that Adam uses on “Jambi.”). There, I traded owner “Fast” Ed Bigger my Davolisint and $1,100.00 in cash for a brand new Mini-Moog Model D (which was priced at $1,495.00 at the time, meaning he had given me a trade in value of $350.00 for the meager Davoli!). Happy I was with the Mini, and when I returned to the store about a year later to purchase a Moog Sample & Hold unit, the owner (Ed Bigger) walked over and picked up the Davolisint and handed it to me in its small travel case. “Blair, take this piece of shit with you, okay. I don’t want the fucking thing in the shop anymore!” So, once again, for better or for worse, the Davolisint was mine…
But what about “feeding the fish”, you ask? (Well. hopefully at least one of you asks…) A few months later the band that I was playing keyboards in was performing at Fort Leonard Wood in the Missouri Ozarks.
Although the army installation that served as basic training for infantry troops was nicknamed “Fort Lost in the Woods of Misery”, our booking agent was correct when he told us that playing there was like dying and going to heaven. This was mainly due to its large stage, lots of free beer, and the fact these men were starving for entertainment (but mostly because of the free beer). Long story made shorter: during some prog-rhapsody (our last song of the night), after a quick solo on the decidedly inept Davolisint, I unplugged the synth with its black tin casing and crude metal pitch lever and tossed the miserable thing into the raucous crowd, never to be seen or heard again (by me). This (or one just like it), as things would have it, is the ultra-rare vintage analog monosynth that Danny and other collectors today so arduously seek…
E-MAIL SUBJECT: “10,000 DAYS PUZZLE…”
“Dear Blair, you might recall that we met a couple of times at Volto! Baked Potato shows 1.5 years ago. I am a neuroscientist that chatted with you about vision science, tryptamine elves, and more. After one of the shows, Danny recommended, based on my interests, that I read "An Homage to Pythagoras". Since then I have been doing some work with contemplative geometry using Robert Lawlor's book "Sacred Geometry" as a workbook. After some time, the pieces began to fall together, my contemplative eye has widened, and the story continues.
For the purposes of this email: I believe that I have solved the 10,000 Days puzzle, to whatever extent the word 'solve' can mean here, since the puzzle this album alludes to has been the eternal quest of mankind.
10,000 Days as an album maps on the Kabbalah Tree of Life (TOL). There are several layers:
A) The album has 11 tracks, each of which corresponds to a specific Sefira on the TOL. Although the TOL is read from the top down, I list it here in the order of the album tracks, with the corresponding English translation and meaning. (A) presents the basic structure that holds true across further interpretation, while (B) and (C) iare more of my own perspective on the songs and album and how it all ties in with mystical traditions.
1. Vicarious - Malkut, "kingdom" - (1st chakra); tribal energy; 12 tribes of israel; 12 zodiac signs; 12 apostles; connection to nature, environment, rhythm of physical life; baptism
2. Jambi - Yesod, "foundation" - (2nd chakra); communion with others; vitality; creative force of life;
3. Wings for Marie, Pt. 1 - Hod, "majesty" - (3rd chakra); integrity; majesty of God; confirmation; honor code with oneself
4. 10,000 Days (Wings, Pt. 2) - Netzah, "victory", "eternity", "endurance" (3rd chakra); endurance; commitment
5. The Pot - Tif'eret, "adornment", "balance" - (4th chakra); heart; compassion, love; harmony
6. Lipan Conjuring - Da'at, "knowledge"
7. Lost Keys (Blame Hoffman) - Gevurah, "judgement", "concealment" - (5th chakra); power of judgement; the right use of one's will
8. Rosetta Stoned - Hesed, "kindness" - (5th chakra); will power, voicing a confession
9. Intension - Binah, "understanding" - (6th chakra); the divine understanding and intelligence of God; intention is developed here in the mind
10. Right in Two - Hokhmah, "wisdom" - (6th chakra, third eye); the energy of wisdom; contact point between mind of the divine and the personal mind; takes wisdom to contact God
11. Viginti Tres - Keter, "crown" - (7th chakra); Divine consciousness
B) The overarching theme that first came to me in the album was that the album begins in a state of division (Vicarious - "carnivore and voyeur"; Malkut; first chakra; survival) and ascends up the spiritual ladder to a state of Unity in Cosmic consciousness (Viginti Tres; Keter; the crown chakra). Then there are 3 pairs of tracks: Wings 1+2, Lost Keys + Rosetta, Intension + Right in Two, which match up perfectly.
When the pairs are taken as one on the same level, the sefirot correspond to the seven chakras and seven sacraments in the Vedic and Christian traditions, respectively (reference: "Energy Anatomy" by Caroline Myss). The meaning of each sefira also matches up with the rough energy of each song, as noted above. In more detail, Vicarious is the energy and rhythm of the tribe and connection to nature; here the lyrics present the schizoid nature of man in a world that feeds on tragedy. Jambi is the foundation and center of vitality gained by communion with others, here referring to both the sun (Son in Christianity) and perhaps Maynard's own son on the personal side of the coin. Both Wings pieces are majestic odes to the endurance and divine "victory" of Judith Marie as well as Maynard's personal sense of integrity bestowed to him by Marie as well as his own endurance through her ordeal of 10,000 days. The Pot was for a long time for me a stand-alone track in the album, a kind of adornment; it seemed to bring harmony to the rest of the album in some uncanny way. Funny enough, the translation of Tif'eret is "adornment" and implies balance, which in retrospect match my feelings exactly. This track establishes harmony, albeit in a kind of helium-belting rant in an androgynous voice that seems, perhaps, to blend the polarized feminine and masculine sides of the TOL. It's reference to getting high integrates Lost Keys and Rosetta Stoned, as well as provides the cauldron that acts as an alchemical conversion point between the higher and lower sefirot. Lost Keys translates to "concealment", and along with Rosetta Stoned represent the throat chakra, which parallels with the song's protagonist voicing a confession. The "kindness" translation attributed to Hesed (corresponding to Rosetta Stoned) is actually referring to the right use of one's will; how one will use the power of judgement, hopefully for expanding compassion and kindness, according to the mystical traditions. Intension conveys a sense of understanding (Binah) of how the manifest world works, as conveyed by the lyrics that run forward and backwards; intention is developed in the mind in conjunction with understanding and the intelligence. Right in Two is a track that conveys wisdom (Hokhmah), and together with Intension represent the 6th chakra, or third eye. Through wisdom and understanding, God or Divine Consciousness can be contacted from the manifest realm. The Divine Consciousness is represented by Viginti Tres (Keter), which translates to "crown" and correlates to the 7th chakra, from which the TOL begins its downward descent.
(C) Track 6, Lipan Conjuring, is at the center of the album, and its track number ties into its position on the TOL, surrounded by a hexagon. Tef'eret (The Pot) is also at the center of a hexagon and functions as an exchange/balance point. Incidentally, The Pot's alchemical implication corresponds with the sacred geometrical significance of the hexagon as the defining crystal structure of organic compounds (the benzene ring). In Da'at, all the other sefirot in the TOL are united as one. Accordingly, this track is in a sense the central ceremonial fire from which the other tracks on the album reveal themselves; it is the conjuring up of duality so that the Divine Light (emanating from pulses in Viginti Tres, Keter at the crown) can descend and be seen through the crystallizations of the individual tracks. Indeed, a wave-like pulsation is found throughout the album, which to my mind is the cosmic pulsation from Keter. Da'at is not commonly conveyed in depictions of the sefirot and it is not a proper sefira; it is all of them as one. Da'at serves as the connecting point between the sefirot closer to the Source (later tracks) and the sefirot further down in manifestation that deal with emotions (earlier tracks). Furthermore, Da'at is situated in the so-called "Abyss" of the TOL, a kind of no-man's-land between the archetypal and manifest (Real and Unreal, respectively, in Aleister Crowley's words) that acts as a mirror or reflection point for higher and lower halves of the TOL. Hence, the placement of Lipan Conjuring at the center of the album is appropriate: it is from here that a recognition of the higher level patterning of the album begins to be apprehended.
The track ordering of the album is one sense indicative of the songs' spots on the TOL, but in another sense, the ordering is nonlinear and hyperdimensional; it must be contemplated from a standpoint of sacred geometry, mysticism, and repeated listening so that musical patterns and motifs can elucidate the mystery of the Tree of Life.
If my interpretations are not the purported "solution" the 10,000 Days puzzle, I hope that they offered you an entertaining and thoughtful read. If nothing else, 10,000 Days—apart from being an incredible album that has brought me much bliss and divine communion in listening—has been a wonderful link between my own musicianship, yoga, and studies of consciousness. I would love to hear your feedback regardless of whether or I've lost the keys to unlocking this puzzle.” Best regards, Gabriel
Great job, and it only took a neuroscientist to figure this out. Thanks, my friend!
E-MAIL SUBJECT: “WINE INQUIRY”
“Hey Blair, I have a bottle of 2006 Chupacabra Red and a bottle of 2008 Nagual de la NAGA that I would love to have signed by Maynard while he is in town for the Atlanta show on Feb. 8th. How in the world can I make that happen?”
It’s a long shot… a real long shot, but you might try finding a security guard (hours prior to the show starting) that works with TOOL (not the venue!) and ask him/her if they would please take the bottles to Maynard to have him sign them and then return them at a pre-arranged time. Again, it’s a long shot, and you’d probably be better off just enjoying the show without having to worry about getting the wine bottles signed… but you never know unless you try. The one thing is not to be upset if it doesn’t happen. The band members are quite busy, even before the show starts,,, (working on new material!).