Here's an interview that I did with Matthew "Hellboy" Smith, the creator/owner of the informative and entertaining Tool fan site www.fourtheye.net.
BMB: How did you become a fan of Tool's music? Do you remember the first time you heard them (album, CD, radio?) And when and where was the first time you heard them live?
MATT: I remember reading about Tool before I'd actually heard them in the now defunct Australian magazine Hot Metal. Not long after, I heard Sober on the radio but never really went further with the band. Fast forward a few years, and I remember hearing Stinkfist on Triple J, was immediately hooked by the alternating vocal styles and purchased the Ænima the next day. I was quite bemused on first listen though - I thought I was getting a more traditional rock album, and really didn't know what to think by the end of it especially when Third Eye came on. It was unlike anything I’d heard before, as my exposure to progressive rock at that time was quite minimal.
My first live show was on the Lateralus tour back in 2001, their first Australian leg in Sydney. They skipped Adelaide on that tour, so I flew over to see it with a friend who lived in town. Our seats were way off to the side, which I thought would be a bit crap, but as it turned out it gave us a great view of Danny. I’ve seen Tool a bunch of times since then, one of the highlights being the Big Day Out where Rammstein joined them on stage and set fire to a drumkit!
BMB: So, how did FOURTHEYE come about? Are you the programmer or did you have help? How long has the site existed and what plans do you have for the future? Do you remember your very first post?
MATT: Having been a programmer for some time, I tend to have a technical approach to how I consume news and information. Back in 2006, I subscribed to a range of music blogs using RSS feeds and the long since discontinued Google Reader. I managed to find feeds for many bands I was interested in, but not Tool. Using RSS meant that you didn't have to visit the website all the time, as the Reader would check for you. Kabir's excellent toolshed.down.net didn't have one either, nor did Toolband or Toolarmy, so I decided there was a gap that needed to be filled.
Interesting to note that even after Toolband finally got updated, it still didn't have an RSS feed!
The first news post on the 8th of June, 2005 was letting readers know about a upcoming interview with Maynard on some radio show called Barely Legal. Listeners were invited to call and speak with him, who from memory more or less refused to talk about Tool.
As for the future of the site - I don’t see it changing a great deal in the way it operates. It’s a somewhat bloated install of Wordpress at the moment, and I’d like to migrate it to something more lightweight, but that takes more time than I have to give (for now).
BMB: Does all the work on the site come as a labor of love or do membership fees pay for it?
MATT: The site doesn't cost much to run, thanks to a few things. Firstly Daniel Green, who runs toolnavy.com and the excellent Amazon Price Tracker camelcamelcamel.com, donates server space, which helps greatly to keep costs down. Secondly I use a membership/donation program via Paypal, as well as Google Adsense to help fund other incidental costs. The time I put into it is certainly a labour of love, I likely spend 4-5 hours a week writing posts and moderating forums
BMB: How do you get your Tool-related news? How regularly do you check other sites? Do you have sources with other sites that give you a heads up as well as friends close to a band member that give you some inside info? I remember giving someone news to give you that I couldn't post officially. Did you get this? (It was from someone that knew Danny.)
MATT: These days, social media is the king for up to the minute Tool news. The Toolband Subreddit is probably my primary source of information these days - if something has been posted on the internet that’s Tool related, it’s normally on there sometimes within minutes of being posted. It’s a firehose like environment, with a range of Tool news and discussions coming thick and fast. On Fourtheye I tend to take the quality over quantity approach, and I think my readers prefer the more curated feed as opposed to the wild west of social media.
I have a few sources that give me snippets of info here and there, though I’d note that many of them have been pretty quiet the last few years. I don’t want to be that guy who keeps bugging people all the time, so tend to let them come to me with information if and when they have any. The common link is that they are almost always friends of Danny! A couple I know nothing about other than their email address, one in particular having provided a quite interesting recording from what I think was the Loft a few years ago...
BMB: Have you ever banned someone from the site. If so, for what reason?
MATT: No exciting stories here I'm afraid - most banning happens when people say silly stuff, or try and make Fourtheye a soap box for their sometimes twisted political views.
BMB: What was your favorite April Fool's Day joke? Will there be any more Tool chicanery in the future?
MATT: I think my favorite April Fools prank was Kabir’s Listening Party prank in 2006: http://toolshed.down.net/news/april06/
A good April Fools joke is hard to come by these days, as it needs to be convincing enough to make you think twice. I’m still not convinced these listening parties weren’t real!
I’ve run a couple of pranks on Fourtheye over the years, probably my favorite being the one where Adam replaced Maynard with Axl Rose.
Tool have been pretty quiet of late on the April Fools front. Could Tool pull the ultimate prank, and release their next album on April 1st, 2019?
BMB: Are you a musician? If so what instrument do you play?
MATT: I play a bunch of instruments poorly, but am probably best known for playing the bass in a short lived Adelaide punk band called Undertone.
BMB: Besides Tool, what are some of your favorite bands these days?
MATT: I still listen to plenty of new music, and have in fact just published my top 10 albums of 2018. If I were to list my favourite bands that aren’t Tool, they would be: Faith No More, The Jesus Lizard, Living Colour, Shellac, The Mark of Cain, Primus, Cog, The Melvins, Rammstein, Front End Loader and Propagandhi
BMB: Do you have another job that limits the amount of time that you can devote to FOURTHEYE?
What about recreational activities and hobbies?
MATT: While not writing about Tool, I work as an eCommerce Web Developer for a consultancy here in South Australia. I have many hobbies, but the one that sucks up most of my time is caving. I spend many weekends each year exploring caves around our beautiful country. In fact tomorrow I head off to Tasmania for the next Australian Speleological Federation Caving Conference held in Devonport.
BMB: What is the most dangerous wildlife you've encountered while living Down Under?
MATT: Dangerous wildlife is one of the many challenges of being Australian, and crossing paths with a range of venomous snakes and spiders is daily occurrence. I was noting just yesterday that there was a cluster of red-back spiders in some brickwork in the back yard that needs addressing. And just last month we had a local Drop Bear infesting one of our gum trees.
BMB: If you could hear Tool play any song live, what would it be? Also, what would you like to hear on the new album that you don't think you'll hear?
MATT: Tool love visiting Australia, so I’ve been lucky enough to tick most of my boxes from their last 3 albums.
BMB: Have you ever met any of the band members?
MATT: Despite being backstage a couple of times, I’ve only ever spoken with Justin, and even then briefly. I did get to have a good chat with Junior once after the show - a very friendly and interesting guy. Well worth saying g’day to if you see him slacking off in the lighting booth.
BMB: What rumored 'secret' about Tool would you most like to know the truth about?
MATT: Not so much a ‘secret’ per se, but I’ve always been curious about how Faaip De Oiad would sound live. Purportedly it was played live back in 2002 after the Reno and Oklahoma shows, some 20 minutes after the usual set had finished. Given that I believe Tool have recorded every show, I wonder if they would ever share this Tool rarity with the rest of the community.