Kansas-born drummer and percussionist, a founding member of the much-talked-about band Tool, Danny Carey is considered one of the greatest musicians of our time.
With a big list of prestigious collaborations, from the classic rock and songwriting atmosphere of King Crimson and Carole King to the industrial sound of Skinny Puppy and Pigface, Danny Carey is surely one of the most eclectic drummers on the rock scene.
After becoming a recurrent presence in the jazz scene of Kansas City, he moved to Los Angeles, where he started working as a professional session musician. That’s when he got the chance to work with important artists, such as Carole King, having also the opportunity to develop a diverse and adaptable drumming style.
In 1990, after meeting vocalist Maynard James Keenan, he joined Tool, the band with which he would achieve the incredible success we all know about.
While building a solid career with the Los Angeles rock band, he also joined several other side projects, such as VOLTO!
A Brief History of Tool
On the verge between metal and experimental rock, with peculiar musical aspects not quite definable, Tool have gained the attention of fans from the whole spectrum of the rock’n’roll realm.
Becoming an alternative metal sensation in 1996, with their second album Aenima, they developed some strong storytelling elements to go with their music, conjugating songs to visual arts, and a strong message of personal development present in most of their tunes, often through controversial lyrics and creepy music videos.
Throughout their career, they have never compromised on the quality of their work, refusing to adopt the music industry dogma according to which bands need to put out music consistently to keep the attention of the public at a high level. From 1990 to 2019 they only published five albums, curating every little detail behind their production, including the videomaking aspect. With his experience as a special effect designer in the movie industry, guitarist Adam Jones curates the visual impact of the band’s official videos, often crating small, disturbing masterpieces.
With such a clear outsider’s perspective, the band has never fitted in any fashion or trend and Danny Carey, with his personal drumming style, so unconventional and interesting, is the perfect drummer for such an unorthodox project.
A Love for The Occult
As narrated on the Tool’s official website, Danny Carey has a very peculiar approach to drumming.
By looking at his father conducting a Masonic ritual, as a young child, Danny was fascinated by the gestures and the mystery surrounding the ceremony.
At thirteen, when he first put his hands on a drumset, he couldn’t help noticing the parallelism between the gestures he had seen in that ritual and the movements he was making on the instrument. This odd epiphany led him to the discovery of sacred geometry and metaphysics. He would later apply some occult principles to his drumming, with some very characteristic results.
While not being religious nor a Mason, Carey maintained a strong interest in various fields of the occult throughout his whole life.
After achieving insight into unrevealed aspects of the unicursal hexagram through meditation, he set up his drumset being mindful of the proportions and the shapes, in a sort of ritual ending with a prayer contained in the book of Thoth. After this ritual, his playing would generate some peculiar energy, able to summon a demon who would reveal unspoken truths (similar to some passages of Crowley’s Book of Lies).
In the website passage where this information is contained, Carey even warns Tool’s fans about the appearance of this demon and explains how to protect themselves during the playing of the band’s next record.
Since Carey often thinks of his drumming as a sort of mystical ritual, everyone can perceive its flowing and very dynamic nature.
Technically speaking, what sets Danny Carey apart from most rock drummers is the experience in jazz bands, together with an endemic curiosity for odd foot techniques.
While drummers all over the world practice rudiments to master their sticking technique, he employs the same exercises to develop foot control and independence. As a result, he can deliver a snare drum solo with no problem whatsoever, while perfectly controlling the hi-hat and the double bass parts.
His curiosity also led him to study different world percussion instruments, such as the India tabla, expanding his perspective and approach even more.
Another characteristic of Danny Carey’s drumming, probably deriving from his jazz experience, is the use of odd time signatures, polyrhythms, and polymeters. To control such weird and challenging elements, he often adopts improvisation, relying on his “inner pulse” rather than precisely counting out the beats.
Danny Carey is a fan of Sonor Drums. He often uses their 14” x 8” snare drums, better if made of copper, while he prefers 22” x 18” bass drums played with a double pedal.
All of his set is usually tuned in D, as most of Tool’s music.
Carey is also very open to electronic sounds, so he often uses pads both during live concerts and in the recording studio.
In conclusion, Danny Carey is surely a great inspiration for any drummer who wants to achieve a personal sound through years of research and experimentation.
Drummers too can add layers of interesting and thought-out sounds to the arrangement of a song, making a real difference in the final results. If you are looking for an example on how to do this, look no further: Danny Carey can be your best mentor.
Check out Danny Carey’s website.