You might not have Dennis Chambers down as a Tool fan, and you’d be correct. But the funk/fusion legend recently had his first exposure to Tool and Danny Carey's progressive-metal stylings while filming a lesson for online drum lesson site, Drumeo (opens in new tab).
Tool aren’t really a ‘hits’ band, but Schism is the closest they have come to bothering the charts. Known for its weaving time signatures, dancing Copeland-style hi-hat licks and some liquid-sounding semi-quaver triplets between the toms, feet and snare, it’s a challenging near-seven-minute odyssey.
We can’t imagine being played Tool for the first time, then immediately being filmed as we attempt our way through playing along to one of their best-known songs. But we’re not Dennis Chambers, and actually, the funkman’s fusion/progressive influences certainly come into play here.
“Ok, I’ve got a problem with this” Chambers says at the start of the video. “This is not my type of thing”. From here, we get to watch as Dennis performs some “active listening” but there’s a catch, because while we’re hearing the original version, Dennis is actually hearing a drumless version of the song.
Dennis chuckles as the reality of what he’s agreed to sinks in, with Maynard James Keenan’s vocal crossing the bar lines and blurring the time signature. “That’s a great song, man. I’ve gotta get that.” Dennis says before explaining his approach to the track.
“The first thing I listen for is the style. The second thing I listen to is the time signature, just like anybody else”. Before recalling the alternating 6 and 7 meter of the verse, along with the chorus. He also highlights the bassline, before adding the disclaimer “This is not my cup of tea!”.
But, preferred beverages aside, Dennis does a masterful job, displacing the beat and bringing the snare forward in the bar compared to the (unheard to him) original with some funky open-handed grooves.
Incredibly, considering he hasn’t heard Carey’s parts, Dennis marks out the song’s breakdown/interlude with the hi-hats before building into the outro, even throwing in some of his trademark double-pedal work and finding his groove again for the outro. It’s Tool, but not as we know it!
The video is a continuation of Drumeo's theme from last year, where Snarky Puppy's Larnell Lewis nailed his first attempt at Metallica's Enter Sandman having never heard the track before. Although we think it's fair to say that Dennis grasped the short straw here.