Danny Carey reveals that Tool have never recorded to a click: “As soon as I count it off, the click goes off. We’ll do however many takes it takes for me to be happy with my thing”

Since Tool’s first release over 30 years ago, Danny Carey has steadily built a reputation as one of the most interesting and technically proficient drummers in rock. Now 62, Carey recently sat down for an hour-long interview with Rick Beato, where he covered topics including his favourite Led Zeppelin drum parts, his gear, and playing in a country band with Jeff Buckley.

However, one of the biggest revelations Carey made was that Tool have never recorded to a click track. Asked by Beato about his approach to capturing a drum take (whether they comp them together, or if Carey aims for one complete, live take), he explains the process for capturing a Tool drum track.

“We go to a big room to capture the drums…some place that has a million dollars’ worth of microphones and a big beautiful room. We did Henson last time, it was awesome. Our goal is just to capture the drums tracks. We all play together, we’ll agree on a tempo and then start a click track. As soon as I count it off that [click] goes off and we’re just playing. We’ll do however many takes it takes for me to be happy with my thing.”

He goes on to add that while not all of his drum tracks are created from one take start-to-finish, the click-less recording can present challenges when it comes to editing it together.

“We’ll do edits, like this chorus might be better with this one. It’s funny, we usually play the song beginning to end and it’ll be a couple of BPM off from excitement or however you’re feeling that day, or what you had to eat. It could be anything!

“So a lot of times it won’t match very good, so you try to get one take all the way through. I think a lot of it is because a lot of the songs are such weird time signatures, it’d be hard to program a click! I think it’s ok if things speed up or slow down a little bit and breathes a little. Most of the stuff I grew up listening to, like all the old prog stuff; you hear it.

“It’s funny how sensitive you become to tempo changes after being inundated with click-track perfection over all these years. It kind of takes the magic out of it, I think. I hope other people don’t just hear it as wrong!"

Elsewhere, Carey addressed why he frequently plays with his snares turned off. 

“Originally, I started doing that just because I wanted to have somewhere to go during the song. Like, ‘Ok, it can start it off like this, then when we come to the chorus I’ll whip-on the snares’. 

"So that was the original intention behind doing that a lot, but I became really attached to the sound. Sometimes I use it all the way through, but usually it’s a great contrast to be able to throw the snares on and all of a sudden have something take it up a gear."

Stuart Williams

I'm a freelance member of the MusicRadar team, specialising in drum news, interviews and reviews. I formerly edited Rhythm and Total Guitar here in the UK and have been playing drums for more than 25 years (my arms are very tired). When I'm not working on the site, I can be found on my electronic kit at home, or gigging and depping in function bands and the odd original project.