Drummer Danny Carey Talks Debut Volto! Album, How the Music Differs From Tool + More
Tool stickman Danny Carey is widely known as one of the finest drummers in rock and metal. The percussionist’s skill behind the kit is nearly unmatched, providing complex and brilliantly composed foundations to Tool’s entire unique discography. Carey has now taken his precision to the project Volto! and we recently spoke to Carey all about his new instrumental band.
Volto! will release their debut album, ‘Incitare,’ on July 23, which will be quickly followed by a short string of U.S. tour dates. In our exclusive interview with Carey, we delved deep into Volto!, whether he thinks Tool fans will embrace the new project and much more.
Check out our exclusive chat with drumming master Danny Carey:
With Volto!, you’re drumming to a different guitar style than you would be with Tool. How does that affect your songwriting when it comes to your drum parts?
It’s pretty much a lot more free of a space to operate in compared to Tool, which is very structured. Most of the parts are really gone over and over and over again with Tool. It’s a very composed situation. We spend weeks if not months working on all those songs. There’s not much room for improvisation. The bulk of the [Volto!] songs are pretty much a jazz format where you play the head and after that, anything goes. You go through the same chord changes and stuff but you make it up as you go along once the head is done. You’ll have a few mileposts along the way in the tunes but it’s all set up with improvisation freedom rather than the song structures.
Do you use a different drum kit set up with Volto! than you do with Tool? Because your Tool kit is so massive and intricate.
The basic drums themselves are really close to the same. I still use two kick drums and four toms and kind of similar cymbal set-up, but I don’t use the electronic stuff right now with Volto!, which is the most tedious part of the Tool set up and makes it look so over-the-top. Volto! is more of a simpler form and use it more like a jazz thing, so I don’t use any of the electronic stuff, at least at this point. It could evolve into that, but who knows?
When you began to create Volto!, did you view it as something that was going to be strictly instrumental or were you open to a singer joining?
Actually, when we started we did have a singer. Our keyboard player, Kirk Covington was singing on several tunes. It was mostly cover songs just so we could get gigs at certain places and things like that. We planned on using vocals in the format of the band, but Kirk had moved back to Texas so we ended up having to get another keyboard player and that kind of nixed the vocals.
So there’s nobody else you could really visualize being a frontman for Volto!?
We have had a couple of different singers kind of sit in with us, which was kind of fun, but I almost prefer to keep it where it is. If we have a vocalist, it’s more of a guest appearance. It leaves it more flexible to different styles rather than getting tied down to a certain person’s vocal style.
When it comes to your personal influences, are there any you’re able to harness for Volto! that you haven’t been able to use with Tool?
Yeah, I grew up playing lots of jazz music in school. I played in the big band, and played my way through college playing a lot of jazz music; so a lot of that stuff, it’s kind of hard to make it apply. Chops-wise, it’s always kind of there, I guess, for Tool. Tony Williams, Billy Cobham and Lenny White; some of those guys were big influences on me. Now I’m able to utilize the hard work I’ve put into that area a little more than I was before with Tool. Tool came from my prog-rock influences like Bill Bruford and Phil Collins.
‘Incitare’ is a very diverse record. There’s some straight-forward jams like ‘Grip It’ and there are songs like ‘Meltdown,’ which is tripped-out chaos for five minutes. How do you go about composing such a chaotic piece? Is it more challenging to arrange and to keep it together?
It really is, pretty much, just an improvisational-type piece. If we played that song again and again, it’s different every time we do it. We just let it flow like that. It’s tricky playing things like that because it really has to sound focused and it has to have some linearity to it that people can grab onto. It’s a tricky thing, you have to have good ears and listen a lot to each other when you pull off things like that.
With Tool you’ve been playing huge arenas. Are you looking forward to playing more intimate gigs with Volto!?
Yeah, it’s enjoyable to do. I get to play quite a few gigs with Volto! We get to play at least once a month somewhere — little places like the Baked Potato here in Los Angeles. I get the intimate thing going on here at home, but it’ll be nice to go out and share it in other cities in that kind of environment. That I haven’t done in ages; since we were paying our dues with Tool. It’ll be a challenge again to go out and grind it out in the trenches, I guess. I’ll see how it goes. [Laughs]
Of course, Tool fans are incredibly dedicated and they’ve followed Maynard through all of his side projects. Do you think Tool fans are going to follow Volto!, as well, or is that not really a concern of yours?
I hope to forge something new. It’s kind of easier, I think, for Maynard to reel in the Tool fans with the voice. The lead singer is such a prominent thing, where drums are more of a supporting instrument. I think a lot of people view it that way even though it’s maybe not so much like that at all in our band. We’ve got a very democratic point of view. I’m sure we won’t pull them in like A Perfect Circle or even Puscifer, but I think Volto! has the potential to grow into something big because everyone that sees it seems to dig it. It has lots of different elements even though it’s kind of jazzy at times. It still has some good rocking elements to it. It definitely has some proggy elements too, so we’re hoping that people catch onto that or just enjoy the music for what it is.
I think a lot of people who are going to like Volto! will be musicians — especially technically minded musicians.
Yeah, there will be a lot of more guys probably in the crowd than girls. [Laughs] Kind of a bummer, but it happens that way usually. Guys go for a more technical stuff like that. We’ll see how it goes.
There are some parts in Volto!’s new album where a groove or a riff comes up that would fit Tool’s sound. Is your guitarist influenced by Tool at all?
Yeah, John digs Adam’s playing. I know Adam digs John’s playing too — it’s kind of a two way street. John, sometimes I think he likes to lean that way on some of his riffs just because he’s playing with me too. It’s fun; I dig it when he gets stylistically leaning in that direction because it tends to rock harder. It’s fun playing with John; he’s a fantastic player — mind-blowing actually.
He sounds like a guy who could play the hell out of anything from any genre.
Pretty much. [Laughs] He’s one of those guys. It’s heavy, you know? When he writes his own tunes is when he shines the best. It’s fantastic to see a guy with that much talent and to be able to share the stage with him.
Watch the Volto! video for ‘Tocino’