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Danny Carey Drummer

Danny Carey: An Inspiration for All Rock Drummers

Danny Carey is one of the greatest metal and progressive drummers of all time. With the band Tool, he has played tons of stages. 

In fact, according to concertarchives.org, Tool has played a staggering 1,734 shows between 1992 and 2019.

Tool is an American rock band from Los Angeles. From melting faces in Europe to selling out crowds at home, Tool has been a fan favorite for years. 

The songwriting process for Danny Carey and Tool is that of a traditional band, and not one of songwriters and producers. 

In an interview with Joe Rogan, Maynard James Keenan described the process.

“As far as the way that Danny and Justin and Adam write, it’s a very tedious, long process. And they’re always going back over things and questioning what they did and stepping back and going back farther and going forward and, in a way, they’re laying a foundation, they’re putting in the footings for a house. So I can’t write melodies until the footings are in place. I can’t write words until the melodies are in place.

I can’t build walls and then start decorating this place until the foundation is in place. ‘Cause if they keep changing the foundation, changing the footings, the melodies change, and then the story, of course, isn’t getting written. So that’s where we are. There’s a lot of footings that keep shifting — lots of awesome footings, but they keep changing. And they keep changing their minds. So I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing; it’s just their process.”

Source: The PRP

To my understanding, it sounds like Tool lays out the structure of the song first. Things like rhythm and chordal elements are secured first before singing and melodic ideas.


Fear Inoculum

Fear Inoculum is Tool’s latest release in thirteen years. Fans have been clamoring for new music from Tool for as long as I can remember.

I even remember seeing memes on social media joking how Tool would never release new music.

The release of Fear Inoculum is slightly nostalgic to the prolonged release of Chinese Democracy by 80s rockers Guns N’ Roses, which took 17 years and a budget of more than $10 million. One thing’s for sure — Tool has far better music than Guns N’ Roses.

One of my favorites of the album is Chocolate Chip Trip. The track features a percussive synthesizer and a drum solo reminiscent of a Neil Peart, with a higher degree of accuracy and technicality. There are loads of hertas and concert tom fills.

The looping ostinato has an alien vibe. One of the comments on the YouTube upload read, “Danny distracting the guards at Area 51.” You win the internet, William.


Early Drumming

Danny was born in Lawrence, Kentucky, but quickly moved to Paola, Kansas, with his parents when he was just three years old.

His first exposure to music was one of my favorites, The Planets by Gustav Holst. Danny’s father had him listen to the suite at the University of Kansas library.

Danny first began snare drum lessons with Keith Murray at the age of ten. By thirteen, Carey started learning to play the full drum kit, learning from Bryan Ayers.

In his senior year, Danny joined the high school jazz ensemble — a move which would later influence his drumming in rock and metal. 

For post-education, Carey chose the University of Missouri-Kansas City, where he expanded his knowledge of percussion alongside geometry, science, and metaphysics. 

Playing in jazz ensembles, as well as the Kansas City jazz scene, during his time at university left a significant impact on his overall playing.

Before his big move to Los Angeles, CA, a friend convinced Danny to move to Portland, Oregon. He briefly played in bands before settling in LA.

Once Carey moved to LA, he was an active studio drummer and performed for Carole King, as well as perform live with Pigmy Love Circus and Green Jellö.

Danny Carey eventually landed the gig with Tool after two subsequent drummers never showed up to practice and play with singer Maynard James Keenan and Adam Jones.


Danny Carey’s Playing Style

Danny’s drumming style combines technical ability with musicality.

In his interview with Mandala Drum, Carey states, 

“I never wanted to play beats. I always wanted to play the songs. And I think that any good drummer plays music, not beats. 

You participate in the musical experience — anticipate the chord changes, anticipate the arrangements, and set things up. 

It’s a logical progression when you go through a song; people are prepared, that’s your job to set up those nuances and changes and the music progresses. Lead people into the new space.”

Source: Mandala Drum — YouTube

His philosophy towards drumming is endearing — something I think a lot of us as drummers should view as aspirational.

Danny Carey’s Equipment and Drum Setup

Danny endorses a wide range of products.

  • Vic Firth (his signature stick)
  • Sonor Drums (his signature snare)
  • Paiste Cymbals
  • Evans Drumheads
  • Hammerax Percussion
  • Korg and Roland Electronics

Website: dannycarey.com

Photo credit: Luki.r on Visualhunt / CC BY

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