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Legendary drummer Danny Carey of Tool has shed light on the band’s unique recording process, revealing a surprising fact: they don’t use click tracks.

For decades, Tool has pushed boundaries with their complex rhythms and odd time signatures. Carey, the mastermind behind the band’s intricate drum parts, credits the band’s ability to capture the magic in the studio to their reliance on feel over digital precision.

In a recent interview with Rick Beato, Carey explained how Tool ditches the click track and focuses on playing together in a live setting, even for recordings. They agree on a tempo and then rely on a shared internal feel to guide them. This approach, according to Carey, allows the music to breathe and pulsate with a natural energy that a click track simply can’t replicate.

“We go to a big room to capture the drums… We’ll go to a place like Ocean Way or O’Henry — someplace that has a million dollars worth of microphones and a big beautiful room. And then, our goal is just to capture the drum tracks, and we all play together. We’ll agree on a tempo, and we’ll start a click in our heads. And then, as soon as I count it off, we’re just playing,” he explains.

“We’ll do however many takes it takes for me to be happy with my thing, and then we will do edits. It’s funny that we usually play the song from beginning to end, and inherently, it’ll be a couple of BPM off, from this excitement or however you’re feeling that day… A lot of time, it wouldn’t match very well, [but] you try to get one take all the way through.”

The absence of click tracks might raise eyebrows in an era where digital precision reigns supreme, but for Tool, it’s a deliberate choice rooted in their unique musical identity.

“I’ve never tracked a Tool song to a click… I think a lot of it is because a lot of Tool songs are such weird time signatures, and it would be hard to program a click or something, who knows… But I think it’s okay if things speed up or slow down a little bit. It breathes a little. Most of the stuff I grew up listening to, like all that old prog stuff, you hear it. It’s funny how sensitive you become to tempo changes after being inundated with click perfection over all these last years,” he adds.

Carey further argues that the current trend of using click tracks to achieve rhythmic perfection stifles creativity and removes the human element from music. He worries that younger generations, raised on music produced with click tracks, might struggle to appreciate the beauty of music that allows for natural tempo variations.

“It kind of takes the magic out of it, I think. But I hope that other people don’t just hear it as wrong. I think you can kind of feel like that, probably the young kids, as they’re so conditioned to everything being perfect, it might be hard for them to listen to classical music or stuff that breathes. It’s another world that’s for sure.”

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