Founding Tool bass player Paul D’Amour is known for his distinctive sounds, including one of the most notable and recognizable bass lines that opens the hit song “Sober.” D’Amour, who co-wrote and performed on Tool’s first two albums Opiate and Undertow, left the group in 1995 after co-writing a large portion of its third record, Ænima.
Over the years, D’Amour has been prolific in many musical endeavors ranging from his moody, psychedelic rock project Lusk (with the creative and eclectic team consisting of Medicine’s Brad Laner, Guns N’ Roses’ Chris Pitman and Failure/Autolux’s Greg Edwards) to the more recent project Feersum Ennjin, which combines an edgy, driving, electronic mix topped with a dash of melody for good measure. D’Amour has also recently entered into the world of film scoring—something that had always been in the back of his mind although, initially, he wasn’t sure he could deliver. “It was a surprisingly easy and natural arena to go into,” he now admits. “It’s actually easier than writing rock songs because you can just sort of throw your ego out the window and serve the picture.”
D’Amour’s latest project is Lesser Key, a band that brings forth innovative and moody hard rock tunes. This past spring they released their debut EP helmed by producer Sylvia Massy (System of a Down, Tool, Johnny Cash) and followed it with a summer touring schedule that included supporting Deftones and Cynic as well as a gig at the Reading & Leeds Festivals last month.
Boxx Magazine caught up with D’Amour on tour in New York City in August and spoke to him about the current tour, where he gets his inspiration from and some pretty phenomenal women in the music industry who continue to inspire him.
How is the present tour with Lesser Key going?
“Great. We’ve recently been touring with Cynic, they are all amazing players and humans. Previously we were out with the Deftones, and they really can bring it as well, so that was a blast. We have definitely been in good company and have been getting some awesome feedback from those shows. Now we’re going from here to play Reading & Leeds and then an Academy 02 show and then we’re playing live on the BBC Radio One.”
Do you plan to do more with your projects Lusk and Feersum Ennjin?
“Yeah, we’re working on some more Feersum Ennjin stuff. Lusk? I don’t know. I think that may have just been a one-time operation because it involved so many different personalities. But Feersum Ennjin will definitely rear its head. It may be more of a studio thing. But we’ll see. I have a lot of music that’s kind of deciding where it wants to go. Whether it’s with Feersum Ennjin or it’s with Lesser Key.”
You’ve also worked on several film scores. Did you enjoy that experience?
“I love capturing all these tiny bits of emotion and making them gel with what’s happening in the picture. That’s what you do anyway, you capture some emotion that you’re after and encapsulate it in a song, so it’s kind of the same thing on some level with scoring film. I mean, it’s a little more dynamic in cutting to sequences and action and emotion and actor lines and all of that stuff but I love it. It’s really a wonderful experience to be behind what’s happening instead of being on stage.”
Where do you find your inspiration?
“I kind of find my inspiration just out of this collective consciousness of all the things I feel are real, and I just try to tap into that. But also, I’m just one of those people who think that songs are already out there, you just have to find them and pull them down and bring them to life.”
Aside from your present tour, are there any works in progress that we can look forward to?
“There are also some new film projects in the works and a Queen Maud Land release. We’re always looking at new tours that may pop up, but mostly just working on the new record.”
Who are some of your favorite female musicians of all time? How have these female artists inspired you and your music?
“I don’t really think about male or female when I think about music or art, I just sort of look at the output and whatever it is. If it’s good, I enjoy it, but a notable would be Kim Gordon from Sonic Youth. The first time I was exposed to Sonic Youth, she really stood out as a powerful force. She was kind of edgy but also she had her style and her thing that she brought in creating this otherworldly music that was just amazing. I idolized Sonic Youth and her part in that.
“Beyond that there’s Björk. She’s just an amazing creator on every level with her image and cutting-edge sound. And where she went with her voice was just mind boggling, incredible and powerful. I love that she was never afraid to take risks, so you were never sure what was coming next. And then definitely PJ Harvey. Her thing is amazing. Her guitar playing is tough but still dark and fragile. I like that she is a singular person and she sort of created her world around herself. She also has a great personal style as well musical.
“Currently I would also say Cat Power. I love her sense of melody and harmony. It’s just unbelievable. There’s this balance between the fragile and powerful female persona. All of these artists are unique in their own sense. They’re not like anybody else. I dig that. I think they all sort of distill a unique sense of darkness and beauty.”
You’ve collaborated on several projects—Stella Maris, Queen Maud Land, Carissa’s Wierd as well as Figg with your wife, Gilden Tunador What was that like?
“Certainly between people who are husband and wife it becomes a different dynamic than it would with any other musical collaborator. There’s a whole different level of understanding and simpatico. I think that, between us, it was like the other people in the band didn’t really know what we were talking about and we had our own little language that we could communicate with. That was a very special and unique experience. I really enjoyed seeing her transformed by the music.”
Who are your most prominent female musical influences?
“I think I have been greatly influenced by all those people I talked about above. They definitely altered my perception about how women are in music, because I think at some point over time it’s been such a male-dominated thing with these big phallic guitars exploding all over the stage. But all of these women are powerful in such a deeper way that I really respect and admire. There are so many great female musicians to add to that list, like Stereolab, Sleater-Kinney, obviously there are so many greats from the past too….that’s a pretty long list.”
Which female artist would you love to collaborate with as a group?
“I mean, I would be blessed to be able to collaborate with any of those people. The opportunity has not presented itself, but maybe someday, who knows…”
Are there any female musicians on your radar now that people may not have heard about yet?
“There’s this amazing guitar player, Joileah Concepcion, and I may be playing on her record that will be produced by Pall Jenkins from Black Heart Procession. She is a killer rock guitar player. She’s definitely legit. The band’s called Gletscher. She’s been living—I think—in Switzerland. She’s really great.
“I like female musicians that are about being real. Sometimes you see those girl groups and they’re all ‘sexy, rock and roll bitches,’ and it seems like they’re exploiting their femininity, which I guess is cool and funny on some level but I don’t really appreciate it. Women are objectified enough as it is without doing it in that arena. But you know, rock and roll can be about sex and power and all of those things too at some point so…why not, right?”
Photo by Jolene Siana