How I Got to Go on Tour With Tool
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
You can’t lose if you don’t quit.
By Meg Castellanos Aguilar
Hi, Meg! How’s things? You in town?
That was the text I got from my friend Trana after a full day of giving massages, my “day” job. I hadn’t heard from her in a while.
Hi, good! How are you? I’m in town.
Next text: There’s a tour leaving next week.
Pause … Call my ex if you’re interested in playing with Tool! Tell them I sent ya.
Holy. Fucking. Shit.
I called Pete, Trana’s ex and Tool’s manager, right away. He told me Tool was leaving on tour in a week, then asked: Could All Souls do it? There were two other bands being considered, so I rushed to call my bandmates.
We were a band with no management, no record label and, prior to this tour offer, just one show on the horizon: a Monday night in Orange County.
“Are you sitting down?” I asked each one.
Within minutes, I was telling Pete our schedules were clear and we were good to go … but we had no merchandise, no sound person, no van.
He knew it was going to be a logistical shitshow for us to book travel arrangements in less than a week, so he offered to transport all of our equipment from Los Angeles with theirs. That made me think the whole thing might actually happen.
And it did: Within 24 hours we were confirmed. We arranged a PR campaign, ordered merch, booked flights, rebooked flights because we were traveling with a pug and not all airlines allow snub-nosed breeds, booked the van and hotels and it was on. We were going on tour with Tool.
This was an opportunity of a lifetime, and we didn’t take it for granted. It took us 20-plus years of playing music to reach this point. To put it in perspective, we were a band with no management, no record label and, prior to this tour offer, just one show on the horizon: a Monday night in Orange County.
Although all of it came together so quickly, it wasn’t a complete surprise. Danny Carey, Tool’s drummer, played tablas on a song on our record and had seen us play live a few times. Our guitar player Erik Trammell and Danny are friends, and my husband, Antonio, our singer-guitarist, and I have been to Danny’s house for barbecues.
Los Angeles is like that.
We moved down to Los Angeles from the Bay Area in 2009. The music circles are interconnected, so there are lots of opportunities to collaborate and network. We’re friends with and have toured with the Melvins, who are friends with and have toured with Tool. We work with producer Toshi Kasai, who has recorded Tool … so there were many roads that led to this one.
One year ago, while we were in Cleveland, on tour with the Melvins, Tool was in town too. Tool guitarist Adam Jones and Danny came to our show after theirs. Both of them complimented us on our set, and Danny mentioned they would like to take us out with them someday.
We were on a high that night, which quickly came crashing down after the show. Erik, while on a mission with Danny to find late-night food, stepped off a curb wrong and broke his foot. Three out of four of us had trips to the emergency room on that tour, and Erik played the rest of the shows in a walking cast.
We made a bit of money that tour but came home to hospital bills. Such is the life of an opening band until it gains some ground.
Last year, for example, we got asked to open for another one of our favorite bands, the Jesus Lizard.
At that point we acquired some sponsorships, so we ordered Orange and Fender amps to be delivered to a friend’s house outside of Boston. We had always wanted to have a backline stored on the East Coast so we could fly out and do more touring there. But we did a short theater run with the Jesus Lizard and had a fantastic time.
Between getting asked to open for the Melvins, the Jesus Lizard, Meat Puppets and Sleep in one year, there seemed to be a ’90s theme going on. And now Tool.
For which we had one week to prepare.
Fortunately, we are always actively playing shows and writing new material, so we are tight and groomed for stages of all sizes. But this was different. This was a fucking stadium tour. Which means 10,000-to-20,000-seat arenas where sports teams play. Where the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin play.
More than anything, I had to get my head together. I had to get grounded, do some yoga and meditate. And thank whatever Goddess had granted me this portal to step through.
On May 7, we got to the first venue in Birmingham, Alabama. Security was tight. We got laminates with our photos on them and were told absolutely no photography or video. That also went for the audience. Those who didn’t delete their footage would be politely ejected.
We barely got a sound check, things were so rushed. Thankfully, the system was state of the art with tons of monitors, so we could hear ourselves onstage. We played a tight, adrenaline-fueled 30-minute set and were all surprisingly comfortable in front of the massive crowd. For all the nerves going into this show, my realization was this: This is what we do! We are musicians and performers, and this is our natural habitat. And for the next few weeks, it happens to be with one of the best-selling rock bands of all time.
By the way, that was my first time actually seeing Tool play live. I watched that first show of the tour from a private box seat with my bandmates. Tool is an incredible band in every way, from the progressive music and lyrics to the projected imagery. They expose something human, desperate and broken, and Maynard Keenan’s voice carries so much soul.
Looking down at all of the Tool fans singing along, it was hard to believe we had just played that same stage. But we had.
- Meg Castellanos Aguilar, OZY Author Contact Meg Castellanos Aguilar