Taking a Look at the Artists Who Inspired TOOL

TOOL is inspired by artists that span across a variety of genres and time periods to create their cryptic music.

By bonneville on August 2, 2023
the guitar player and singer of TOOL perform wearing a space suit perform onstage with a purple background.
NEW YORK, NY – JUNE 04: Adam Jones and Maynard Keenan of Tool performs onstage during the 2017 Governors Ball Music Festival – Day 3 at Randall’s Island on June 4, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Steven Ferdman/Getty Images)

Over the years, TOOL has earned a cult-like following, with a fan base devoted to finding cryptic messages in their music and work. Band members are reluctant to enter the spotlight, rarely granting interviews and choosing not to star in their music videos, letting the music speak for itself. They’ve released six albums, starting with “Opiate” in 1992. And even though the public waited 13 years since “10,000 Days” released in 2006 until “Fear Inoculum” released in 2019, the album was released to extreme fandom and critical acclaim. This fall, the band is embarking on a highly anticipated tour throughout the US and Canada.

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TOOL will be in Salt Lake City on October 11 at the Delta Center. Before you see them live, we compiled a list of some of the artists and albums they have cited as inspiration. These artists span various genres and time periods, with different elements of musicianship and regard to the public that TOOL has interpreted in their work. 

King Crimson – Red

During a show in Berkeley, TOOL told the audience how their show was a “fusion of past and future” and how King Crimson laid the foundation they built upon. They joked, saying, “Now you know who we ripped off. Just don’t tell anyone, especially the members of King Crimson.” Their 1974 release, “Red,” is frequently cited by bandmembers as their most considerable influence. 

Peter Gabriel – Passion 

This 1989 release for the soundtrack to “The Last Temptation of Christ” is a favorite of Maynard James Keenan. Keenan has joked that if he were King of America, “each home would own a copy” of the album. 

The album is heralded for its visionary production and world influences. By blending traditional Middle Eastern and North African sounds with Gabriel’s signature progressive rock style, Gabriel created an immersive listening experience chronicling an epic journey. The album reflects the intensity of Martin Scorsese’s film. 

Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti

Led Zeppelin has always pushed the boundaries of rock music with extended, complex arrangements that pair with unconventional time signatures. For both bands, percussion is a crucial element, with Led Zeppelin’s drummer John Bonham a master of unique patterns that strongly influenced Danny Carey, drummer of TOOL.

Joni Mitchell – Hejira

Joni Mitchell’s music might come as a surprise on this list, but she was a massive influence on Keenan. He says that her journey as a woman fighting in a man’s rock world inspired him as “somebody who is going against the grain” and frequently suggests that his fans listen to her entire discography. He has mentioned that “Hejira” is his favorite album of hers.

Swans – Holy Money/Greed

Swans has pushed the boundaries of genres in their work, creating a unique blend of industrial, post-punk, and experimental rock since the early ’80s. This double feature, released in 1986, showcases more dark and dense soundscapes than their later ambient releases. 

Keenan cites “Coward” as a track of particular influence on their work. 


Formed in Washington state during the ’80s, the Melvins would blur the lines between metal, rock, and noise to influence their sludge and grunge rock predecessors. 

When a journalist asked Tool if there was one band common to their record collections, drummer Carey and guitarist Adam Jones mentioned the Melvins along with King Crimson. Dale Crover, the drummer of the Melvins, has had a profound impact on Carey’s drumming technique. 

Sex Pistols

The Sex Pistols are the source of inspiration for countless punk, post-punk, and alt-rock musicians. Their rebellious attitude against the mainstream created a lasting impact despite their short-lived tenure in the mid-70s.

Though their style of music has severe departures, fans can feel elements of their influence in TOOL’s philosophical approach to nonconformity, independence, and free-thinking.

Depeche Mode

Jones and the lead singer of Depeche Mode, Dave Gahan, have a history. Jones visited Gahan’s house when TOOL was new to the music scene, and Gahan would go to their shows often. Depeche Mode is known for its synth-pop and electronic sound that punctuated dance clubs during the 80s. Still, you can hear their influence on TOOL through their electronic production and intricate sonic soundscapes. 

Pink Floyd 

Hypnotic journeys, atmospheric sound effects, extended instrumental passages, and ambient textures can be ways to describe both Pink Floyd’s and TOOL’s music. You can especially hear it on tracks like “One of These Days,” released in 1971 on their album “Meddle.”

Bill Hicks

Bandmembers were longtime fans of Bill Hicks, and eventually, they met to collaborate. Before his passing in 1994, the groups discussed hosting a cross-genre festival to showcase comedy and music. 

One of his bits is sampled in the introduction of “Third Eye” from AEnima, released posthumously in 1996. The band even included a portrait of him in the inner sleeve of that vinyl with the caption “Another Dead Hero” above it. 


It’s impossible to pin down all of TOOL’s influences in one article. Their music is esoteric and full of symbolism that many people go to great lengths to dissect and interpret. Other notable bands they have noted as influencing their work include Metallica, Rage Against the Machine, Devo, and Low

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