To most Tool fans around the world, ‘Third Eye’ is the almost 14 minute closing track on the band’s second album Ænima; if you were to mention the same two words to Australian Tool fans (at the very least Melbourne fans), most people would think you are speaking about Third Eye, the Tool tribute band. Consisting of Phillip Barrett (Vocals), Elliot Steele (Guitar), Tim Rees (Bass) and Matt Servelli (Drums), this foursome are ironing out any kinks in their live show in preparation for a four show headline tour that will see them play in Melbourne, Ballarat, Sydney and Brisbane. OVERDRIVE Music Magazine managed to get the chance to sit down and speak to Steele about the upcoming tour; but before we discussed that, Steele took us back to day one and how Third Eye came to be, before touching on how Third Eye replicates the visual spectacle that takes place at a Tool show:

Truth be told; when the band started up, it was more a case of we were really big Tool fans and we just wanted to get together and play some of their stuff live.” Steele lets out a small chuckle, before continuing: “Some people have said it was meant to be; I put up an ad on MelBand actually and got a reply from one drummer, one bassist, one singer and obviously myself; here we are now as Third Eye! It just started out as a few rehearsals; like I said, just four Tool fans wanting to get together and jam it out. We did, we had a great time together, plus we really clicked; the tunes were clicking really well. We were also getting really positive feedback from so many people who walking past the rehearsal studio; we’d walk out and there would be like three or four people out there just like “Oh my god, you guys are playing Tool? That’s so good; we’ve never heard anyone play ‘Rosetta Stoned’ or ‘Ticks and Leeches’ or anything like that before!” We all decided that we wanted to take it out there and fill a bit of a gap in the market; as Tool fans we all know how few and far between their shows can be and even how more fewer and far the albums are, so we decided we’d take it out gigging. From the get go, we never ever wanted to be just another run of the mill pub covers band; it was never about just being four guys on stage playing Tool songs. With all the time and energy we put into learning the tunes and rehearsing the tunes so that we can really pay homage to Tool musically, it seemed like we’d not only be selling ourselves short but also the fans short if we didn’t go the whole nine yards and try to capture the full Tool experience, which is what we really try to go for! Obviously we can’t sort of show the whole visual show with lasers and screens and projections; but we try to emulate that feeling being at a Tool show, so that combination of audio and visual stimuli allows you to get lost in it. You just get lost in Tool’s music you know; you just sit there, immerse yourself and get lost for a little bit, so we wanted to add that and bring it to the fans because as Tool fans ourselves, we know how much it can suck to not get to see them for four or five years! We’ve been playing together for about three and a half years and building the show as we go along, from developing our sounds, to new gear/incorporating new synthesizers which give us a lot new effects, plus obviously building the visual show the entire time! Now it’s gotten to the point now where we’ve got a show at 170 Russell coming up in a few weeks and it’s going to be our biggest show to date, plus they have really got the tech support to put on the kinda show we’ve wanted to put on for a long time…without giving too much away, those who have seen us, this will be something completely different and will blow you away; for those who have never seen us, I can assure you it will be quite the spectacle this one.”

It would be quite silly of you to assume that Tool wasn’t an influence amongst Third Eye, considering they are a Tool cover band; but does the band also share an appreciation for A Perfect Circle or Puscifer as well? Steele starts to elaborate on this topic, as well as letting OVERDRIVE in on a little bit of backstage talk that most people don’t get to know about:

 

“Obviously we’re all Tool fans and have a big appreciation for Tool; to a lesser extent we are all still APC and Puscifer fans, each of us to varying degrees. I sort of went through a bit of a APC phase a few years ago but they never really resonated with me as much as Tool does. As far as Puscifer goes, I was actually lucky enough to see them probably three or four months back when they were touring; I saw them down in Tasmania for the Mona Foma Festival with about seven or eight hundred other people. It was good to see them in an intimate performance; I think they’re an amazing band and something completely different again with a combination of their harmonies! I think Maynard’s very innovative in what he does; it must be hard being in Tool and starting another band, trying to get away from that Tool sound which is why I think maybe he’ll go for different instrumentation. We do have an appreciation for that; there has been talk of throwing in a cheeky APC song at some point and seeing how that goes.” When asked what APC song(s) could possibly be chosen (as a bit of an inside scoop), Steele continued with “bit of an inside scoop? (laughs) Like I mean, it’s all sort of in a bit of talk at the moment, but if it was going to be a tune, personally I’d love to do ‘The Outsider’ or ‘Judith’; really anything off of Thirteenth Step would definitely float all our boats I think. Like I said that’s just sort of banter in the band room and a couple of minutes of jamming a song here and there; maybe one day it will be a little treat and something a bit different. We like to throw in a couple of songs every show that throw people out a little bit because they’re a little unexpected; we’re big fans of ‘Jessie’s Girl’ so we always try to throw that into the set..” That last sentence got this interviewer commenting on how he loves that song which got a good laugh from Steele before he concluded with “I was just playing with you; please still come to the show, we won’t play ‘Jessie’s Girl’! You watch now though; people will come to the show and start chanting for it.” (laughs)

We were rapt and over the moon; like I said, it’s been close to three years now and to this point I’ve been booking all our shows. We’ve been building to bigger and bigger shows in bigger and bigger venues; I think we hit a real turning point last year when we did a 20th anniversary Ænima show, where we performed the album in full to a sold out crowd at Cherry Bar; it was quite surreal as people were fighting to get through the door and tickets sold out about a week or a week and a half out…there were people online offering $70 for a ticket to the show and tickets were only $13 so that was a bit of a turning point for us! From that gig, we got another couple of really good gigs; one at the Yarraville Club and another at the Sooki Lounge in Belgrave (Steele informed this interviewer that Sooki Lounge is the old Rubys after this interviewer mentioned how he had been to Rubys and not Sooki Lounge). We were booked by Chris O’Brien for the Sooki Lounge show and he actually stepped in and has come on board to work with us in a managerial position; without him on board it would have been a lot more difficult to get this headline tour together! It seems to be a really good match; he understands where we’re coming from, appreciates the kind of show that we want to put on and he’s been great in facilitating us being able to do that. Ultimately we want to put on the best show possible, so when we found out about these run of shows how could you not be excited to do a run of headline shows!”

We started talking about the upcoming show at 170 Russell in Melbourne and this interviewer mentioned how being from Melbourne myself, I’ve gone to quite a few shows at that venue (I actually reviewed DragonForce there last month!) and how it’s a nicely designed venue for both acoustics and lighting; this lead into Steele discussing how much time has gone into researching the visuals at a Tool show:

“You know, that’s one thing that has been ongoing and has developed as we’ve gone on. We’ve got a really strong tech crew behind us; we’re at a point where we’ve pretty much got a permanent tech crew that we’re happy with, all of whom are Tool fans and familiar with the music. It really is collaborative and quite a creative process putting together that show; I mean, we’ll go through video footage of Tool and various artworks. Basically you’ve got a lot to play with with Tool, because they’ll change the aesthetics for each tour and their stage set up, so we’ll sit down and discuss what it is that we want and what is feasible to put on given each venue. In terms of vidual tracks, we’ve got a great visual designer on board at the moment who does some really fantastic psychedelic and out there visuals, which incorporate a lot of ALEX GREY and a lot of that Tool artwork, as well as footage from their videos. Actually we managed to get our hands on the actual tracks that Tool used on some of their actual tours; like you said, 170 Russell is going to be one of those places where our tech crew will get to shine as strongly as we do! We’re working with Luke Bailey who has been our laser tech since day one, he’s a big Tool fan and a great guy; Prism Audio Visual, we have to give them a shout out as he’s been with us since day one and the show wouldn’t be the same without the visuals and the laser show. It’s a tight knot group which involves a lot of research; we get together and decide what we want, we look at the set-list and decide what sort of mood that we want to portray for each song. It can be a time consuming process; but it can also be very rewarding when you see the final product.”

Steele already started to segway into the next topic of discussion that this interviewer wanted to touch on, which was how the set-list at a live show gets decided on; is it influenced by what Tool are playing at the same time on tour, or does the band build the set-list off their own back; Steele went on to explain that:

“To date, we haven’t really taken inspiration from our actual sets from Tool’s tours. It’s a little bit of a blessing and a curse with Tool; you’ve got such an extensive catalog and there’s so many great tunes to choose from, but there’s not many tunes that are under the seven or eight minute mark. You have to pick and choose carefully; it’s all about creating a mood as well. Tool is probably one of the most dynamic bands out there; that’s half the challenge out there, in the way that the notes are delivered and not just the notes themselves. The music is dynamic, so the visuals have to be dynamic as well and constantly changing; coming back to planning a set-list, we try to create a dynamic where we start slow and build it up. There will be highs, there will be lows, there will be moments where you’ll think “what the hell is going on; what is this?”, there will be some more highs and some more lows, then a bit of ‘Jessie’s Girl’ to spin everyone out! It’s fun to do and basically we have the staples in every set; if you’re a Guns ‘N’ Roses tribute show, you have to play ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’, if you’re a Tool tribute show you have to do ‘Stinkfist’. So you’ve got the staples in the set-list that you need; then we refer to them as epics, any of the big ten or eleven plus minute tunes like ‘Rosetta Stoned’, ‘Reflection’, ‘Push It’; the list goes on. Rather than coming out and playing singles, it really sets us apart when we come out and pull off ‘Disposition’, ‘Reflection’ and ‘Triad’ back to back, coming out and pulling out that twenty-five minute performance of those three tunes or do tunes like ‘Rosetta Stoned’. The set-list is for the crowd, we like to bring them something new each time; for people who have seen us before, we always throw in a new tune. Thankfully there are enough tracks where we can do that; we’ve got four unperformed tunes for this run of shows! It’s one of those things where you feed off the crowd and the crowd feeds off of you and we’ve always had fantastic crowds; Tool fans can be the harshest critics but when you pull it off, they’re so appreciative of it and have so much respect for it. It’s funny because you’ll play and the first three rows are guys with their arms crossed wearing their Tool shirts watching you note for note; not waiting for you to muck up, well maybe a little bit for you to muck up probably but it’s out of the fact that when you see Tool it’s difficult to actually see what they’re doing, so it gives fans a chance to see it up close. By no means is every one standing there with their arms crossed; normally by the time we’re halfway to two-thirds through the first set they’re well and truly into it and by the second set starts, the beers have been well and truly flowing so everyone’s really keen to sing along and really get into it. Live music is one of the best things in the world for me; there’s nowhere in the world that I’m happier than being on stage with three of my brothers, playing some fantastic tunes for a crowd of appreciative fans.”

Knowing that Steele was able to get to go see Puscifer at the Mona Foma festival earlier this year, this interviewer was curious as to whether Third Eye have been fortunate enough to receive feedback from Maynard or any of the other band members of Tool. Steele started by saying how ‘that would be amazing to be contacted by them!” before continuing: “I was very unlucky actually; a friend of mine was actually an organizer for Mona Foma where I saw Puscifer. It was all on the cards and lined up for me to go out and meet Maynard, say hi and get to have a chat to him; unfortunately he got really busy in running around so it didn’t end up happening. It would probably be pretty daunting talking to him; well any of the Tool guys actually, but Maynard in particular. I think if he contacted us, I wouldn’t know how to take what whatever it was that he said! I mean, there are other Tool tribute bands in the States, plus a couple in Europe; I don’t know if it’s Tool’s style to contact a tribute band (laughs) I actually did see Justin made a comment in a recent podcast where he was asked about tribute shows and his response was something along the lines of “dedication is the ultimate form of flattery and we’re very humbled that people want to do that; I’ve never played in a tribute band, I’ve always had that drive to create something new”. That’s the same with each of us; we each of play and write our own tunes with other guys but come together to do this Tool show. We’d be lucky if we ever heard from them, but fingers crossed!”

 

PURCHASE YOUR TICKETS FOR THE UPCOMING TOUR AT THE LINKS BELOW!

Fri August 25 – 170 Russell, Melbourne 18+: www.170russell.com

Sat August 26 – Karova Lounge, Ballarat 18+: www.oztix.com.au

Fri September 22 – Factory Theatre, Sydney Lic A/A: www.factorytheatre.com.au

Sat September 23 – Brightside, Brisbane 18+: www.oztix.com.au