Justin Chancellor, bassist for the notoriously media-silent band Tool, recently sat down with us for an episode of our web series, Ernie Ball: String Theory. The entire episode is an incredibly rare look into the history and personality of a musician with deep talent.
Here, we present to you the six biggest things we learned about Chancellor, his playing and his background throughout the episode. We’ve provided the timestamp for each segment as well, so you can follow along.
#1 – Justin finds playing music to be an easier form of communication than speaking (0:16)
“I’ve never been a great talker, which is ironic.”
He goes on to elaborate on how playing bass in particular is a much more natural form of communication for him.
#2 – He initially picked up the guitar at age seven (1:27)
The school that he was attending at the time offered a course teaching music, including the guitar. He vividly recalls playing a C chord and thinking, “I can do this.” He received a guitar of his own a year later.
#3 – Chancellor and guitarist Adam Jones develop all raw song material (3:36)
He finds inspiration for song rhythms while out in nature, in his footsteps, breathing patterns and heartbeat.
“It’s normally something that just comes into my head when I’m walking around, walking the dogs or whatever and my feet are kind of making the beat. I always remember running at school, my breath would be kind of rhythmic and would keep me going. Now I’ll be walking around with the dogs and I’ll get these rhythms in my head.”
#4 – He loves all aspects of playing music, but live shows are his favorite (7:51)
“It combines everything. You’re playing songs that you’ve already written, but they’re different every time.”
Being able to play things differently every night, in addition to making different mistakes every night, are important to him. He has even stumbled on particular things that he wished he would have played on the studio recording.
#5 – He’s getting back to the fundamentals of bass playing (9:20)
“The initial charm of it was just listening to the instrument, and going wow, I can make this noise through the instrument moving my fingers.”
He says he was afraid to step outside of approaches that he already knew worked. He’s now getting back to being excited about the instrument and the various sounds that it can potentially create.
#6 – He places a great importance on individuality (10:29)
“Whatever you’ve got, it’s yours, and it’s completely important. It’s not important to be like someone else, it’s important to be yourself. If you’re a musician, it’s important to play your own music.”
He found himself feeling surprised that people enjoyed his bass playing, as he had no expectation whatsoever of being received that way. He advises musicians to find their own sound, and to let it out.
Watch every episode of Ernie Ball: String Theory at our website, featuring such players as J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr., Kurt Vile, Joe Bonamassa, and more.
Justin Chancellor plays Ernie Ball Slinky Cobalt bass strings. Do you? Try a set.