Many know Adam Jones from Tool as one of the world's greatest guitarists, however the L.A.-based musician also has an unrelenting passion for visual arts that spans his entire life. From finding refuge in comic books as a child, to a film career doing special effects make-up for Stan Winston, to sketching, sculpting and photography, and now coming full-circle to produce and write his own comic book series with 30 Days of Night creator Steve Niles — Jones is an explorer of all mediums. A left-of-center, rock renaissance man.
“I've always been involved in the visual arts and music,” Jones told L.A. Weekly. “When I was doing special effects working on movies, that was my dream. And I'd always just play music on the side. [Laughs] Then the band took off and now in terms of visual art, it's opened so many doors for me. I feel really fortunate.”
Recently Jones was tapped by Alternative Press to take part in an exclusive group art exhibit celebrating the iconic music magazine's 25th anniversary, opening Friday July 9 at the Merry Karnowsky Gallery. Honored, Jones accepted. His creation — an elegantly tortured bronze sculpture — will be showcased alongside original paintings, photography and drawings from nearly 25 other visual artists/musicians including Marilyn Manson, Tim Armstrong, Shepard Fairey, Pete Wentz, Gerard Way, Travie McCoy, Matt Skiba, Tara McPherson, and Shirley Manson. Also on display will be unearthed rarities from the AP print archives.
L.A. Weekly caught up with Adam Jones while currently on tour with Tool to chat about his contribution to the AP exhibit, his upcoming comic book series with Steve Niles for DC Comics imprint WildStorm, and the story behind the most rock cliche moment of his life…
L.A. Weekly: Tell me about your piece in the AP show.
Adam Jones: I just have one piece in the show. They asked for a couple and I wanted to give them a painting and a sculpture, but I didn't have time to get the painting done with everything going on right now. They have a sculpture that I did; it's a bronze piece about 14 or 15 inches high. It's a figure I did for our bass player who was in this band called Peach in the early '90s… that's actually how we met him. They released this album in the States and asked me to do the cover. They said I could do whatever I want so that's what I did. I was really happy with the sculpture so I had it bronzed and I'm selling editions of it.
I heard you have a comic book in the works, too.
Adam Jones: Oh, yeah! I'm really excited about it. I befriended Steve Niles who wrote 30 Days of Night… he does comics, he's written a couple novels, he's written screenplays and teleplays for television. He's got a lot of experience and we just instantly became friends. We realized we were very much cut from the same piece of cloth — same age, same interests like old horror movies, comics and muscle cars. Finally he just asked if I'd like to do some comics, and I've drawn all my life so I said, “I've always wanted to do that.” And he was like, “No, no. I'm talking about producing and writing.” I was like, “Oh, yeah. I'd love to do that.”
We have about 10 would-be projects going on between him and I, but the one that took off was the idea of doing a merge with 30 Days of Night and X-Files. It came up and we jumped on it. It's through WildStorm, which is a division of our sister company DC Comics and IDW. One owns 30 Days of Night and one owns X-Files. It took a little time but they got it together and we got licensed and the permission to use all the characters. We've got Scully and Mulder in it and they're battling piranha-teethed vampires up in Alaska. It's so much fun and I'm learning so much from Steve. It's six issues. The first issue comes out at the end of this month.
You've done so many different things in your artistic career: film, sculpture, music, painting, special effects… this comic book series must be a new thrill.
Adam Jones: Absolutely. I've always been involved in the visual arts and music. When I was doing special effects working on movies, that was my dream. And I'd always just play music on the side. [Laughs] Then the band took off and now, in terms of visual art, it's opened so many doors for me. I feel really fortunate.
Will you be at the opening of the AP exhibit?
Adam Jones: I can't; I'm on tour. I'm in Canada. I'm at North America's largest mall. [Laughs] It's hilarious, you would not believe. They have a water park here and water slides and a big fake beach front with waves and roller coasters and every store you could think of. In that kind of David Lynch perspective, it's a very interesting place.
I'm upset I'm going to miss the opening but I'm very honored that AP thought of me and asked me to do it. Fine art is really something I want to get into. Last winter, for three months I studied under Phil Hale who is one of my hero oil painters. He's a very old school, portrait oil painter… very influenced by John Singer Sargent. I know nothing about oils. I studied acrylics and urethane and those kinds of things for makeup effects. I've always painted but nothing very seriously. But Hale invited me and I did this one-on-one, sat next to him, and we just painted every day in his studio. I learned so much. I'm going to try and move in that direction.
How often do you showcase your artwork in galleries?
Adam Jones: I've done some little things around L.A., like a drawing for a benefit, or some photography in a little gallery. This [AP show] is the first real art event. Alex Grey once showed some of my work which was really great. I can't say enough good things about Alex and how much advice, direction and influence he's given me. But I've never been in a show with contemporary heavy hitting artists like these. When AP asked I didn't even blink because those guys have always been so supportive of [Tool]. We're one of those bands like the Melvins… kind of between the cracks. Like, we're too metal for indie but we're not metal enough for metal. We're too melodic for rock and we're too prog for whatever [laughs]. AP was always like, “We love you guys. We get it,” so I was really happy to do this. When I met [AP publisher] Norman Wonderly, the first thing I did was go up to him and say, “Thank you for all the support over the years.” And he said, “I'm putting on a show and I've always liked the art you've done over the years. Would you like to contribute something?” Yeah! It's pretty cool.
The show seems to be about illustrating that all the people involved are not just musicians but artists in the broader sense.
Adam Jones: Oh, absolutely. I've got a funny story for you. Tool was in Denver at Red Rocks and it was the second show we played. Those shows went great; it was really fun. But I was trying to hook up with Buzz from the Melvins because they were playing a show at the Ogden Theater and I realized we're not going to make the show, they're going to be done. I was like, “Hey, I'll try to get out as fast as possible to see you guys,” and they said, “Ok, we'll wait for you.” So I was telling everyone, “I really wanna go see the Melvins,” and they said I could do a runner after the show — they'd get me right off stage, into a van, and get me out of there. [Laughs] I jump in the van after our show with Maynard and there are two cop cars. They put on their lights so we had this police escort going 80 or 90 miles an hour down the freeway to go see Buzz from the Melvins.
[Laughs] My god.
Adam Jones: [Laughs] It was the most rock cliche moment of my life. It was really funny. Those guys were all laughing at me. I told Buzz and Buzz goes, “Yeah, I had one of those once but they took me to jail.”
The Alternative Press 25th anniversary art exhibit opens at the Merry Karnowsky Gallery with a VIP party Friday, July 9 and public opening Saturday, July 10. The entire exhibition will be on view at the gallery from July 9 — July 23.