The Tool Song Kurt Cobain Accused Maynard James Keenan Of A ‘Shameless Ripoff’
We are all familiar with the concept of bands accusing each other of ripping off some of their songs or music videos. The music history is full of these accusations, and some of them even led to a feud. Nevertheless, it’s not a surprise for a band to be influenced by another band when creating new music.
It seems that Kurt Cobain also accused the Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan of being a ripoff. Moreover, the rock icon even went on to say that this was a shameless act. Let’s learn the reason why Cobain claimed such a thing.
Kurt Cobain Had An Idea For ‘Lithium’s Music Video
In 1991, Nirvana released their iconic second album ‘Nevermind.’ The album made the band unexpectedly successful, and became their most popular record. They released ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ as the first single from the album, followed by ‘Lithium,’ ‘Come As You Are,’ and ‘In Bloom.’
Back then, Kurt Cobain appreciated Stephen and Timothy Quay’s works. Known as Quay Brothers, they were stop-motion animators who also created music videos for several bands. Most of their animation films featured the use of puppets made from doll parts in a moody atmosphere. Cobain was a doll collector, so this gave him a bright idea.
Cobain wanted to make Nirvana’s music videos like Quay Brothers’ works, so he asked them to direct them. However, the brothers refused Cobain’s offer. Talking about this incident in an interview by Flipside in 1992, Cobain said that he has been collecting old dolls for a long time. He then revealed he even made some dolls himself.
Following that, Cobain said the music video for ‘Lithium’ would have a doll theme, so it would be a ripoff from Quay Brothers as they refused to make the video. The Nirvana frontman then added that he will use Courtney Love’s ultra-sound in the video too.
Cobain told Flipside in 1992 that:
“We’re gonna put out a ‘Lithium’ single within a couple of months. It’s gonna have a doll theme. I’ve been collecting old dolls for most of my life and I make dolls out of clay that are replicas of 18th-century Yugoslavian dolls.
They’re really weird, they have elongated heads and have really long fingers. Kinda like a Brothers Quay video. It’s gonna be a ripoff of a Brothers Quay video because we asked them to do our video and they refused. There’s not much of a theme other than the dolls doing weird, surreal things with each other. When Courtney goes to get another ultra-sound we’re going to videotape the baby in her womb and put that in the video too.”
However, things didn’t turn work out like Kurt Cobain wanted. Instead, Tool took this idea and made a music video for their ‘Sober’ just like what Cobain intended to do for ‘Lithium.’
Kurt Cobain Accused Tool Of Ripping Off Quay Brothers In Their ‘Sober’ Music Video
Although many think that Nirvana and Tool are from different eras, Tool was formed three years after Nirvana. For a few years, both bands were active in the music scene, and in 1993, Tool released their debut studio album ‘Undertow,’ and the album’s single ‘Sober’ brought them a huge success.
In 1993, Tool released a music video for ‘Sober.’ As it seems in the video, they were influenced by Quay Brothers as well. However, according to Kurt Cobain, it wasn’t just an influence but blatant plagiarism. In fact, most people thought Quay Brothers were responsible for the music video, but it was directed by a different artist.
In the interview, the Nirvana frontman said that he hopes Tool gets sued for that as the music video was a shameless ripoff. He then revealed his ideas for the ‘Lithium’ clip but claimed that he didn’t want anything like Tool did. Cobain then went on to say that they should be ‘slapped on the wrist’ for making such a ripoff.
Kurt Cobain told MTV on the ‘Sober’ music video that:
“Oh God, I hope they get sued! It is such a ripoff, it’s a shameless ripoff! I mean, I wanted a Brothers Quay style, but I didn’t want anything like that. That was terrible! I mean, it’s a neat video – it’s really nice to look at, but I’d rather watch Brothers Quay video. Meat going through pipes, shameless! They should be slapped on the wrist for that!”
Below, you can watch Kurt Cobain’s MTV interview and Tool’s music video for ‘Sober.’