It's an understatement to say that The Holy Gift is a documentary project in the long run. I discussed with its director, Stéphane Kazadi, something that I should have done much earlier.
He still needs encouragement (and financial help) in order to keep progressing, and I hope that he will reach an outcome bringing him full satisfaction.
First, can you introduce yourself and tell us about your background?
The first time I wanted to make movies was when I was 12. After a film school in Paris, I turned to editing, and I've been working on fictions and documentaries for almost 20 years now. In
parallel, I write projects that I try to direct; these projects are not very mainstream, but that's what I prefer.
I discovered Tool in 2001, when Lateralus was released and "Schism" was broadcasted on the radio. I have always considered this album as an artistic object of reference, it's an absolute
class act, a kind of Himalaya for musicians. There are very few albums that do that to me, such as Kind of Blue by Miles Davis or The Boatman's Call by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.
There are many others that I listen to and love, but that one inspires me pure respect.
When did you have the idea of making a documentary about Tool?
I started working on The Holy Gift in October... 2005! At the time, I was editing a TV series with more than an hour of subway to go to work. Then I had a discman (it was before the
advent of MP3 players). In the morning, I was going with a single disc, and it was often Ænima that I had listened very little before. But I had an unfortunate tendency to fall asleep in
transport, and I remember waking up once when I heard the fairly hypnotic part of a song. In the evening, I tried to find it by listening to the beginning of each track, but no way... I listened
the whole album again, and I finally found this passage: it was in "Ænema", when Maynard sings "Learn to swim".
I listened this album again and again, then Lateralus, Opiate and Undertow, and the more I listened to them, the more I tried to understand the fascination I felt when listening
to the music. The click came with "H.", when I realized that Danny Carey only used the "classic" rhythm with the charley after 4'30"! And there I saw everything, or rather I heard everything in
another way. I listened to all the albums again focusing on the drums only, then the guitar and the bass. I became quite obsessed with the band's music. Salival was in a way the pinnacle,
with the live version of "Pushit" being for me beyond comprehension.
I had to make a film about this music, and I am talking about this music because I at no time cared who had composed it; I assumed that they were American or English, but that's not what I was
interested in. I went on French, English, German message boards, and I realized that a lot of people were talking about Tool's music like I talked and felt about it. They were people from different
cultures and backgrounds. For me, there was something there.
I started writing, and it took nearly 3 years to figure out how I wanted to deal with this topic. sometimes writing is a long process. I have written dozens of versions, many of which ended up in
the trash. It was when I came across the famous theory "The Holy Gift" that the film became what it is today, and in the same time I changed the original name to rename it The Holy Gift too.
I want to make a movie about Tool's music, without Tool, a movie that tries to answer the simple question: "Why do you like music?"
You interviewed artists who collaborated with Tool but also anonymous people. How did you choose them?
For the people who worked with Tool, I was interested in those who collaborated on graphics. My question was: how does the way that we see the Tool world influences the way that we listen
to them. For example, I talked with Alex Grey about the black version of "Net of Being" being now totally linked to the band, whereas it was created long before 10,000 Days.
I'm not interested by meeting people who worked in studio, who made their albums with them... this is not the subject.
For other people, they know or do not know Tool. Those who do know them have a direct relationship with their music, in real or supposed influence, in the questions that it arouses.
At the time of Wikipedia, I can't find any interest in filming in order to tell things that everyone can read by simply googling the band. I want to surprise the viewers. Maybe it's pretentious, but
I have to tell myself that I am the only one who can make this film as I conceive it, otherwise I would have the impression of making a reporting as there are already dozens.
You told me that you tried to contact the members of Tool in vain?
Yes and no! As I already told you, the idea of my documentary is to present the band's music through what the fans think of it, including myself. Nevertheless, when I had written in 2009 a
version of my script I liked, I sent it to their agent who forwarded it to them. I especially asked the band for a moral agreement before getting into the project, but I didn't get any answer from
them. The information I got was that now you can't meet the four of them at the same time; the only place where it's possible is on stage when you go and see them at a show.
Two individuals who are very close told them directly about the project: the photographer Travis Shinn who made the pictures of the album 10,000 Days, and Alex Grey who quite agreed with my
approach to this film, saying with a big smile: "Adam is gonna love your idea!"
One of my biggest certainties is that an artist is the least capable to talk about his art, about his creation. Meeting the members of the band in order to ask them why they do things like this or
that doesn't interest me much. I'd be more interested to know what you're feeling as a Tool listener.
On the other hand, if I could meet them when the film is finished, it would be a pleasure for me! Then there would be a real basis for a discussion with them.
What were the biggest difficulties that you encountered during your travels?
I would not say that I encountered great difficulties. The only complexity was to make what's necessary for a large part of what exists today: travel management, appointments, to film, to
convince... But it proves my motivation!
And what were the best moments that you had?
I would say meeting people. I didn't think that after several years I would still stay in touch with people I have only seen for a few hours.
There are two big memories that I have: the first one is the story of Alley's tattoo. On my latest trip to the United States, I had organized a journey between Chicago, Los Angeles, San Diego and
Dakota. I wanted to use this opportunity to meet men or women who had a tattoo in connection with Tool. I posted this on the Facebook page of the project, and a few hours later I received a message
from Justin Holcombe, a tattooist who told me that he had posted on his personal page something like this: "I am in Jerome, Arizona, in a few days. I offer a tattoo related to Tool to the first
person who will reply. It took only a few seconds for Alley to answer. Justin asked me to come and film him in Arizona, so I arranged to go there in the middle of the trip I had planned, and we all
had a pretty memorable day. He offered me glasses of wine in Maynard's shop at 10:00 am and I gave to the employees a very good bottle of French wine. I had a lot of tastings, and I confess that
drinking under the sun of Arizona (95° at 11:00 am) without eating is a fairly unique experience! I stayed 8 hours there, during which I saw Alley's back covering with a huge tattoo of Maynard.
Then I said to myself: "This girl in front of you will have this tattoo for life in her back, all that because one day from your living room you asked to meet tattooed people... "That's a rather
crazy sensation. Since then, the three of us are still in contact. Justin still wants me to get a tattoo by him, even if he has to come to France in order to do it!
The second memory is more personal and stronger. When I scoped out the New York area and slept over at Alex Grey's house, my wife was at the very last stages of her pregnancy. So it was quite
special to travel at that time: I was afraid of not being there at the moment of our child's birth. Everything went well since our son was born after my return; yet I remember that every person I
met worried about the delivery taking place while I was still in the United States. Alex and Allyson Grey made me promise to send them a picture of my baby, which I did. These are great memories.
Were you confronted with many refusals, missed appointments?
No, I didn't really have any refusal. Sometimes schedules didn't work out, but then it's only postponed.
However, there is one person very close to one of the members of the band that I wanted to meet. There was no problem for him... if I paid $1000. One thousand dollars for an interview! I didn't
follow up, and I totally got him out of the project.
Financing is an essential part in the finalization of your project, and insufficient funds have been a real brake.
Absolutely; money is really the force of the war in this kind of project. Unfortunately, that's what is blocking me today.
From now on, who and what do you still want to film?
That is a vast question! A big part of the film takes place in India, the origin of the tablas.
I would also like to be able to go to Iran: I was contacted by a band that covers Tool there, in some sort of secret places. The singer of that band explained to me that a book circulated
surreptitiously there in the years 2000. It connected the words of Tool with the Persian myths: something really interesting!
Finally, with the CNRS [French Center for Scientific Research], it's planned to work on pieces of music composed for the film, based on mathematics and some songs by Tool.
In brief, I still have many, many exciting things to film!