Danny Carey

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Danny Carey
Danny Carey and his drum-kit.jpg
Danny Carey and his drums.
Background information
Birth name Daniel Edwin Carey
Born (1961-05-10) May 10, 1961 (age 53)
Lawrence, Kansas
Genres Progressive metal, progressive rock, jazz fusion, art rock, alternative metal
Occupation(s) Musician, songwriter
Instruments Drums, percussion, Guitar, bass guitar
Labels Zoo Entertainment, Volcano II
Associated acts Tool, Pigmy Love Circus, Volto!, Zaum, Green Jellÿ, Primus
Website www.dannycarey.org

Daniel Edwin "Danny" Carey (born May 10, 1961) is an American drummer best known for his work in American Grammy Award-winning progressive metal band Tool. He has also contributed to albums by artists such as Zaum, Green Jellÿ, Pigface, Skinny Puppy, Adrian Belew of King Crimson, Carole King, Collide, The Wild Blue Yonder, Lusk, and the Melvins.


Born in Lawrence, Kansas, Carey's first encounter with the drums began at the age of ten by joining the school band and taking private lessons on the snare drum.[1] Two years later, Carey began to practice on a drum set. In his senior year of high school in Paola, Kansas, Carey joined the high school jazz band and began to study under drumming great Ben Kelso specifically for jazz drumming training. Jazz would later play a huge role in his signature approach to the drum set in a rock setting. As Carey progressed through high school and later college at the University of Missouri–Kansas City, he began expanding his studies in percussion with theory into the principles of geometry, science, and metaphysics as well as delving into Sacred Geometry and certain hidden aspects of life and the occult. Carey also played jazz while attending college and got to experience the jazz scene in Kansas City.

After college, a friend and bandmate convinced Carey to leave Kansas for Portland, Oregon, where he played briefly in various bands before moving to Los Angeles, California, where he was able to perform as a studio drummer with Carole King and perform live sets with Pigmy Love Circus. He also played in Green Jellÿ as Danny Longlegs and recorded the album Cereal Killer. He would later find his way to Tool after coming to know singer Maynard James Keenan and guitarist Adam Jones and practicing with them in place of drummers the two had requested but had never shown up. Besides Tool, Carey also finds time for other projects new and old such as Pigmy Love Circus, Volto!, and Zaum.

Religion and the occult[edit]

Although Carey has not officially aligned himself with any particular school of philosophy or religion, he has projected a deep interest in and understanding for the magickal arts - among them various occult teachings. Enochian symbols, geometric designs, and special symbolic percussive devices are featured on and in his drum kit. He is also a collector of First Edition Aleister Crowley books as well as books by one of Crowley's more innovative students, Kenneth Grant.

Geometric designs[edit]

Carey has laid claim to various drumming techniques that use sacred geometric figures such as the unicursal hexagram. The final product is very recognizable, fluent drumming, although to him it is much more: the official Tool website claims that Danny uses drumming as a ritual similar to occult rituals,[2] with purposes varying from spiritual exploration to "a gateway [which] summoned a daemon he has contained...that has been delivering short parables similar to passages within The Book of Lies". Another geometric reference from the website was the inclusion of Nothing in This Book Is True... by Bob Frissell[3] on the band's recommended reading list, a book that deals with sacred geometry and the evolution of human consciousness.[4]

Side projects and other musical endeavours[edit]

In his time away from Tool, Carey has contributed (and still regularly does) to a vast number of projects:


Carey plays a Designer kit from SONOR (beech shells with inner and outer makassar ebony veneers - 1" thick on 8" tom and progressively thinner as the drums get larger), which he designed himself and used on Tool's recent 10,000 Days album and tours. Carey also uses a kit composed of custom cast bronze shells (3/16" thick and same dimensions as the SONOR) made from recycled Paiste cymbals, manufactured by master drum tech and drum maker Jeff Ocheltree (mostly on US tours as it is too heavy to readily transport elsewhere; The bass drums alone are 93 pounds each and special front-loading cases had to be made for them and the floor toms). He has also used it on "Jambi" from 10,000 Days. The set-up for both kits is nearly identical, with the Sonor kits having 14x16" and 16x18" "tunnel floors."

Current tour kit (2006-2007)[edit]

  • Sonor custom drums & Paiste cymbals:
  • Drums
    • 14x8" Jeff Ocheltree Custom Bronze snare
    • 8x8" Jeff Ocheltree Custom Bronze Rack Tom
    • 10x10" Jeff Ocheltree Custom Bronze Rack Tom
    • 14x14" or 14x16" Floor Tom
    • 16x16" or 16x18" Floor Tom
    • 22x18" Jeff Ocheltree Custom Bronze Bass Drum
    • 24x18" Jeff Ocheltree Custom Bronze Bass Drum
  • Cymbals
    • 13" Signature Sound Edge Hi-Hat
    • 22" Signature Dry Heavy Ride
    • 18" Signature Full Crash
    • 19" Signature Power Crash
    • 22" Signature Thin China
    • 20" Signature Power Crash
    • 22" 2002 Novo China (has been a 24" 2002 Novo China in the past, which may still be used on occasion)
    • 11/18" Noise Works Dark Buzz China
    • 8" New Signature Dark Energy Splash Mark I
    • 10" New Signature Dark Energy Splash Mark I
    • 7.5" 2002 Cup Chime
    • 8" 2002 Cup Chime
    • 6" 2002 Accent Cymbal
    • 8" Signature Bell
    • 5" 2002 Cup Chime
    • 40" Symphonic Gong
    • 18" Paiste Rude Crash (on occasion)

On Danny Carey's official website, he states that the toms on his drum kit are usually tuned to the key signature of the song he is playing while working with Tool. He says this isn't as hard as it sounds as most of Tool's songs are in the key of D

Drum Heads (Evans):(Occasionally uses Remo skins with other projects.)

  • Snare: Power Center on batter side, Evans Hazy 300 on snare side.
  • Toms: G2 clear on batter side, G1 clear on resonant side.
  • Bass: EQ3 clear on batter side, Retro Screen on resonant side.

The hardware is mainly composed of Sonor stands (particularly Sonor Designer 5000 series or Signature series, recognizable by the unusual nut holding the cymbal), Pearl Eliminator Drum pedals, a Roc-n-Soc Throne and a Pearl RH-2000 remote hi-hat stand.

Carey uses the wood tip version of his own signature model of drumstick made by Vic Firth.[6] He previously had endorsed a signature model with Trueline Drumsticks (now Trueline's Tribal Assault model [7]).

At Winter NAMM 2009 Sonor released a Danny Carey signature snare drum, which is a 1 mm thick bronze 14x8" snare with laser etched talisman symbols and his signature engraved around the vent hole. It was unveiled by Carey at Volto!'s annual NAMM party, and since then has been used by Carey with Pigmy Love Circus.

He uses seven electronic drum pads around his kit, which he co-designed with Vince DeFranco. These pads are high resolution position and velocity sensing drums called Synesthesia Mandala Drums, and have replaced the various Simmons SDX pads formerly in his setup. He uses a program called Battery, from Native Instruments, on a MacBook Pro to manage the samples. Additionally, he uses a Korg Wave Drum, a Roland Handsonic HPD-15 and a few electronic pedals.

Drumming techniques[edit]

Carey's popularity among drummers and non-drummers alike stems from the diversity of his sound and dynamics through his years of learning jazz music, his technical ability, frequent use of odd time signatures, polyrhythms and polymeters. He has stated in interviews that he effectively treats his feet as he does his hands: he practices rudiments (used for sticking techniques) and even snare drum solos with his feet to improve his double bass drumming, hi-hat control and foot independence.

In search of new techniques, Carey has studied tabla with Aloke Dutta, who can be heard playing on the live version of the song "Pushit" (from Salival). This is especially apparent on tracks such as "Disposition" (Lateralus) or "Right in Two" (10,000 Days), for which Carey has recorded the tabla parts himself in studio. The tabla (and other percussive instruments) used in Tool's music are replicated live using the Mandala pads (in fact the pads are also used when recording in the studio, a notable example being the tabla solo of "Right in Two" from 10,000 Days).

He has also stated that when he is playing to an odd time signature, he tries to drum to the "feel" of the song and establish general "inner pulse" for the given time signature instead of fully counting it out.

Carey has been featured in many drum and music magazines.[8]


  1. ^ Mahaffey, Joel (2001-08-06). "The Tool Page: Danny Carey Biography". The Tool Page (t.d.n). 
  2. ^ "Official Tool website - Danny Carey's personal profile". Toolband.com. Retrieved 2011-10-09. 
  3. ^ "Bob Frissell's home page". Bobfrissell.com. 2011-10-01. Retrieved 2011-10-09. 
  4. ^ "Fall 1994 newsletter". Toolshed.down.net. Retrieved 2011-10-09. 
  5. ^ Brandon Geist (November 17, 2011). "Exclusive: Feersum Ennjin Premiere "The Fourth," Featuring Tool’s Danny Carey - Revolver Magazine". Revolvermag.com. Retrieved October 9, 2012. 
  6. ^ "vicfirth.com". vicfirth.com. Retrieved November 10, 2014. 
  7. ^ "truelinedrumsticks.com". truelinedrumsticks.com. Retrieved October 9, 2012. 
  8. ^ "Danny Carey: Artists: Modern Drummer Magazine". Moderndrummer.com. Retrieved 2011-10-09. 

External links[edit]