Kurt Cobain Held a Grudge Against TOOL in the Early 90’s

Maynard James Keenan Photo by Roberto Finizio/NurPhoto via Getty Images / Kurt Cobain of Nirvana during the taping of MTV Unplugged at Sony Studios in New York City, 11/18/93. Photo by Frank Micelotta via Getty Images
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Back in the day, Tool ended up making a creative decision that really irked late Nirvana singer Kurt Cobain. In fact, Cobain was so pissed by this creative move that he called it a “shameless ripoff.”

It was the early ’90s, and prior to the release of the song’s music video, Cobain had an idea for Nirvana’s “Lithium” that involved the use of weird-looking dolls; specifically, though, these dolls would be a nod toward the works of the Brothers Quay (two talented filmmakers known for creating stop-motion movies).

As shared by Ultimate Guitar, during a 1992 interview with Flipside, Cobain talked about this idea and how it was inspired by the Brothers Quay:

“Yeah, 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 rip off 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 video tape the baby in her womb and put that in the video too.”

But Cobain wasn’t the only artist that thought of doing something based on the Brothers Quay, for Tool ended up releasing a music video that appeared to be very much inspired by the stop-motion filmmakers.

In 1993, Tool would release the music video for one of their biggest hits, “Sober.” When Cobain saw the Tool music video, he was pissed off, even going as far as to call the video a “shameless ripoff.” Speaking to Tool’s “Sober” music video, Cobain said (as transcribed by Ultimate Guitar):

“[Sighs] 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!”

He went on to add: “I mean, it’s a neat video – it’s really nice to look at, but I’d rather watch Brothers Quay video.”

If you are familiar with the films of the Brothers Quay, what do you think of Cobain’s comments about Tool’s “Sober” video? Below we have included the Brothers Quay short film “Impressions,” as well as Tool’s “Sober” music video.

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