Ben Eagles

10:40 8th January 2008


Over the coming weeks on Gigwise, I'm going to be bringing you some of the most controversial, comical and plain fucked-up videos of all time. We’ll be analysing just why Aphex Twin’s ‘Come To Daddy’ shook the foundations of music, why Shitdisco decided to draft in a room full of lycra-clad extras in Kung-Fu, plus more visual oddities. To kick off, we bring you a macabre cult classic from 1996…

Band: Tool
Track: Stinkfist (aka Track # 1)
Released: 1996
Director: Adam Jones

Tool's ‘Stinkfist’ is the king of controversial music videos, the dirty old granddaddy of them all. It makes other contenders for the moniker (notably Madonna's ‘Like A Virgin’, Britney Spears' ‘Hit Me Baby One More Time’, Prodigy's ‘Smack My Bitch Up’ and Michael Jackson's ‘Thriller’) look like children's TV productions. The extensive use of David Lynch-esque dark surrealism coupled with highly suggestive lyrics that were so potent that MTV wouldn't even use the song's original name for fear of causing offence. Instead they relied on their VJs' sticking a fist in the air and giving it a good sniff when introducing the song as "track number one" during it's heavy rotation on the station in the mid-to-late-90s.

The five-minute long video has a narrative of sorts, but it is debatable whether industrial landscapes featuring deformed grey men eating metal spikes and storing bits of flesh in a jar, hunchbacked figures prowling dark corridors or a figure with no legs struggling to escape the mains socket he's been plugged into (no rubber boots, you see) forms a story as we know it, or if it's just the random creative output of a band who revel in ambiguity and inspiration from artists such as H. R. Giger (the Swiss visionary who made Ridley Scott's Alien creature so repulsive) and Salvador Dali. Director Adam Jones, who plays lead guitar in the band, originally went to LA to make his mark in the film industry before joining Tool and the polished, complex nature of the production is testament to his expertise.

Interpretations of the disturbing scenes contained within the Stinkfist video have ranged from a metaphorical message about reaching deeper into one's soul to personal relationships to plain old sex-related filth, with the band retorting that "if you really look at it and really look at us and who we are, you'll understand that we go a little deeper than some write-off song about fist-fucking." Then again, they've also claimed that the song is inspired by a friend of the drummer who "isn't afraid of getting his hands dirty." So best not shake hands with any 'friends of the band' when Tool are next in town.

Enjoy it below: