Tool bassist cover

Justin Chancellor, Bass Player of Tool

Finally, we got to another of my favorites – Justin Chancellor, bass player of Tool.

He is perhaps one of the most outstanding experimenters for me today, at least among those playing progressive metal. He loves to compose rhythmically unusual bass lines and intricate melodies and uses such effects as chorus, fuzz, overdrive, wah-wah, and God knows what else.


Justin Chancellor’s birthday is November 19. He was born in 1971 in London. His father was British, and his mother was from Norway. When he grew older, his parents sent him to study at Tonbridge School (Kent). At 8, he began learning the basics of classical guitar. But when he listened to the records of Thin Lizzy, Rush, and Fugazi, he decided classics were not his style. Rock was the priority. He got a pick and devoted all his free time to working on his playing technique.

In the 1980s-1990s, almost every English educational institution had its bands. The one where Justin studied was no exception. The name of his school band was Slice of Life. The guys mostly played covers and even invented their arrangements. Some of those versions were exceptional. For example, the song Sunglasses at Night by the Canadian singer Corey Hart impressed the students so much that they composed the same-name track, which they managed to record in the studio a little later. By the way, the composition became the debut of their new bass player, Justin Chancellor.

After leaving school, Justin entered Durham University. This prestigious place is equal in status to Oxford and Cambridge. All students there are representatives of the upper and middle classes. Chancellor’s parents could give their son a good education.

Personal Life of Justin Chancellor

Justin carefully hides his personal life from journalists and curious fans. We know the man was married twice and had a few frivolous affairs before his first official engagement. Upon arrival in the United States, the man fell in love with a girl named Ariadne. The wedding was very romantic and occurred on the top of Mingus Mountain in Arizona on January 12, 1997. They lived together until 2001. Then, they divorced without scandals or litigation.

Justin married Shelee Dykman in 2007. The woman is English, Caucasian, and has no children. Together with their family friend, Zach Daniels, they opened a record store – Lobal Orning. During that time, the spouses lived in Topanga (California). Selling records and literature was not just a business to support the family budget. The common cause brought Shelee and Justin together and helped them form the idea of being a couple. However, the store closed in 2008. Justin was busy in the recording studio with rehearsals, recordings, and concert performances. Shelee, as a manager, still helps him solve some issues.


When Chancellor entered university, he already had many musician friends. It was with them that he joined the rock band Peach in 1991, supporting its founder and lead singer, Simon Oakes. The team worked in the art-metal style and showed great promise. Due to constant studies, the guys devoted only their free time to rehearsals. So, the band’s legacy is not as rich as it could be. Over the entire creative period, they released several demos and a couple of minions recorded in the university studio. They released their debut album only in 1994.

A few years earlier, Justin met the musicians of Tool. That happened during his trip to the USA. As a result, Peach had a real opportunity to support their American friends by performing as an opening act on their European tour. After the tour, the musicians recorded their first album, Giving Birth to a Stone.

Tool – Rehearsal (without Maynard)

In 2018, Justin took part in the recording of an experimental band, Death Grips. At that time, Andrew Adamson also participated in the recording. You probably don’t remember his name, but he’s the director of the first two movies about Shrek.

In 1995, Oakes left the band to pursue a new project. At the same time, Chancellor received an invitation to become the bass guitarist of Tool instead of Paul D’Amour, who decided to leave. However, he was in no hurry to accept it. Along with the guitarist, he tried to revive Peach. Justin even found a new vocalist, Rod Sterling, and supported ​​renaming the band in his honor. By the way, the band existed until 2000, and its name was Sterling. At the turn of the millennium, Simon Oakes decided to gather the original line-up to record their second album. Justin was supposed to participate in working on the album but stayed in the band for 2 days. When leaving, he advised the guys to rename the band again. Since 2000, it is Suns of the Tundra.

With the arrival of the new bass player, Tool’s music changed dramatically. The guys who previously played grunge switched to progressive metal and alternative. And the credit for this, of course, goes to Justin Chancellor.

Tool band early years

Features of Playing Technique

The manner of playing gives the impression there is not one but several bass players in the band. Riffs come to his mind not only during rehearsals. The man can compose music while walking his dogs or driving around the neighborhood. The task of his bass guitar is to tie together the ideas of other band members, support the groove, and combine the voice, guitar riffs, and drums. He uses a Dunlop (1 mm) Tortex Tri pick for rich sound production. However, he sometimes switches to the tap-and-slide technique.

Accessories and Tools

As a former guitarist, Chancellor uses numerous gadgets, amplifiers, and sound converters. Justin is a big fan of Wal basses. The musician believes they perfectly maintain all frequencies. They highlight the mids, do not clog the lows, and support the highs.

wal bass of Justin Chancellor

For effects, he uses the following pedals:

  • Dunlop Whammy
  • Lovetone Meatball
  • Big Cheese
  • And many many others…

He also uses Boss-Chorus, Flanger, and Delay guitar pedals. For overdrive, he applies distortion, sending the sound to Mesa Boogie Road Ready and turning the control knob to the maximum.

Justin Chancellor regularly updates his “combat arsenal.” He’s a longtime fan of Gallien-Krueger and Mesa/Boogie Сabs. Besides, the man has a pedalboard that any guitarist will envy. All of the basses Chancellor plays are custom-made. They undergo multiple changes, such as adding lightweight hardware and Luminlay fret markers, thus improving comfort and playability.

I prefer a custom Ernie Ball Hybrid Slinky set, but since we tune to drop-D for most songs, I use a .110 string from a Power Slinky set.

From an interview with the Premier Guitar channel
Recommended by TOOL 🙂
Justin Chancellor, Bass Player of Tool

Ernie Ball Nickel Wound Hybrid Slinky

  • Precision wound with nickel plated steel
  • Tin plated high carbon steel core
  • Crafted in USA
  • Compliments all bass guitar types and playing styles
  • 20$

In one of his interviews, the bass player said he prefers D’Addario strings for a regular guitar. All cables for his instruments come from the Mogami brand.

Chancellor is a bass alchemist. He enjoys the experimental part of the music-making process. When Justin Chancellor starts working on a song, he gets excited about the prospect of taking a fresh look at music as a whole, and as a result, he takes detours in search of patterns and riffs. His creative union with guitarist Adam Jones and drummer Danny Carey developed from the beginning of the bass guitarist’s career in Tool. During rehearsals, they play almost non-stop. Therefore, there are many ideas for new compositions.

Tool is some unreal coincidence of circumstances when people of colossal talent came together in one place and got along for 30 years. Although jokes about the next album release in 20-30 years are not unfounded and have been in the air since the release of Fear Inoculum, I think I’m ready to wait.

TOOL – Vicarious (Official Video)
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