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Cover Story: Maynard James Keenan

Puscifer
The Escape Of Maynard James Keenan

MJK

Maynard James Keenan doesn’t want to talk about Tool, and if anyone deserves some slack, it’s probably him. In the midst of rock’s declining presence in amphitheaters and arenas alike, Tool has achieved the unfathomable, pushing its international 10,000 Days tour past the year-and-a-half mark, selling out huge sports stadiums, and daring to emphasize visual art over greatest hits in venues as standardized as Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates.

By some accounts, the tour has reduced a once-confrontational and magnetic frontman — who had been known to don prosthetic breasts, wigs, and body paint to thrill a crowd — to a shaven lump, hidden in the shadows. Daring to become an instrument in voice alone, Keenan lets lasers work the crowd for him. (Perhaps his faithful would be just as pleased with fake snow at a Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert?) On a late-September off date at his home in Arizona, Keenan struggles on the phone with a newly announced West Coast winter leg of Tool’s ongoing juggernaut, his voice dead quiet in preparation of a very long winter.

“I’m just kind of burnt from talking about it. People enjoy the shows — that’s all they need to know. Come see the show. The show is the show. And there’s nothing really to talk about. Just go experience it,” he says, sounding totally resigned. “I’ve been talking about it for three years, you know?” The man needs a vacation. He is nearly 1,000 days into 10,000 Days, Tool’s most complex effort to date, written in part as a memorial to his mother, who died in 2003. It’s time to move on, he indicates in ways both subtle and overt (up to and including the silent treatment). It’s time for a new topic — maybe even a new band, his depressed tone suggests. (It’s absolutely not time for that Trans-Siberian Orchestra question!)

Puscifer is Keenan’s current side project, a multi-pronged swab of industrial dance, country & western twang, blue humor, and small-run merchandising. To launch the band, he started an independent record label, Puscifer Entertainment, which also distributes CDs from comedians like Patton Oswalt, Brian Posehn, and David Cross, and has the potential to sign comedians, performance artists, and animators directly, Keenan says. “It’s still in a very chaotic state. We’re not really sure where it’s going to go,” he says. One thing is certain: Puscifer the band is less serious than Tool the religion. Keenan has another analogy: “If Tool is math class, then Puscifer is recess — recess with the short-bus kids. And home economics. Bake a cake and go out on recess and throw it at each other.”

Side projects are nothing new for the vocalist, but this one has been due for a while. Once topics are fully switched to Puscifer, Keenan’s mood lightens considerably. “I do different things all the time,” he exhales, citing his winery, Caduceus Cellars, as another example. “I’ve been doing different things since I was in high school. Some of the projects that I’ve done have gotten a lot of attention, and that’s what most people know me about. Some of those are more accessible projects, and so they seem like the only projects I’ve ever done, and that’s not the case.” Fans of Keenan’s contribution to Green Jellÿ’s early-’90s comedy metal (“Three Little Pigs”) might assimilate more easily into the jokey world of Puscifer than fans of Tool or A Perfect Circle, but that’s going on whimsy alone, not music. Puscifer seems determined to avoid rock ‘n’ roll while carving out a strange niche of dance and C&W.

The band’s debut CD single, “Cuntry Boner (Evil Joe Barresi Mix)” b/w “World Up My Ass (Alan Moulder Mix),” is a stunning collapse of tact for Keenan’s progressive track record. While he is expected to lyrically dwell in ills as widespread as child abuse (“Prison Sex”), global warming (“Ænema”), and television (“Vicarious”), “Cuntry Boner” goes where no Keenan song has dared to go before: Graceland. “I fucked Elvis Presley in the bathroom where he died,” Keenan slowly drawls over Alfredo Nogueira’s earnest lap steel. His “boner won’t go down,” a hoedown chorus explains. A similar fate awaits Dwight Yoakam, The Judds, the cast of “Hee Haw,” and poor, poor Johnny Cash, along with many other C&W artifacts.

The juvenile cover tune was co-written by Tom Morello during his pre-Rage Against The Machine days in Libertyville’s Electric Sheep (a band which also featured future Tool guitarist Adam Jones). It’s a radical departure from Puscifer’s moody industrial work on the Underworld and Saw II soundtracks (the act’s only available music preceding the CD single). Keenan promises the band’s debut full-length, V Is For Vagina, will continue the “fun.” Just don’t actually look for “Cuntry Boner” on V. “It didn’t fit the vibe of the album,” he says. “There are a couple tracks that didn’t make it on the album. I like them, but they didn’t fit the vibe. Who knows, I might actually put out more of a country album next time.”

Mike Meyer

For more on having to put up with being in Tool, grab the November issue of Illinois Entertainer, available free throughout Chicagoland.

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  1. u luv the maynard says:

    “Keenan lets lasers work the crowd for him”

    WRONG!!!

    RE-PHRASE:

    ‘The crowd is worked up by Keenan’s onstage manner, magnetism, and intensity….IN FRONT OF lasers abd vid screens, etc.’

  2. walker says:

    Dude, you got it wrong. Try actually following Tool and APC and Puscifer and maybe you would get the hint. Maynard doesn’t want to be the typical frontman. He says that he is an instrument just like the rest of the band so he wants to take bigger efforts to move away from the traditional lead-singer. The crowd knows that and, furthermore, they don’t want to be entertained by the musicians, they want to experience the music. Don’t be such a tool…

  3. gsxr1000o3 says:

    maybe he is bored with music. who is the a–face that hit his dog?

  4. Megan says:

    Ummm, Walker? Read the article again. The point your making about your “Reverend” Maynard is exactly what Mike Meyer is saying in the Article. That your “Messiah” is “Daring to become an instrument in voice alone”. this is alll very old news anyways. and in my opinion you sound like a huge Tool acting like you personally know the man or something. yikes!

  5. bookie says:

    i actually DID know “the man” back when he was a skinny punk in grand rapids, and had the distinct displeasure of opening for him at a number of shows. he thought he was a rock god then, when he was doing what amounted to crappy performance art, and he think he’s a rock god now. the false humility and “i’m so very weary of my success,” is just the latest bunch of b.s. from this egomaniacal douchebag. like his music or not, he did (even when there wasn’t any), and will always believe his own press – and i mean that in the worst possible way.

    and no, this isn’t sour grapes. i’m proud of a hometown boy becoming so famous. but his behavior then and now is repugnant. at least now that he’s famous, he could show a little respect for the people who made him famous – his fans. but instead, he’s just so very tired of you all. if i were a tool fan, i’d be insulted.

  6. Tommy says:

    Aenima is not about global warming

  7. Highly revealing many thanks, It looks like your current followers may maybe need additional reviews like this continue the great effort.

  8. Terribly nice site http://illinoisentertainer.com/2007/10/cover-story-maynard-james-keenan/, I like it, mind if I send your link to a few friends?

  9. Elanore says:

    Probably got burnt out with the intense Tool performances and front stage responsibilities. At least they continue in some form and audiences like it.

  10. DamoVcurlotchurlowmyneelow says:

    Everyone’s point sounds valid, but it just looks like Tool lived up to its name. And, man I was one of their biggest fans.
    I Still love their music though…..Fucking tool!

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