Exclusive: Maynard James Keenan of A Perfect Circle and Puscifer
Mon, 18 Nov 2013 09:06:48
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Maynard James Keenan preserves integrity across all of his endeavors.
If there's one thread between Tool, A Perfect Circle, Puscifer, and his wine-making, it's that. You know that if he's stamping his name on it, it's going to be real. It’s also going to be mind-blowing, but that’s besides the point. Keenan's unwavering honesty has defined his career thus far, and it's what has made him such a paragon in modern music. There’s nobody like him, and there never will be. That's also why everything he does is so darn intriguing. Take Puscifer's What Is… [out November 26] concert film and documentary DVD. It opens up his world in hilarious and hypnotic fashion. Meanwhile, the A Perfect Circle retrospective Three Sixty [out November 19] and live releases further solidify that band’s own formidable legacy. Simply put, with all of this cool stuff coming out, it's a great time to be a Maynard James Keenan fan.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Maynard James Keenan talks A Perfect Circle, Pusficer, his new wine co-op, and so much more.
Does What Is… encapsulate the vision you've had for Puscifer since the beginning? The project was always meant to encompass visuals as well as the music.
Yeah, I think so. I think we're on to something with some of it. Of course, it will evolve as time goes on. However, I feel like this film definitely captures what we are at that time.
When you're assuming these different characters, does that come from a different creative place than making the music does? Or, do the thought processes entwine at all?
I don't know. That would be hard to describe, I think. A lot of times, you're in the middle of it so it's hard to get a clear perspective on where that energy comes from. You've had people who can make a pizza like crazy, but they can't explain to you how to make the pizza. You're standing right in front of them, and they can't find the words to help you find your way through that. In terms of acting, I think there's a definitely a piece of acting that you either can or you can't. Some people have learned some of the skills to work their way through it. Of course, there are people it completely comes naturally to, and there's no way they could tell you what that process is because it's part of them. Does that make sense?
Absolutely, it's like another part of who they are comes out on screen. The humor makes it more fun for you and the audience, expanding that emotional palette.
I think there are so many things going on in the world that you can get caught up in the seriousness of it all. I think some of those moments, relationships, and juxtapositions need to be addressed. You do have to deal with them on a daily basis. There are things you can't escape. Having the comedy in there helps take some of the steam out of that pressure cooker, while still addressing some of those issues. Of course, it's just a classic comedy-tragedy juxtaposition that helps work through the craziness.
That Shakespearian dichotomy is very important. You find the art or the story in between one end and the other.
Is it balancing act for you to temper the narrative and production of the Puscifer live shows with the immediacy?
Of course, a lot of the narrative is already there in terms of just living live. Those archetypes, stories, and mythologies have been written and rewritten over and over again. As long as you can tap into those in a pure way and find your way through those, it shouldn't be that difficult to pull that off as long as you also have rehearsed in those moments where what seems to be immediate and what seems to be flowing is something you've done over and over again. It's like watching a chef or a world class basketball player warming up at the free throw line before the game. Those kinds of things seem casual, but they've done them so many times that I guess it's the preparation part. It feels fluid and immediate because you've done the work.
You can embrace the immediacy more because the preparation is there. The more you practice, the more you can be in the moment and score against the opposition.
It doesn't always mean the ball is going to go through the fucking hoop [Laughs]. That's part of the beauty of it. Sometimes it hits, sometimes it misses. You cannot control the chaos.
That unpredictability has to keep it fun as well. You don't know what's going to happen, especially when you bring the Puscifer show to a festival. You're able to infuse that within a different world as well as allowing it to exist on its own.
Of any challenges Puscifer has taken on, trying to translate that show on a festival stage in the bright sunlight is a tough call because there are so many nuances and subtleties to our show that get completely lost in the festival setting. That's especially the case when half the people are sunbaked, dehydrating, and dying.
Or just taking ecstasy and getting ready for Deadmau5…
That's kind of what I meant.
Did "By and Down" evolve in the live setting?
That's always going to happen when you have a song that you've rehearsed in a square room. When you get on stage, you feel a push and pull. You need to nudge this part a little harder and you need to get a little quieter on this part. All of those things evolve as you tour, I'd have to say with every song, that's the case. I think they're going to slowly evolve as you do them. For the most part, that song has remained fairly pure from its inception. Because of the experience we've had in the past on the road, I feel like we can kind of predict where that might go.
Did you get closer to the A Perfect Circle music by playing all of the songs live? Many artists don't ever get that chance.
Well, you know your body changes as you age. To go back and re-look at those songs basically in a different skin definitely gives you perspective. I sing differently than I did when I recorded those songs. So, it was difficult to go back and try to re-shape my throat to make those sounds. It was definitely a learning experience, in terms of where I am with my vocal approaches, subject matter, and everything.
"Passive" fits so well within eMOTIVe. That song was meant to be amongst those covers.
Oh yeah, I agree.
What are some of the thrills of wine making for you? It's an intriguing game to play with nature, so to speak.
It's definitely not like manufacturing lunchboxes. Every year is going to throw you a different set of curveballs. Just farming in general is a hit-and-miss thing with weather. There are climate changes and everything going. Every year so far has never presented us with the same sets of puzzles to solve or navigate. It's a wonderful expression of being in the moment and having to make decisions not on-the-fly so much, but being able to make those decisions with some sense of instinct and experience—a combination of both. It's a wonderful process. Like I said, the weather is changing so it's going to continue to evolve as well.
There's a unique underground wine culture too.
It goes deep. Don't be overwhelmed by all of the variables. Be in the moment. Have that social moment with whoever is there and enjoy the wine you discovered. Enjoy it today. There's no right or wrong answer to it. I keep getting people going, "It's been proven master sommeliers can't tell you how expensive a bottle of wine is!" No, but they can tell you exactly what year and what block it was grown on and exactly what's in it. Nobody can tell you what the price of wine is because you can't tell the price. All you can tell is what's in the glass. The price is driven by how much of it there is and how in-demand it is. You can't really taste that. As far as a good wine versus a bad wine, that's easy. That wine sucks. This one doesn't. The one that sucks might be expensive.
It extends to music, art, and movies. There's no barometer.
Right, your palette is going to be whatever your palette decides it likes. There's no right answer.
What's next for you?
There's a lot of work I have to do this coming year. There are a lot of changes so it's hard to say. I'm just opening up a co-op in Northern Arizona—called Four Eight Wineworks named after the 48th state Arizona. There are a lot of different young winemakers with talent and experience, but no funding. So, we built a co-op for them to get their brands started and get their feet wet. It just opened in Historic Clarkdale Arizona. There are a lot of things like that. There are some vineyards coming on. Of course, there's always music being written. You never know. All of that is happening.
What’s your favorite Tool, A Perfect Circle, or Puscifer song?
See our feature on the Top 10 A Perfect Circle songs here!
Listen to “Judith” from Mer De Noms live exclusively here!