Interview: Maynard James Keenan talks Puscifer and "Blood Into Wine"
Wed, 08 Sep 2010 17:50:39
If there's one thing that Blood Into Wine proves, it's that Maynard James Keenan is no slouch.
In fact, Keenan may have very well replaced James Brown as the hardest working man in show business. Blood Into Wine shows Keenan up-close-and-personal as he and his winemaking cohort Eric Glomski turn grapes to vino over an involved, intensive and intricate process in Northern Arizona.
The final product, "Caduceus," is the triumphant fruit of all this labor. Keenan unveils it at Silverlake Wine in a revealing, sharp and funny sequence in the middle of the film. Filmmakers Ryan Page and Christopher Pomerenke interview him everywhere—even the bathroom—making candid conversational vignettes that propel the documentary along at light speed. Ultimately, Blood Into Wine is as poignant and poetic as Keenan's lyrical prose with Tool, A Perfect Circle and Puscifer.
The film's soundtrack, Sound Into Blood Into Wine, features some unforgettable and unique re-imaginings of Puscifer tracks that'll no doubt stay etched in listeners' psyches. The soundtrack's available now here and you can find out more about Blood Into Wine at this location. We're quite positive that James Brown wouldn't want you to miss either…
Maynard James Keenan sat down with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino for an exclusive interview about Blood Into Wine, Sound Into Blood Into Wine, collaborating with Milla Jovovich, the philosophy behind winemaking and how making wine isn't all that different from creating music in this exclusive interview.
Does Blood Into Wine exemplify the creative collective idea you've had with Puscifer? It brings the wine, the music and the visuals altogether.
Yeah, to be honest, I'm really thankful that they've included so much of the Puscifer stuff in the film. In this day and age, it's definitely a challenge for people to get their heads around what it is. Puscifer's not a band; it's a troupe. We don't have concerts; we have performances. For them to actually give us that much screen time, I was pretty gracious. Being completely independent, we're paying for everything. It's hard to get on the map—especially with the way that the old record industry has worked with its tail and backroom discussions amongst managers, lawyers and agents. We don't have those things.
Blood Into Wine has a maverick aesthetic reminiscent of '70s films with the way the music and film come together. Would you say that's the case?
Yeah, I think so. That's a pretty accurate description.
The music, the philosophy behind winemaking and the journey you embark on converge seamlessly in Blood Into Wine.
Not to get all Buddhist on you, but I think it's got that mentality where these things are not separate events. They're all integrated. When you see Brad Pitt or Kathy Bates doing something on screen, it's such a presented "thing" that you think it's one-dimensional and there are no others. You don't ever see them going to the bathroom [Laughs]. They're all integrated. There's more to it. Like you said, I think [the filmmakers] were accurate in connecting the whole life—everything going on around the situations—rather than just showing a slice of the story that you want to present.
Do you feel like making wine and making music follow a similar creative process?
Absolutely! There's a little outtake on the DVD where Eric talks about Sensualism. Although there have been some negative connotations attached to that Sensualist movement having to do with gluttony and over-indulgence, I think the essence of it is more about you as a conscious being and becoming more conscious as you grow by paying attention to your senses. It's an awakening to those things that you're experiencing in the world. I guess that's where "artist" comes in. As an artist, you're paying attention to patterns, noticing things, cataloging movements and recognizing them as a conscious being. Whatever it is—cuisine, painting, music, winemaking, architecture—there are all of these things that you should be paying attention to as a growing artist.
With complexity of the grapes going from seeds to wine, it mirrors the evolution of a mind given the abundance of intricacies.
I could see that.
It's an inspiring film because audiences very rarely have the opportunity to see how intense the winemaking process is.
It's been removed from our culture. Prohibition pretty much interrupted the whole appreciation. It's odd. That was such a huge move. Prohibition, The Great Depression, World War I and II, there's this thing that happened on our soil that removed a lot of that appreciation from the table for us, quite literally. Now, we're catching up with it. There are all of these celebrity chefs and cooking shows. More wine is being appreciated by people and not to the point of indulgence. You don't drive down the highway and see corkscrews and bottles along the side of the road; you see Budweiser cans. It's not like it's that kind of growth. There's an appreciation for art and a consciousness that's attached to it.
The film's not portraying the classic imagery of Dionysian excess. The artistry comes through with Blood Into Wine.
We're hoping! The more we can explain that to people, the more they can get on a path themselves and learn some things.
Well, it's done very cleverly. How important is a sense of humor to this film and the soundtrack?
I think you can't really have one without the other. It's very Shakespearean. You have to have the comedy with the tragedy. There has to be the friction with the release. It all has to be present, or it's out of balance. To tell some of these intense stories and see some of these struggles, if you can't tell a joke along the way, it just sounds like a brooding, self-involved documentary. In that case, it might as well be a PBS special.
On Sound Into Blood Into Wine, "Sour Grapes Legend" is truly hilarious.
That's Puscifer. It's funny, on this soundtrack, people have complained that a bunch of the songs are previously released tracks. At the same time, in the last year or so, I've had people come up to me about those very same tracks and go, "That song's awesome! Why didn't you release it on the first album?" I'm like, "It is on the first album. You didn't listen." [Laughs] Also, I can't really sell an album called V Is for Vagina in my tasting room, to be honest. My own sense of humor came back to bite me in the ass on that one. For people who haven't really discovered Puscifer yet, it's a perfect little segue into the dark sense of humor to get into that. A live Puscifer show is a performance. We're a troupe. We're not a band. That night, "The Legend of the Mix," is a whole country set that Puscifer does. There's a whole story that goes with it and all of this video that accompanies it. It's something different.
These songs feel like they were always open to evolution from their first release on V Is for Vagina.
It's definitely going to be an evolving project. Most likely, the next thing you'll see from it is a DVD. We're going to probably work on it next year. It'll be Puscifer Season 1—Episodes 1-10 or 1-12. It's a show. Some of the shows segue into the others. I guess it has more in common with Adult Swim or Saturday Night Live than it does with Led Zeppelin.
The world has seen standard rock bands countless times. The Puscifer show is an experience. If you're willing to immerse yourself in Puscifer, it's very rewarding.
You can't come with a pre-conceived notion about what it is. Back to the documentary, I'm so happy that they included some of that in there. It is a nice slice of understanding all of the art—the wine, the music, the performance, the creative process—it's all represented in that documentary. It was nice of them to do that.
In the film, you say something to the effect that you'd like to be a winemaker who performs shows on breaks. It's interesting to see that personal evolution...
Hopefully, that's what we've got going on now. That's how it's worked this year. I'm making wine in the fall. We can tour in these months when I'm not making wine and not the other way around. The grapes are ready when the grapes are ready. That's it.
You're probably more in-tune with the earth, weather and everything around you than ever because you have to pay attention to it for the wine.
Yeah, it's definitely something that I think is missing from our culture. People don't quite get that if you have a chunk of soil near where you live, you can pretty much make your own food. It's something that's missing from our culture. People have forgotten. If you have relatives in Europe who actually cook, they're just appalled at the quality of food they have access to in order to make dinner.
We're very primal beings. We're supposed to be subsisting off of what we create.
It's really not that hard to do. You get it in the ground, and you treat it with some respect. It'll feed you. I don't know who along what line tricked us into not getting that but, man…
Did you and Milla Jovovich have an instant creative chemistry?
Yeah, it was more through a mutual friend. I like what she did with the song—"The Missiom." I could answer that better if we actually worked together more. That's the only real song we actually worked together on. We weren't in the same room doing it. I'm definitely hoping to work with a few other people to see what they bring to the table as well. I'm just having fun with it.
What does the title "Blood Into Wine" mean to you?
I have a history in this. My great grandfather made wine in Northern Italy. Given the struggle that goes along with making this, it's definitely not something you want to get into on a whim. It's a very labor-intensive process. Your blood, sweat and tears go into this thing to make it work. You have to be paying attention.
This documentary is going to show the care and devotion you have for this. You've entered winemaking from a foreign world and really shed blood into it.
I hope that comes across.
The documentary has the rhythm of an album more than a typical documentary…
Let's just call it, "The Dark Side of the Moon" of documentaries and see if it stays at the top of the Billboard charts or whatever [Laughs].
What's next for Puscifer?
The soundtrack is the songs that those guys decided to put in the film, so I put them together in order for them on a CD. We put the CD out. At the moment, I'm going to start writing sketches to be filmed at some point in the new year to put together this DVD. We're still writing, but it's going to be a long process.
What's your favorite Puscifer song? Are you excited for Blood Into Wine?