Maynard James Keenan Talks Puscifer, Dirty Words, and How the Band 311 Ruins His Wine
Maynard James Keenan has handily extended his reputation as metal’s premiere weird-merchant with Conditions of My Parole, the second full-length by his oddball dust devil Puscifer, via his like-titled record label. Holding a motley assemblage of outlaws hostage in his Merkin Vineyards in the Arizona desert (including indie rocker Carina Round and spasmodic Mars Volta drummer Jon Theodore), Conditions plays like Deliverance directed by David Lynch, a tumbleweed pile-up where Revolting Cocks outlaw-boogie meets creeptactular banjo picking. “I can juggle 16 projects and know where the sugar levels are on my fermenting juice while I’m writing a song,” Keenan says, “but I can’t actually play banjo and sing.”
REVOLVER Your first album was titled “V” Is for Vagina, and you have other releases with titles that reference Viagra and the C-word. This is the first Puscifer record without a filthy title…
MAYNARD JAMES KEENAN You don’t know that. Maybe it’s an anagram. Maybe if you rearrange the letters, some kind of poop joke will come out.
And you wrote and recorded half the record in your wine cellar.
The house is attached to the winery, so we had little stations everywhere. The drums, being set up in a big room, it was kind of boomy and cement—it was cool.
Do you think the vibrations affected the wine?
Well, there’ve been studies. If you play certain kinds of sounds to water as you freeze it, you’ll notice the crystals as they form are much more delicate and geometric when you play better music for them. You play like classical music for them, the crystal structures are more organized and defined. When you play 311, they just look like chunks. It just bums out and won’t freeze. When we do ours it looks like a Rubik’s Cube.
Do you ever find any wildlife out there in the desert?
Are you kidding? Fox, coyote, javelina, there are mountain lions and there are cougars. There’s bears around, but not that close. If you’re in Arizona and you see a red-tailed fox almost come up to you, it seems tame. Don’t pet it, because it’s feral. It’s about to bite you.
When you’re out there, what do you and your bandmates do to bond?
Just in that setting, you can’t help but bond when you’re sitting on the porch with a glass of wine and you can see all the stars clear as day. You can’t see those in Chicago or L.A.… You see other kinds of stars, the kind that are puking on the sidewalk.
How many times a day does someone ask you about a new Tool record?
At least 20… Wait, what time is it? 22. Twenty-two times. For most people, where I started was there. Most people assume the success of anything I do is based on Tool, when they don’t realize that I was successful at things long before Tool. Tool didn’t get me in Westpoint, Tool didn’t get me distinguished graduate from basic training, Tool didn’t get me on the student council, and Tool didn’t get me my 12 varsity letters. But the public eye assumes that’s the thing I should be doing. I just hold my tongue and do what I do.