Nobody's Tool: Maynard James Keenan Would Rather Talk About His Other Bands

Maynard James Keenan drives around Arizona's Verde Valley in an oversize green pickup. The truck's wheels kick up clouds of dust as he rumbles down the dirt road that leads to Four Eight Wineworks, the barreling room where wine from his nearby Merkin Vineyards ages in casks. From here it will be shipped to stores across the Southwest and to his Caduceus Cellars Tasting Room up the mountain in Jerome.

A bitterly cold wind blows as he emerges from the vehicle, thick, black glasses wrapped around his signature bald head. Wearing dark-blue jeans cuffed around dirt-caked boots, he sports a puffy down jacket zipped up to his chin. He checks in with members of his staff, bearded guys blasting RJD2 loudly from speakers that send the progressive instrumental hip-hop bouncing off tin walls.

Keenan wears one look as he maneuvers himself in front of New Times' cameras, and it's intimidating: severe, dead-set, his dark eyes magnified behind the glasses.


• Check out all the Maynard James Keenan columns for New Times. • Read our extended Q&A with Maynard James Keenan.


"I only have the one," he says of his expression, barely the hint of a smile tugging at the edge of his mouth. Keenan is protective of his image, and he often performs with his bands — Tool, A Perfect Circle, and Puscifer — from the shadows, in elaborate costumes. Or from behind video monitors that distort and obscure his face.

His mystique translates to interviews as well. He has a reputation for being distant and is known to respond to interviewers' questions curtly in one or two words. But he's not always tight-lipped. Once you get Keenan going, he'll happily expand upon and illustrate his ideas — he just has to be interested in doing it. He has little time for questions whose answers are apparent. No patience for "customer service."

When pressed, he'll explain his severity in simple terms:

"Busy, busy."

Right now, Maynard James Keenan is very, very busy — and he would like to get back to work.


Keenan is famous primarily as a musician, the frontman of heavy alternative-metal band Tool, whose string of hits in the 1990s and 2000s added a knotty, progressive rock edge to the down-tuned nu-metal sounds that dominated rock radio. He's had nearly as much success with his theatrical art-rock combo A Perfect Circle and the electronic-tinged Puscifer. But Keenan spent the past decade devoting an even greater share of his time to wine, with occasional forays into acting.

He's played bit parts in Crank 2: High Voltage, appeared on the anti-comedy TV series Tim & Eric Awesome Show: Great Job, and played Satan in the Troma-style Charlie's Angels spoof Bikini Bandits. In 2010, he was the subject of a documentary by directors Ryan Page and Christopher Pomerenke, Blood into Wine, which charted Keenan's fascination with oenology and his desire to cultivate a world-class vineyard in Arizona. In 2012, he took another turn with Pomerenke and Page, playing the bizarre Bobby Angel in the pair's surreal country-western comedy, Queens of Country, starring alongside Lizzy Caplan, Ron Livingston, and Jo Lo Truglio.

Last fall, he added "columnist" to his list of job titles, penning a biweekly treatise for New Times' music blog, Up on the Sun. From September 2012 to the beginning of January, Keenan pontificated and rambled, offering tongue-in-cheek proclamations of imminent world destruction, pop culture reflections on obscure installments in the Planet of the Apes series, and his take on television shows like Walking Dead, Justified, and Sons of Anarchy. He wrote detailed glimpses into his day-to-day tasks as a vintner, with occasional outlines of his creative philosophies. He finished each one with a signature tagline, "Chicken Little out."

The process of writing his ideas for a newspaper was an entirely new one for Keenan.

"No, they were all inside," he says of his thoughts. He's never been one for blogging, but he enjoyed the process and has started working on an autobiography.

"I think there are a lot of misconceptions with some people that, all of a sudden, I was born when my first band came out," Keenan says. "I actually had a life before that, and there were a lot of accomplishments. [The book] will kind of chronicle why it is I got to where I am, and why I got to where you knew about me."

Balancing the book with his wine-making is just one example of Keenan's burning the candle at both ends.

A Perfect Circle and Puscifer embark together on Australian and South American tours in February, with stops at Lollapalooza Chile and in Brazil, as well as at the Australian Soundwave Festival. Pulling double duty is intense for Keenan, who spent much of December and January locked in "the Bunker," his studio at Caduceus Cellars, prepping both bands for the road, the tours slotted around his schedule at Caduceus.

"That's the beauty of this project," Keenan says, laughing. "We can still maintain our irresponsible side — our rock-star side — but when it comes time to be responsible, we can react; we can respond. We can do what needs to be done. We can start rehearsal at 10 a.m. What band that you know of can actually get going at 10, 10:30 in the morning and get done by 1?"

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34 comments
deadeadchemie
deadeadchemie

The internet killing album sales isnt the fans fault the dead toured for 30 years while the fans bootlegged everything but still supported them by buying tickets for every show they could make it to

shock29
shock29

there is no question the maynard is very talented...but coming from a tool fan I wish him and the band( tool ) would not have so much distance between tool albums

shock29
shock29

no question that maynard is talented ....just wish there was not so many yrs between tool albums...

liquidmuse3
liquidmuse3

Love me some Maynard, but it's way, way, WAY easier to be "independent", when your name & reputation were built on the corporate checkbook of the old record industry. God bless him, he's right in a lot of what he says, but he's not making enough from Puscifer (I don't think) to simply fund more Puscifer...this whole operation is Tool money.

Speaking of, that band will not release anything online (Tool). Maynard makes the incredibly silly point that music needs a physical product to feel complete. No, music enters your headphones, cracks your cranium, & envelops your soul. You're too lost in bliss to hold a picture on a sleeve. Release the hounds, Tool!  ;o)

chipnathan
chipnathan

I believe you can get all of it if you want it!

chipnathan
chipnathan

ITS STEALING IF YOU LIKE IT THEN PRICE IT IF NO NE PAYS ITS OVER FOR MOST INDIVIDUALITY AND ONE THING IS SURE NO ONE WANTS TO NOT BE HEARD BUT ID ONLY LISTEN TO RAREST NON ABLE TO OWN UNLESS .SOO I WONT SEE FUTURE DJ THATS IT RECORD SPINNER NOPE BUY THE GODDAMN PROCESS.

chipnathan
chipnathan

I'm just honored to be invovled in a fans perspective I believe I'm truly an awe for his vocal poetic gifts are my muise to be an artist as well thanks for allowing me to be counted .chipnathan

jerrybunker
jerrybunker

OK. Need yalls help please. My crazy pass gf has been gone for a week. Says she's with Maynard now and they are together together and she is leaving me for him. Says she's staying at his place w him in Jerome... her details are accurate.. is this possible.? Thought he was married as well.. please help.. no joking matter here... maybe a comment or two from someone close to Mr Keenan could shed some light for me... thanks

jerrybunker
jerrybunker

AIs Maynard still married? My crazy pass psycho gf supposedly took off from here in San Antonio, Tx. And says she's with him at his place in Jerome. Is this possible or is she full of it...?

chipnathan
chipnathan

Thanks for my Friday turned lucky 13

MJKisaTool
MJKisaTool

Get over yourself, Maynard.Get back to TOOL and stop fooling yourself. TOOL is the art. Pussyfart is very mediocre at best.If anyone else's name was attached to Puscifer,no one would care because it's just ok, not great. TOOL is the greatest thing you will ever do in your lifetime, so go back to perfecting it instead of spreading yourself out so thin.

mpohara3
mpohara3

Newtimes is completely bias and bogus , however, since manard has been writing a column for them, I find myself picking this yellow-rag up every Thursday

JackAzlin
JackAzlin

This man is an inspiration. It makes me happy that he's followed his dream of wine making and succeeded and excelled.

He'll have new Tool music for you when it's ready. In the mean time enjoy his wine. 

evrythngzen
evrythngzen

The man turned his angst into music to feed the soul; now, it's grapes into wine. Same result. Fuck YA Maynard

ckrescho
ckrescho

I don't know if anybody remembers the Tool concert some years back where somebody chucked a beer bottle at Maynard while he was on stage at what was Desert Sky. He got pissed and walked off stage.

KB2
KB2

Great Article Jason.  Kudos!  Thanks for the read.


GimmeAliterOfcola
GimmeAliterOfcola

Great to see Maynard doing his thing. For all the douchetards out there who just cry about MJK working on Tool, this is an example of a guy living the dream that is life and evolving as an artist. TOOL was/is a vehicle that has carried all four of these guys into a life that most people can only dream of. They create what they want and they share it when its ready. I wouldn't want it any other way as a fan. Even after six years of listening to 10,000 Days, I still listen to those songs and hear something that I maybe hadn't heard before, which is a testament to how much work goes into their craft. Anybody want a half-ass TOOL album that was pushed out too soon? Anyone? Bueller? I've been a Tool fan since I was a teenager and I'm 32 now. I enjoy the time in between new material, because it gives you an opportunity to really appreciate each release. Besides, Puscifer is the bee's knees or the cats pajamas as the cool kids would say. I've seen them three times; Apollo Theater, Tower Theater/Philly, and Asbury NJ. They've never been anything short of mind-blowing. I've never been to AZ, but listening to some of these songs, they almost put you there mentally. Its a very strange and enjoyable phenomena and I should note that I don't drink or do drugs. But hell, preaching words of reason these days is pretty hopeless. Fork it, I'm going to look at porn.

MotherRosetta
MotherRosetta

I have to say I prefer tangible recordings over digital downloads. I don't want to take the chance on the whimsy of electronics to "crash" and losing all of my music again and again. I am glad to see the comeback of vinyl. I have Lateralus on vinyl and the artwork on the albums themselves is unique and beautiful. I am still trying to locate 10,000 Days on vinyl but not having much luck. Looking forward to your biography upon it's release, Mr. Keenan, whenever that shall be.

fluidictenchu
fluidictenchu

love ya maynard, but get back to APC or even tool, pucifer sux.

jack
jack

I love Maynard, but how about a new fucking Tool album! It's been like almost 7 years! Stop farting around with wine and Puscifier and get back to your number one project. 

charlie_knoxaz
charlie_knoxaz

To support the bands that one loves, one has to make the commitment to engage: Buy merch, pay for tickets and go to see them, etc. PAY THEM for the pleasure they have brought you. Innovations allow one to enjoy VIP experiences. Costly? Yes. Worth it? Every penny's worth. The music I love has informed my life: Frank Zappa, King Crimson, Patsy Cline, Bill Nelson, Al Green, Philip Glass, David Sanborn, Public Enemy, Sam Phillips, The Clash, Kate Bush, Radiohead, Liz Phair, NIN and on and on and on... All three of Mr. Keenan's projects have fleshed out the never-ending soundtrack that enriches my life. And while I don't go quite the route of hero worship, I absolutely am a fan of a human whose experiences - as they are offered through their art - have helped me to identify, understand (or not) and embrace my own. And, interestingly, it seems that Mr. Keenan has a vision that, perhaps, just perhaps, by his establishing an ethic of finding and following one's bliss, a few of us fans may be prompted to do the same...

nina.smale
nina.smale

The desert sure does something to a man. I have, to admit to those who can relate, he is absolutely getting wiser in his age and I'm a huge fan. It's good to feel hope in something/someone's actions...I would like to continue to see him succeed because he puts forth such hard work in his dreams. Kudos, to you, Chicken Little. Puscifer has changed me and a few other fans I know in ways you wouldn't understand and I will continue to support and purchase merch to support these dreams and families. I'm waiting very patiently for that autobiography.

jherne66
jherne66

As a vinyl fanatic it's good to know sales of records are growing exponentially. Downloading just doesn't do it for me. Not sure if you can purchase Puscifer records on the website (I haven't checked) but if you ever make it to the store in Jerome the vinyl releases are usually autographed.

Tiltawerl
Tiltawerl

Good read. Love this guy :) and his music. Probably would like his wine too! He seems very professional and has a real passion for his work

tzugidan
tzugidan

Nice article. In addition to monkeys in a cage, fans have ADHD and as soon as a CD is released it doesn't take long for "when your next CD?" LOL... If Tool/APC/or Puscifer never makes another CD...I'm fine with it... There are a few bands in my 48 years that I continually go back to to listen over and over....picking up more nuance each time...Tool and APC are two of them. With regards to piracy...I've never downloaded a single song without paying for it...and buy CD's whenever I can...I much prefer the sound quality over downloaded music...and I encourage my kids to do the same thing explaining that's how bands make money...oh, and i encourage them to get their asses out and go see live music whenvever possible... 

churv69
churv69

Mistake: Billy Howerdel was never in Queens Of The Stone Age, you're mistaken for Troy Van Leeuwen - one time A Perfect Circle guitarist on their debut album only. He has been a permanent member of QOTSA since 'Songs for the Deaf'

ambller
ambller

Maynard is in an open marriage

chipnathan
chipnathan

Don't evenstop critique the artistfor styles transcend with wisdom and it is a bad move tobe a judge on a free man cushe isn't screeming and turnedmore melonicshut up and buy .

dougmott
dougmott

You are a simpleminded fool...Maynard doesn't care what you like. He makes music that he likes and if people enjoy it great. Its what separates him from all of these garbage musicians out today, whose main concern is to make pop hits for the masses. Go buy the latest korn album and get back in line with the rest if the sheep.

mcburton1
mcburton1

@GimmeAliterOfcolaVery well said, have two liters of Cola hehe.
Going to see Tool for the second time on March 4th in Spokane, so worth the wait!  Last time I saw them was 6 years ago, same venue, with my daughter who was 11 at the time; it was her first concert.  We're going together again, cannot wait!!
It never ceases to amaze me how so many fans of Tool fail to realize the depth of their music, the sheer metaphysical power of it, the evolving meanings behind the lyrics and notes.  No other band has ever done the things to my energy system that Tool has heh.  My favorite band, of all time.

chipnathan
chipnathan

This guy is speaking for me id give you a liter of cola you speak just and true we all share this phoney ownership that's built upon our demands for more more more well to be this band of ginormous artists to become each everysong is fully transcended in us thanks for all we can have.

Phxmusicdotcom
Phxmusicdotcom

@churv69 When you're right you're right, Churv. I've removed the Queens reference, and you're absolutely right that I mixed those two up. 

 
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