Maynard James Keenan: Why Arizona?

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As you may have heard,
Fear Inoculum, the first album by Tool in 13 years, comes out this Friday, August 30. To commemorate the occasion, Phoenix New Times is rerunning some of the best columns by Maynard James Keenan, the band's frontman and Arizona winemaker. This piece originally ran on October 24, 2012, just as we moved the column from Mondays to Wednesdays.

Since New Times is moving this column to coincide with the print edition, I thought I'd take a moment to re-introduce myself and give you a peek into why I've resided in Arizona for the past 17 years. It has a little to do with the glowing gray area between synchronicity and fate. By this, I mean something that goes beyond a mere coincidence. I used to believe that if I followed these events, these aligned moments, there would be a pot of gold at the end or some sort of inner circle reward. But I've come to understand that these glowing little gray-area moments are themselves the reward. It's the Universe giving you a tickle. An acknowledgment that you are in fact wide awake. Paying attention.

I was born an only child on the distant and awkward planet known as Akron/Canton, Ohio. (Also germinated/hatched here are the infamous fellow time and space travelers known to you as Devo, Chrissy Hynde, Brian Warner a.k.a. Marilyn Manson, Dan Auerbach, Dave Grohl, Glen Buxton — the list goes on and on.) Only those of you who were an only child can truly understand this. For us, in any given conversation, there are at least two simultaneous conversations occurring. There's audible conversation, and then there's the conversation or conversations going on inside your head. As a young child with no siblings, I created imaginary friends and entire worlds where they lived and I visited. They were my inner voice and dialogue. I lived in a small rural house from kindergarten to eighth grade. But for some reason, our local education system kept shuffling students from school to school. So although I lived in that same house for 10 years, I went to five different schools. The glass-half-empty view of this is one of isolation. Every time I showed up to a new school, I had to find a way to fit in with a group of strangers that had been going to school together their whole lives. The glass-half-full version of this is independence. I wasn't subjected to the hierarchy that had been established among these lifelong peers. I wasn't pigeonholed into some established social order. And being an only child, I brought my friends with me. All of whom resided in my head. And any tough decisions I had to make were made by MY set of peers, all with the same or similar agenda, as opposed to advice provided by the rotating local peer group, each with their own set of baggage or irrelevant perspectives based on completely different experiences. This helped me develop my instincts and intuition — and over time, taught me to trust them. No outside noise can penetrate a solid sense of self-trust. Skipping through all the stuff that will someday appear in my biography, we arrive at my journey toward Arizona. In late 1993, I had a strange dream. I dreamt I was flying above a small mountainside town somewhere in the desert. The town itself, although in the desert, was green and alive. It was a place I'd never seen in real life, but it seemed welcoming and familiar. And, in the distance, I could see a great wave consuming the large cities along the vast horizon. About a month later, I received a cassette in the mail from my friend, the late great Bill Hicks. He was in the middle of editing his third release and wanted my opinion on the musical portion of the piece. It was a rough mix of what he was calling his "Arizona Bay" CD. I felt that tickle again. The dream wasn't specific about that place on the mountainside. But I now knew it had to be somewhere in Arizona. I described it to a friend who used to live there. He knew exactly where this place was and drove me there in mid-1995.

As we entered the Verde Valley, my heart started to race. By the time we got to Jerome, I was vibrating. We — my inner dialogue and myself — knew this was the place. This was like that moment when you realize you've just met your soulmate. You just know. Your heart swells to four times its size. You are equal parts panic and relief. This feeling has never left me. This place continues to be an endlessly creative and inspirational crossroads for me. Still waiting to see that "great wave consuming the large city along the distant horizon." Any day now. Chicken Little out.

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Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix.


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