Musician Maynard James Keenan talks about Puscifer’s tour, wine and COVID-19

Maynard James Keenan is very happy to finally shoot on “Existential Reckoning”, the album pusciferous released at the end of October 2020 when the concerts were not taking place due to the pandemic.

“I’m just thrilled to have the chance to develop these songs in a live setting,” Keenan said.

“Because the more you play them live, the more they evolve. And I think it’s important to keep breathing life into those things, to never be static, just repeating yourself. Or repeating yourself.”

Him and his comrades performed the album live without an audience in the experimental desert community of Arcosanti, Arizona – a pay-per-view performance filmed for broadcast online on Puscifer TV the day the album hit the streets.

They obviously can’t take Arcosanti on the road, but there are elements of this performance that they’ve tweaked to travel better and use them in different contexts.

As Keenan says, “It’s similar but different.”

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Why the Lyrics to “Existential Reckoning” Still Matter

Puscifer won’t be performing the entire album like they did at Arcosanti, just most of the songs in addition to highlights from their other albums.

pulsate, "Existential calculation"

“Existential Reckoning” was built on synth tracks that Puscifer’s Mat Mitchell began working on five years before the album was released, with most of the recordings having been made in mid to late 2019.

But the overall tone of the album could easily be interpreted as the band responding to the isolation and uncertainty experienced by most listeners as humanity navigates its way through COVID-19.

“Well, you know, I’m a medium,” Keenan jokes. “Or psychopath. Which is the one that predicts stuff?

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From the first line of an opening track titled “Bread and Circus” (“We’re here in the middle of our existential reckoning”) to “Apocalyptical” (“Come on, moron, ignore the evidence/Slippage into Armageddon”), it’s clear that Keenan shares his perspective on the state of a world gone mad.

But he eschews the “pulled from the headlines” approach that so often makes news music feel instantly dated.

“The way I write isn’t very specific to one thing or place or person,” Keenan says. “I tend to keep everything a little more open.”

That’s why, nearly two years later, Keenan says, “I think the subject is still relevant. I mean, the pendulum is still swinging.”

“Maybe we should be cool with each other”

A recurring theme in Keenan’s lyrics is the feeling that we’re not getting smarter or more civilized.

“I don’t want to be the old guy who blames the new stuff,” Keenan says.

“But that’s really part of the problem. Social media technology. And the isolation of being able to express every uninformed opinion you’ve ever had or come across. I don’t know if there’s a way out until this everything becomes unplugged for a reset.”


Part of the problem is the anonymity of the online culture, he says.

“It’s very comfortable from your living room to make your mouth water,” he says. “But when you have to see situations in real time or talk to the person in front of you, we tend to be a bit more civil.”

There are consequences to being an abrasive troll in face-to-face discussions.

“You may be the big badass, but ultimately there’s a bigger badass who disagrees with you,” he says.

“So at some point you’re kind of like, ‘OK, maybe we should be cool with each other instead of shut up.'”

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Puscifer’s beginnings

Keenan was already famous as the voice of Tool and A perfect circle when he started Puscifer, whose last album was tracked between the barrels of his cellar, a studio he likes to call the Bunker, during the grape harvest.

That’s when Keenan tends to do a lot of work since he launched a second career as a winemaker at Caduceus Cellars and Merkin Vineyards from his home in the town of Jerome in central Arizona. , where he also owns a retail business, Puscifer the Store. Keenan has lived in Jerome since 1995.

Blast store in Jerome, Arizona.

In the beginning, the concept was to take ideas and follow them.

“It was sort of the whole foundation,” he says.

“If I had an idea for a t-shirt or a song or a video, no limit, go for it. And I found that working with Mat and Carina (Round), it ends up being kind of the cornerstone of their approach to things too.”

The arrival of Round, who first appeared on “‘C’ Is for (Please Insert Sophomoric Genitalia Reference Here)” in 2009, is when he feels they’ve really started to go somewhere.

Now, says Keenan, “It’s limitless. It’s bigger. It’s more. And more in tune with the original idea than the original idea, honestly.”

That’s why their songs are constantly evolving.

“Even a previous song, we do it and we’re like, ‘Wow, I really like this song. Hey, what if we completely rip it up and start over and do four different versions?’ ‘Sure why not?'”

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Why Keenan needs Puscifer, Tool and A Perfect Circle

Having multiple musical projects works for Keenan.

“It’s just a matter of doing something,” he says. “And I just need to do this thing. And if one of the projects isn’t moving very quickly, I can’t sit still. I have to do this thing. That’s why the multiple projects. Because some of them just don’t move fast enough.”

It’s not that each project meets different needs in Keenan’s life.

“I don’t really look at them that way,” he says. “They’re just things we do. They all have their own little space and exist in their own world. They have space for each other. They can all co-exist because they’re different processes and different people. .”

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“I’m just more wired for a small town”

It’s not about Keenan’s fame.

“There are people in our industry who need attention,” he says.

“They have to be outspoken. They have to dance. They love being on the red carpet. They just have to be there and be seen. And that’s not disrespecting them. That’s what they love. . They like to be the celebrity. To be the rock star. That’s not really how I’m wired.”

That’s part of why he left LA and moved to Jerome.

“I’m just more wired for a small town,” he says. “I work better.”

Compared to those rock stars thriving in Los Angeles, Keenan feels more like a kid in his underwear dancing around the bedroom.

“And then the most unfortunate thing is you look up and realize you’re in your underwear in front of a group of people,” he says. “But I don’t need you in the room. I just need to do this thing.”

At some point, Keenan had to come to terms with the idea that he’s in an industry that needs him to do more than dance around his bedroom in his underwear for nobody.

And it’s good. He doesn’t mind playing.

“You end up embracing that part,” Keenan says. “You have fun with it. And it gives me the opportunity to step out of one person and become the other.”

How to make wine add to the mix

by Keenan other the other is a winemaker, a passion that forces him to hand over control to Mother Nature.

“You only have limited control over the farming and winemaking,” says Keenan. “So it’s really kind of a grounding event. And then you appreciate things that you have a little bit of control over.”

When asked if tracking recordings in the basement had any impact on the music, Keenan replied, “Sonically it does, for sure. The different spaces that we end up recording in definitely have an effect on it.”

It’s also a different environment to explore your creative side than, say, the Los Angeles studios where Tool made their latest album, “Fear Inoculum.”

As Keenan says, “In LA, if you’re in a studio apartment, you walk outside and it’s a very different sensory overload than it would be here with a view of the Verde Valley. It’s a different kind sensory overload.”

Although October marks two years since the release of “Existential Reckoning,” there was no talk of returning between barrels to record the next one.

“We don’t really have the bandwidth right now,” Keenan says.

“We have to focus on all of these other things. We’ve filmed two more pay-per-views. We’re in the process of editing them together and trying to figure out when to release them. We’ve done a lot. We don’t have any just haven’t done a lot of writing.”

Learning to live with COVID-19

He has also spent part of the past two years recovering from COVID-19.

“I just got it for the fourth time,” he says. “I took the European flavored one. It was fun.”

He’s better now.

“It was a flu,” he says. “It is done.”

At this point, as he prepares to go on tour again, he sees it as another cost of doing business.

“I mean, when you’re in a room full of thousands of people, it’s flowing,” he says.

“You get in a tube and you fly 10 hours in a confined environment, you’re going to have it. If somebody’s got it and you’re going to have it, you can have it. It’s just the nature of what it is now. We have to accept this and stop freaking out (expletive).”

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When: 8 p.m. Saturday, June 11.

Where: Arizona Federal Theater, 400 W. Washington St., Phoenix.

Admission: $39.50 and up.

Details: 800-745-300,

Contact the reporter at [email protected] or 602-444-4495. Follow him on Twitter @EdMasley.

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Elisha A. Tilghman