[INTERVIEW] PUSCIFER: Maynard James Keenan

Written by: Callum Doig

Fronting a band called the devil’s vagina is yet another perplexing feature of Maynard James Keenan. Equally tongue-in-cheek and enigmatic, people understandably have a hard time trying to keep up with him.

Talking about the upcoming tour, along with the experiences he’s had from his own perspective, Maynard knows the pros and cons as to how much preparation is good or bad. “I’ve always learned that if you plan too much, you get your ass handed to you”, Maynard begins. “We have a particular show in mind and we hope that it goes well. We just have to come prepared and cross fingers. It’ll be a completely different tour and setup and it’ll be something we’ve been working on this past year and it’ll be a lot of fun.”

“It’s always gonna be difficult travelling overseas just because that expense for an independent band is daunting, with getting your show on a boat or on a plane. We’re just really thankful that the fan base has grown to the point where we can come down and break even.”

When it comes to the actual onstage performances, there’s a particular element to Puscifer that Maynard and co. are always trying to get out of themselves. For him, Maynard put faith in what the band are striving for above the costumes and themes. “What we end up trying to strive for, is to kind of step outside of what we normally do. And that’s not always easy, because most people don’t know who they are to begin with and what it is they do. There’s no objective and it’s hard to view that, objectively. So, we’re always trying to push our boundaries. You just have to kind of dive in the deep end.”

Puscifer reject the concept of people using their phones and advocate capturing every nanosecond of the show with the eyes, ears and mind. Maynard has been using every Puscifer show as a chance to remind people to be in the moment without the use of technology. “There’s definitely not just an audience participation, but there’s also an engagement. There’s just stuff you miss. We put so many details in and that requires you to be engaged.” Keenan firmly beleives that the human brain contains more than what a simple 128GB iPhone can carry. “If you’re fucking around with your phones, you’re missing a lot of it. Just unplug it and be here for a bit.”

When it comes to Puscifer’s music, it’s a matter of balancing aesthetic with their live persona. “It’s impossible to describe music. I mean, Frank Zappa has a few words about that. But, the broad strokes that we’re doing for Puscifer, there’s definitely an effort on mine and Mat Mitchell’s part and everybody else that I’ve worked with where we’ve found our interaction with the digital. We’re not a DJ set, we’re not a full electronic band, but we have a healthy dose of that in there.””So, we try to work with that so that you feel the connectivity with your

“So, we try to work with that so that you feel the connectivity with your clock, if that makes sense”, continues Maynard. “Time is a moving creature and you’re a part of time. Time is a metronome. Time is mechanical. So, to be able to connect with that is a goal of ours. I’m not sure if we’ve done it yet, but it’s all about the journey.”
Puscifer’s follow-up to Conditions Of My Parole arrived last year to a great response from critics and fans alike. Maynard’s songwriting process is spontaneous and which one whic his bandmates still find peculiar.

“I kind of have vocal rhythms, initially”, Maynard begins when describing the song Grand Canyon. “I had this clear vision in how it was gonna sound in my head and getting it out on tape and to have Mat stop looking at me as if I’m crazy. And then when I actually lined the vocals up properly, he was like ‘Oh that makes sense now’. But, when you’re building and sketching it, it’s difficult to describe. Usually, those things come together about 70% of the way in, and you may end up thinking ‘Okay, this is working’ or ‘This is tragic’” he laughs.Puscifer started out as a solo project for Maynard, having a handful of contributors come and go. He now feels that because fellow musicians Carina Round and Mat Mitchell have been partaking in the experimentation, it’s starting to feel less like a one man army. Maynard has been focusing more on how he’s feeling at his age, in order to make Puscifer feel like a real band for all involved.

Puscifer started out as a solo project for Maynard, having a handful of contributors come and go. He now feels that because fellow musicians Carina Round and Mat Mitchell have been partaking in the experimentation, it’s starting to feel less like a one man army. Maynard has been focusing more on how he’s feeling at his age, in order to make Puscifer feel like a real band for all involved.

“I think there’s a family. I feel we’ve built this musical family that extends beyond any of my other musical projects. There’ll definitely be some comers and goers just because of people having other lives that they’re leading. But, it’ll always have core people like Mat, Carina, Jeff and myself. There’s a camaraderie that’s hard to get to, especially in the younger bands that are a little less mature and pretends to be that ‘us against the world’ and ‘we’re better than everybody’ kind of attitudes. At my age, you start living more around the community than being the warrior. We’re kind of settling into a nice lineup.”Although one of Maynard has a passion for food and wine, what sustainability means for the human race is of importance to him. “I don’t think people will literally understand what the word means, especially in the US because of the industrialisation of food. You know, in pre and post-WWII, foods started coming in cans and it was frozen and you would work in a factory. Most people enjoy processed foods, so they’d put colourful pictures on the cans and be like ‘here’s a can of Vitamin D, don’t bother going out in the sun, just drink this and you’re fine’.”

Although one of Maynard has a passion for food and wine, what sustainability means for the human race is of importance to him. “I don’t think people will literally understand what the word means, especially in the US because of the industrialisation of food. You know, in pre and post-WWII, foods started coming in cans and it was frozen and you would work in a factory. Most people enjoy processed foods, so they’d put colourful pictures on the cans and be like ‘here’s a can of Vitamin D, don’t bother going out in the sun, just drink this and you’re fine’.”

“There’s a total disconnect with that farm to table approach we used to benefit from as a connection. I feel that Puscifer is so connected with the winery and so much with what we’re doing with food, art, sculpture and gardening, all of those things are connected.”Maynard also muses on the importance of creativity, which he espouses at the beginning of most Puscifer concerts. “But, I guess it’s more like we’re exploring it for ourselves. So, if you get it, you get it, you know? So, I can’t force it on you, but it’s there for you. And especially on the What Is… DVD, we talk about the importance of creativity and how that kept us ahead from all the lions, tigers and bears. So, there’s an importance to creativity in art and school. But there’s also a huge importance in

Maynard also muses on the importance of creativity, which he espouses at the beginning of most Puscifer concerts. “But, I guess it’s more like we’re exploring it for ourselves. So, if you get it, you get it, you know? So, I can’t force it on you, but it’s there for you. And especially on the What Is… DVD, we talk about the importance of creativity and how that kept us ahead from all the lions, tigers and bears. So, there’s an importance to creativity in art and school. But there’s also a huge importance in shop, by understanding how to cut a board and put a nail through it or planting a garden. Home Economics is just as important as the art class.”
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HivxFBB87-Y]

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Written by Callum Doig

Growing up around tracks at the young age of eight from Rage Against the Machine to Queens of the Stone Age and At the Drive-In, I found my love for heavy music develop quicker and quicker, as I got into countless bands in genres from Alternative, Prog, Stoner and Math Metal over the years. Being part of the music journalism industry since 2013, I’ve had the honour to review the legendary Soundwave Festival twice, Unify, and the last ever Big Day Out, as well as interview big names such as Zakk Wylde, Matthias Jabs, Richard Patrick, Greg Puciato, Mikael Akerfeldt, A Nameless Ghoul and many, many more. With metal and rock music playing a massive part of my life since I was young, and eventually became inspired to pick up multiple instruments, I couldn’t have picked a better genre to influence me into getting involved in the scene, regardless of what the position would be. Heavy music has done more for me than anyone or anything else, and I intend to stick around for more and more as the years go by.

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