Maynard James Keenan ponders Puscifer, Shakespeare and beer farts 

Keenan Wit

Keenan Wit

As the mysterious, misanthropic voice of progressive rockers Tool and alt-rockers A Perfect Circle — and as auteur of offbeat, revolving-door art-rock ensemble Puscifer — Maynard James Keenan is an abnormal eccentric in the ever-diminishing circle of '90s-surviving rock stars. Puscifer's promotional tour for its latest LP, Conditions of My Parole, brings the band's notably not-metal, oft-comical, kraut rock- and country-inspired Dadaist sonics to TPAC this Tuesday. Keenan recently shot the breeze with the Scene in promoting said appearance, dry-wittedly weighing in on fighting heavy-metal pigeon holes, Yanni, Spamalot, influencing the music of Sammy Hagar, Shakespeare, beer farts and more.

Most people in Nashville haven't seen the Puscifer live show yet. What should they expect?

Well, expectations pave the road to hell. I wouldn't really tell them much. Other than subscribing to the idea that as long as you have somebody who you trust that has seen the show and they recommend it, I would say trust their judgment, because generally speaking, the reviews have been pretty solid. The last thing you want to do, though, is read them, because they have too many spoilers in them. ... It's not just your basic rock band. So, there's that.

Are there any specific drugs you'd theoretically or hypothetically recommend people indulge in before coming to see your show?

On the advice of counsel I will refuse to answer that question.

Does Puscifer play "Ronnie Dobbs" live? Does the fictional Puscifer from the Mr. Show sketch have anything in common with the current Puscifer, besides the name?

The project itself has gone through many incarnations, and there are definitely many character facets to it. Even in its early days it had subgroups underneath that moniker. Billy Dee and Hildy Burger and the Burger Barns are a perfect example of it. If you've gone online and seen the performance of "Cuntry Boner," that's Puscifer, but it's also those characters, so there's always a possibility of any one of those incarnations coming up.

As far as the comedic aspect of Puscifer goes, it's not always necessarily funny music to listen to, sonically speaking. How does the project's humor play into how it sounds?

You know, like anything you've read about in history, like in terms of Shakespeare, there's always a comedy-and-tragedy element to all those stories. That's kind of the balance of life. So all those pieces kind of fit together, and it only makes sense if you kind of embrace the entire experience and kind of take in all of it over time. It's not something that can easily summed up in a sound bite.

Obviously Puscifer's music isn't as angry as A Perfect Circle or Tool. Is having those three distinctly different projects a way for you to kind of musically or creatively compartmentalize ideas?

Nah. I think it's just more about the creative process. It's just, this is the project that can move. We can [have] a vision and see it through. And the reason you probably hadn't seen more of it in the mid-'90s was just financial constraints. Things that we wanted to do back then would cost millions of dollars. Nowadays with software what it is, with computers and digital cameras, animation software, film software, mastering software, it's much more affordable. So any ideas that you have, you can actually see through from start to finish without having to go prance around town trying to get somebody else's money to do it.

The new record bears a strong influence of, like, old Brian Eno, Kraftwerk and a lot of things like that. What are some other influences of yours that aren't so easy for listeners to pick up on?

There's definitely some Ralph Stanley in there somewhere. Hank Williams. Ralph Stanley. Kraftwerk. Early Pink Floyd.

Years ago I saw this interview on some VH1 Best Metal Bands countdown or something where Sammy Hagar cited Tool as a huge influence on his later-era solo work. How do you feel hearing something like that?

It makes you wanna start Puscifer. It maybe makes you feel like you've done something wrong, that you're influencing Sammy Hagar.

Are any of the three bands you play in gonna play Bonnaroo this year?

I think Puscifer was offered a slot, but we really didn't have any interest in playing in the same tent with Danzig and Alice Cooper. Sorry.

Is that a perception that, because of your association with Tool, Puscifer is a metal band, something that you have to contend with often?

Every. Fucking. Day.

Well, the theater you're playing at here in Nashville just hosted Spamalot. And soon after you guys come through Yanni is playing there.


So Puscifer is more of a happy medium between Yanni and Spamalot than it is Danzig and Alice Cooper?

Well, most people are used to going to what they consider a rock show and, in that setting, with the association of my past life, they're used to smelling beer farts and puke — which is fine, that's a rock show. If you step through the doors of a building that Yanni's going to be performing in, you automatically realize you're in a different space then you're used to, which is the perfect place to be if you're going to experience Puscifer for the first time.


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