Posted March 28, 2016 by Jeff in Tunes

Puscifer’s Journey is Your Journey Too


Most famous as the frontman for prog-leaning hard rock acts Tool and Perfect Circle, Maynard James Keenan gets his multimedia on with Puscifer, a project that’s more performance art than rock. While Puscifer’s debut release (2007) was an amalgamation of different songs and ideas that Keenan had accumulated for over a decade, Conditions of My Parole and the just-released Money Shot serve as more cohesive records that represented the band’s transformation into a “full-fledged, Vaudevillian touring troupe.” We spoke to Keenan via phone from his Verde Valley (Arizona) home. In a separate interview, we also spoke with singer Carina Round via phone from her Los Angeles home.

Do you still spend most of your free time in Jerome?
Keenan: I live here. During harvest, I’m here for a solid three months. I don’t really tour that much, just on and off. I’ve been here since late ’95, early ’96. It’s a little busier now than it was. It’s a pretty small town. A lot of it has fallen down because of infrastructure issues back in the day, but it’s well stabilized at this point.

Has living there influenced your music?
Keenan: Absolutely. Whatever touches you daily is going to affect your art.

Carina, what’s it like for you to visit Jerome?
Round: Because of the nature of the band and the people who are in it, everybody has other things going on. We record in two different locations. We try to go to Jerome for a couple of weeks at a time. It will be two weeks here or there or three days here and there. It’s a completely different experience than recording in L.A. It’s totally beautiful. It’s a certain kind of place. You’re surrounded by massive mountains and vineyards. It creates a different hue to everything than being in L.A. and in the middle of the city where you’re distracted by which sushi place you’re going to go to for lunch or which coffee place you’re going to spend 20 minutes driving to. In Jerome, you have Maynard there at the house all the time. It’s a different creative output.

Maynard, can you talk about what first inspired the creation of Puscifer?
Keenan: It started in the mid-’90s in small clubs around L.A. with Lauren Milligan. We were the closing musical act for some of her musical performances. It was a variety show with a lot of sketch comedy. We would close one night, then there would be no music one night and then the third night would maybe be Tenacious D. It started from there.

Maynard, you’ve said the band represents your subconscious. Talk about that concept.
Keenan: Let’s back up. AC/DC. I fucking love AC/DC. There’s a thing they do and they do it well. They don’t necessarily veer off from it too much. They enjoyed doing what they do. There’s part of me that likes to do that. There’s also part of me that has things that don’t seem to fit anywhere else. They all kind of end up here.

Carina, do you think of the band in those terms?
Round: I can’t speak to what it is for Maynard but this record seems connected to a different part of the consciousness. I think all art is connected to the unconscious of whoever is creating it. It gets to a certain point where you’re crafting it and being very conscious about it. It’s difficult to answer because it’s both consciousness and subconscious for everyone involved. Lyrically and melodically, that’s what drives the mood of everything else. He’s in charge of that and in that way it’s very representative or his subconscious.

What was it like when you first took the show on the road in 2009?
Round: The very first show I wasn’t a part of. I had been asked to come on as a member of the band with them having already recorded the album. I received the album in the mail and learned from live recording. That was a very different experience for me. It was a lot less involved. And on top of that, I didn’t know anyone very well. If you don’t know Maynard very well, it can sometimes be mildly uncomfortable. Like anybody, you have to get to know the person. This record, I had more involvement with the writing and creating. It’s more personal. We understand each other a little better.

There’s more trust and unspoken confidence.

Keenan: It’s like anything, people have a lot of expectations about what it’s going to be. They expect it’s going to be like other bands. But it’s not. It’s a stage presentation. There’s a bow at the end as the curtain closes metaphorically speaking. It’s more of an all-encompassing multimedia presentation. It’s somewhere between my other musical acts and The Book of Mormon, for lack of a better explanation.

Do you have fans that like all of your bands or are they segregated when it comes to your different projects?
Keenan: It’s a mishmash. There are people that are adamant about one thing or another and there are people who just like all of it because they understand there’s a definite separation between it all and more is more.

Is there a theme to the new album, Money Shot?
Keenan: It’s still some southwest themes running through it. We’re taking out the luchador [wrestling masks] for these performances, without giving too much away. It will be similar to the last round. We’re going places we didn’t go last round. There will definitely be some changes.

Round: You can think the song is about one thing and he can explain it to you and it’s about something different. I thought “Galileo” was about Galileo. Then, he told me what it was about and I was completely confused. It is about Galileo but, because it’s Maynard, it’s more rooted in his journey. That’s what makes him such a great lyricist and artist. He can make those connections and make people feel like it’s their journey too. I feel like there’s access to a more vulnerable place, just from listening to the album and the lyrics. I feel like he’s at a different stage of appreciation in his life. That’s what I get from the lyrics. Some of the songs are just hilarious. Sometimes, it’s hard to sing without laughing. People listen to it and get offended. He’s a funny person. He subconsciously makes people question what they’re feeling. It’s weird and funny and they don’t know how they should take it.

I take it “Grand Canyon” was inspired by standing on the rim and looking into the canyon?
Keenan: Absolutely. The song started with that movie Grand Canyon. Seeing that panoramic shot of them standing at the edge made me want to go check it out. That was partly why I moved it.

Have you hiked down it?
Keenan: Not yet. I will though. I have been all around it. I think the best way to see it is to be moving. That movement gives you that perspective of just how deep it is. It’s really a fascinating and humbling experience.

Simultaneous” is about a real person? What’s the story?
Keenan: You heard it. I met them in Michigan. The whole story is in the song.

What about the “The Arsonist.” Is that “Venus” you reference in that song?
Keenan: That’s Beavis, as in Beavis and Butt-Head. Firestarters.

The cultural references run a rather wide gamut on the record.
Keenan: Absolutely. It’s all just colors on a palette. It’s a little open to interpretation but there are stories attached that resonate on certain levels. The cultural references certainly help provide anchors and some guidance but it’s basically an emotional palette.

What do the other musicians bring to the project?
Keenan: My main partner is Mat Mitchell. He’s an incredible engineer and has incredible ears. He can see the big picture. He’s a great player as well. He understands my crazy direction. I’ll have an idea for a song and articulate it as best I can. He’s able to decipher my ramblings with his Rosetta-Stone-brain and figure out what it is that I’m looking for. That’s the foundation. When you have Jeff Friedl playing drums and Carina Round doing other instrumentation and the harmonies with me, you have a solid core to start with. Live, we would normally have Matt McJunkins playing bass but he’s out with the Eagles of Death Metal so we got Paul Barker from Ministry playing bass for the live show and Mahsa Zargaran from Onmiflux handling down keyboards and backing vocals and guitar and some rhythm stuff too. I would like to have her on drums. She plays some drums too but we haven’t broached that yet.

Sounds like a good group of personalities.
Keenan: Yeah. It’s a good family.

What about Lisa Germano?
Keenan: She’s never actually come out to play live with us. I love watching her play. I don’t know where she works now. The last time I saw her she was working at an awesome book store in L.A. that deals with scripts and plays. She’s incredible.

 The show is so theatrical. Talk about that.
Round: For me, my own music is pretty dramatic. Whether I like it or not, I have to access different hidden parts of myself. They’re all very personal parts of myself. That’s how I step back and can escape. I go deeper into myself personally to the point where it can be uncomfortable. Whereas with Puscifer, it’s a different kind of performance art and expressions. It’s still as serious and beautiful but in a theatrical and lot less personal way. It’s a multimedia experiment in that way. Everything about Puscifer presents some juxtaposition between incredibly meaningful seriousness and hilarity. The more Maynard finds the connection between those two, the more comfortable he feels in a way. He’s also contrarian. If he comes up with an idea, and everyone in the room drops their head in their hands and goes, “I don’t want to do that,” that’s the one he wants to do. His satisfaction comes from putting things together that seemingly don’t belong together. It’s not in a way that it’s completely confused and avant-garde. It’s not Dali or anything, but there’s a connection between the sensitivity and the thing that makes you laugh for ten minutes and you don’t know why. He enjoys that or he’s just a fuckin’ teenager. Either that or he’s mentally backward. In a way, he’s kind of shy and doesn’t want to express something unless it’s meaningful and serious and moving. But as far as I can see, he’s more comfortable doing that if he can create his own world and within that be completely free to express whatever he wants. That being said, he can choose the collaborators who can assist him. He’s not stupid. He surrounds himself with people with completely different strengths who will elevate his strengths. And with people he has that synergy with. Everyone on the stage feels comfortable expressing themselves in a theatrical way.

Upcoming 2016 Shows

























Rockford, IL @ Coronado Theatre

Indianapolis, IN @ Old National Centre – Murat Theatre

Columbus, OH @ The LC Indoor Pavilion

Pittsburgh, PA @ Stage AE

Detroit, MI @ The Fillmore

Akron, OH @ Akron Civic Theatre

Buffalo, NY @ Center for the Arts

Toronto, ON @ Sony Centre for the Performing Arts

Portland, ME @ Merrill Auditorium

Huntington, NY @ The Paramount

Reading, PA @ Santander Performing Arts Center

Englewood, NJ @ Bergen Performing Arts Center

Red Bank, NJ @ Count Basie Theatre

Atlanta City, NJ @ Borgata Hotel Casion & Spa

Providence, RI @ Veteran’s Memorial Auditorium

Richmond, VA @ The National

Raleigh, NC @ Raleigh Memorial Auditorium

St. Louis, MO @ Peabody Opera House

Memphis, TN @ Orpheum Theatre

Tulsa, OK @ Brady Theater

Wichita, KS @ Orpheum

Albuquerque, NM @ Popejoy Hall

Tucson, AZ @ TCC Music Hall

San Diego, CA @ Copley Symphony Hall



Jeff started writing about rock ’n’ roll some 20 years ago when he stood in the pouring rain to hitch hike his way to see R.E.M. on their Life’s Rich Pageant tour. Since that time, he's written for various daily newspapers, alt-weeklies, magazines and websites. Feel free to comment on his posts or suggest music, film and art to him at [email protected].