Q&A: Puscifer's Maynard Keenan Talks Juggling Three Bands and Losing His Angst

Maynard James Keenan is one of those guys who is at home in a world all his own. Currently, he fronts three bands: Tool, A Perfect Circle and his most recent project, Puscifer.

Puscifer's latest album, Conditions of My Parole, was quite an improvement over the band's 2007 debut, V is for Vagina. Besides not having an idiotic title, Conditions showed Keenan and his current sidekicks exploring ambient and alt-country territory minus the sophomoric humor of the earlier effort.

Speaking from a tour stop in Boston in anticipation of Puscifer's performance Saturday night at the Majestic Theatre, Keenan talked with DC9 about finding time for three bands and losing a little angst as he gets older.

What does Puscifer allow you to do that Tool or A Perfect Circle couldn't? I don't really think that way. I don't like to make the comparison. I like to think in terms of what I can do. In most instances, I just go where my nose leads me.

Is it difficult to juggle three bands? Not really. When you take one hat off, you put another one on. One thing at a time, you know? It's all about logistics.

Do you divide up the time equally among the bands? No, not necessarily. The winery [he owns] ends up being the thing that gets the most time. There are very specific times where I have to be there.

The most recent Puscifer album, Conditions of My Parole, sounds more focused than the debut. Did it feel that way when you were recording it? The first album [V is for Vagina] was recorded during a very hectic time. The songs were recorded in every studio I could think of across the United States and in hotel rooms and dressing rooms. There is definitely more schizophrenia attached to that first record. The second one was pretty much recorded on one spot, in one location.

There are several genres mixing and mingling on Conditions. Did you intend to cover as much territory as possible? Not necessarily. I get an idea and I flesh it out a little bit and I take it over to [engineers] Mat [Mitchell] and Josh [Eustis] and we figure out what works as we go. We work with broad strokes. I've always like the sound of the banjo and I wanted to see how we could incorporate it into a song like "Tiny Monsters."

I read a description of the album as "cold weather headphone music." Does that suit you? I like that, but we call it comfort food.

Do you only do Puscifer songs or do you ever include a Tool or A Perfect Circle song? No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. This is Puscifer.

I understand, but doesn't a fan of yours want to hear songs from all of your bands? I don't care. That's not fair to anyone else in the band. I would never make the guys in A Perfect Circle play a Tool song. It's not fair.

One critic wrote that you "were unafraid to unseal the hidden mysteries of everyday life." Is your work as heavy as all that? I don't know about that, but I certainly know that we try to put some puzzle pieces together as time goes on. If it's working for me, I'd imagine it's working for somebody else.

What do you think of some of the criticism from feminists over the album V is for Vagina? I wasn't aware of any.

There have been people who claim that having an album called that simply distracts from the music. I guess the title could be distracting, but people need to get past the shock value and listen to the music. I am sure the title deters the average listener. I have a history that should help people know that there is more to it than the title.

Were you worried that people who might not know your history might think Puscifer is a novelty act? I don't care, really. I can't worry about that. I just have to keep connecting with the fans. We just follow our nose and make a living.

Your vocals are often described as angst-ridden. Are you really that filled with angst? No. Not anymore, anyway. It comes with the territory. You start a band and you're a teenager. You get older and you chill out a bit. Nobody elects a fourteen-year-old mayor.

What's the timeline for another album from one of your other bands? We're not really worried about that right now. We just had a baby and we're not thinking about getting pregnant again anytime soon. We are going to nurture this baby until it can walk on its own.

Puscifer performs Saturday, December 3 at the Majestic Theatre.

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