TOOL Frontman Discusses PUSCIFER Project

ARTISTdirect.com editor Rick Florino recently conducted an interview with Maynard James Keenan of TOOL, PUSCIFER and A PERFECT CIRCLE. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.

ARTISTdirect.com: You've forged a true artist collective with PUSCIFER. What's most creatively gratifying for you about it?

Maynard: Just hearing the different ideas come together is extremely gratifying, you know what I mean? There are all these different conversations that have the same core for a particular set of grooves or rhythms. When you put different people in a room, their personalities take over and you come up with a new vibe. It's very satisfying listening to this little seed grow into several separate fruit trees.

ARTISTdirect.com: How have the PUSCIFER songs translated to the live setting?

Maynard: They've really taken on a whole new life. We've actually broken them down to their elements and built them back up from scratch rather than trying to recreate the album version or a programmed rendition. I think that's the trap that people get caught up in. They try to recreate what they did in Pro Tools, which is kind of pointless. They're so busy trying to contain themselves to mimic something that was done on the computer by some other musician. I just don't think it translates as well. It doesn't breathe the same way when you try to pull that off.

ARTISTdirect.com: You'll feed off the musicians on stage and the crowd as well.

Maynard: Yeah. We basically open it up, and each musician has a chance to stretch his or her legs and learn something in the process. They're not just stretching their legs without listening to the other musicians. I'm really making sure that I put a little bit of a leash on them so they're really paying attention to what the other guys in the room are doing and everyone's creating something together.

ARTISTdirect.com: Did you have any apprehension before the first Las Vegas PUSCIFER shows back in February?

Maynard: Oh yeah, in general this project is a work in progress. All of these pieces are going to continue to morph. It's constantly growing and expanding. It's never going to be quite finished. It's like watching one of those chaos programs running on your computer screen. It's very liberating though.

ARTISTdirect.com: How similar are the mindsets behind making wine and making music?

Maynard: Well, the way that I make music and the way that I make wine are very similar. I think some of the best wines in the world are wines from regions where the winemaker is allowing the landscape to express itself. The winemaker gets out of the way — working with what he has, allowing the sun and the rain to direct his movements and allowing grapes to become the wine that they want to become. It's the same process for us with music. We're allowing the music to happen rather than force the agenda.

ARTISTdirect.com: You collaborate with people you forged relationships with almost two decades ago in Los Angeles. Does working with them on PUSCIFER bring everything full circle?

Maynard: In a way, yeah it does, especially to go back and have some of the comedian folk that I used to work with back in the day. It's refreshing to see where they've gone and where they've ended up. We address some of those cool ideas that we had back in the day that we never got around to doing. Nowadays, with technology, it seems like the resources are available to see these visions through. A site like Funnyordie.com is fantastic because you have all of these people that have these cool script ideas that never went anywhere because the executives didn't quite get it, and the filmmakers are in that position where they say, "Screw it, we'll shoot it ourselves." They film it and put it up on YouTube or Funnyordie on a budget.

ARTISTdirect.com: What's next for PUSCIFER?

Maynard: We'll probably record a few things, but most likely we'll do a few dates around the country. We're not really looking to go tour. We're more focused on going in and doing almost like an art installation where we do two nights in one city at a smaller, more intimate club — kind of like Club Nokia. We're looking at places in Texas that have really cool theaters like Austin and Houston. We do these things two nights in a row, and then we come home. It's not a tour.

Read the entire interview from ARTISTdirect.com.

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