"Happy 48th Birthday"
Maynard James Keenan
Keenan's photo in a US Military Academy Prep School yearbook (class of 1984).
James Keenan was born in Ravenna, Ohio, on April 17, 1964, the only child of Judith Marie and Michael Loren Keenan. He was born into a Baptist family. When his parents divorced in 1968, his father, a high school teacher, moved to Michigan and Keenan would only see him about once a year for the next 12 years. His mother remarried, bringing Keenan into an "intolerant and unworldly household," where his intelligence and creative expression would be stifled. When Keenan was 11, his mother suffered a paralyzing cerebral aneurysm, which would later serve as the inspiration for many of his creative works. A few years later, she persuaded Keenan to live with his father in Michigan. Keenan considers this "the best move he ever made."
Inspired by Bill Murray's performance in the 1981 comedy film Stripes, Keenan joined the United States Army, with the intention of having the G.I. Bill fund his dream of attending art school. By this point, he had lived in Ohio, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Texas. He initially served in the Army as a forward observer before studying at the United States Military Academy Preparatory School (West Point Prep School) from 1983 to 1984. In addition to completing a rigorous math and English curriculum, he ran on the cross country team and sang in the glee club. It was during his time in the military that he adopted the sobriquet "Maynard" on a whim. He was distinguished in basic and advanced training, but declined an appointment to West Point and instead chose to pursue a music career because of his disillusionment with his colleagues' values and because he knew West Point would not tolerate his dissidence.
Upon completing his term of enlistment, he studied art at Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids, Michigan. In 1988, he relocated to Los Angeles where his love of animals led him to practice interior design for pet stores, before he was quickly fired and began working in set construction. During the 1980s, Keenan played bass guitar for TexA.N.S. and sang for Children of the Anachronistic Dynasty, both independent bands.
After moving to Los Angeles, Keenan met Adam Jones who had heard him singing on a demo in college. Impressed with Keenan's vocals, Jones suggested that they form a band. Although reluctant at first, Keenan agreed and, in 1990, Tool was formed. Fronted by Keenan, the eventual lineup included guitarist Jones; his neighbor, drummer Danny Carey; and bassist Paul D'Amour, who would later be replaced by Justin Chancellor.
Tool signed to Zoo Entertainment in November 1991 and released the Opiate EP the following year. To support this release, the band toured with Fishbone and Rage Against the Machine.
Shortly thereafter, Tool released their 1993 debut album, Undertow, in the United States. It was certified gold after just eight months, and platinum less than a year later. In 1994, the band released their single "Prison Sex"—a song in which Keenan opted to deliver in a slight grunge-style—with a corresponding music video created and directed by Jones. The video was deemed "too graphic and offensive", and was withdrawn by MTV after a few airings due to "a symbolic dealing with the sensitive subject of child abuse".
In October 1996, the band released their second studio album, Ænima. The album was certified gold in ten weeks, achieved double platinum in ten months, and won the Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance in 1998. After the release of the album, Tool began a prolonged legal battle with their label, Volcano Records (formerly Zoo Records), over contract violations. Following this legal battle, which resulted in a new three-record deal, the members of Tool decided to take some time off. During the hiatus, the band members were outspokenly critical of peer-to-peer file sharing networks, due to the negative financial impact on artists dependent on success in record sales. During an interview with NY Rock in 2000, Keenan stated, "I think there are a lot of other industries out there that might deserve being destroyed. The ones who get hurt by MP3s are not so much companies or the business, but the artists, people who are trying to write songs."
Five years after the release of Ænima, Tool announced a new album, Systema Encéphale, with a 12-song track-list in January 2001. A month later, the band revealed that the new album was actually titled Lateralus and that the previous announcement had been a ruse. The album was released in May 2001 to positive reviews. Known for his "dark, intelligent, compelling, and unexpected lyrical twists", Keenan was acclaimed for his songwriting on the album, in which he "doesn't cross the line from darkness to ugliness ... as often as he has in the past". In an interview with NY Rock, Keenan explained, "Everything we release with Tool is inspired by our music. It doesn't matter if it is a video or if its lyrics. The lyrics for "Schism" are nothing more than my interpretation of the music." The album became a worldwide success, reaching #1 on the U.S. Billboard 200 albums chart in its debut week, and Tool received their second Grammy Award for the best metal performance of 2001 for "Schism". In 2002, Keenan recorded a song called "Fallen" with 30 Seconds to Mars that was released on the band's self-titled debut album.
Fifteen years after the band's formation, Tool had acquired what Dan Epstein of Revolver described as a devoted "cult" following, and in May 2006 the band released 10,000 Days, an album in which Keenan sang about more personal issues in contrast to previous attempts to inspire change. His mother, who inspired the song "jimmy" on Ænima, also served as the inspiration for "Jambi", and the two-part song "Wings for Marie" and "10,000 Days (Wings for Marie, Pt 2)", which deals with her 2003 death after 27 years, or around 10,000 days, of suffering. The album sold 564,000 copies in its opening week in the U.S. and was #1 on the Billboard 200 charts. However, 10,000 Days was received less favorably by critics than its predecessor Lateralus had been.
Following 10,000 Days, Tool has one album remaining to fulfill the obligation of its record contract. Though there is little information available on plans for this album, the band is steadily working towards its fifth studio release. Tool has worked around Keenan and his side projects since 1999, starting with the creation of A Perfect Circle, which has led to several years between projects. Regarding the future of Tool, Keenan stated in a 2007 interview with Spin, "We'll make music together until one of us is dead."
On March 24, 2009, a summer tour was announced on Tool's website, and in a March 26 press release Tool was confirmed as a headliner for the second annual Mile High Music Festival in Commerce City, Colorado, with Widespread Panic and The Fray. Tool also headlined Lollapalooza 2009 in Chicago, Illinois.
A Perfect Circle
During Tool's post-Ænima hiatus to deal with their legal issues, Keenan began working with Billy Howerdel, Tool's guitar tech through the Ænima tour, on a different project. The supergroup they formed, A Perfect Circle, began performing in 1999 and released its first album Mer de Noms in 2000. They released a successful follow-up in 2003 titled Thirteenth Step, a reference to twelve-step programs (many of the songs were written from the perspective of recovery). Both albums were eventually certified platinum. Their subsequent 2004 album, eMOTIVe, was primarily composed of covers, except for the singles "Counting Bodies Like Sheep to the Rhythm of the War Drums"—a song inspired by "Pet" that was originally released on Thirteenth Step—and "Passive". Keenan later characterized the record as a political album with which he "tested the waters" and was subsequently "crucified" for it because of the content. It was certified gold the month after its release. That same year they released the DVD and CD set entitled aMOTION, which was certified platinum within a month of its release.
Despite its success, the future of A Perfect Circle remains uncertain. It is currently on hiatus, partly due to Keenan's commitments to Tool; Howerdel reported in a May 2006 interview with MTV that the supergroup's work was concluded for the time being. After more than two years since the bands last release, Keenan was asked about the status of A Perfect Circle during an interview with Revolver. He stated:
The real problem with running Tool and A Perfect Circle at the same time was they both operate the same way. They're both live touring bands with a label, still working under the old contract mentality. So I thought it was time to let A Perfect Circle go for now and let Billy explore himself. It's tough for a guy who went from being a guitar tech [for Tool] to being in a band with a pretentious, famous singer and having to live in that shadow. It was important for Billy to go and do his own thing and really explore his own sound and let people hear what he has to say and how he would do it on his own, and then we'll get back and do some A Perfect Circle stuff.
—Maynard James Keenan, Revolver, December 2007
When asked, in an interview for Spin that same month, about the possibility of another A Perfect Circle album, Keenan stated, "Maybe, someday, a song on a soundtrack. But an album? No." A year later, on December 9, 2008, blabbermouth.net reported that Keenan had announced on The Pulse of Radio that he and Howerdel have been writing new music for A Perfect Circle. Keenan also said that the band has no plans to resume full-scale touring, or even to write and record a new album. Instead, they will focus on "one or two songs at a time", which will most likely be released via the Internet.
On August 2, 2010, a seemingly official (but not "verified") Twitter account for the band was launched with a tweet reading: "It's on." The tweet also linked to the Twitter accounts of Keenan, Howerdel and Puscifer. The following day the account tweeted, "Go tell Aunt Rosie... The old grey goose is dead not," linking to more accounts including those of Danny Lohner and Josh Freese. It is believed that both Freese and James Iha (the latter of whom still refers to himself as a current member of APC) will both be involved. That same day Billy Howerdel tweeted "The APC dust is shaking off!"
In 2003, Keenan surfaced under the name "Puscifer" for the song "REV 22:20" on the Underworld film soundtrack. Puscifer was once advertised as a side project with Danny Lohner, who had formerly performed live with Nine Inch Nails, but has since been formed as a manifestation of Keenan's "creative subconscious"—meaning that Keenan is now using the name as a pseudonym for his solo work. Keenan has stated that it is "a premiere improvisational hardcore band", and his "catch-all, stream of consciousness, anything goes, etc." project. When comparing the project to Tool in an interview with Rolling Stone, Keenan described it as his "attempt to make music to inspire people. ... This is definitely not thinking man's music, but groove-oriented music that makes you feel good." In a later interview with Artistdirect, Keenan said that he did not want the lyrics to be puzzles. He wanted the complexity to be in the music, stating "that's the part that gets under your skin and makes you feel good."
In 2006, Puscifer contributed the song "The Undertaker (Renholder Mix)" to the soundtrack of Underworld: Evolution, where "Renholder", a moniker for Danny Lohner created by the members of A Perfect Circle, is the reversal of "Re: D Lohner". Keenan financed and released the first studio album, "V" Is for Vagina, in October 2007. Created in a tour bus, in several hotel rooms, and in various studios around the country while Keenan toured with Tool, the album is a radical departure from Keenan's contributions in Tool and A Perfect Circle. Tim Alexander, best known as the drummer for rock band Primus, was a guest musician on the album. He called Puscifer "trancy and hypnotic" and a "total 180 from Tool". The album was criticized as unfocused and lacking in the passion and intelligence present in Keenan's previous work.
Puscifer is also a clothing line, with merchandise available for purchase on the band's website. On September 16, 2008, Keenan updated the puscifer.com blog, revealing that the first ever Puscifer store would be opening "hopefully" by October 1 in Jerome, Arizona. Occupying a small space above a tattoo parlor, the store opened on October 3, 2008. In addition to the merchandise available on the band's online store, Keenan has also made available locally-roasted coffee, art, and limited edition collectibles.
On February 13–15, 2009, Keenan debuted Puscifer at the Pearl Concert Theater in Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, with a cabaret-style show so abstract it is not easily described. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Keenan stated "we didn’t really have any clue what to call it, so we just kind of called it cabaret." Keenan—who has had previous experience with this type of entertainment, having fronted a similar show in Los Angeles before achieving fame with Tool—went on to add that "you just can’t really describe it, you just have to see it, then it makes sense." Featuring an ever-changing lineup of artists including Milla Jovovich and Primus drummer Tim Alexander, the show was originally said to have a long-term residency at the Pearl; however, Keenan later revealed that it was to be only a two-show performance.
Puscifer continued to perform with a revolving lineup throughout 2009 at venues around the Southwest. However, in a November 2009 interview, Keenan stated: "Efforts to confine our beloved enigma to the Southwestern United States have been thwarted. We are compelled beyond all reason to bring the noise Eastward and share our special sauce. Although authorities suggest you be prepared for any and all possibilities, we simply suggest you arrive happy and hungry."
In 2011 Maynard released Puscifers 3rd album Condition of my Parole.
Wine-making and other endeavors
In addition to being part-owner of Cobras & Matadors, an LA restaurant run by Steven Arroyo, and owner of a produce market in Cornville, Arizona; Keenan, whose grandparents and great-uncle made wine in Northern Italy (in what is now Southern France), owns Merkin Vineyards and Caduceus Cellars, based in the unincorporated area of Page Springs/Cornville, Arizona, southwest of Sedona, where he resides.
While the winery is named after an ancient symbol for commerce (caduceus), the vineyard is named after a pubic wig (merkin). He is also a partner of Stronghold Vineyards, "an 80-acre site dedicated to producing affordable wines in the state", located in the small, unincorporated area known as Kansas Settlement in Sulfur Springs Valley, Arizona. Keenan's mother died in 2003, at the age of 59, due to complications from an aneurysm. Following her death, he scattered her ashes across one of his vineyards, and later named one of his wines after her, honoring her memory with his Cabernet Sauvignon "Nagual del Judith". In a statement released in April 2009, Keenan stated:
I am standing on a metaphorical plateau. The view from here suggests that I/we still have many mountains to negotiate. It has already been a long journey. But the successes and failures have been in balance. Which would suggest that I/we have chosen the correct path. I hold in my hands the evidence to support this statement . . . With tears in my eyes, I present to you the very first 100 percent Arizona Caduceus wine. Nagual del Judith, named after my late mother, Judith Marie.
His previous wines were named after relatives of the Chiricahua Apache chief Cochise who lived in the area where the vineyard is located, and were produced at Page Springs Cellars, owned by Keenan's business partner. While those wines used some fruits imported from California, "Nagual del Judith" is the first made entirely from Keenan's own vineyard.
During the fall season of 2008, Keenan began a small tour of sorts with his Stronghold Vineyards partner Eric Glomski, promoting his wine with signing sessions at Whole Foods Markets in California and Nevada. The tour continued in 2009 with sessions in Texas kicking off in March, and appearances scheduled during Tool's 2009 summer tour in Florida, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. In July 2009, Keenan opened an organic market which features a tasting room for his Arizona wines as well as a food court. In an interview with Spinner.com that same month, Keenan stated that he had been taught by Southwestern chefs "how to make spaghetti's and pastas and gnocchis and various soup stocks", which would be made fresh and served at the tastings.
Keenan is featured in Blood Into Wine: The Arizona Stronghold, a documentary co-produced by Moog filmmakers Ryan Page and Christopher Pomerenk that chronicles Keenan and Glomski's embarkation into winemaking in the desert conditions of Arizona's Verde Valley, and the success they've seen in the decade since its inception. The film, which includes appearances from Tim & Eric, Patton Oswalt, and Milla Jovovich, was shown at the Noise Pop festival on February 25, 2010, along with another documentary produced by Pomerenk, The Heart is a Drum Machine. It investigates why people create and listen to music, and features Keenan, Jason Schwartzman, Kurt Loder, Nic Harcourt, Juliette Lewis, and Elijah Wood.
During an interview on the Australian podcast Wine Week, Keenan revealed that his touring with various bands will only occur at times when his winemaking endeavours allow it.
Keenan has used his voice on numerous occasions to support charitable causes. He performed at a 1997 benefit concert for RAINN (the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) organized by Tori Amos (who had often referred to Keenan as an unofficial brother). He is one of the notable performers for Axis of Justice, a non-profit organization that brings musicians, fans of music, and grassroots political organizations together to fight for social justice.
In 2004, Axis of Justice released Concert Series Volume 1. Included are two tracks featuring Keenan on vocals. The second track on the album, "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding", was recorded live during Lollapalooza in Seattle, Washington on August 23, 2003. The first track, "Where the Streets Have No Name", was recorded live during the Axis of Justice Concert Series at The Avalon in Hollywood, California on July 19, 2004.
In February 2005, Keenan appeared as a surprise vocalist at a Seattle benefit concert for victims of the 2004 earthquake and tsunami in southern Asia, performing with the partly reformed Alice in Chains, in place of the deceased vocalist Layne Staley, on the songs "Them Bones", "Man in the Box", and "Rooster"
Keenan, who has described himself as "happily unmarried," was in a relationship as of December 2007, when he stated "For the first time in my life, I have someone who's taking care of me, rather than the other way around." He has a son named Devo H Keenan (born 1995) who sang backing vocals on A Perfect Circle's Thirteenth Step, and later was credited as the cellist on Keep Telling Myself It's Alright—the debut album of Ashes Divide, Billy Howerdel's post-A Perfect Circle project. It was after the birth of his son that it occurred to Keenan to obscure his own identity in order to prevent his son from being "victimized by [his] career". The song "Wings for Marie (Pt. 1)" holds his mother, Judith Marie Keenan's middle name. The song "Breña" by A Perfect Circle uses the middle name of Keenan's former fiancee, while "Judith" bears the first name of Keenan's mother.
Keenan has a reputation for being reclusive, elliptical and controlling of his public image. He dislikes the manner in which rock stars are worshipped, and at one point carried business cards with the name "Jesus H. Christ" printed on them. Often having to deal with stalkers, Keenan has resorted to using a paintball marker to run trespassing fans from his property. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is one of Keenan's pursuits, and he studied under Rickson Gracie, who is widely considered one of the martial art's greatest practitioners.