Feature: Maynard James Keenan of Puscifer

  • Tim Cadiente photo
By Columbus Alive
From the June 21, 2012 edition

Maynard James Keenan’s projects are known for their enigmatic properties — who the hell starts a winery in the Arizona desert? But Puscifer is tough for even him to define.

“It’s always kind of been a moving target, and it continues to be,” Keenan said via phone from Los Angeles. “It’s not just music. It’s kind of joined at the hip with winemaking, merchandise, performance, video, animation …”

Fans of Keenan and/or enigmas get another chance to experience Puscifer’s blend of performance, musical theater and sketch comedy as they return to the LC on Thursday. Keenan — best known for fronting luminary thinking-man’s hard rock acts Tool and A Perfect Circle — has a warning for audiences.

“People with preconceived notions or expectations shouldn’t bother coming. If you’re closed-minded, we don’t really need you there,” Keenan said.

Another thing you don’t need there? A recording device. Photos and recordings are prohibited, a practice that’s an anomaly in the age where a sea of raised iPhones is a ubiquitous concertgoing sight.

“We’re looking for people who are willing to put down their camera phones and remember how to tell a story,” Keenan said. “You rely on your external devices to remember what happened. If you lose that external device, you can’t tell the story because you were too busy messing with it to actually be there with us … We like people who are observers. And storytellers.”

Telling the story of a Puscifer show? No easy task.

Asked to describe the show, Keenan quipped, “I don’t know what to tell you that’s not going to give things away. But also, if I was going to give things away, I don’t really know what to tell you.”

“It’s like describing a painting,” he added. “Go look at it.”

Keenan is quick to point out that he’s only part of that painting. He has long had a tendency of being a frontman who is more content not to be the center of attention. Over the years, he’s performed in dimmed lighting, in full-body makeup and, with Puscifer, behind a video projection screen.

“I think that every collective that you witness occurring on a stage, it’s not about any one of the individuals,” Keenan said. “The more you can take the individual out of the picture and just witness the thing that’s happening … to not attach this energy to a particular individual.”

Keenan’s parting words of advice are a pretty good mindset to be in for the show — or for life, really.

“Just let people know that no matter how weird things feel … take a deep breath and it’s all gonna work out.”

• Full transcript of interview with Maynard Keenan •