Wednesday, March 10, 2010
[theaquarian.com] Maynard James Keenan is Puscifer. But that’s not the whole story.
As the sole constant of the performance troupe, Keenan, who is best known for his work as the singer of Tool and A Perfect Circle, started several years ago to realize on a large scale the art project he first started in the mid-‘90s. Rumblings of a Puscifer project existed for years prior, with a wide variety of hypothesized collaborators. Finally, a full-length of groovy, sexual and modern tunes titled “V” Is For Vagina, featuring contributions from Lustmord, Danny Lohner, Tim Alexander, Joe Barresi, et al., emerged, entirely funded by Keenan. Then another dozen or so characters showed up to put their own spin on “V” Is For Viagra: The Remixes.
And then there’s the live show, which involves yet another expanding circle of artists and filmmakers (video is a big part, as Keenan explains). Another variable—several different themes rotate as the tour continues, and the theme for each night isn’t revealed in advance.
There’s also a clothing line. No shit.
Organizing all of this is Keenan’s task. Not bad for a guy who already fronts a world-renowned rock act and owns and operates a vineyard which the subject of a new documentary, Blood Into Wine. Imagine him as the ringleader, the general (he dressed as a major, “Major Douche,” for a few tour promo videos), the frontman, or the master of ceremonies. Whatever you like. But be prepared for anything.
You had this show on the road last when the performance aspect of Puscifer was a work in progress. Is the live show something that’s still in a state of flux?
It’s always going to be that way pretty much, because it’s always going to be evolving. This next run, we’ve introduced a whole other night, a whole other theme, so every time we go out, we’re going to switch it up. Whenever there are two shows in one location, it’ll always be two different shows.
I saw that you had posted something about maybe three or four different themed performances.
We’re basically building a little arsenal of themes, so when we go out, depending on the venue, depending on the weather, depending on who’s there, we can kind of switch it up and be versatile enough to keep it relatively secret, what we’re going to do that night. That way it’s a fresh experience. [People] won’t roll in knowing exactly what to expect.
I was thinking about the TLA in Philly versus the Grand Ballroom versus the Apollo Theatre, and the show that you originally had seemed to require a certain space. So the venue you’re in effects the show you’re putting on?
Kind of. The footprint of the stage has to be consistent everywhere, we have to have a certain size stage just because of the way the show lays out. It just had to be that. We haven’t designed the presentation yet that fits on a small club stage. Right now, we’re doing more the elaborate, kind of coming out party, if you will.
It seems that you’re taking on something of preacher role, with the white suit and the television close-up. Is that the mindset that you’re in when you perform?
No, it’s more a matter of practicality. There’s a lot of utility that has to be in place to make the art happen, so some of that’s out of necessity as far as the kind of mics we’re using, isolation, but generally speaking, the sounds and the presentation has to come first, as far as how its laid out. It has to work seamlessly.
Is there a different feeling of danger or spontaneity with Puscifer in the live setting versus some of your other musical projects?
I think there’s a little more chaos involved just because there are so many elements that have to work together and there are so many things that could go wrong with it, because there are timing elements. It definitely keeps you on your toes, for us as performers, because there are different things happening. You know, there are no fireworks or anything, but it definitely is challenging.
So comparative to A Perfect Circle or Tool is it more difficult for you to do?
I would say it’s just different. Just different elements. A lot of the stuff is done way before the show occurs. A lot of the film bits we have to get together months before, edit, re-shoot, shoot, fix it, start over, make it work and make sure the technology is caught up to be able to present it. This project couldn’t even happen back in ’95. The expense of it to do some of these animations and some of these videos, back then, a half million dollars. And now we can do it. And even if we could get it done back then, where do you show it? Even in ’95, MTV stopped showing videos.
There was no YouTube, so you couldn’t show them there. I think technology’s caught up with this project, that’s what this project needed. I mean, we’re independent, truly independent. There is no label backing, there are no underwriters, there is no publisher kicking down advances, we don’t have a promotions department banging on radio’s door to play the songs. We’re really on our own.
Is this the form that you envisioned this project when Puscifer was first mentioned in that brief Mr. Show skit years ago?
Well, that’s when it started was ’95. We were already doing stage stuff back then. It was much easier, as far as some of those earlier sketches back then, because we pretty much had to abandon the idea of doing videos. It was pretty much sketch comedy performances on stage, performed with whoever was doing their thing that night.
Laura Milligan would host a show, and she would have all these different people coming up and working on their bits. All the guys from Mr. Show, Kathy Griffin, Craig Anton, everyone was up their doing their bits. At the end of the night, it was either me doing something—as her boyfriend’s band that never shows up and finally does, or an improvisational hardcore band, or a country band—and on the opposite nights, a week later, it would be Tenacious D closing the show. That was the vibe back then, just working all these things out. But to take this one to the next level, I think it required the video aspect, which has kind of held it back.
Have you created video elements for each song?
In general, yeah. Some of the songs will have similar video elements or the same video elements, but for the most part each night is a different theme so there will be different stuff going on.
Did the original set of performances out on the west coast have different themes?
Yeah. Every night was different.
How much has the lineup changed from last year’s shows?
We don’t have Juliette Commagere this run. We don’t have Gil and Rani Sharone this time. This time it’s probably going to be Tim Alexander and Mat Mitchell, Jeff Friedl and Matt McJunkins from Ashes Divide, the rhythm sections. Johnny Polonski playing guitar and Carina Round doing some acoustic guitar, mandolin and vocals. Basic lineup. And of course, those rhythm sections will rotate depending on the show.
READ THE ENTIRE INTERVIEW HERE.
Posted by Dan Goldin at 12:23 AM