Publication: Revolver Magazine
Date: December, xx
Andrew Lovell (email@example.com)
Andrew Lovell (firstname.lastname@example.org)
page: 65 title: Who is Maynard James Keenan? author: Andy Langer This article came out this month in Revolver Magazine for December 2003. Lounging outside a Los Angeles coffee shop, Maynard James Keenan is sporting a t-shirt adorned with a simple statement: " I Am Not An Artist." Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Keenan is indeed an artist; in fact, when you consider the majesty and visions of his bands, Tool and A Perfect Circle, you'd be hard-pressed to find another modern rock frontman more worthy of the title. But Keenan's also notorious for keeping his playbook close to the vest - he's a cagey let-the-music-do-the-talking type who's imfamously press-shy and not anymore chatty wwith fans. and yet, across a suprising, sprawling, and exclusive Revolver interview, Keenan was unexpectedly forthcoming, revealing the motivations, mathematical formulas, and wild conspiracy theories that underlie his art. REVOLVER: People think you're crazy. Is that something you've come to accept? MAYNARD JAMES KEENAN: I'm not crazy. We all have our emotional weirdnesses, hang-ups, paranoia, and fears. But at the end of the day, why shouldn't we be paranoid? Look at what's happening and the way things are homogenized and the control issues that come up in a fascist regime or dicatorship. Take the music - there's fewer and fewer outlets for bands to even rehearse and develop in. And even if you do get something going on, unless you're illing to do the radio show and go on Oprah, you're out of the loop and not part of the machine. Wal-mart is gobbling up every record store out there. It's an uphill struggle. And what ends up happening are manufactured bands, Fabricated to fit right into the Happy Meal slot, Initially, they sell a bazillion records because they're being sold like McNuggets. Of course they're gonna sell - it's the onl option! It's the only thing consumers are presented with as a choice. R: Where does that leave you as a musician? M: Fucked. I can only do what i do. Even if i wanted to make my work more shallow, i don't think i could. But who am i to judge? People have to follow their hearts, and if their hearts lead them to Wal-Mart, so be it. But if people are listening, then they'll hear something and hopefully crawl out of the hole. R: How easily do you do what you do? M: Not easily at all. It's always a struggle, Because youre looking for that magic word - the magic line or sequence of sounds that unlocks something. There's a gazillion people in recovery and if we could just find the magic word that would suddenly heal poeple, we would have probably come up with it by now. So i's an endless struggle to figure out what's going to work for you. That's all i can really do - try to figure out what works for me and feel better about the world around me by having expressed something about it. R: What do you think people most misunderstand about you? M: I have no idea. And it;s not going to change what i'm doing. There are certain behaviors i'm trying to become more aware of in my personal relations. But as far as somebody's perception, there's nothing you can do about it. It is what it is. If you're really good about playing the media the you might be okay for a while, but eventually, the music ends up suffering and people realize it's the emperor's new clothes - a house of cards. R: But there's a mysterious mythology around you and your career. Is that a pro or a con? M: I have a theory. Most people will agree we're connected on some level, be it by these invisible threads of consciousness or whatever. I think all of us recognize that ball of light in some way. And often, artists who become popular or gain recognition have a little more of a grasp than others on channeling that light, that chi or aura. But at some point, when you pass that threshold and people are aware of you on a global level, it can suck you energy - unless you learn how to keep those people away. you can see those who pass that threshold getting destroyed, getting more guant as people take away their life force - there's so many people plugged into them and they're taking on more than they're capable of handling. You may have a nice mansion, but what did it cost? You're a zombie. You see actresses and actors out in a club without makeup and it's like "jeez...take a vacation and unplug somehow, because people are sucking you dry." So i think that the double-edged sword i'm happy with - I may not be a household name, But i can go shopping and buy groceries. R: Do you change you appearance so frequently and do things like wear wigs so that you can build a defense against the world? Or are the disguises just part of the way you express yourself artistically? M: It's part of the art. Jack Nicholson wil tell you that when you put on the Joker outfit, it comes to life on its own and has its own personality that has nothing to do with Jack Nicholson. Gary Oldman puts on some kind of fucked up wig amd make up and he's a whole different person and the acting just kind of follows. So yeah, it's part of the art and performance, without being corrupt by fame. R: what do you enjoy about all this? What's the fun about it for you? M:It's a puzzle. I'm trying to figure out life puzzles, music puzzles, geometry, word games. Play until you die, you know? And the more you learn about different stuff, the more references and cross-references pop up that make the puzzles and matrixes more fun. It's how you grow and learn about yourself. It's how you figure out what makes you tick and perhaps how to adjust that or enhance that. R: All that sounds very mathematical. Isn't self-discovery supposed to be emotional? M: Emotions can be mathematical in nature - everything else is. All naute can be described with mathematics. R: Is that what always appealed to you or did you grow into realizing that? M: No, i just write what i hear. I hear something and say "That's a cool idea. Let's see what i can do with that." And then something comes up in my personal life and i try to see if i can 't get to the bottom of that motivation and see what makes that thing tick. I'm like any kid that gets a toy for Christmas and wants to break it open to see what makes it work. Then the trick is to try and put the toy back together. R: I would have though that someone as socially conscious as yourself would reflect in you lyrics the malaise caused by the war in Iraq and other world events. But APC's new album is largely apolitical. M: No, it's not; the sleeping people are in there. Take the line "COunting body like sheep to the rhythms of the war drums." There are a lot of people - especially in Middle America - that have been asleep. It's difficult for me to seperate interpersonal and internal dynamics from relationship dynamics and world dynamics. It all has to do with listening and compassion. And right now, there's not much listening going on in the world. R: You've often spoken about the late, great counterculture comedian Bill Hicks. Is there anybody else out there fans can use as a doorway to figuring you out? M: It's hard to step up to the Hicks. As far as the social and political commentary, i hope people would discover David Cross and Janeane Garofalo through us - They're amazing people. She's so well read and pretty much took the words out of my mouth - thank God - when the iraqi Freedom Fest broke out, If i'd beed put on camera on CROSSFIRE, i'd have been shot between the eyes. She's an amazing individual, and David Cross as well. He's got some pretty strong opinion that are grounded. Id be running around trying to tie the war in with the JFK assassination. He's a little more levelheaded than that. R: What's with you and the conspiracy theories? M: I'm an idiot with them. I'll start putting it all together for you and by the time i'm done you'll think i need lithium, but you'll kind of start agreeing with me too. R: So the point for you is to question things, not necessarily to reach an incontrovertible conclusion? M: On September 11 what i thought immediately was, Start to question now. Suspect everything. Don't take anything at face value becuase the people that run the country own your media. Even if you're wrong about you;re crazy conspiracies, at least ask the questions. Because never, ever, in the history of man, have you ever, ever, ever been able to trust your government. So why the fuck would we start now? Just because something blew up? Start there and draw your own conclusions. But definately start the process. And even now, you can't get much information unless you really begin to seek out alternative sources to try and figure out whats going on. And you have to be armed with the skills to do that kind of research. And having a father and mother that were high school teachers, I can tell you stright from the horse's mouth that we've been robbed of the tools and skills necassary to even know where to look. R: Since you feel that way, do you find it tempting to make your music more politically focused - to use it as a vehicle for protest? M: In a way it is. There's a social commentary in the music already that cuts to the bone as far as the social dynamics of waking up and questioning. It's all there. You have to listen though. It's about looking at your weaknesses and strengths and knowing you have to wake up - whether its about relationships or substance abuse. television is the biggest drug we've ever been introdused to. The effect it has on your mind is insane - the way it alters the wayyou perceive things and alters your reality, where you're gonna put your money amd who you're gonna vote for. It's a mind altering drug. R: But you watch it? M: I watch films. But even in films you can see an agenda. Jut pay attention - just look and see it. Look at all the war movies that came out a year prior to 9/11. R:Are television and film that different that the conglomerate- owned recording industry? M: I;m not Rage Against The Machine. I;n not claiming that kind of platform. I'm just trying to make records and express myself the best i can. At the end of the day, all the evil corporations can really do is not put my records in the stores. I'm putting what i want on my record. They're not changing that. Nothing is altered. And if they want to not sell my records, that's fine with me - I;m still going to bag on them and try to undermine the monster. At the end of the day, I'm going to get onstage and play. Even if you don't want to sell or buy my CD im still going to go out and perform. R: Does the performing part come easier now than when you started? M: It's always come easy. It's always been simple. R: Why? M:It just makes sense to me. There's and energy in the room that makes sense to me. It's all about the moment, really. You know you've tapped into something when you can replay and equation and get a similar emotional response. So every night is a reminder that we're on the right path. R: Are there things that you'd address with Tool that you wouldn't in APC? M: There's no rule of thumb; things happen as they happen. Im sure you have frends that you can try to force certain discussions on, but that discussion might be easier with a different set of friends. But there's no sacred ritual or outline on paper. R:If you had to do this all over again, would you take the same path? M: I don't think i could change anyting. Im the guy that freezes up when you say you have three wishes from the genie. Im a let-go, let-it-happen-as-it-will kind of guy. And yet i'm a guy with direction. I'm working toward something, recognizing the nuances. R: Are you a happier guy now than, say, 10 years ago? M: Sometimes im happy and sometimes im sad. Anybody that claims to be happy all the time is clear on fucking Prozac. You're not supposed to be happy all the time - It's the nature of emotion. R: Do you enjoy being on the road? M: Absolutely. Its the exchange of energy. the minimal amount of energy you put out to deliver your music or have your television show or movie come out - theres this sucking and drawing because you're nt putting enough out. The road balances that because there's a lot more energy being generated in that space - it's more of a sharing of energy. A lot of that seems kind of new age and very McDonalds/Celestine Prophecy/Wal-Mart, but i think you really can feel that exchange of energy in a performance space. R: Are you a more powerful performer now than when we first saw you? M:I think I'm just a difference performer now. There was a rage that i felt back in 1992, living in LA and being broke, that i no longer have. It's the same story with every successfull musician: you're hungry and angry and then things change. I mean, I'm still pissed of plenty - the traffic in LA is enough to drive anyone insane - but then again, I have a nice big tub i can get into and cool off. It' not easy maintaining that James Brown egde and enjoying life - enjoying being comfortable and successful. It's a fine line. And it's what takes most musicians down. The record company's worst fear is that you'll fall in love or get rich. R: Do you read what's said about you on online message boards? M: No. I can't. R: do you liek dealing with fans at all? M: No. It's just too strange a form of adoration. Im not sure how to relate to it. I understand that young kids have idols and are fans of things, But i would hope that they've learned from what we've done is that they can do it too and there's no reason to praise me for anyting. I'm basically just trying to work shit out and channel some important emotional, physical, spritual stuff that everyone goes through. We're just doing our best to put it on paper and get it on tape. But it's the same shit everyone goes through, so in theory everyone has access to it and everybody should be able to do it. So the point of praising one particular set of metaphorical vessels doesn't make sense, because i didn't invent the emotion, I'm just trying to translate it. R: And you have particularly adoring fans...obsessive fans. M: Nah. I don't think we have obsessive fans. Obsessive fans are really into the Backstreet Boys this week and will be into the next boy band next week. That's obsessive, fly-by-night fans. Our fans, if they're really fans, get really into what we do and do stuff with it - they write and create. We become irrelevant. They just look at that came out of the interaction between the four or five individuals and go, "That was an interesting result of that set of chemicals. There's nice alchemy there." It's like running up to a jar of fucking phophorus and going, "Good job!" It doesn't make any sense! I realize that fandom is part of the process and this business, so i'll acknowledge it. And i'm not going to judge the fans for not getting that. But at the same time, Im not going to foster that kind of behavior. I don't want to plug into it. God, fucking photos at the show are so annoying - flash cameras. I know you want to be closer, but nothing pushes us further away. As soon as those flashes go off, the relationship becomes very parasitic. You're not being very compassionate for what we're doing up there if you flash a light in my eye. Try to have someone tell you a personal story when you're flashing a flashlight in their eye. They can't focus on what they're trying to tell you. It's why you can't bring a fucking camera to an orchestra while they're playing or Baryshnikov when he's dancing. R: Do you have any regrets? M:I have no regrets. I've made more mistakes then i'd care to list, but i wouldn't change a thing. At the end of the day they're not going to matter; there's no asshole with a book at the Pearly gates judging you. As i understand it, the first line in that particular book in question is "In the beginning there was the word, and the word was God." And the Hebrew word for "god" is the same word for "light" and "love". So in the beginning there was love - infinite, unconditional, and not about judgement. So if you subscribe to the idea that we're all connected and there's some sort of source that keeps our hearts beating, then there's no judgement. R: Do you put commercial expectations on your albums? M: I've done what i can do. All we can do is feel how all the songs feel in the order way play them and say "we can rearrange that or make the lights do this or that." Otherwise, it's out of my hands There's nothing i can do about it. And the odds are that whatever i do now, eventually the numbers will go down. Espescially in this climate of downloading, whatever you do this year or next is going to look like a failure compared to what you did the previous year - even if you did the same kind of business. R: Does that frustrate you? M: No. If you take that personally or to the heart than you've let yourself fail. Don't worry about it. The world is changing. We get to be alive during the most extreme sets of change in the history of our human develpoment since Sumeria. This is the time. If you bought a ticket you bought a ticket for the right show. In this age of technology and emotional development - everything going on and leapfrogging day by day - you're in the right spot for the fireworks. R: And you're in the right spot to interpret those changes with your music. M: Yeah. We can try. But i'm not sure the Chinese will allow us when they get over here. R: They're coming? M: Yeah. NOt to put on my paranoid hat for you, but get used to speaking Chinese. That is the EXCLUSIVE interview with Maynard James Keenan. The next article features APC, but my hands are so tired of typing. I need a rest. perhaps i'll submit it tomorrow.....
Posted to t.d.n: 10/27/03 17:21:36