Daniel Robert Epstein of SuicideGirls.com recently conducted an interview with TOOL frontman Maynard James Keenan. Few excerpts are follows:
SuicideGirls.com: What's your wine called?
Keenan: I have two, Caduceus Cellars is my premium brand and then I have the more middle of the road stuff which is called Merkin Vineyards.
SuicideGirls.com: How did the wine thing get started?
Keenan: I've been a fan of wines since the early '90s and it progressed to the point where I just decided to put a vineyard in my backyard, not really having any idea what I was doing or what I was going to be doing with the grapes. I met the right guy who had a plan of his own and I've been riding his coattails learning as I go. We released our first wines about a year and a half ago and everything has sold out. Now we're just trying to get some more wine into bottles so we can get it up for sale.
SuicideGirls.com: It sounds like a lot of fun.
Keenan: Yes and it's a pretty grounding experience. The music industry and Hollywood tends to be very disconnected and not really about reality. Some of the activities that go on there don't have a lot of logic to it. You've got people from damaged childhoods that are emoting and running the business when they have no idea what they're doing.
SuicideGirls.com: I don't know a ton about wine but when you say started a vineyard; does that mean you hooked up with a grape that you liked or developed a grape?
Keenan: I had some guys come out from U.C. Davis to check out the area, check out the elevation, make some suggestions on root stock and what varietals would work in this climate. Like evaluation of temperature, soil content, elevation and all that stuff goes into them calculating what might or might not work here.
SuicideGirls.com: Are you finding it's getting into people's mouths that don't know who you are?
Keenan: Yeah, I think so. I have a blog on the main page of Wine Spectator. It's good wine, so it's finding its way into the hands of people who appreciate wine and they've been reporting good things.
SuicideGirls.com: Recently I've gotten to talk to Les Claypool and Mike Patton who have all these different bands that they do. They both pretty much told me that they're not even sure sometimes where the music they're creating will go. Are you the same way?
Keenan: I try to wear one hat at a time. I find that's the best way to do it. When I'm doing tours I'm doing tours. If I'm doing A PERFECT CIRCLE then I'm doing that. But PUSCIFER has been a little different because it is not just music. It's actually as much a clothing line as it is a band. I've been talking with different manufacturers so it's almost a brand at this point.
SuicideGirls.com: Was that always the intention?
Keenan: I think it's just the age that we're in. With the internet the way it is, music is now a soundtrack to some other activity. You can make a living selling songs but you make a better living playing them. If you're not going to play them you got to figure out what else to sell and I guess that comes down to t-shirts and key chains.
SuicideGirls.com: What was the inspiration for PUSCIFER?
Keenan: PUSCIFER has basically been my little baby and I just kept working on it. I was inspired by all these tunes on the radio like oldies, Motown stuff and hip-hop. Stuff that feels good. I approached PUSCIFER like that. I'm just trying to get stuff that I don't have to think too much about it. It's got a good groove. It makes you feel good and that's where I've been concentrating because I have all the introspective, torturous, painfully organized and arranged music that takes years to create and cuts really deep. But PUSCIFER does not do that. It's something that I want to have fun with and not worry about it being groundbreaking or changing the world.
SuicideGirls.com: Are you going to tour with PUSCIFER?
Keenan: Maybe I will do some stuff in small theatres someday but for now I'm not even worried about that.
SuicideGirls.com: Something like that has to be at least a year and a half off.
Keenan: Yeah but I'm not even thinking about it yet.
SuicideGirls.com: Have you brought in a lot of people to help you with music?
Keenan: Well I've got a guitar tech engineer and a ProTools engineer. Tim Alexander has a whole set up and we just kick it around in my home studio.
SuicideGirls.com: A lot of people have home studios that are just as good as some of the professional ones. I'm sure yours is.
Keenan: The home studios work but at the end of the day nothing sounds like analog two-inch tape. So once the ideas are all organized I want to put all these tapes on two-inch tape if not re-tracking them on two-inch tape.
SuicideGirls.com: I read that the name PUSCIFER is taken from a "Mr. Show" skit you were in.
Keenan: Actually the band itself existed before "Mr. Show". It was always a little project that I had going on. I used the name for "Mr. Show" because it just made sense to get it on the map. The original name of the band was called UMLAUT a premiere improvisational hardcore band, it lasted about a day. It was fun but it evolved quickly into PUSCIFER.
SuicideGirls.com: When you're doing something totally new that's not going to be TOOL or A PERFECT CIRCLE did you know that eventually you wanted to bring back PUSCIFER?
Keenan: Yeah, absolutely. That was always the intention. I just got focused on all the other things that I never really put a lot of time into really bringing it forward and I think now is the time.
SuicideGirls.com: So you guys have postponed the [TOOL] tour because Danny hurt himself?
Keenan: Yeah, he pulled a muscle in his arm.
SuicideGirls.com: What would have to change about TOOL for you to say “I don't want to do this. I have other things to concentrate on”?
Keenan: If the entire world turned into something where there is no money involved. If there was no money involved it would be easy to do this but as soon as the money comes into play, everybody gets weird. It has an affect on everybody. It doesn't matter who they are but as soon as there's money involved people get fucking goofy. When you don't have money to lose you don't have to worry about somebody taking the money. All that bullshit aside I'm trying to prove that I can just make music and make my living doing that and selling shirts for fun.