Maynard James Keenan on the struggle of modern music and the ‘big distraction’ of US politics
Maynard James Keenan is heading back to Australia early next year with one of his more experimental, but still largely revered, acts Puscifer. The band were last in the country in 2013, but expect an entirely new performance this time around.
“It’s gonna be a different show to what we brought last time,” Keenan told Double J’s Myf Warhurst. “A couple of curveballs. It should be fun.”
Keenan isn’t afraid to let Puscifer morph and evolve at a relatively rapid rate. The nature
“As a musician you do what you do. You follow your nose,” he said.
People can’t necessarily get loud anymore.Maynard James Keenan
“Since the incarnation in the mid-‘90s it’s taken on a lot of different forms just because technology’s caught up with it. The things we wanted to do in the mid-‘90s, the technology just wasn’t there yet.
“We wanted to do film, animation, various merchandise, various performances. Back then, unless you were with a label, it was very cost prohibitive. But we’re not with a label, this is all independent. So we had to wait for technology.”
On the whole, developments in technology are a good thing. But there are other changes in the world of music that Maynard is less keen on. In fact, he doesn’t understand how young bands get anything done at all.
“I wish the music industry was still around,” he opined. “It’s kind of fallen apart in recent years. When we first started recording music for release there was an actual industry in place, there were record stores. By the time we actually finished that recording and put it out, about one quarter of those record stores were in existence. They’d all gone out of business in that short period of time. We watched the change happen overnight.”
It’s not just record stores that are vanishing, Keenan says. It’s the underground parts of the industry that many never saw that have made things harder for aspiring artists to experiment and hone their craft.
“When I came up there were places to rehearse. You could get loud in old industrial areas. Those places were available,” he said.
“Some drunk security guard who would watch the building would turn his back if you gave him a couple of hundred bucks for the month and you’d just plug in and do your thing. As long as you didn’t burn the building down, you were fine.
“Nowadays with lawyers and insurance and liabilities, those places are gone. People can’t necessarily get loud anymore. Even if they can find a place, it’s now overly priced because all those safeguards are in place. People that want to get into the music industry [have to] play in a space that’s licensed and authorised and regulated and all those things that bore the shit out of me. Those places are now out of the price range for people who are making music that no one will pay for.”
To start a band now, it seems like there’s a lot of noise to get through.Maynard James Keenan
Keenan acknowledges that it's not such a problem for him. As frontman of Tool and A Perfect Circle, he's one of the biggest rock artists on the planet. But he empathises with the plight of those who are only getting started now.
“As a musician, you’re driven to write and driven to create and driven to perform. I have the safeguard. I have someone who was around in the ‘90s and the 2000s when I could actually establish this thing and get it off the ground. I have a backup plan. I have a name for myself.
"But to start a band now, it seems like there’s a lot of noise to get through. You have to be really in it for the right reasons. You’ve can’t be worried about where the pay cheque’s coming from. It’s very prohibitive.”
Myf couldn’t let Maynard go without getting his thoughts on the upcoming US election. He’s had moments of outspokenness through the election campaign, but this time responds with a far more Zen approach.
“I feel like [the American public] are taking the bait and there’s a big distraction and that there’s way more important issues at hand.
“I think there’s a lot more important things to be tending to. Reconnecting with how to grow your own food. Simple things.
“You travel through Italy or Spain and you see a small community of people, you ask them what they think about the election and they just don’t care. You know why? Because they’re busy growing their food, they’re busy making fantastic meals, making some fantastic wine.
“It’s all about paying attention to the weather patterns, when the sun comes up and when it goes down. There are just more important things.”
Hear Maynard James Keenan speak with Myf Warhurst on this episode of Lunch With Myf
Puscifer play the following dates:
Friday 20 January – MOFO, Hobart
Sunday 22 January – Plenary, Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre
Monday 23 January – Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide
Wednesday 25 January – Darling Harbour Theatre, Sydney
Thursday 26 January – Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre