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Maynard James Keenan (born James Herbert Keenan on April 17, 1964) is an American rock singer, songwriter, musician, record producer, winemaker, and actor. Originally from Ohiomarker, Keenan spent his high school and college years in Michiganmarker. After serving in the Army in the early 1980s, he attended Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapidsmarker. He moved to Los Angelesmarker, California, in 1988 to pursue a career in interior design and set construction, and formed the band Tool with Adam Jones shortly thereafter.

Keenan is best known as the lead singer of the multi-platinum rock bands Tool and A Perfect Circle with whom he has released four and three studio albums, respectively. In 2003, he created Puscifer as a side project, financing and releasing its first studio album in October 2007. Since rising to fame, Keenan has been a noted recluse, although he does emerge to support charitable causes.

In addition to his music career, he has performed improvisational stand-up comedy and ventured into acting. He is the current owner of Merkin Vineyards and the associated winery, Caduceus Cellarsmarker, and has part ownership of Stronghold Vineyards, all located in Arizonamarker, where he lives. Keenan is also featured in Blood Into Wine: The Arizona Stronghold, a documentary about Stronghold Vineyards. Among other business ventures, he is a partner in the Los Angeles restaurant Cobras & Matadors, and owns a produce market and an organic market in Cornville, Arizonamarker, the latter featuring a tasting room for his wines as well as a food court.

Early life

James Keenan was born in Ravennamarker, Ohio, on April 17, 1964, the only child of Judith Marie and Michael Loren Keenan. When his parents divorced in 1968, his father, a high school teacher, moved to Michiganmarker and Keenan would only see him about once a year for the next 12 years. His mother remarried, bringing Keenan into an "intolerant and unworldly household", where his intelligence and creative expression would be stifled.McAlley, p. 86. When Keenan was 11, his mother suffered a paralyzing cerebral aneurysm, which would later serve as the inspiration for many of his creative works. Two years later, she persuaded Keenan to live with his father in Michigan. Keenan considers this "the best move [he] ever made."

Inspired by Bill Murray's performance in the 1981 comedy film Stripes, Keenan joined the United States Army, with the intention of having the G.I. Bill fund his dream of attending art school. By this point, he had lived in Ohio, Michigan, New Jerseymarker, New Yorkmarker, Oklahomamarker, Kansasmarker, and Texasmarker. He initially served in the Army as a forward observer before studying at the United States Military Academy Preparatory School (West Point Prep School) from 1983 to 1984. In addition to completing a rigorous math and English curriculum, he ran on the cross country running team and sang in the glee club. It was during his time in the military that he adopted the sobriquet "Maynard" on a whim. He was distinguished in basic and advanced training, but declined an appointment to West Pointmarker and instead chose to pursue a music career because of his disillusionment with his colleagues' values and because he knew West Point would not tolerate his dissidence.

Upon completing his term of enlistment, he studied art at Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids, Michiganmarker. In 1988, he relocated to Los Angeles where his love of animals led him to practice interior design for pet stores, before he was quickly fired and began working in set construction. During the 1980s, Keenan played bass guitar for TexA.N.S. and sang for Children of the Anachronistic Dynasty, both independent bands.

Music career


After moving to Los Angeles, Keenan met Adam Jones, who had heard him singing on a demo in college, and Jones suggested that they form a band. Although reluctant at first, Keenan agreed and, in 1990, Tool was formed. Fronted by Keenan, the eventual lineup included guitarist Jones; his neighbor, drummer Danny Carey; and bassist Paul D'Amour, who would later be replaced by Justin Chancellor.

Tool signed to Zoo Entertainment in November 1991 and released the Opiate EP the following year. To support this release, the band toured with Fishbone and Rage Against the Machine. During a 1993 show at the Church of Scientology’s Celebrity Centre in Los Angeles, Keenan (who would later write the lyrics "Fuck L. Ron Hubbard and fuck all his clones") bleated like a sheep for a good portion of the show. "Before our set this guy tries to intimidate me by showing me a gun in his jacket," Keenan recalled. "I explained to him that if he pissed me off I’d start a riot." Shortly thereafter, Tool released their 1993 debut album, Undertow, in the United States, where it was certified gold after just eight months, and platinum less than a year later. In 1994, the band released their single "Prison Sex"—a song in which Keenan opted to deliver in a slight grunge-style—with a corresponding music video created and directed by Jones. The video was deemed "too graphic and offensive", and was withdrawn by MTV after a few airings due to "a symbolic dealing with the sensitive subject of child abuse".

In October 1996, the band released their second studio album, Ænima, which was certified gold in ten weeks and achieved double platinum in ten months. In 1998, "Ænema" won the Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance. After the release of the album, Tool began a prolonged legal battle with their label Volcano Records (formerly Zoo Records) over alleged contract violations. Following this legal battle, which resulted in a new three-record deal, the members of Tool decided to take some time off. During the hiatus, the band members were outspokenly critical of filesharing networks, due to the negative financial impact on artists dependent on success in record sales. During an interview with NY Rock in 2000, Keenan stated, "I think there are a lot of other industries out there that might deserve being destroyed. The ones who get hurt by MP3s are not so much companies or the business, but the artists, people who are trying to write songs."

Five years after the release of Ænima, Tool announced a new album, Systema Encéphale, with a 12-song tracklist in January 2001. A month later, the band revealed that the new album was actually titled Lateralus and that the name Systema Encéphale and the tracklist had been a ruse. The album was released in May 2001 to positive reviews. Known for his "dark, intelligent, compelling, and unexpected lyrical twists", Keenan was acclaimed for his songwriting on the album, in which he "doesn’t cross the line from darkness to ugliness ... as often as he has in the past". In an interview with NY Rock, Keenan explained, "Everything we release with Tool is inspired by our music. It doesn't matter if it is a video or if its lyrics. The lyrics for "Schism" are nothing more than my interpretation of the music." The album became a worldwide success, reaching #1 on the U.S. Billboard 200 albums chart in its debut week, and Tool received their second Grammy Award for the best metal performance of 2001 for "Schism".

Fifteen years after the band's formation, Tool had acquired what Dan Epstein of Revolver described as a devoted "cult" following, and in May 2006, the band released 10,000 Days, an album in which Keenan sang about more personal issues, in contrast to previous attempts to inspire change. His mother is the inspiration for two tracks on the album; the two-part song "Wings for Marie" and "10,000 Days (Wings for Marie, Pt 2)", and "Jambi"McAlley, p. 88. which deals with her 2003 death after 27 years, or around 10,000 days, of suffering. The album sold 564,000 copies in its opening week in the U.S. and was #1 on the Billboard 200 charts. However, 10,000 Days was received less favorably by critics than its predecessor Lateralus had been.

Following 10,000 Days, Tool had one album remaining to fulfill the obligation of its record contract. Though there is no information available on any plans for this album, Tool has worked around Keenan and his side projects since 1999, starting with the creation of A Perfect Circle, which has led to several years between projects. Regarding the future of Tool, Keenan stated in a 2007 interview with Spin, "We'll make music together until one of us is dead."

On March 24, 2009, it was announced on Tool's website that a summer tour was set with dates still to be confirmed; and periodic updates are made for confirmed dates. In a March 26 press release, Tool was confirmed as a headliner for the second annual Mile High Music Festival in Commerce Citymarker, Coloradomarker, with Widespread Panic and The Fray on July 18–19. Tool headlined Lollapalooza August 7–9 in Chicagomarker, Illinois.

A Perfect Circle

During Tool's post-Ænima hiatus to deal with their legal issues, Keenan began working with Billy Howerdel, Tool's guitar tech through the Ænima tour, on a different project. The supergroup they formed, A Perfect Circle, began performing in 1999 and released its first album Mer de Noms in 2000. They released a successful follow-up in 2003 titled Thirteenth Step, a reference to twelve-step programs (many of the songs were written from the perspective of recovery). Both albums were eventually certified platinum. Their subsequent 2004 album, eMOTIVe, was primarily composed of covers, except for the singles "Counting Bodies Like Sheep to the Rhythm of the War Drums"—a song inspired by "Pet" that was originally released on Thirteenth Step—and "Passive". Keenan later characterized the record as a political album with which he "tested the waters" and was subsequently "crucified" for it because of the content. It was certified gold the month after its release. That same year they released the DVD and CD set entitled aMotion, which was certified platinum within a month of its release.

Despite its success, the future of A Perfect Circle remains uncertain. It is currently on hiatus, partly due to Keenan's commitments to Tool; Howerdel reported in a May 2006 interview with MTV that the supergroup's work was concluded for the time being. After more than two years since the bands last release, Keenan was asked about the status of A Perfect Circle during an interview with Revolver. He stated:

When asked, in an interview for Spin magazine that same month, about the possibility of another A Perfect Circle album, Keenan stated, "Maybe, someday, a song on a soundtrack. But an album? No." A year later, on December 9, 2008, reported that Keenan had announced on The Pulse of Radio that he and Howerdel have been writing new music for A Perfect Circle. Keenan also said that the band has no plans to resume full-scale touring, or even to write and record a new album. Instead, they will focus on "one or two songs at a time", which will most likely be released via the Internet.


In 2003, Keenan surfaced under the name "Puscifer" for the song "REV 22:20" on the Underworld film soundtrack. Puscifer was once advertised as a side project with Danny Lohner, who had formerly performed live with Nine Inch Nails, but has since been formed as a manifestation of Keenan's "creative subconscious"—meaning that Keenan is now using the name as a pseudonym for his solo work. Keenan has stated that it is "a premiere improvisational hardcore band", and his "catch-all, stream of consciousness, anything goes, etc." project. When comparing the project to Tool in an interview with Rolling Stone, Keenan described it as his "attempt to make music to inspire people. ... This is definitely not thinking man's music, but groove-oriented music that makes you feel good." In a later interview with Artistdirect, Keenan said that he did not want the lyrics to be puzzles. He wanted the complexity to be in the music, stating "that's the part that gets under your skin and makes you feel good."

In 2006, Puscifer would contribute the song "The Undertaker (Renholder Mix)" to the soundtrack of Underworld: Evolution, where "Renholder", a moniker for Danny Lohner created by the members of A Perfect Circle, is the reversal of "Re: D Lohner". Keenan financed and released the first studio album, "V" Is for Vagina, in October 2007. Created in a tour bus, in several hotel rooms, and in various studios around the country while Keenan toured with Tool, the album is a radical departure from Keenan's contributions in Tool and A Perfect Circle. Tim Alexander, best known as the drummer for rock band Primus, was a guest musician on the album. He called Puscifer "trancy and hypnotic" and a "total 180 from Tool". The album was criticized as unfocused and lacking in the passion and intelligence present in Keenan's previous work.

Puscifer is also a clothing line, with merchandise available for purchase on the band's website. On September 16, 2008, Keenan updated the blog, revealing that the first ever Puscifer store would be opening "hopefully" by October 1 in Jeromemarker, Arizonamarker. Occupying a small space above a tattoo parlor, the store opened on October 3, 2008. In addition to the merchandise available on the band's online store, Keenan has also made available locally-roasted coffee, art, and an ever-changing list of limited edition collectibles.

On February 13–15, 2009, Keenan debuted Puscifer at the Pearl Concert Theatre in Palms Casino Resortmarker in Las Vegasmarker, with a cabaret-style show so abstract it is not easily described. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Keenan stated "we didn’t really have any clue what to call it, so we just kind of called it cabaret." He went on to add that "you just can’t really describe it, you just have to see it, then it makes sense." Featuring an ever-changing lineup of artists including Milla Jovovich and Primus drummer Tim Alexander, the show was originally said to have a long-term residency at the Pearl, however, Keenan later revealed that it was to be only a two-show performance.

In February, it was announced on the Puscifer website that there would be an April 4 performance at Club Nokiamarker in Los Angeles. An April 5 performance was added in early March. In his L.A. Times interview, Keenan expressed the possibility of performances in Texasmarker in June. According to Keenan—who has had previous experience with this type of entertainment, having fronted a similar show in Los Angeles before achieving fame with Tool—Puscifer won't put on the same show or feature the same artists every night.

Writing and performance style

A primary purpose of Keenan's lyrics for Tool involves a desire to connect with the listeners on a personal level; to encourage them to look within themselves for self-identity, understanding and reflection. Tool does not include lyrics with any releases as Maynard James Keenan believes most people "don't get it" and it is not a priority of the band that people do.However, after each release Keenan has eventually published his typed lyrics online via the semi-official fansite, with the exception of "Lateralus", which was published on the official Tool website. Lyrical arrangements are often given special attention, such as in the lyrics to "Lateralus", wherein the number of syllables per line correspond to an arrangement of the Fibonacci numbers, and "Jambi", in which the metrical foot iamb is used. Keenan's lyrics on Ænima and Lateralus focused on philosophy and spirituality—specific subjects range from organized religion in "Opiate", to evolution and Jungian psychology in "Forty-Six & 2" and transcendence in "Lateralus".

In live performances with Tool, Keenan has often been known to be situated on a platform towards the rear of the stage, without a spotlight, facing the backdrop rather than the audience. An exception, which surprised even hardcore Tool fans, occurred when a fan climbed on stage and attempted to hug Keenan during the band's performance of "Pushit". After picking the fan up and dropping him to the ground, Keenan wrapped himself around the man's back. He eventually turned the fan to his stomach and sat on his back, where he stayed for "an uncomfortably long period of time." His appearance with Tool has included the Mohawk hairstyle, wigs, Kabuki masks, bras, tights, and his entire body in blue paint. This is contrasted with a variety of long haired wigs while performing with or promoting A Perfect Circle.His posture on stage is usually bent.

Describing Keenan's contribution to Tool and A Perfect Circle, The New York Times wrote that "both groups rely on Mr. Keenan's ability to dignify emotions like lust, anger and disgust, the honey in his voice adding a touch of profundity". Keenan's ability as a vocalist has been lauded by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer: after his performance during an Alice in Chains reunion concert in 2005, freelance journalist Travis Hay saw him as "a natural fit at replacing Layne Staley". His unique style of singing has often been considered influential to artists such as Pete Loeffler of Chevelle.

Comedy and acting

Keenan became friends with comedian Bill Hicks in the early 1990s. Keenan did stand-up comedy on improv nights in comedy clubs in Los Angeles during that time. The two became acquainted and Hicks later opened some Tool concerts. Best known is a routine Hicks did while on tour with Tool during the Lollapalooza tour in 1993, when he asked the audience to look for a contact lens he had lost. Keenan enjoyed this joke so much that he repeated it on a number of occasions.

Keenan is featured in several segments of Mr. Show, most notably in the Ronnie Dobbs sketch presented in the first season. In one scene, he is seen being arrested with Dobbs. Later in the sketch he is featured wearing a wig as the lead singer of the then-fictitious band "Puscifer". When asked about the arrest of Dobbs, Keenan replies "Guilty? Yeah. I'm sure he's guilty but... he knows it. I mean, you're guilty, and you don't know it. So... who's really in jail?" He also appears in episode 2.6, "The Velveteen Touch of a Dandy Fop", as one of the viewers of Coupon: The Movie, saying "Now is not the time", waving the cameras off and slapping the microphone out of his face in disgust after walking out of the theater. Later, Keenan would sing on a track for the Mr. Show incarnation Run Ronnie Run, and appear in the "music video sex scene" on its DVD. Keenan appeared on the cover of the May/June 1999 issue of Pop Smear magazine, portraying Charles Manson as part of a photo essay, imitating a famous Life magazine portrait of the imprisoned murderer. He also appeared as Satan in the 2002 film Bikini Bandits and its 2004 sequel Bikini Bandits 2: Golden Rod. When asked in an interview which role was more difficult, Keenan responded, "Oh, Manson. He’s a real person. People know what he looks like, how he talked. With Satan there’s so much gray area."

In the mid-90s, responding to requests for Tool to perform in benefit shows, Keenan created "Free Frances Bean" tee-shirts to represent his own platform. Frances' mother Courtney Love had previously referred to Keenan as a "media whore" to which he responded, "Isn't that great? I have the distinction of being called a media whore by Courtney Love." He said that after watching "the tornado that is her mother", he thought "Oh my God, how is Frances Bean gonna survive this insanity?" Although it was started as a simple joke, the tee-shirts were soon in high demand and Keenan was giving them away.

On April 1, 2005, the official Tool website announced, as an April Fools' Day prank, that "Maynard has found jesus" and would be abandoning the recording of the new album temporarily and possibly permanently. Kurt Loder of MTV contacted Keenan via email to ask for a confirmation and received a nonchalant confirmation. When Loder asked again, Keenan's response was simply "heh heh". On April 7, the official site revealed that it was a hoax. During an interview Keenan later stated, "It was April Fools’. If you fall for that on April Fools’ Day, there’s nothing I can do for you." He has been part of other April Fools' pranks related to Tool, including one in which he was said to be in critical condition after a tour bus accident.

Keenan made his major feature film debut in the April 17, 2009, release of Crank: High Voltage. Sharing a scene with the movie's lead, Jason Statham, Keenan portrays a dog walker "who has an electrifying experience [...] in a public park". Keenan has also been cast in The Other Side, set for release in October 2010. Starring Jason Lee and Woody Harrelson, Keenan is to play several minor roles in the film. IMDb lists his parts as "Hippie/Chauffeur/Pilot/Bartender/Butler/Bait Shop Clerk". Other musical artists listed in the cast include Alanis Morissette and Dave Matthews.

Winemaking and other endeavors

In addition to being part-owner of Cobras & Matadors, an LA restaurant run by Steven Arroyo, and owner of a produce market in Cornvillemarker, Arizonamarker;McAlley, p. 85. Keenan, whose grandparents and great-uncle made wine in Northern Italy (now Southern France), owns Merkin Vineyards and Caduceus Cellarsmarker, based in the unincorporated area of Page Springs/Cornville, Arizona, southwest of Sedonamarker, where he resides. While the winery is named after an ancient symbol for commerce (caduceus), the vineyard is named after a pubic wig (merkin). He is also a partner of Stronghold Vineyards, "an 80-acre site dedicated to producing affordable wines in the state", located in the small, unincorporated area known as Kansas Settlement in Sulfur Springs Valley, Arizona. Keenan's mother died in 2003, at the age of 59, due to complications from her aneurysm. Following her death, he scattered her ashes across one of his vineyards, and later named one of his wines after her, honoring her memory with his Cabernet Sauvignon "Nagual del Judith". In a statement released in April 2009, Keenan stated:
 His previous wines were named after relatives of the Chiricahua Apache chief Cochise who lived in the area where the vineyard is located, and were produced at Paige Springs Cellars, owned by Keenan's business partner. While those wines used some fruits imported from California, "Nagual del Judith" is the first made entirely from Keenan's own vineyard.

During the fall season of 2008, Keenan began a small tour of sorts with his Stronghold Vineyards partner Eric Glomski, promoting his wine with signing sessions at Whole Foods Markets in California and Nevadamarker. The tour continued in 2009 with sessions in Texasmarker kicking off in March, and appearances scheduled during Tool's 2009 summer tour in Floridamarker, Massachusettsmarker, and New Jerseymarker. In July 2009, Keenan opened an organic market which features a tasting room for his Arizona wines as well as a food court. In an interview with that same month, Keenan stated that he had been taught by Southwestern chefs "how to make spaghettis and pastas and gnocchis and various soup stocks", which would be made fresh and served at the tastings. Keenan also stars in Blood Into Wine: The Arizona Stronghold, a documentary about Keenan and Glomski's embarkation into winemaking in the desert conditions of Arizona's Verde Valley, and the success they've seen in the decade since its inception. The trailer, co-produced by Moog filmmakers Ryan Page and Christopher Pomerenk, was released on the web on June 11, 2009, on


Keenan has used his voice on numerous occasions to support charitable causes. He performed at a 1997 benefit concert for RAINN (the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) organized by Tori Amos (who had often referred to Keenan as an unofficial brother). He is one of the notable performers for Axis of Justice, a non-profit organization that brings musicians, fans of music, and grassroots political organizations together to fight for social justice. In 2004, Axis of Justice released Concert Series Volume 1. Included are two tracks featuring Keenan on vocals. The second track on the album, " Peace, Love, and Understanding", was recorded live during Lollapalooza in Seattle, Washingtonmarker on August 23, 2003. The first track, "Where the Streets Have No Name", was recorded live during the Axis of Justice Concert Series at The Avalon in Hollywood, Californiamarker on July 19, 2004. In February 2005, Keenan appeared as a surprise vocalist at a Seattle benefit concert for victims of the 2004 earthquake and tsunamimarker in southern Asia, performing with the partly reformed Alice in Chains, in place of the deceased vocalist Layne Staley, on the songs "Them Bones", "Man in the Box", and "Rooster".

Personal life

Keenan, who has described himself as "happily unmarried", was in a relationship , when he stated "For the first time in my life, I have someone who's taking care of me, rather than the other way around." He has a son named Devo H. Keenan (born 1995) who sang backing vocals on A Perfect Circle's Thirteenth Step, and later was credited as the cellist on Keep Telling Myself It's Alright—the debut album of Ashes Divide, Billy Howerdel's post-A Perfect Circle project. It was after the birth of his son that it occurred to Keenan to obscure his own identity in order to prevent his son from being "victimized by [his] career". The song "Breña" by A Perfect Circle uses the middle name of Keenan's former fiancée, while the single "Judith" bears the name of Keenan's mother, and Tool's "H." is the middle name of his son.

Keenan has a reputation for being reclusive, elliptical and controlling of his public image. He dislikes the manner in which rock star are worshipped, and at one point carried business cards with the name "Jesus H. Christ" printed on them. Often having to deal with stalkers, Keenan has resorted to using a paintball rifle to run trespassing fans from his property. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is one of Keenan's pursuits, and he studied under Rickson Gracie, who is widely considered one of the martial art's greatest practitioners.

Selected discography

With TexA.N.S.
  • Live at Sons and Daughters Hall (1986)
  • Never Again (1986)

With Children of the Anachronistic Dynasty
  • Fingernails (1986)
  • Dog.House (1987)

With Tool

With A Perfect Circle

As Puscifer

Notes and references

  1. Metacritic calculated an average score of 68 for 10,000 Days compared to 75 for Lateralus.
  2. Trailer: Blood Into Wine: The Arizona Stronghold (Video). Retrieved on June 13, 2009.
  3. McAlley, pp. 85, 88.

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