Maynard James Keenan talks military service’s application to music

Posted by on October 6, 2016

keenanbookOk, so we get it: there won’t be a Tool album coming for a while yet. Or hey, who knows, it could come out tomorrow. Regardless, it’s in the oven and we’ll eventually have a hot, steaming helping of Tool that the band’s been slaving over in a hot studio for ten years now. In the time that hasn’t been spent making a new album, singer Maynard James Keenan has been occupying himself with many other endeavors, like Puscifer, running a vineyard, appearing in a documentary about said vineyard and wine company and also writing a book. A Perfect Union of Contrary Things. Due out on November 8th, the book seems to underscore that the singer has always enjoyed having his hands in different endeavors.

Speaking to Rolling Stone, Keenan says that instead of focusing on the global aspects of what the military is, he viewed it as a challenge for himself. And challenging himself to be the best and be competitive helped him in a musical setting as well:

I think bands in general, not necessarily the ones I’m involved in, but I think [people in] bands in general are the ones who … they kind of have the discipline enough to learn how to play their instrument. And they have some kind of accolades or positive reinforcement for some achievements they might’ve had early on. Playing guitar, playing drums … so you know, as human beings you like that praise, you like those accolades. So you pursue it more to get more of those things. But in general, most musicians nowadays and in recent history, they lack the discipline outside of that one discipline. So in a way, they’re one-dimensional, so when success comes, they don’t have the faintest idea how to deal with it. And most of them implode. Most of them fall apart. They didn’t have the discipline back then – they just had the discipline on what their single focus was, whatever instrument it was.

But given the state the world is in, he wouldn’t necessarily recommend going into the military right now.

[when] I joined the military, I was pretty convinced that all of that crap was over. I believed we kind of found some kind of groove as far as world peace. We didn’t really have any major conflicts – Grenada and a few things when I was in. Yeah, we were going through a lot of growing pains as a nation. I don’t know that I would recommend going into active service right now. It might be good for some people. Yeah, that’s a tough one, because the parts that I’m looking for, that discipline, that connection, was being absolutely vulnerable and having your life in the hands of your teammates, your friends, your colleagues. The growth that occurs in those spaces where you’re just broken down and then being built back up – there’s a lot to be said for those kind of things.

But being an extension of the global world domination, I don’t know that that actually would be a goal at all [laughs]. Mixed feelings.

And another thing that might come as a revelation to non-Tool fanatics is that Keenan jammed with Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello before there was a Rage Against the Machine. Credit-readers and RATM fans know that he sings on “Know Your Enemy” on the band’s self-titled debut, but the band was a little too serious for Keenan:

There wasn’t a Rage when I was working with Tom. I think he was working with Timmy [Commerford], perhaps. I can’t remember if Brad was drumming or not. This is very foggy at that time ’cause I didn’t know Brad yet, so you’d have to talk to Brad, find out if it was actually him. We actually were in a rehearsal space – this is after [Morello’s former band] Lock Up was dead and he was trying figuring out where he gonna go next, and so yeah, it was right around the same time all those things were happening. And I think just the vibe of where they wanted to go … I guess I had a little bit of that Green Jellö thing going on in me still, so I was looking for almost a Puscifer approach to music at that point. They were looking for a more serious approach, so I think that was pretty much immediate. If there was a consideration for that at all, it was very brief, but it was all at the same time.

The whole interview, including an anecdote about Tom Petty being the first person to compliment him on Tool, is an interesting read. Keenan’s autobiography A Perfect Union of Contrary Things, will be released on November 8th on Backbeat Books and can be preordered here.

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