Anyone who knows Maynard James Keenan primarily from Tool and A Perfect Circle may be surprised to learn that the singer’s most recent video finds him onstage in a Oak Ridge Boys outfit and fairly alarming hairpiece, singing a twangy number about sleeping with what is more or less a complete roster of country-music icons.
Then again, such is the enigmatic, shapeless-by-design nature of Puscifer, the side project from the enigmatic, shapeless-by-design Keenan, who’s spent his musical career exploring the dark side of the soul with those two bands and now seems to be using Puscifer to play around in all manner of new arenas.
“The more intense your music is, the more intense the stories are — there’s a downside to that,” Keenan tells Billboard.com. “You have to continue telling the same story, you have to continue opening up that wound. So although you may have already had the initial catharsis and moved on to some kind of forgiveness, you’re still locked into having to tell it over and over again.
“It can’t be healthy,” he adds with a laugh. “I would like the permission to move into a more positive space, more creative space.”
Enter Puscifer. Where Tool and A Perfect Circle specialize in intricate, looming metal, Puscifer isn’t even a band “as you would normally look at a band,” Keenan says. Rather, it’s sort of a catch-all name for his assorted projects. In the past, it’s been applied to sketch comedy, merchandise and a memorable late-’90s “Mr. Show” skit, in which he and Tool’s Adam Jones appeared as a fictional band under that name. But in band form, Puscifer has picked up speed in the past few years, and will release its debut record, “V is for Vagina,” Oct. 30 via Puscifer Entertainment.
“We’re kind of in a new era of music, and this is the perfect project to embrace that. Between MySpace and YouTube and Trig.com and iTunes, whatever’s coming is going to be really interesting,” Keenan says. “It’s not the dog-and-pony show of ‘Here’s the band, here’s the four guys, here’s them going out on their first tour.’ All that stuff goes along with the old way of thinking.”
The band itself involves a rotating cast of “bubbling-under musicians who are hungry and kind of exist on their own,” Keenan said: multi-instrumentalist Danny Lohner, singer Lisa Germano, Telefon Tel Aviv’s Joshua Eustin, Jonny Polonksy, Milla Jovovich, Primus’ Tim Alexander and Tool guitar tech Matt Michell all appear.
Keenan has claimed that Puscifer has no stated goals. “In a way, I’m trying to discover what [those artists] have discovered: a way to make music and survive without it being this capitalist monster trying to take over the world and sell 3 million units,” he says.
He’s getting away from his traditional music as well. Puscifer is decidedly more upbeat than his other bands, an often groovy, beat-heavy departure, particularly on tracks like “Queen B” and “REV 22 20.” “A lot of these songs are designed for somebody who’s putting together a score or a film,” he says.
“I think this project is going to find its own legs eventually,” Keenan predicts. “That it’s finally getting some attention is satisfying, but I’m almost not sure if I want to get it to a level where it’ll end up being a monster of its own, and I can’t keep a leash on it.”