Icons of Rock: Maynard James Keenan

Working in multimedia this day and age has become quite easy. To make money in the profession, however, is  quite difficult, and to make a lot of money is even more frustrating. With an infinite number of advertisements on the television, radio, and Internet, finding time and space to portray the inner self is nearly impossible. So why, with so little quality time, do mindless celebrities get to occupy the attention of our society? Of course, mainstream ideas, styles, and entertainment have something to do with it, but interpretive art and worthwhile artists still exist out there in vicarious-ville. One such singer/songwriter/musician/producer/winemaker/actor/comedian has made a name for himself amongst all the non-believers and isn’t planning on taking a back seat to the “dysfunctional, insecure actresses” anytime soon. The name of this beast? Maynard James Keenan.

Keenan was born on April 17, 1964. The first eighth of Keenan’s life consisted of parental divorce, his mother’s paralysis, and a move from Ohio to Michigan, where his real father lived and still does. After high school, Keenan was inspired by the ’80s film Stripes and decided to join the Army. His main goal was to get the military to pay for art school, but as time went on he began to study at West Point Prep School, a military-preparation academy in New York. Finally, after completing the military term of enlistment, Keenan left West Point and began to pursue art as originally intended. Kendall College of Art and Design in Michigan became his place of study, until he decided to pick up and leave for Los Angeles to work with interior design.

At the point of the big move, almost everything Keenan experienced in his early years became artistic fuel. From the divorce of his parents to the physical health of his mother to the dissidence and hypocrisy felt among his colleagues in school, Keenan found the inspirational fire and unique voice needed to help him rise through the ranks of a cutthroat entertainment industry. And no matter what he says or sings about Los Angeles, the dirty city obviously had some kind of profound effect on him. I mean, environment does help to make you who you are, doesn’t it?

The move to Los Angeles, or the city itself, presented Keenan with a major opportunity. Having played bass in TexA.N.S. and sung in a group called Children of the Anachronistic Dynasty, Keenan had quite the musical resume forming. After he met guitar player Adam Jones and moved in next door to drummer Danny Carey, Tool, the satanic lovechild of almost everything evil, was formed in 1990. Bassist Paul D’Amour was soon added to the lineup, and in 1991 their first EP, Opiate, was unleashed upon the world. Two years later, their first full-length was released. Undertow went platinum in under two years and made the group famous for such songs as “Prison Sex” and “Sober”. During the recording process of Aenima, D’Amour left the band to pursue something more “experimental,” and Justin Chancellor of Peach was brought in to replace him. 2001 saw the release of the well-received Lateralus, and five years later the band’s most recent effort, 10,000 Days, was released. Twenty years later and only four records in, Tool has become a “cult” group with a very large devoted fan base, myself included.

Outside of Tool, Keenan has two other major musical side projects: A Perfect Circle and Puscifer. A Perfect Circle is currently on an indefinite hiatus, and no plans have been made to fully restore the band. It was a nice little playground for Keenan and his thoughts; however, now that Puscifer is around, there is no denying the fact that it is Keenan’s true stomping grounds (other than Tool, of course!). The tours are being deemed episodes, and each cabaret-style show is a unique psychotic menagerie of sorts being projected straight out of the mind of Keenan himself. The title of “concert” just doesn’t do Maynard’s theatrics justice anymore.

Other than music, Keenan has been crafting wine in the dry desert lands of Arizona and has also opened up a restaurant, Cobras and Matadors, in Los Angeles and an organic market in Arizona. He has made cameo appearances in recent films and tries his hand at comedy every now and then.

Keenan has accomplished many great things, but what truly makes him an icon of rock? Well, his progressive ideals and actual pursuit of creative impulses help him to stand out of the crowd. A unique singing voice and strange-yet-powerful lyrics no doubt help the case, but the one quality that allows him the title of progressive rock icon is the fact that he doesn’t allow the man-the machine to affect his art in a negative fashion. The machine has transformed the appearance of mathematics and science and architecture and art. All of these processes that, at one time, were looked at as hobbies and creative endeavors have now all become very mechanic and lifeless. At least this is the way society perceives it all. The way our world has become, all of the conditioning, it is hard for anyone to think differently than all of the rest. For Keenan, though, he has treated all of his professions and life experiences as the Greek philosophers once did. They felt the need to learn from experience and better themselves through knowledge; Keenan keeps the idea alive.

Now I’m sure Keenan can’t stand the idea of being a rock icon or for that matter, being compared to a Greek philosopher, but for right now he is going to have to realize what he is to the people who don’t know him and fucking deal with it.


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