Maynard James Keenan on recruiting Dave Matthews fans and getting the Scissor Sisters drunk

Maynard James Keenan, left, and the rest of the Tool set
Tim Cadiente

"It's just a matter of waking up one day and putting on a different clown suit," says Maynard James Keenan about bringing both his avant-weirdo act Puscifer and metal titans Tool to the River's Edge Music Festival. "We're going to be right in the middle of a Puscifer tour, so that will be dialed in," he adds. "And the other band has been touring for 20 years."

Although the diminuative baritone has fronted "the other band," one of the most successful ensembles in metal, for over two decades, it's actually his least-favorite subject. By forming a similar project called A Perfect Circle with Tool guitar tech Billy Howerdel, and establishing Puscifer — his at-times comedic, but always groove-oriented side band — Keenan has made it far easier to sidestep incessant, gaping-mouthed requests for updates on Tool's snail-paced studio work. ("The writing process is continuing," he gruffly offers, regarding the follow-up to 2006's 10,000 Days.) It's an interviewer's relief that both APC and Puscifer (pronounced "pussy-fur") are legitimate bands, and he has channeled just as much creative energy into high-profile wine venture Merkin Vinyards.

During a call from Los Angeles, the Dionysian semi-recluse Keenan revealed to City Pages that having both Tool and Puscifer performances at this weekend's River's Edge fest on St. Paul's Harriet Island could be a once-in-a-lifetime fan experience. Plus, he imagines swapping bottles with co-headliner Dave Matthews, and speculates on which other performers will hopefully get drunk on his wine.

City Pages: After listening to Puscifer's 2011 album Conditions of My Parole, I was struck by "Green Valley" because you're talking about another river, the Verde in Arizona. What do you think the Mississippi River is going to bring out in you for these River's Edge performances?

Maynard James Keenan: Well, we're just going to bring out whatever it's going to bring out. Just hopefully it resonates with the people who are actually standing closer to the river. I wouldn't dare direct it. Just kind of let things happen. You can kinda hope, but if you hope too much then you manipulate the outcome.

CP: How do you like the atmosphere of festivals as a whole?

MK: Well, it's definitely a different experience. Just as the word "festival" suggests, it's festive. There's a lot more going on. A lot more eye candy. When you're doing your own show, you're kind of preaching to the choir. People are coming to you, for the most part. You're not going to get a lot of new people coming to see you, and the beauty of a festival is that a young band can have people come see them that normally wouldn't.

CP: You may have the opportunity to turn on a lot of young Dave Matthews Band fans at this event.

MK: That would be the hope.

CP: So this is actually the first time both Puscifer and Tool have played the same festival?

MK: Yes.

CP: Do have other opportunities to do this in the future?

MK: I wouldn't look for it. This is probably the only time.

CP: How does it feel to have the ability to switch between bands quickly?

MK: It can be exhausting, but it can also be inspiring. The last time I actually did that was in 1999 when the very first band on the main stage to play Coachella was A Perfect Circle, and the last band to play that weekend was Tool. We played at the same festival, but 36 hours apart.

CP: What do you think about that kind of duality? Obviously a lot of people who started as Tool fans have been attracted to your side projects, but Puscifer feels like a different state of mind.

MK: The danger is to look at it as a band, but it's not really a band. It's a multimedia project. It's all kinds of facets and angles and outlets for it. Understand it's a very flexible project. It's something that is happening now. And it's joined at the hip with the winery in a way.

CP: Are you interested in getting your wine out to the people at River's Edge?

MK: Not necessarily. It's a long story. Licensing permits and distribution. Because it's alcohol, it's a lot of junk. It's not just like shipping off baby dolls and lunchboxes. It's a lot more involved. If the wine is already there, and there's a distributor pouring wine, and they have wine in their warehouse? Great. If they don't? Don't bother.

CP: Will you be carrying some wine for yourself?

MK: I've heard rumors that Dave Matthews makes wine, but from what I understand, he actually has a winemaker. He owns vineyards and has a winemaker. I think somehow his family is related to making the wine or something. I don't know. That's why I want to get to the bottom of it. I'll probably bring a bottle along for him.

CP: I'm sure there would be plenty of wine magazines who would love to get that photo op.

MK: Yeah, and that's probably why it's not going to happen. Because if I exchange the wine, it's going to be something that's personal. I'm not much for photo ops.

CP: Do you know if anyone else on the bill has any vineyard experience?

MK: Yeah, I don't know enough about who's on the bill to know. I've worked with Steven Drozd, and I've toured with the Flaming Lips ... so I know they drink wine [laughs]. I don't know if they actually make any.

CP: Other bands on the bill include Coheed and Cambria. Maybe them? I don't know if they're wine types. Maybe Scissor Sisters?

MK: I'll get those bitches drunk.

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