Tag Archives: Maynard James Keenan

REVIEW: Tool‘s Epic Showmanship Takes Fans on a Sonic Odyssey for Night Two at Footprint Center (2-10-24)

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PHOENIX — On an unexpectedly brisk February evening, amidst the peculiar backdrop of lightning streaking across the Arizona sky, an eager audience gathered to experience the second night of Tool in Phoenix, accompanied by special guests Elder, on their simply-named “Winter Tour.” It comes as no shock that Tool effortlessly filled their hometown venue for two consecutive nights. These performances were a delight for fans of progressive rock, as both bands firmly reside within this genre’s realm.

Elder

Elder’s journey began as a trio in 2006, in a quaint seaside town in Massachusetts before eventually relocating to Berlin, Germany. Evolving into the present-day roster of 4 members, lead vocalist and guitarist Nick DiSalvo stands as the sole remaining founding member. The group boasts an impressive discography, including, but not limited to, six full-length albums. 

Comparisons abound between Elder and Tool, and while Elder tends to lean more toward the classifications of doom metal and stoner rock, there are undeniable similarities between the two groups. The 4-song, 40-minute set, which felt more like a mesmerizing jam session by a highly skilled and technically proficient ensemble, seemed to defy the passage of time. The band does not do very much that would be considered new, but what they do is done extremely well. 

Nick DiSalvo of Elder performing at Footprint Center
Nick DiSalvo (Vocalist, Guitarist), Elder
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

Even without the elaborate visual show that Tool brings to the table, Elder’s performance—accompanied only by their name on the screen behind them—was very enjoyable. It served as a compelling example of why you should show up early to witness the openers. In fact, DiSalvo thanked the crowd for coming early to see them. They are worth catching when they come to town, and one can only hope they will swing by again sooner than later.

Tool

Among the fans in the arena, there was a palpable sense of anticipation, steadily mounting as the clock ticked towards 8:30. Nearly every attendee had settled into their seats about 15 minutes before the lights dimmed, all eager for what was to come—and with good reason. The opening sequence offered a tantalizing glimpse of the extraordinary spectacle about to unfold before their eyes.

The lights dimmed, the crowd erupted into cheers, and a heartbeat from “Third Eye” began. As Tool’s widely-acclaimed drummer Danny Carey climbed behind the kit, a massive skull moved across the screen from right to left in an arc. A second pass gave the skull muscles and blank eyes, a third and final pass gave it skin, irises, and pupils. By this time, guitarist Adam Jones and bassist Justin Chancellor had walked out, taking up their places in front of Carey.

Maynard James Keenan (Vocalist), Tool
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

Tool sets the stage in an unconventional way: The bassist and guitarist stand in front of the elevated drummer, who has quite the legendary kit surrounding him. On each side, slightly set back, are platforms mostly shrouded in darkness. Behind Carey, there is a walkway, serving as the domain of vocalist Maynard James Keenan, who adamantly prefers not to be at the forefront of attention. He has been known to face away from the audience to immerse himself in the right mindset for certain songs, but he did not do so this evening.

As the notes for “Fear Inoculum” began, Keenan could be seen pacing in circles on the stage-right platform. Keenan rarely stops moving during the show, and can be seen frequently crouching down as if he is preparing for an unseen opponent he could employ his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu skills against, given his black belt proficiency. He also rhythmically slaps his legs or pounds his chest to the beat when not singing. In essence, Keenan is a spectacle unto himself, captivating the audience with his dynamic presence.

Maynard James Keenan (Vocalist), Tool
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

There is an old adage that everyone knows by now: The only things certain in life are death and taxes. But nowadays, it seems almost incomplete without adding a third certainty: Maynard James Keenan’s disdain for all manner of cell phone usage at concerts. No matter which side you fall on the issue, there is no denying that as a concertgoer in these times, you are likely to partially watch the show through the lens of someone in front of you as they hold up their phone to record a video. Keenan has no problem letting you know how he feels about this, and in fact he insists that venues eject people who have their phones out. 30 or so people were reportedly kicked out during the prior night’s show for violating this rule, and at least 4 were spotted being escorted from the floor on this night. 

After “Fear Inoculum” ended, Keenan addressed the ban on cell phones by laying into the culture of addiction to false connections, informing people if they could not put their phones away for 2 hours, they should seek help. His reasoning was that he—and the band—wanted everyone to be present in the moment as they were taking the crowd on a journey. With the exception of the few who discovered that yes, it was still chilly outside, and yes, security was dead serious about enforcement of the policy, the audience as a whole respected the artists’ wishes. 

Maynard James Keenan (Vocalist), Tool
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

Keenan was not using hyperbole when discussing the journey to come. The show truly is a transformative experience, with visuals that sometimes evoke the sensation of a particularly intense trip on psychedelic mushrooms. A prime example occurred when the screen behind the band abruptly showcased towering, 40-foot-tall aliens peering out at the crowd. Overall, the visuals behind the band are absolutely incredible to see, and there is no denying that they immensely enhance the experience. It should also be noted that Jones is an accomplished makeup artist and set builder—including work on Jurassic Park—and as such, some of the visuals came from him. 

Adam Jones (Guitarist), Tool
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

Tool has a decent-sized body of work, with just over 50 songs in total, but the shows tend to have somewhat sparse setlists due to the length of their songs. This show was no exception, with just 11 songs, five of which came from 2019’s Fear Inoculum. There was a 12-minute intermission after the first 7 songs, where seemingly the entire arena made a mad dash to offload trash, visit concessions for some more food or drinks, and/or make a pitstop in the restroom. 

For those who managed to return in time, they were treated to the sight of Carey—sporting a personalized Phoenix Suns jersey and basketball shorts—standing before a colossal gong. After gently massaging the gong’s surface with his drumsticks, Carey took a mallet, pointed back toward the crowd, and delivered a resounding strike. Following this striking display, he settled behind his drum kit and unleashed a multi-minute drum solo, captivating the audience as it was magnificently showcased on the towering screens behind the stage.

Danny Carey (Drummer), Tool
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

Carey’s drumming prowess is unparalleled, a true maestro behind the kit. It’s not only enthralling to watch but also a delight to listen to him weave his rhythmic magic. 

Next up was Chancellor, who delivered a relatively swift bass solo. Despite its brevity, witnessing him coax sounds from the bass that seem impossible was incredibly impressive.

Justin Chancellor (Bassist), Tool
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

Lastly, but certainly not least, was Jones, who effortlessly shifts between styles, making it a bit more challenging to emulate him. However, witnessing someone defy “traditional” styles in such a remarkable manner is truly awe-inspiring. It’s a sheer pleasure to observe this trio craft music in ways that most can only dream of replicating. 

Adam Jones (Guitarist), Danny Carey (Drummer), & Justin Chancellor (Bassist) of Tool
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

There would be a total of 4 more songs, including “Flood,” which saw confetti dropping from the ceiling during the intro. Right before the final set, Keenan informed the crowd – almost resentfully – that since they had been good, they could film the final song. He also brought up the fact that he would be touring with A Perfect Circle and Puscifer, with a return to the valley in April. He then told the audience that they could take out their “stupid” phones, but warned that if they used their flash while taking photos or had their light on while filming, he would come down and “kick them in their vaginas.” As if on cue, someone immediately held up their phone with the light on, which drew Keenans’ wrath, as well as the attention of security.

What other song is better to close the show with than one of the most recognizable songs in rock, “Schism”? The opening notes may not be quite as recognizable as the riff, but almost any rock fan is immediately going to recognize those notes. It is fun to watch Tool live; every facet of the show is nothing short of entertaining, and the journey that Keenan promises to take the fans lives up to his word. As the final notes faded, Keenan left his perch for the first time, fist bumping each of his band mates before exiting the stage and allowing them to take the final bows they deserve. Keenan is an anti-star, if you will, and yet he certainly has the gravity of one. 

Maynard James Keenan (Vocalist), Tool
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

Do yourself a favor and go see Tool next time they come to town. And if you are able, go see Puscifer and A Perfect Circle with Primus in Phoenix on April 16th or 17th (SOLD OUT) as well. Especially considering it will be Keenan’s 60th birthday celebration, we have every confidence they will not leave you disappointed. More Tool and Sessanta tour dates on Live Nation.

View Tool’s Phoenix Setlist (Feb. 10) on Setlist.fm

Photo Gallery

Photographer: Katherine Amy Vega

Tool & Elder – Footprint Center 2-10-24

Photography © Katherine Amy Vega, Kataklizmic Design
All Rights Reserved.

Puscifer Release “Man Overboard” Video from “Parole Violator” Concert Film; Extend Viewing

Jerome, AZ – Puscifer’s recent limited engagement, concert-meets-feature films: V is for Versatile: A Puscifer Concert Film featuring music from the V is for… era and Parole Violator: A Puscifer Concert Film featuring Conditions of My Parole, have been extended for viewing here through Nov. 7 (initially the films were slated to run through the morning of Nov. 1).

Watch “Man Overboard” from Parole Violator here:

Meeting at the intersection of music and theater, Puscifer is known for their thematic, multimedia-laced tours. From a “Hee Haw”-style jamboree to a televangelist revival, from sitting ringside at a Lucha Libre match to the advent of Agent Dick Merkin and the Pusciforce, Puscifer’s transition from live performances to film is a natural extension of the music-meets-acting troupe. The pandemic-induced dawn of the at-home concert experience provided Maynard James Keenan, Mat Mitchell and Carina Round with the tools to turn to film, having now released two movies to date: 2020’s Existential Reckoning: Live at Arcosanti and 2021’s Billy D and The Hall of Feathered Serpents featuring Money $hot by Puscifer.

“Those with creative minds are restless. Lockdown was only physical, not mental,” offers Keenan. “The Pandemic was the perfect springboard and opportunity for us all to flex our creative muscles. Here is more evidence.”

V is for Versatile: A Puscifer Concert Film featuring music from the V is for… era Puscifer take you into the famed studios of Los Angeles’ Sunset Sound, where everyone from Led Zeppelin to Van Halen to Elton John and Tom Waits recorded classic albums. In this live performance piece, the band invites fans behind-the-scenes as they re-interpret and re-record songs from their V is for… era. Agent Dick Merkin, Major Douche, the briefcase and a few surprise cameos are interspersed amongst the studio footage.

Parole Violator: A Puscifer Concert Film featuring Conditions of My Parole

Billy D is in jail, Hildy is on the war path and Peter Merkin, as usual, is up to no good. The saga of the Bergers continues as Puscifer pairs the duo’s ongoing melodrama with a live, track-by-track re-imagination of the band’s critically-acclaimed 2011 album, Conditions of My Parole. Visually, Parole Violator is evocative of Keenan’s North Arizona homestead, with Puscifer’s performance married to striking visuals, dramatic lighting, and in a nod to the band’s 2011/2012 tour in support of the collection, closes with a campfire sing-a-long.

Both V is for Versatile and Parole Violator have album companions, available on vinyl, CD and streaming in November. Pre-orders are available via puscifertv.com.

About Puscifer

Born somewhere in the Arizona desert, Puscifer is an electro-rock band, multimedia experience, traveling circus, and alien abduction survivors. The group’s catalog consists of four full-length studio albums: V is for …[2007], Conditions of My Parole [2011], Money $hot [2015], and Existential Reckoning [2020] — in addition to a series of EPs and remixes. Beyond the core trio of Maynard James Keenan, Mat Mitchell, and Carina Round, the group’s ever-evolving ecosystem encompasses Greg Edwards, Gunnar Olsen, Juliette Commagere as well as a cast of characters such as Billy D and his wife Hildy Berger, Major Douche, Special Agent Dick Merkin, and many more. Meanwhile, the moniker’s origins can be traced to a 1995 episode of the HBO classic Mr. Show where Keenan first used the name “Puscifer.” In addition to tallying tens of millions of streams and views, they’ve piqued the curiosity of the press. Entertainment Weekly christened them, “Exceptionally groovy,” and Revolver fittingly described them as “indescribable.” Renowned for an immersive live show, the group’s performances blur the lines between concert and theater, traversing the dusty American Southwest with Billy D and Hildy or the sweaty squared circle with Luchadores. They’ve brought their unique live experience to life everywhere from Coachella to Bonnaroo. On their 2020 debut for Alchemy Recordings/Puscifer Entertainment/BMG entitled Existential Reckoning, Puscifer track Billy D back to the desert and, just maybe, uncover the truth about aliens once and for all.

Puscifer online:



Featured photo (top) by Priscilla C. Scott




Coffee, Comics, and Wine Coming from Musicians – Is This A New Fad?

co-written by Katherine Amy Vega & Nate Wert

March, 2020 – in just a few short months, the world went from whispers about a mysterious new virus overseas to a growing buzz around the virus and some signs of concerns. In mid-March, the unthinkable happened: the bars, concert halls, stadiums, and every other live music venue went dark as the virus took root and started to spread quickly worldwide. 

As the music world reeled from the sudden and shocking shutdown – and as it became painfully apparent that we would likely be throwing a birthday party for the “two weeks to flatten the curve” promise – bands started looking into different ways to stay relevant during the shutdown. 

During the past year, we have seen releases of coffee, graphic novels, and wine from the likes of Lamb of God, Jimmy Eat World, and Incubus.

In August of 2020, Lamb of God announced their Memento Mori medium roast coffee, in collaboration with Nightflyer Roastworks, owned by the guitarist of Between The Buried and Me.

Jimmy Eat World recently made their 555 graphic novel with z2 Comics, conceptualized from the uncharacteristically sci-fi music video for “555”, available for pre-orders with an expected release date of May 21, 2021.

Incubus’ Make Yourself Foundation has a long history of partnering with various organizations over the years – at least 47 since 2003 – and is partnering with Rebellium Wines on the limited stock “Our Love” Rosé. The label was designed by artists at Secure the Arts, an organization whose ethos is described simply as: “Rebels, trouble makers, the round pegs in the square holes.

One might think it is possible that Claudio Sanchez of Coheed and Cambria with The Amory Wars comic series, and Maynard James Keenan (Tool, A Perfect Circle, Puscifer) with Caduceus Cellars and Merkin Vineyards, largely paved the way for such releases from musicians. Each of Coheed and Cambria’s studio albums (except The Color Before the Sun) tell a chapter of The Amory Wars, beginning with the release of the album Second Stage Turbine Blade in 2002. As a descendant of northern Italian winemakers, Keenan’s passion for winemaking is in his blood: the aptly titled 2010 documentary Blood Into Wine offers insight into his journey, creativity, and personal growth involved in this fruitful endeavor. 

This begs the question as to whether these were aspirations of other artists prior to the pandemic.

Comics & Graphic Novels

Long before becoming frontman of the legendary My Chemical Romance, a young Gerard Way found his passion in comics. Pursuing a career in comics, in 1999 Way graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the School of Visual Arts in New York City. He created Eisner-award winning The Umbrella Academy series (2007) – which went on to become a wildly popular series on Netflix that has a third season in the works – followed by comic mini-series The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys (2013) and co-founded DC Comics’ Young Animal imprint (2016). 

Canadian electropop artist Lights wrote and illustrated her own comic Skin&Earth – a story of a girl looking for hope in a hopeless world – along with her album by the same name in 2017. Following suit, dancing electronic violinist Lindsey Stirling, well known for editing her own music videos, creating the costumes she wears, and having a huge hand in the choreography of her videos and shows, released her own comic book Artemis in 2019. In it, the story of her album of the same name comes to life, adding another layer of complexity to the already fantastic album.

In 2004, Courtney Love co-wrote the manga series Princess Ai about a female rock star that Love described as, “like my alter ego, bust in a fantasy setting.” The manga was illustrated by Ai Yazawa, the acclaimed artist behind the award-winning music-based manga NANA (2000-2009), which focuses on the pursuits, rise, relationships, and mentality of members of the fictional bands Black Stones (aka BLAST) and Trapnest.

z2 Comics actually specializes in helping musicians tell stories through graphic novels. In addition to Jimmy Eat World, they have worked with Poppy, Gorillaz, Machine Gun Kelly, Dance Gavin Dance, and Ice Nine Kills, to name a few.  

In May of 2017, MentalFloss.com offered “10 Musicians Who Have Also Written Comic Books”, detailing some interesting releases from Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave), Rob Zombie, Tyrese, Jane Wiedlin (The Go-Go’s), and more. Interestingly, many of the musicians mentioned explore post-apocalyptic themes in their comics in their pre-pandemic releases.

Coffees

Touring is a grind in and of itself, and many bands turn to coffee to wake themselves up in the morning and keep themselves going throughout the day. Indeed, DrinksFeed.com posted “Metal bands with coffee brands” in February 2020, confirming that many bands have offered their own branded brews, including Korn, Metallica, and Judas Priest.  Separate from their bands’ branding, David Ellefson of Megadeth owns the coffee business Ellefson Coffee Co., and Joey Kramer of Aerosmith offers a subscription for his coffee brand Rockin’ & Roastin’.

Lamb of God’s second signature coffee, the Overlord dark roast, was revealed in December of 2020. Frontman Randy Blythe mused, “I like my coffee strong, dark, and BLACK like my soul.” Both blends’ beans were grown in El Salvador. In collaboration with J Gursey Coffee, Korn first offered nu metal fans the chance to “Wake the F Up” with some fair trade Korn Koffee in 2018.

Green Day dropped a sustainably grown organic coffee through Oakland Coffee Works in 2019, which was named “Father of All… Dark Roasts” – a name derived from their thirteenth studio album Father of All Motherfuckers (censored as Father of All… or FOAMF) released in 2020, but recorded prior to the game-changing year. 

Wines, Beer, & Liquor

Wines that Rock boasts the production of wines for many artists, such as All Time Low, Pearl Jam, Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd, AC/DC, The Rolling Stones, KISS, and for Graceland and Elvis Presley’s estate. Made for The King of Rock ‘N Roll’s 86th birthday, the limited-edition wine is quite reasonably priced at only $24 a bottle.

Bottles of wine from Wines that Rock

Slayer’s Reign in Blood red wine comes in tantalizing packaging consisting of blood-like red wax dripped from the cap, Slayer branding, an inverted typographical cross, a limited edition coffin-shaped box, and other features, resulting in quite a work of art inside and out that appeals to both wine aficionados and music memorabilia collectors.

Over the last two decades, craft beer has enjoyed an explosion in popularity. Unlike wine and many other alcoholic drinks, many beers take two weeks or less to go from the raw materials to a cold, refreshing beer. As the turnaround time is much shorter, it is far easier to set up a collaboration that is still relevant when it comes out. A great example of this is the ongoing collaboration between the Deftones and San Diego-based Belching Beaver. By far, the most popular of the six beers to come out of this is the “Phantom Bride,” first brewed in 2016.

Dogfish Head created “American Beauty,” a Grateful Dead-inspired beer with granola and wildflower honey which was first released in 2013. Less Than Jake offered a limited edition beer by JDub’s Brewing Co. in 2018. Last, but certainly not least, is the Queen creation appropriately named Bohemian Lager. Brewed in Pilsen – the Bohemian now-Czech Republic city where the Pilsner style originated from – the limited edition beer was brewed in 2015 for the 40th anniversary of “Bohemian Rhapsody“.  

Finally, we have liquor. First is the Motorhead vödka made in Malmköping in Sweden since 2019. Motorhead also partnered with Hillrock to make some very limited bourbon, retailing for a whopping $275 per bottle.

Bob Dylan unveiled a line of whiskeys called Heaven’s Door in 2018. Multiple artists have their own tequila brands, such as Justin Timberlake, Rita Ora, Sammy Hagar, and Nick Jonas. Timberlake entered the tequila business in 2009, co-founding 901 Tequila – which was rebranded as Sauza 901 when Beam Inc acquired a stake in 2014. With hopes to push boundaries in the industry as a female-founded brand, Ora launched Próspero Tequila in the US in 2019.

Rita Ora

Hagar has been in the tequila business for almost 30 years, having launched the award-winning Cabo Wabo brand in 1991. In contrast to the once-Van Halen frontman, Jonas is the most green of the listed musicians, having joined the game in 2019 with Vanilla One.

These are just a few of the many types of alcoholic beverages that musicians have owned, made, or collaborated on. Ultimate Classic Rock shared an impressive list of “73 Rock Star Beer, Wine and Booze Brands.”

While the pandemic has indubitably unleashed a tsunami of projects that fall outside the typical domain of the music industry, the question one must ask when examining said projects for originality is: are these artists trailblazers, going down a path none have tread before, or are they innovators in their own right who take a path others have cut before them to bring a product to market that the world might not have expected from the source? The overwhelming body of evidence is that in the decade or so before the pandemic began, the trends in the industry were increasingly leaning toward this path. As such, releasing coffees, graphic novels, and wines during the pandemic may not be a unique course of action, but it does allow for creative release in a different medium, and perhaps an opportunity for many of them to manifest a once-dormant dream into a delectable reality.

Puscifer Returns with Timely “Apocalyptical” Video

Maynard James Keenan-fronted Band Releases First New Music since 2015

Jerome, AZ — Puscifer, the Arizona-born, “exceptionally groovy” (Entertainment Weekly) band that Revolver dubbed “Maynard James Keenan’s… indescribable musical/performance-art collective,” release the eerily topical “Apocalyptical” single and video:

A message from Keenan arrives alongside the track: “Manipulated information disseminated by kings, queens, dictators, so called leaders, supposed professionals or outliers and conspiracy theorists living underground, or in basements, is not new or unique to this generation. Misdirection is Power Struggles’ conjoined twin but the speed at which it now travels in this digital age is dangerous and destructive on many levels. This rapid distribution of poison and its immediate impact will be the hallmark of our generation. Even In light of all this, and all the noise the digital landscape generates, all I keep asking myself is ‘what is it with the whole hoarding toilet paper thing?’”

The ”Apocalyptical” release follows social media breadcrumbs hinting at imminent moves amongst the Puscifer camp. As had been speculated, and can now be confirmed, the band’s fourth full-length studio album will arrive this Fall via Alchemy Recordings, a partnership with BMG. Alchemy Recordings is a new record label created in partnership between Dino Paredes, former American Recordings Vice President of A&R, and Danny Wimmer, the founder of Danny Wimmer Presents, the premier production company for rock music festivals in the United States.

Vocalist Carina Round sheds light on the darkly prophetic timing of the song: “’Apocalyptical’ was one of the very first musical ideas for the new record that we put our voices on out in Arizona in late 2019. It was simultaneously very fresh and also felt like we had never been apart.”

For the initial writing process of ‘Apocalyptical,” we relied heavily on a Fairlight IIx (an early musical computer using 8 bit samples), and a Synclavier II (another early digital workstation that relied on FM synthesis),” explains guitar player and co-producer Mat Mitchell of the behind-the-scenes creation of the song. “These were heavyweights in early digital music productions and defined a generation of music. We decided to set modern computers aside by working within the limitations of these early computer technologies. This created a unique space for us to explore and the results can be heard throughout this track.”

Puscifer has released three full-length studio albums: “V” is for Vagina (2007), Conditions of My Parole (2011) and Money Shot (2015). Maynard James Keenan initially used the moniker in a 1995 episode of “Mr. Show,” bringing the band to life in 2007. Keenan’s companions in the electro-rock outfit have been Mat Mitchell (guitar/production) and Carina Round (vocals/songwriting). The band brings a unique mix of recorded output and on-stage theatrics, pairing each release with a conceptual live show, from a “Hee Haw”-infused performance featuring recurring Puscifer characters Billy Dee and Hildy to 2017’s luchadores-themed outing.

Puscifer Online

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