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“The best art is, of course, stolen”: Maynard James Keenan talks songwriting and more

Maynard James Keenan and Rick Beato
Maynard James Keenan (left) and interviewer Rick Beato (Image credit: Rick Beato/YouTube)

Maynard James Keenan is known as the frontman and founder of Tool, A Perfect Circle, and Puscifer.

A prolific artist and record producer, Keenan is also a professional winemaker. And in Rick Beato’s latest interview he travels to the singer's Arizona winery to talk music.

Keenan has worked with some incredible musicians – including Adam Jones in Tool, Billy Howerdel in A Perfect Circle, and Mat Mitchell (opens in new tab) who co-produced the latest Puscifer record, Existential Reckoning – and in this unmissable interview with YouTube educator Beato he explains some of the similarities and differences between his three bands.

“They’re different conversations with different people that approach puzzles in a different direction,” begins Keenan.

Puscifer Existential Reckoning artwork

(Image credit: BMG )

Speaking of 2020’s Existential Reckoning, it is revealed that Puscifer used a Fairlight CMI during the recording – a rare digital synth/sampling workstation pioneered in the late ‘70s.

With Mitchell at the helm, the band made the most of the Fairlight’s characteristic sound while exploiting its limitations.

“The Fairlight boxes you in with very specific sounds that you’re having to dance around,” explains Keenan, drawing parallels with earlier recordings by the likes of Kraftwerk, Art of Noise, Yes and Peter Gabriel.

“It’s your job to add your signature on top of that thing,” he underscores.

It’s your job to add your signature

Maynard James Keenan

Further on in this in-depth interview, Keenan talks about his songwriting process, highlighting the importance of being able to take a step back and allow bandmates’ creativity to flourish.

“I accidentally only work with very strong personalities – stubborn people,” he says with a half-smile. 

“I almost have to let them take the first step… and then react and allow them to see the reaction so that they can built on [that].

“And that’s the same across all those projects.”

Order Existential Reckoning from Puscifer here (opens in new tab).

Rod Brakes is a music journalist with an expertise in guitars. Having spent many years at the coalface as a guitar dealer and tech, Rod's more recent work as a writer covering artists, industry pros and gear includes contributions for leading publications and websites such as Guitarist, Total Guitar, Guitar World (opens in new tab)Guitar Player (opens in new tab) and MusicRadar (opens in new tab) in addition to specialist music books, blogs and social media. He is also a lifelong musician.