When Maynard James Keenan isn't fronting alt metal band Tool or rock supergroup A Perfect Circle or even making his own wine, he's doing something else a little different.
He's the leader of experimental group Puscifer, which dabbles in rock, metal, country and electronic sounds.
Keenan, whose Caduceus Cellars produces a variety of wines, rose to prominence fronting the platinum-selling Tool. Later, he formed A Perfect Circle and went on to sell millions more.
In recent years, he's mostly focused on his wine and his other side project, Puscifer, who performs in Omaha on Wednesday. Puscifer is a full band, but is effectively the name for Keenan's solo work.
Puscifer is usually called "experimental" because it borrows from different genres and the band's live shows have been known to include video, comedy bits, masks and all sorts of strange stuff.
Keenan called us from Toronto to talk about Puscifer's new album and tour. And we did manage to get him to talk (just a little) about his other two bands.
Q. You recorded most of your new album, "Conditions of my Parole," at home rather than out on the road like the last album. And you did it in a wine cellar?
A. Pretty much. These days, a studio is wherever you bring your computer and your mic. We recorded some of the tracks in the first song in that space before there were barrels in it.
This time, we set up in there because the other room wasn't ready.
Q. Are you building a studio?
A. It's another music room that's large enough to set up in and record live or rehearse or mix. It's a multimedia music room.
Q. I really liked the harmonies with Carina Round. Your voices fit together really well. How did that come together.
A. Most of it, I would just riff with myself. Just kind of come up with harmonies. Wherever I was super stuck I'd just have to walk away and get some perspective and hand it over to her. I'd hand it over to her, which was probably preferable in the beginning anyway. (laughs)
Q. Wasn't this originally suppose to be an EP? Did you just write too many songs?
A. The project has come up against so many hurdles. We were initially going to do a country EP and then an eclectic rock EP. As we were getting it together, we said, "This is all one thought. Let's just put it together." It made more sense.
Q. What's different about Puscifer compared to the other music you make?
A. I think most people, they enjoy some success based on sound or a movement they've made and they build on that. They go with what they know. After awhile, you're kind of pigeonholed in that sound and you can't move around without criticism.
But if you put on your crazy hat and do that from the beginning, people give you some room.
Q. Do you enjoy the freedom of Puscifer compared to Tool or A Perfect Circle?
A. It's partly that being in that chaotic space is where you learn and grow. After awhile there's an expectation that's attached. Having the different outlets keeps that fresh and builds on ideas.
Especially on this project, it's great. We can do whatever we want.
Q. Puscifer is a totally independent project. Do you like not having to deal with a record label?
A. Absolutely. It helps this thing be sustainable. If you're writing the checks for things, you do things that make sense or grow naturally. You can actually be successful with it without everybody being involved.
We started with a T-shirt and we sold the shirt. With that money we bought some equipment and recorded a song, sold a song, made another T-shirt, sold the T-shirt.
It was piece-by-piece intentionally not taking money from any other project to make this stand on its own.
Q. Between Puscifer, your two other bands and your wine company, how do you have time for it all?
A. Coffee helps. But definitely just budgeting your time. I have a military background so when you have to make sure you get the sleep you need to get up and have your equipment ready, you tend to be really good at shaving minutes. I'm pretty good at that.
I'm also pretty good at logistics. I can run a 4,000- to 5,000-case winery in a 3,000-foot space. It's getting things in the right place and me thinking six moves ahead. It's the same thing as the music.
When things are ready to be done, I dive into do them. When I get to a project and it's not quite ready, I turn around and go back to the other thing. I don't have time to waste.
Q. So you're not deciding which song goes to Tool and which song goes to Puscifer? It sounds like you do one thing at a time.
A. I definitely, absolutely try to do one thing at a time. I'm not writing a song and deciding what group it's going toward. In general, you're right. I don't cross streams.
Q. So with the winery, there are times when you're just unavailable? How do you work that in with touring?
A. It's simple with timing. There's a specific season for harvesting. Then there's a second window — racking, bottling and all the blending — that's kind of flexible. You can work around the tours.
But when it's harvest, don't call me. The misconception is that there's a team of people making that wine for me. That's not the case. I have to be there because I have to do it.
Q. I know you don't want to give out a lot of details, but will the Puscifer show have a variety show feel similar to the last tour?
A. We're gonna make a few changes so whoever comes out that saw it last time, it won't be the same show they saw before. But we'll present the same record.
It's similar. And we'd really, really recommend that people don't go online and look at reviews. There are a lot of spoilers.
And there's not so much the variety stuff. There is a film at the beginning and footage throughout the show. It's a little more cohesive than last time.
Q. Lastly, when will we hear anything from Tool or A Perfect Circle?
A. Currently, I'm really focusing on this. This is the thing that's actually happening and it's delivering.
I'm sure those other things will catch up with themselves.
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