Maynard James Keenan

Tool’s Maynard James Keenan Reveals The Most Influential Albums In His Life & Which Song He’s Most Proud Of Writing


Tool, A Perfect Circle & Puscifer frontman Maynard James Keenan took part in the ‘Music Ruined My Life’ segment on BBC Radio 1‘s ‘Rock Show With Daniel P Carter‘ earlier this year. That segment aired today, December 02nd, and saw Keenan share a list of the most influential albums in his life.

In addition to that he also discussed the first record he bought, his first concert (Rick Springfield & Sparks), the song he wished he had written and more. If you’d like to hear it in his own words, you can listen to it in the player located here, skipping ahead to around 1:02:20 in. If not, his choices included:

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Joni Mitchell – “Blue“:

“That was my aunt… Now she sees me going down the spiral of Kiss and Black Sabbath and she goes ‘hang on, check this out.’ I don’t know how she managed to express all this in such a short, concise period of time to a kid who was watching monster movies on Saturday.

But she was actually able to convey to me here’s a person who’s a woman, who is writing her own songs, who is producing and mixing and releasing her own songs. And it’s a woman fighting this uphill struggle in arguably a man’s rock world.

So that sunk in right away for me. Even as young as I was, that made sense, like ‘Oh this is somebody who is going against the grain in a way.'”

Black Sabbath – “Black Sabbath“:

“That was the moment when I was watching—all jacked up on sugar at grandma’s house…—cause on Saturdays on you’d have those monster movies…

And so I think that’s when my aunt came up and was like ‘Oh you gotta check this out. If you’re going to watch vampire movies, check out this soundtrack.’

And it was Black Sabbath [self-titled], pretty amazing. So I just had that. I would just turn the sound down on TV and I was just listening to the album watching the monster movies.”

Devo – “Q: Are We Not Men? We Are Devo!“:

“…Out of left field approach to them just making an attempt to destroy classic rock with their melodies and their approaches. If you listen to some of those early albums—most of them are, in my opinion, I am not a lawyer—a lot of those early songs seem like they are direct ripoffs of classic rock songs, just sped up and quirked out.

So you listen to them, it’s like them trying to stiffen up classic rock into this weird, digital quirky… nature. I just love that. Again, it took me outside of my conventional understandings of music as it goes.

And then after Black Sabbath and all those other things you’re still getting back into those kind of song structured things… Foreigner and Bob Seger and then all of a sudden Devo comes along and you go ‘Whoa what’s this?’ and then you play it for your friends and they go ‘I don’t understand you.”

Low – “Things We Lost In The Fire“:

“The restraint and the patience. I’ve had a lot of friends over the years—all my projects—I’m always the guy going ‘If we slow this down, it could be such an intense thing.’

Because understanding the patience that Pink Floyd has when [they’re] not playing the note yet—wait until this thing finishes its emotional cycle before we play the next note.

That discipline is so difficult for musicians because they’re looking for the payoff right away. So in this album, “Things We Lost In The Fire“, there is so much patience and restraint.

Just the patience between notes and hits. It’s such a gorgeous display of ‘No, there’s a bigger picture here. We’re creating a mood.’

Every project I’ve been in, whenever I suggested we get that slow it’s almost like panic. It’s hard for them to really dig in. Everybody wants to speed it up. This last album [it was] like ‘turn the tempo up, turn the tempo up.’ It’s like ‘I think you are missing something here. I think you are missing an opportunity to really draw someone one in, almost like hypnotism.”

He also cited Pink Floyd‘s “Animals” and Swans‘ “Greed“/”Holy Money” among the most influential records in his life, though no commentary on those choices was shared. Meanwhile, he was later asked which song he’s written that he is most proud of and chose Puscifer‘s “Grand Canyon“. When asked why, he went on to explain:

“I feel like it’s one of the few tracks that’s actually capturing landscape and soundscape altogether; and a difficult puzzle to put together ’cause it wasn’t easy to put all those elements vocally together.

To really make it work, it was very clunky. If you heard some of the early versions of it, what we we’re trying to do, it was like ‘oh, bench this thing. It’s not working’

It really took a long time to kind of…—not a long time, I shouldn’t say… The first initial attacks were like ‘this is a disaster. Like no wait, no it’s not. Move this part over to here, move this part over to here’ like now it measures up. Now the soundscape and the landscape starts to unveil.”

He later went on to say that a “five minute decision” regarding moving a vocal part eventually made the song. He stated in part of that: “We were trying to see through a lot of haze and a lot of fog for the end piece. So it took a little bit of cleaning up and patience to get through that one.”

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