By Alex Distefano
Any band featuring Maynard James Keenan, the enigmatic vocalist for Tool and A Perfect Circle is bound to draw comparisons to these two musical projects.
But, don’t fall down that trap when it comes to Puscifer (pronounced “Puss” as in “Puss in Boots”), a genre-defying comedy-based musical creation full of atmospheric melodies, ambient noises and an anthology of songs centered around characters including an anarchist punk rocker and his wife, a hill-billy ex convict, a disgruntled Veteran, and even a conspiracy theorist. Of which, Keenan has said to be “where [his] Id, Ego and Anima all come together to exchange cookie recipes.”
Puscifer traces its roots to the mid ’90s, when Keenan was a part of the LA comedy club circuit scene. But as Tool became a successful, platinum rock band, the concept of Puscifer was left on the backburner. Until it resurfaced in 2003, and subsequently released the album “V” is for Viagra in 2007, and in 2009 offered the EP “C” Is for (Please Insert Sophomoric Genitalia Reference Here). Now, with a new album and tour, Keenan intends to focus on Puscifer for the rest of this year, if not longer.
Calling from a tour bus just outside of Cincinnati, Keenan took time to explain to the Weekly the connection between his home in Arizona, the characters in a latest album, Conditions of My Parole and his winery, Caduceus Cellars. He was reserved to give away what fans can expect when they experience Puscifer’s live performance, including a stop March 17, at the Fox Performing Arts Center in Riverside.
Puscifer finds among its ranks an assemblage of talented musicians, including U.K.-based singer Carina Round, and even Maynard’s son Devo who plays the cello. As far as the humorous tone of Puscifer and the new record Conditions of My Parole, Keenan says that he is connected to all of the characters in some way. “If you’re going to create characters, then they are all a part of you,” he says. “I love laughter. I am a huge fan of old British comedies stuff like that. And I very much enjoy comedies with a sense of irony.”
Puscifer is not currently backed by any major label; this tour is funded out of the pocket by Keenan. “We do have some support, but not much on this tour. But it’s not much different all the other projects started like this,” he says. “It’s how all bands and musicians start really, touring in a van and working your way up. We have a little support on this tour, but when you’re writing all the checks you pay more attention to what you sign off on.”
Conditions of Parole is a diverse listen that glistens with melody, tranquility and musical euphoria. “There’s a lot of ambience on this album,” Keenan says. “We were building a studio at the time, now it’s complete but yeah it was pretty much done in the winery, since I live right next to it. Some of the tracks were written and recorded in other places, but the majority of it was done where I happen to live, Arizona.”
Considering that Tool and A Perfect Circle both revolve around live shows that are full of visuals, one has to wonder what fans are in for when they experience Puscifer. But, Keenan is reluctant on giving away too much. Or anything at all about the live Pusicfer’s live performances.
“We generally stay away from giving clues as to what our show is like,” he says. “The best way I can explain it is this; say you have a good friend, that you trust their judgment. And so they tell you about a movie that is good, but nothing more. So, you don’t know what to expect going in. Much like movie can be a thriller, a drama, a comedy or a horror movie, Puscifer we hope is the same for the audience. Just go in with a completely open mind. So far the fans’ reactions have been positive, at the shows we’ve played.”
Keenan says that he would love to take Puscifer overseas to tour Europe, but currently has to figure out logistical issues, and financing such a tour. “I’m not sure about Europe; I would love to, but we’ll have to wait and see if we can afford it in the future.”
Puscifer at Fox Performing Arts Center, 3801 Mission Inn Ave., Riverside, (951) 779-9800; foxriversidelive.com. Sat, March 17. 8pm. $27-$65.