IN THE STUDIO: Maynard James Keenan's Puscifer

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Puscifer / Photo by Meats Meier
WRITTEN BY
William Goodman

Maynard James Keenan is spending the summer touring with reunited alt-rockers A Perfect Circle, but this fall he'll focus on another one of his projects, Puscifer, which will release their second album, Conditions of My Parole, on October 18. "We're still mixing, but it's mostly finished," Maynard tells SPIN. "Musically, it's like Twin Peaks in the desert."

The LP is being recorded in Northern Arizona, where Maynard lives and owns vineyards for his Caduceus Wines brand. In fact, the band set up a makeshift studo in his wine cellar. "It's different writing music in the outback compared to writing music on Hollywood Boulevard," he says of the high desert location. "The Verde Valley has so much diversity. You've got stories of ghosts and aliens, plus republicans, democrats, conservatives, liberals, vineyards, ranches, horses. It's hostile territory: You've got scorpions, black widows, brown recluse, javelina, rattlesnakes... and hippies."

The album features frequent Puscifer collaborators, including producer Mat Mitchell, Telefon Tel Aviv's Josh Eustis, and British singer/songwriter Carina Round, plus newcomers including Jeff Friedl and Matt McJunkins from ASHES dIVIDE, L.A. songwriter Juliette Commagere, Bat for Lashes drummer Sarah Jones, and Jon Theodore, the former sticksman for Mars Volta. "He's got some serious chops," says Maynard. "Working with different people opens up a whole new set of questions and puzzles and solutions."

Instead of marathon recording sessions, Maynard says the group "put in the right work, put in the hard work, but we didn't beat ourselves up. This album is us focusing, getting inspired, and then going out for a hike or going out to dinner, then getting back to work on it again."

Maynard, who spends much of his time operating his vineyards, says that "[recording music] is very much like winemaking. Pieces are developing individually, then you bring them together and they either fit together or they don't. Eventually when you bring it all together, it integrates, then you spend a little bit of time working on it, and then you release it."

After the album drops in October, Puscifer will hit the road for a two-month tour. Maynard says he's still working out the details, but fans can expect variety show-style gigs like the band's last jaunt in 2009, but with "a lot of changes and new approaches. We'll be doing a lot of filming and posting more videos online, too."

But even when he's deep into Puscifer mode, Maynard's other projects are never far from his mind. After their summer tour, A Perfect Circle "might put out a track or two," he says. "The energy is good, so there's always the potential for a future." And Tool? "We're writing," he says.

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