Every time Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan works on a new record with Puscifer, his avant-garde side hustle, he does it knowing that someone will ultimately fiddle with this work. The group’s fourth remix record, All Re-Mixed Up, serves as a refigured version of their 2011 album Conditions of My Parole, enlisting co-conspirators from Sir Mix-a-Lot to Telefon Tel Aviv — not to mention This Mortal Coil cofounder John Fryer, Isis/Palms drummer Aaron Harris and singer-songwriter Carina Round. Some play up less obvious features (such as the dancey “Monsters Deconstruct” drum track tweaked by frequent Puscifer collaborator Mat Mitchell) and others completely rebuild the songs from the ground up (like alt-rock gadabout Alain Johannes’ frightening, cinematic take on “Man Overboard”).
Beyond Puscifer’s plat du jour, Keenan is also prepping a DVD titled What Is…, due out November 26, which will feature live performances and skits. He’s also working on a nine-track limited-edition Black Friday vinyl release, Puscifer’s 8-Ball Bail Bonds – The Berger Barns Live in Phoenix, which the group recorded on the band’s first tour in December 2009. He calls these projects “irons in the fire,” but right now, the hottest one is All Re-Mixed Up. We caught up with the elusive singer when he was in L.A., “preparing for a couple of winemaker dinners,” to find out just how far he’d let his remixers chop and screw with his works.
:audio=0:116719:playlist:Puscifer, All Re-Mixed Up:
There aren’t a lot of artists who go into a record knowing it’s going to be remixed.
In this digital age, it’s amazing how editable everything is. If you post this article online and maybe spell my name wrong, you can go back and change it. It used to be in print, “Oh shit. Fucked that up.” It’s almost the same way with music. Now in hindsight if I thought I could do a vocal better, well fuck it, let’s go do it again.
Sort of like George Lucas and Star Wars.
Uh, not in a derogatory way.
Yeah, that’s derogatory. [Laughs.]
Mat Mitchell has been quoted as telling Carina Round to look at a remix as a song that’s half-finished. Is that how you look at these records?
Yeah, always. You’re always thinking, How can I improve on it? Of course there’s always that element of the painter never quite being done with the painting. At some point you just have to walk away. The trick is to know when to stop, so you don’t kill it.
Sort of like George Lucas and Star Wars.
So when are you going to remix your own songs?
At some point. I’m not very handy with any of those programs. I get really frustrated with the computer and shut down. I spend more time asking how to move something around. Then the whole thing crashes and I just go fishing. That computer shit just bugs the shit out of me. For me, I sing into this end of the mic and somehow I know the sound comes out the other end.
What kind of feedback did Sir Mix-A-Lot give you about the original version of “Conditions of My Parole”?
He was one of the people who just kept coming back with emails, raving, liking the track and having fun with it. He was asking how far he could go. I’m like, “Dude, it’s Puscifer. You can go all that way around the globe and back if you want.” It was good to experience that.
Should we assume you like big butts too?
Who dubbed his work the “F.U.B.A.R. Remix”?
Did everyone title their own track?
Yeah, unless it didn’t make sense.
So Carina Round came up with “Giorgia O’Queef”?
Oh yeah. She gave us three titles to vote on. Mat and I liked “Giorgia O’Queef.” Oddly enough, she’s the one of the only female mixers on there, and her track has the most balls. She brought testicles to it.
What remixes surprised you?
I really enjoyed Carina’s and Mat Mitchell’s. His is just a different take on that track. He really likes the sequencing sound. Somehow there’s a breath of human character in his digital approach. I just liked how it continues to roll and build and breathe, but it still maintained almost a Kraftwerk, digital element to it. And I really liked Alain Johannes’ who did “Man Overboard (11AD remix).” What he did was the spirit of what I think Puscifer to be. It’s a weird track, don’t know if you’d put that on to tap your toe. It’s certainly not a pop mix. To me, it feels almost a soundtrack without an actual movie attached to it. You listen to it and all these images just come to mind and it doesn’t have anything to do with verse, chorus, verse, chorus.
The extra voices he added — they may or may not be on the original song.
I think he put some of those on there. I don’t know that for a fact. I like the mystery being the mystery.
It looks like you remixed the cover, swapping faces with comedienne Laura Milligan. The dog looks, uh, touched up, too.
Yeah, he has cat eyes.
Whose dog is that?
Someone just brought a dog to your cover shoot?
There was someone outside the studio screaming, “Where’s my dog?!”
What’s going on with the Puscifer DVD at the moment?
It’s all studio stuff at this point in the process, it’s all tweaking and stressing and looking for other pieces to include that we have on hard drives.
And what’s going on with your other bands?
Oh, you don’t want to ask about them.