Puscifer, the band founded by Maynard James Keenan of Tool and A Perfect Circle, has left plenty of people struggling to get a handle on exactly what the multifaceted group is about. Having released a third full-length Puscifer album, “Money Shot,” a year ago, Keenan is still keeping fans guessing, even as the band’s music is growing more focused.
Keenan says he’s not sure an audience can be open-minded enough to fully understand and embrace the level of malleability he envisions for Puscifer. But in in a recent phone interview he offered a fairly concrete example of what he hopes would be possible for the group, which could be described as a creative multimedia project of his:
“I would love to roll in (to town); let’s say we do the ‘Money Shot’ tour. And some random date in the middle of the ‘Money Shot’ tour, we do from top to bottom AC/DC’s ‘Powerage’ and ‘Let There Be Rock’ (albums) and that’s it. The people in the audience, you’ll have a huge percentage of them that are pissed because they didn’t get to see the ‘Money Shot’ songs. But the other ones will go ‘That’s what Puscifer is. We got to see the weird show, the random one.’
“That’s the audience we’re trying to build,” he said. “We’re trying to build that flexible, forgiving isn’t even the word, (fan base). They’re along for the ride.”
When Puscifer emerged with the 2007 debut album, “V is for Vagina,” one facet of the band gained particular notice – its humor.
Keenan feels the band has gained more of a musical identity with the 2011 album, “Conditions of My Parole” and “Money Shot.” Especially on the latest album, music and intelligent lyrics have come to the fore.
“The first actual full-length album for Puscifer was recorded in hotels, recorded in studios across the country, in a bus, very much all over the map,” Keenan explained. “It was a very chaotic, evolving thing. So as far as putting your finger down on a particular personality on the album, it was hard to nail that down. I think we expressed a lot of our intentions as far as approach to the music. … It’s all over the map. There’s comedy. There’s weirdness. There’s melancholy. There’s a lot on there. The next record, of course, speaks more of a place.”
That second album, “Conditions of My Parole,” was recorded mostly at Caduceus Cellars Bunker, the studio in Jerome, Ariz., at Keenan’s thriving winery, and he feels it began to reflect the surroundings where it was made. The second album also marked the emergence of Keenan’s songwriting collaborations with multi-instrumentalist Mat Mitchell and singer Carina Round.
With “Money Shot,” they have essentially joined Keenan as the core of Puscifer. Keenan, Mitchell and Round are credited as songwriters on all but one song (“Smoke and Mirrors,” a Keenan-Mitchell co-write), with Mitchell often creating rhythm tracks over which Keenan writes melodies and lyrics, while Round creates some of the vocal melodies, harmonies and vocal accents.
With three albums in eight years – plus four EPs – Puscifer has easily been Keenan’s most active musical project over the past decade.
Keenan said he hopes he will work again with his main collaborator from A Perfect Circle, Billy Howerdel, and make new music with that band. As for Tool, there was a 17-show tour in January, and another short tour this fall, which will include the Aftershock Festival. But Keenan wasn’t promising any new music from his main band.
“We’ve found a common ground,” he said. “We just can’t seem to move forward.”
For now, Puscifer is playing both the Aftershock Festival on Sunday, Oct. 23, and in New Orleans on Oct. 30. Keenan said there’s more to Puscifer shows than a band playing songs. On past tours Puscifer has woven sketch comedy, video and social commentary into its shows, but Keenan didn’t want to spoil surprise for concert-goers.
“Watching a band kind of stand up there and regurgitate their songs … is kind of boring,” he said. “So I’d rather not present that. There should be a show around it,” Keenan said “At the end of the day, though, of course, the songs have to reach in and grab you somewhere. Music, the sound, has to penetrate. It can’t just all be all show and all potatoes and no meat. … But we kind of take you outside your normal expectation of a show initially, kind of set you back on your heels.”