The live concert is the most thrilling aspect to the music industry. It is really where the music comes to life. For the fan, it is all about enjoyment, entertainment. You get to share a space with your favorite artists and hear some of your favorite songs performed right in front of your eyes. Whether it is a small club, or a sold-out arena, nothing is on your mind but the music. For the artist, it is the culmination of all of the hard work. It is where all of the writing, rehearsing, and perfecting pays off. These musicians understand the importance of putting on a show and creating an experience that can be shared with their fans. Sure the ticket and merch sales are nice, but to them, it is more than just making money.
Puscifer, for example, began as a side project by Maynard James Keenan of Tool and A Perfect Circle fame. He and his fellow musicians have constantly used touring to add another dynamic to the songs written in studio. If you keep up to date by reading some of the music blogs, forums, and printed publications, you might have seen a review of their recent performances. All of which commend Keenan and company for their ability to put on a spectacle. As they celebrated the release of their third effort, Money Shot, Keenan and crew brought along with them some masked luchadores to help open the shows in the first round of the Money Shot tour. The inclusion of these lucha libre wrestlers, also known as Luchafer, brings another element to the whole event.
While some may be wondering what is going on with the new Tool record, Keenan has been avidly putting all of his attention towards Puscifer. They even recently added onto their spring leg for Money Shot Round 2. I was lucky enough to have a chat with Keenan and discuss the live environment, and some of the most important lessons he has learned over the course of his career. Topics of conversation also included the new material and how being on the road has had its impact on the music. We also briefly discussed some of the dynamics and inspiration behind the latest Puscifer record. Check out what Maynard had to say below:
What is the prep like for an upcoming Puscifer tour?
For this tour, it will be a lot easier. We ironed out a lot of the details on the first run in the fall. So, we will probably take about a week to so to brush the dust off and get back into the groove of things. We will also use that time to take whatever new elements we want to add into the show and find a way to transition them in seamlessly.
The biggest part about prepping for a tour is feeling a show, as opposed to thinking the show, if that makes any sense. It can be a bit challenging for that initial week or so when prepping for a tour for the first time. But that is the good thing about this time around. We have already done all of that. We just need to refresh ourselves and like I said, blow the dust off a bit.
And will that be the same situation when you head over to Europe and take the show overseas?
Well, that will be slightly different just because we can’t bring everything we want with us. We will be scrambling to find a way to make it work, but for the most part, the goal is to keep it similar in a way.
That certainly makes sense. How has any of this travel and your experiences over the years affected how you initially plan out shows?
Well, the most important element there is trusting your crew. You absolutely have to trust and respect your crew. These are the people that build your show when you are sleeping in. From a general perspective, that’s a huge factor in planning out a tour, understanding that there is a whole team involved in making it happen.
Now, is there an essential element to the live show for you? Something that you might deem necessary for every single gig? What is the most important aspect, in your opinion, for a Puscifer show?
Honestly, it really has got to be just the ability to believe in yourself.
Just the confidence in all of the prep, the material, and everyone on the team? Confidence that each individual show will go as planned?
Yeah. No offense to Mick Jagger, but he can barely carry a tune. His confidence is what is really incredible. He goes out there and you believe him. He is entertaining you. It’s impressive every time. The kind of shows that really inspire me are those where the artists understand that side of confidence and their music comes from a real place.
Absolutely. And there’s gotta be a great deal of confidence in everything now that you have done the first leg of this show in the fall. I’m assuming some of the tracks have even adapted to the live environment and are geared more to be played live as opposed to the version recorded in the studio.
Yeah, they have. Whenever you are going on the road, there will be minor adjustments from the album to the live performance. If it is not translating well verbatim, you definitely have to change things around and make a shift to allow for a successful translation. That is just something that comes with the territory of writing music and then taking it on the road.
Going off of that, has that affected how you craft your music in any way? How has the touring and travel over the years impacted your craft as a musician and songwriter?
Well just in general, if you are writing about your own experiences, travel should play into that. As a writer, the travel is just another thing you will pay attention to attention to when coming up with material.
Other outside influences will also play a factor as you are more exposed to culture and other environments. I thought it was pretty neat that something like HBO’S Newsroom even had an impact on this album. Were there any other influences that played an important role specifically on this record?
Yup. Everything on the album is a combination of influences. Whether it is a speech, or books, or a film, a photograph, etc. All of these songs come from a particular point of reference and are also a departure from that point of reference.
Right. Inspiration can be found anywhere, you just need to find that point of reference and use that to channel your own voice.
Absolutely. It has to be your voice through whatever medium you are working through. The ability to meet an inanimate object and to bring life into it. Whether that is through a computer, camera, your guitar, a set of paints, you know whatever it may be.
And lastly, the melodies on this album are incredible. With the continued involvement of Carina Round and Matt Mitchell, has the writing process become more of a group dynamic?
Yeah, well I have been working with Matt for a while now. As far as the larger project, it has been a lot of back and forth with him. In terms of the harmonies, there has been a lot of tracking with my own voice. But it has also been a very important step to bring Carina in and help out as much as she can. You can have peaks and valleys in your voice so her own peaks and valleys and waveform add a contrast to my own, and create a much thicker vocal. Which has been a very important component to add.
Puscifer will play at The Paramount in Huntington, NY on April 9, the Bergen Arts Performing Arts Center in Englewood, NJ on April 12, the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, NJ on April 13, and the Borgata in Atlantic City on April 15. Money Shot is available now. For more tour dates and information, head on over to puscifer.com.