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10 Things We Learned from Maynard James Keenan’s Biography

A Perfect Union of Contrary Things, Sarah Jensen with Maynard James Keenan, presents Maynard’s story as a metaphor for the reader’s own evolution and an encouragement to follow our dreams, hold fast to individual integrity, and work ceaselessly to fulfill our creative potential. Team Rock made a list of 10 things learned from the ‘semi-autobiography.’ Team Rock covers all rock from Classic to Metal Hammer, Prog, and more. Check out the list below.


00146489The name ‘Maynard’ came from his poetry.

At high school, James Herbert Keenan wrote poems and illustrated them with a “small, witchy character” named Maynard.He adopted the name while he was in the army.

He idolized Kiss.

He even made a ceramic Gene Simmons face at school, but his dad and stepmom worried Kiss was an acronym for ‘Knights in Satan’s Service’ and that Maynard was a degenerate.

He can navigate a battlefield.

In the military, Maynard was as an artillery surveyor, plotting diagrams and escape routes for his battery during warfare. The first thing he did when he left was get a mohawk.

His first band were political.

C.A.D., aka Children Of The Anachronistic Dynasty, produced two cassettes. Each came with a manifesto questioning the values and future of corporate, middle-class America.

Birds are a big deal for him.

Maynard worked as a merchandise manager at pet shops in Boston and LA, and constructed an aviary in each bedroom he lived in. He once kept a turkey called Butterball.


Check out the rest of the list here.


A Perfect Union of Contrary Things presents the outtakes, the scenes of disappointment and triumph, and the events that led him to take one step after the next, to change direction, to explore sometimes surprising opportunities. Included throughout are passages in Keenan’s own words, often humorous anecdotes that illuminate the narrative. There is also commentary by his family members, friends, instructors, and industry colleagues. The book also features a foreword by Alex Grey, an American visionary artist and longtime friend of Keenan, who has designed Tool’s album and stage art.

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Maynard James Keenan Interview with Phoenix New Times

A Perfect Union of Contrary Things, Sarah Jensen with Maynard James Keenan, is a New York Times Best Seller, debuting on the Hardcover Nonfiction list at No. 10. Maynard sat down for an interview with Phoenix New Times to discuss what New Times calls a ‘biography-autobiography hybrid.’  Read an excerpt of the interview below.


00146489New Times: There is a common theme or code you seem to follow throughout the book in each of your endeavors. Discipline, patience, understanding the process, and the end result all play an important role in much of what you’ve accomplished.

You have 20/20 hindsight with your decisions, and I suppose those can lay out a map of where you’ve been, where you are, and where you might potentially be going. Of course, with a lot of those decisions you’re free-balling.

Do you still follow some of that same road map today when you are venturing into areas of new discovery now?

It’s of benefit, but it can also be a trap if you completely rely on your past experiences and make decisions based on those. Surely, you have some results you can look at, but things change and circumstances change, so I think it’s more important to be conscious and present in the moment and look at the situation before you leap to any conclusions. There’s your balance. You rely on experiences, and you bring those with you when you’re gonna make another decision. But [you] also have to rely on your gut in that moment.

It seems like everyone’s in a band now and can record music in their basement. Everyone’s a photographer with a smartphone, and everyone is a politician on social media. Your mindset can’t remain the same.
Especially with social media, there are people out there that will plant seeds, their intent to distract and to pollute. They’re the butterfly effect of a thing that’s not a fact that will just kind of perpetuate and grow in a way that when someone makes an actual decision on an important matter, that butterfly effect adjusted that decision long ago. That’s if you’re gonna be tunnel-visioned and focus on stuff like social media. There are a lot of things going on in the world that will continue to go on with or without the internet.

All of the projects you’ve been a part of over the years seem to serve as therapy of some sort. Does this book fit that mold?

Yeah, I think anything you do is a form of self-discovery, some form of therapy, if you want to call it that. It’s also a map for my children. [If] something happens to me today, they’ll have something to look at that will give them an idea of who I was. I have a 2-year-old daughter. She only knows so much; I’m sure she’d like to know more when she is older. So this is a small chronicle. This is a slice of the story.

Your early love of the band Kiss is well documented in the book, as is how that terrified your family. They were so freaked out they had your pastor speak with you to get a better understanding of why you liked the band. Were you concerned that if he didn’t approve, that would be the end of Kiss in your household?

No, Kiss is just a metaphor for a bunch of other bands that were around at the time; that was just one. I learned quickly that those kinds of conversations mean nothing. The will of a teenager, generally speaking, is like a force of nature. I learned that early on. There are things I feel like I have to do, and things I have to comply with, but some of my more fundamentalist upbringing in Ohio taught me that hypocrisy runs deep and you just have to make your own decisions based on your own version of a moral code.

Your father really wanted you to participate in sports, and once you realized football wasn’t for you, you became involved with the cross-country team. Your coach instilled in you the motto “Never give up, and you’ll be victorious,” and that translated into you winning the cross-country finals. You mention that this was the first time you saw hard work paying off.

It really is a chipping-away process, and I think a lot of people get caught up in the day weather rather than thinking of the long game. They kind of want immediate satisfaction; it’s just the nature of this generation. Amazon ships for free and it gets there yesterday. It’s like what you said — people with phones saying they are a photographer now: No, no you’re not. There are so many things and you can’t skip a step to be a master at something. There’s a process. And everyone’s process is different, but there’s still this thing called time and experience. You cannot master something without having done it for a long time.

Would you still say that you’re still “kind of quiet, shy, and kind of grumpy” as you were described in the book?

Yes. When you have a mission and you have an idea of how to get something done, distractions kind of just interrupt that process. You tend to maintain focus, which can be confused with being grumpy.


Read the rest of the interview here.

Maynard James Keenan Talks New Bio with Rolling Stone

Maynard James Keenan, co-author of A Perfect Union of Contrary Things, sat down with Rolling Stone to discuss his upcoming biography. The interview covered Keenan’s Army days, his Joni Mitchell obsession, his fateful encounter with early Tool adopter Johnny Depp, what Green Jellö taught him and much more during an in-depth chat.



Did you watch last night’s debate

No, I didn’t. I just don’t know what the point would be – 2016 sucks, in general. Loss of life, family members, artists, professionals. It’s a strange fucking year.

Agreed. So Trump is getting you down?

No, just the polarizing of people in general. And the bipartisan politics. It’s divisive. There’s so many things on the horizon; there’s so many things happening in the universe in general and in our nation and just in people … that I just feel like all this is a divisive distraction.

Moving on to the book, it seems like this is your attempt to say, “OK, there’s this thing that everyone knows me best for doing, but there’s all this other stuff that’s gone on in my life that carries just as much weight in terms of my overall story.” Were you trying to reclaim your narrative in a way?

Not necessarily. I’m just trying to tell a story and just show that there’s a process that I feel like has been lost. Just kind of trusting that inner voice and making decisions that bring you places. There’s also an overall broad stroke of kind of getting back to what matters. That connection, where you are and how you relate to that environment and your community. I feel like that shit’s a really important message for now.

00146489In addition to telling your own story, are you trying to impart a lesson, or just some wisdom to your fans?

I feel like there have been conscious and unconscious decisions throughout the years that I’ve made. And if there’s any kind of benefit to those, if I can actually map some of those out. … I’m no Deepak Chopra; I’m not Tony Robbins by any stretch. But I have seen a few things in my day, and if I can just kind of map some of them out and then have somebody else tell that story in their voice like a third party, maybe I can recognize some of those milestones. Or maybe somebody who’s in a weird place can recognize them and use them to kind of move forward.

As the book depicts, you’ve been involved in, and excelled at, an amazing number of things. Obviously the military was a key one. The book suggests that seeing the movie Stripes influenced you to join – is that really how it went down?

Does that sound like a better story than, “I just needed the money?” ‘Cause again, at the end of the day I’m an entertainer so I’m gonna tell you the story that sounds a little bit more entertaining. If that inspires you, that’s great. Was Stripes part of that decision? Absolutely. Was it the only part of that decision? Probably not. It’s not in my nature to just map it out for you.

It seems like for the time you were there, despite needing the money, you were obviously invested in it. I remember seeing a speech you gave at a show where you said you’d gotten some flak over expressing what some had perceived as pro-military sentiment. Is there a specific message you’re trying to send in this book regarding your feelings about the military in general?

Not necessarily. I feel like from an artist perspective there is that warrior’s perspective and I feel like that’s in each one of us. And if you can embrace it in some way and understand … even in terms of martial arts, when you step into that ring, on that mat, you have to kind of embrace that warrior side of you. You’re competing against yourself more than you’re actually competing against your opponent across from you.

Of course, you know the big pick-up we usually see when it comes to military is of course the entire globalization and our invasion of other areas for our own interests. That’s not really what I embraced about the military. What I embraced about the military is that that warrior’s mindset that you’re competing against yourself and just understanding that you have to be able to get into that mindset in certain situations. But at the end of the day, you’re competing against yourself.


Click here to read the entire interview. Preorder your copy of the book here.