Published Nov 18, 2016Who is Maynard James Keenan? A master of misinformation, of mystery, a guy who would go on tour behind a curtain, or covered in blue paint, or wearing wigs, and who, it turns out, is not about to give up all the answers to that question in his first biography.
To start, A Perfect Union of Contrary Things is not a book about Tool. The band Keenan, now 52, co-founded in 1990 doesn't appear until page 141. And there will be no real answers for those dying to know when that long overdue next record is coming.
This is the story of Keenan the son, the athlete, the student council president, pet store merchandiser and, ultimately, the winemaker. It's the story of how and why he's made the decisions that eventually led to fronting the biggest cult band of his generation, and what he's done since that band got a whole lot quieter.
Written by Sarah Jensen "with" Keenan, and presented in the third person, A Perfect Union reads more like a long magazine article than a book. Jenson is obviously a long-time friend, and her tone often tips to fawning. Keenan's voice appears as paragraphs here and there, but it's not enough to really get inside the head of a guy his associates describe as "quiet, shy and grumpy" and "a musical Charles Manson."
Music fans likely already know about Keenan's relationship with Tom Morello, his time in Green Jellÿ, how much the guy loves KISS and that an even more important artistic influence was comedian Bill Hicks. His time in Tool, which began with his insistence that bandmates rehearse five times a week at 11 a.m. sharp, and grew to become "keys to the chastity belts" of many of their followers, is given respectable page count, but mostly covers business decisions rather than, say, the creative process. A Perfect Circle and Puscifer are duly, and dully, noted.
As much if not more time is spent describing his vineyard in Jerome, Arizona, where he currently lives off the land. It's too bad more ink wasn't devoted to his interesting and rather timely survivalist and environmental philosophies instead of the kind of details only wine connoisseurs will care about.
A Perfect Union of Contrary Things is far from perfect. But ultimately, Keenan is one of the most fascinating music artists of our times, and any peek into his brain will be welcomed by many. This may be the closest they'll get. (Backbeat Books)