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 multi-faceted group is about.
Having released a third full-length Puscifer album, “Money Shot,” last fall, 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 he offered a fairly concrete example of what he would ideally hope would be possible for the group.
“I don’t think we have an audience that can really get this,” Keenan offered in an early March phone interview. “But the whole goal of this band and this multi-media project demanding to be as flexible as it is, is 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.’”
Puscifer performs at the Orpheum Theatre on April 26.
By all accounts, Keenan’s notions for Puscifer have been bouncing around for some time. The idea first surfaced in 1995 in the comedy realm when his fictional joke band called Puscifer made a cameo appearance in an episode of the HBO comedy series “Mr. Show.”
Keenan feels he has gained more of a musical identity as the 2011 album, “Conditions of My Parole,” and “Money Shot” have been written and recorded.
“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, a studio in Keenan’s Jerome, Ariz., 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 muli-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,” which Keenan and Mitchell co-wrote). And they contribute at key junctures in the writing process.
To a point, the album has two major musical personalities. The first half of the record is more-atmospheric, but still edgy, tracks like “Grand Canyon,” “The Arsonist” and “Galileo,” that blend guitars, keyboards and electronics. The latter half is more aggressive, especially on stormy rockers like “The Remedy” and “Moneyshot”
With three albums in eight years – plus four EPs – Puscifer has easily been Keenan’s most active musical project over the past decade.
For now, Puscifer is on the road for a second leg of the Money Shot tour. Keenan said there’s more to the show 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 the surprise for concertgoers by offering specifics.
“I feel like watching a band kind of stand up there and regurgitate their songs, like three people, four or five people facing an audience that’s facing them, and they just kind of strum their guitars and pose and jump around, there’s something, just that element of the live performance, to me, 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.”