Front man and music legend Maynard James Keenan has struck a serious nerve with some of the fans of his band, Tool, by referring to fanatical fans as “retards” and “insufferable” in a Phoenix Times piece last week. He called upon them to “lighten up”, and reminded them that two of his bands are “named after dick and vagina.” I certainly see the humor in tracks like Stinkfist and the seminal Maynard’s Dick from the Salival EP, and the obvious humor imbued in many of the songs he writes for Puscifer.
MJK is a very gifted musical mind, and over his 30+ year career he has written and performed with 3 separate bands, each with their own distinctive style. I can certainly sympathize with him, then, when he complains that all he ever hears is “when is the new Tool coming out” in every rare interview he agrees to. How frustrating it must be to put your heart and soul into a project like Puscifer only to find yourself at the receiving end of questions about your other band from interviewers, and criticism from supposed fans. I realize that Puscifer is very different musically, and no one wants to force someone to like it, but fans and reporters who act like Tool is all that matters are doing a great disservice to a person they supposedly admire and appreciate by downplaying the importance of his other work. I see these fans everywhere on the internet, complaining that they would rather have new Tool. Reading those comments, especially ones that call for Maynard to abandon Tool because of his perceived indifference to their demands for new music, is grating. It reminds me of the times I have attended Nightwish shows and heard supposed fans screaming that they want Tarja back as the vocalist. It’s not going to happen, and demanding that artists play to your desire undermines the essence of personal creativity. It is the artist who should dictate the content of his/her/their music. Respect for artistry means supporting the artist by investing time or money into their product and enjoying their creative expression. It means that you can dislike something they have created without demeaning their prior work and their personage. It means that you can provide constructive criticism or simply dislike the product and refuse to listen to it. The ability to maintain creative license and artistry is integral to the life of a musician or artist. To strip them of it is to strip them of their ability to make a quality product.
Artists can choose to perform whatever they like, and anyone who knows Tool knows that they have always been about artistry and the music as an experience. This is evident in several interviews as they strive to impart the idea that although they had a concept behind a song, the interpretation is entirely at the discretion of the listener. It is why Maynard backs off the center of the stage during Tool performances, and why they are not on streaming sources like Spotify. It’s about artistic integrity, the experience, and controlling their brand. So when Maynard calls people who cannot understand these concepts “insufferable”, he is voicing his disdain for the greed employed by supposed fans who wish to manipulate his artistry. I wish more people would adopt his way of thinking.
That said, I think digging in his heels and repeatedly rebuffing fans of the act that put him on the map is a bit puerile. I commiserate in certain ways with his position, but I think something less abrasive could have been said. Maynard is hardly the type of man to soften his opinions or verbiage, however, and it isn’t the first time he has alluded to his exasperation with fame.
Ultimately, I will be pleased with the final product, whenever it may be released. Should nothing come of their efforts, I will still have 4 transformative and evocative albums to enjoy. If you haven’t yet, check out the newest Puscifer album, Money Shot, and remain patient. No one likes a rushed product!