I must be willing to give up what I am in order to become what I will be. – Albert Einstein
I met Maynard when I was working as a freelance editor for a wine magazine. I was a fan of his music – primarily his work with Tool and A Perfect Circle – before I met him, but I interviewed him for an article about his transition into becoming a winemaker. He was palpably passionate about his new venture as he drove my husband Kevin and me around his property proudly showing us his vineyard and organic farm. He’s a brilliant mind and his song lyrics are a testament to his profound understanding of life.
These days the main “tool” on Maynard James Keenan’s mind is probably the one he’s using to painstakingly prune his Sangiovese vines. At the peak of his musical career, he is dedicated to mastering the craft of wine making and is developing a community around the northern Arizona wine country. So why would someone walk away from the spotlight to become a winemaker? The story is one of an intense individual whose life inexorably continues to evolve, and to use Keenan’s own lyrics,“spiral out.”
When I asked him why he would reinvent himself in an incarnation so far from where he’s already made a major impact (music), Keenan said, “I’ve been in a band since I was 27 years old… I’m ready for a new challenge.” And Keenan is no celebrity winemaker who pays people to harvest his fruit. When Kevin and I met him, he’d been involved in the winemaking process from start to finish. His wines (Caduceus Cellars) consistently win awards from serious wine rating organizations. It appears that being a winemaker is in his DNA. He explains, “My great-grandparents and great uncle had vineyards and made wine somewhere in pre-World War II Europe, either southeastern France or northern Italy.”
Said “No” to West Point
Disciplined and focused, Keenan seems to be one of those rare individuals who constantly challenges himself. He ran cross country in high school, turned down an appointment to West Point, went to art school, and performed in many bands. Now a farmer and winemaker, he has to overcome those powerful forces in his life that cling to his current image much like his vines cling to fragile wooden trellises. The fruit of his artistic success, however, allows him to cultivate a vital connection to nature and its surroundings that nurture his creative energy. He seems to be able to apply that creative energy to each and every “next chapter” with the same focus he has applied to every goal in life.
And speaking of “next chapters,” he is currently in the process of co-writing a book about his life, The Reverend Maynard or “MJK” (as his fans call him) is one of the true renaissance men of his era. At any given time, he’s working on numerous music projects with Tool, A Perfect Circle, and/or Puscifer. Rolling Stone writer Hank Shteamer referred to him in a recent article as “…an industry unto himself. Once known primarily as Tool‘s enigmatic, vocally astonishing front-man, Keenan has evolved into an ever-prolific creative force.”