10 Things We Learned From Maynard James Keenan's Biography

A portrait of Maynard James Keenan looking into the camera
(Image credit: Tim Cadiente)

There are clues in the title. A Perfect Union Of Contrary Things documents the disparate range of experiences Maynard James Keenan went through to become who he is today. From coaching his school cross-country team, to dedicating himself to the army, to escaping to art school, to eventually finding music and winemaking, he has taken a long and winding path. Of course, the ‘contrary’ part of the title could also apply to his temperament. Infamously shunning the spotlight, and marrying comedy with serious intellectual lyrics, he has long sought to be known for his performances rather than his personal life. This ‘semi-autobiography’ is even written in the third person, with a few quotes thrown in at random places, and barely any mentions of Tool (and definitely not the next album, in case you were wondering…). Beyond the narrative voice and obfuscation, here’s what we learned about metal’s most mysterious frontman…

The name ‘Maynard’ came from his poetry

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

He idolised Kiss

He even made a ceramic Gene Simmons face at school, but his dad and stepmum 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.

He took acting classes… twice

Failing to find steady work as an extra in Hollywood, Maynard turned to lessons. After Tool found fame, he took more classes ‘undercover’. David Fincher apparently expressed interest in casting him for The Panic Room.

He taught Tom Morello Drop D tuning

When Tom’s band Lock Up dissolved, he planned to form Rage Against The Machine. Maynard showed him the technique, and was briefly in the running to be the frontman.

He bunked in Green Jelly’s house

Maynard went to live at their communal loft, before performing on Three Little Pigs. It was also where Tool played their first gig, in celebration of Green Jelly’s record deal.

Fatherhood was accidental

He was surprised when an ex-girlfriend called to say she was pregnant, and worried he’d repeat the mistakes of his father. His son was born in 1995, and he welcomed a daughter two years ago.

He once undertook a Native American ritual

Long fascinated by spiritualism, Maynard went to a reservation and took part in a peyote ceremony, inside a teepee he helped build. The ritual lasted throughout the night.

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Eleanor Goodman
Editor, Metal Hammer

Eleanor was promoted to the role of Editor at Metal Hammer magazine after over seven years with the company, having previously served as Deputy Editor and Features Editor. Prior to joining Metal Hammer, El spent three years as Production Editor at Kerrang! and four years as Production Editor and Deputy Editor at Bizarre. She has also written for the likes of Classic Rock, Prog, Rock Sound and Visit London amongst others, and was a regular presenter on the Metal Hammer Podcast.