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Maynard James Keenan: “There are so many things we can do in a livestream that you can’t do in a live gig”

Few bands have embraced livestreams quite like Puscifer. Maynard James Keenan and co launched last year’s Existential Reckoning album with a dazzling performance at Arcosanti, a unique sci-fi-inspired town in the middle of the Arizona desert.

Now they’re following it up with another live extravaganza, this one recorded at LA’s ornate Mayan Theater. Titled Billy D And The Hall Of Feathered Serpents, it will find the band playing their 2015 album Money $hot in full. We caught up with Billy D himself – aka a characteristically cagey Maynard – to try and find out what we can expect from it…

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Where did the title Billy D And The Hall Of Feathered Serpents come from?

The Mayan Theater is like one of those crazy places in the 20s that stuff went on that you didn’t want to tell your parents about.

Mat [Mitchell, guitarist/multi-instrumentalist] was sitting there in between takes in the dressing room and he looked up and he saw photos on the wall, and he goes, ‘Holy shit, that area of the building is called The Hall Of Feathered Serpents. Shouldn’t it be Billy D And The Hall Of Feathered Serpents?’ And of course, it was unanimous. Why not?

This is the second livestream you’ve done now. Are they are fun for you as real gigs are?

In a different way. There are so many things we can do in these that you can’t do in a live gig because it just doesn’t translate. So this is fun, really fun.

 What things can you do that you can’t do in a conventional show?

We had three set-ups on the Arcosanti one because we moved around during set up and shot. So if you play a gig, that’s pretty much your set-up on the stage and that’s it, there’s no moving around. And any kind of film you’re doing, if you’re trying to do some animation or some characters, it’s kind of hard to hear in a venue, what those people are saying, because depending on the venue you might not be able to hear the sound very well. So in a more pay per view setting, when you’re sitting in front of your TV or computer, you can actually translate those stories and characters in a much more effective way.

Can you give us a sneak preview of what to expect?

Well, there’s probably some sneak previews in some of the trailers we’ve put out for the show of the performance.

Have you got the same Luchadors back as you had for physical shows?

Most of them, but we actually added some from Lucha VaVOOM. We’ve been working with Santino Bros. in the beginning, on the tour, and for this we needed more bodies, so we shot with Lucha VaVOOM as well. They’re a Luchador/burlesque show. Really fun stuff.

You’ve put a lot of thought into everything Puscifer does, but this is like a new dimension of skills. It’s like a new thing really, isn’t it?

Our lighting directors and Mat are really amazing at taking a space and just thinking outside the box on how to approach using a particular space when we’ve decided on one. And so of course that ends up translating into me going down a rabbit hole on some other idea that kind of goes along with it. So, fun. A fun, creative back-and-forth.

Do you think you’ll carry on doing them when things get back to normal?

Yeah, because they’re still as daunting at first as you do a whole filming set up. Now that we’ve done two, there’s definitely things we want to improve on and fix and adjust, but it’s no longer this unknown thing. So yeah, absolutely. I would love to do both – touring live and doing these extended pieces.

Do you think things will return to normal for gigs soon, or is that being optimistic?

Well, I think the smartest thing would be just to look to 2022, let it all settle down, let it all fix itself or figure out what the next step is. I think a lot of people are getting vaccines, so I think that'll end up being of benefit, but I think the safe bet is 2022.

Puscifer’s Billy D and The Hall of Feathered Serpents takes place on April 17. Tickets are available now. They release a limited edition picture disc version of Existential Reckoning on April 30.