What Tool’s Maynard James Keenan Learned in the Army


Maynard James Keenan is best-known as the lead singer of the rock band Tool, but he’s had a long and varied career in music (Green Jellö, A Perfect Circle and Puscifer) and has most recently found success as a winemaker with Caduceus Cellars. You may not know that he enlisted in the Army when he graduated from high school in 1982 or that he credits his military service with much of his later success.

Keenan has co-authored a new book with longtime friend Sarah Jensen and they’re calling  A Perfect Union of Contrary Things an “authorized biography” instead of an autobiography. The book, set to be released on November 8th, explores the entire arc of Keenan’s life and career, giving his time working in pet stores and his military service equal weight with his high-profile music and winemaking projects.

Maynard gave a long interview to Rolling Stone to promote the book and ended up talking about how big an influence the Army has been on his life and career.


1. Keenan clarifies the book’s suggestion that Bill Murray’s performance in Stripes was the key influence on his decision to enlist.

Does that sound like a better story than, “I just needed the money?” ‘Cause again, at the end of the day I’m an entertainer so I’m gonna tell you the story that sounds a little bit more entertaining. If that inspires you, that’s great. Was Stripes part of that decision? Absolutely. Was it the only part of that decision? Probably not. It’s not in my nature to just map it out for you. 


2. How the “warrior’s mindset” is his biggest takeaway from Army service.

I feel like from an artist perspective there is that warrior’s perspective and I feel like that’s in each one of us. And if you can embrace it in some way and understand … even in terms of martial arts, when you step into that ring, on that mat, you have to kind of embrace that warrior side of you. You’re competing against yourself more than you’re actually competing against your opponent across from you.

Of course, you know the big pick-up we usually see when it comes to military is of course the entire globalization and our invasion of other areas for our own interests. That’s not really what I embraced about the military. What I embraced about the military is that that warrior’s mindset that you’re competing against yourself and just understanding that you have to be able to get into that mindset in certain situations. But at the end of the day, you’re competing against yourself.


3. He talked about whether he’d suggest that today’s high school grads enlist in the military.

Um … yeah, that’s a tough one. Because when I joined the military, I was pretty convinced that all of that crap was over. I believed we kind of found some kind of groove as far as world peace. We didn’t really have any major conflicts – Grenada and a few things when I was in. Yeah, we were going through a lot of growing pains as a nation. I don’t know that I would recommend going into active service right now. It might be good for some people. Yeah, that’s a tough one, because the parts that I’m looking for, that discipline, that connection, was being absolutely vulnerable and having your life in the hands of your teammates, your friends, your colleagues. The growth that occurs in those spaces where you’re just broken down and then being built back up – there’s a lot to be said for those kind of things.

But being an extension of the global world domination, I don’t know that that actually would be a goal at all [laughs]. Mixed feelings.

Maynard James Keenan is embarking on a book tour to promote A Perfect Union of Contrary ThingsCheck out the dates below and a few must-see videos from his bands.

11/09 – Nashville, Tenn. – City Winery

11/11 – New York, N.Y. – The New York Society For Ethical Culture

11/12 – Washington, D.C. – Sixth & I Historic Synagogue (7PM + 10:30PM readings)

11/14 – Toronto, Ontario – Convocation Hall (University of Toronto)

11/16 – Chicago, Ill. – Thalia Hall (7PM + 10:30PM readings)

11/18 – Portland, Ore. – The Aladdin Theater

11/19 – Seattle, Wash. – Kane Auditorium

11/21 – San Francisco, Calif. – Herbst Theatre

Tool – “Sober”

Green Jellö (a/k/a Green Jelly) – “Three Little Pigs”

A Perfect Circle – “Judith”

Puscifer – “Conditions of My Parole”