Maynard James Keenan: "You’ll probably enjoy this meal better if you don’t start with dessert."

A Perfect Circle.

With A Perfect Circle's new album Eat The Elephant coming out next Friday 20th of April, we're getting very excited about what we can expect from the record. What we've heard so far has increasingly grown on us with repeat listening, and it is clear that this record will be something worthy of devoting some time to, without distractions.

We were lucky enough to get some time on the phone with frontman Maynard James Keenan, so we enlisted the help of our friend Higgo and got some very interesting insights into the record from the man himself. Scroll down to read the entire interview now.

Higgo:
Nearly 14 years since the band's last album, Emotive, did you have to revisit what A Perfect Circle was, to steer the course, or was it a case of, 14 years have passed, we’re different people, this album will be what it’ll be?

Maynard:
Um, yeah, all of those things, you wanna figure out where you’ve come from, figure out where you are and where you’re going, but it is a matter of just living in the moment and writing from where you are as well. And the conversations, of course, create themselves. Billy is who he is, and he’s seen what he’s seen, and the same with me, so, we just kinda meet in the middle.

Higgo:
On my second listen, the gravity of the opening title track hit me, what was the most challenging part of writing for this new album?

Maynard:
Ummm.. I think deadlines (laughs) really, just understanding that there’s things to be done if we wanted it to come out on the day it comes out on, um, there’s things we have to be grown up about, we can’t just kinda meander and be artists about it, we kinda have to put on our big boy pants and get it done.

Higgo:
On track two - Disillusioned - I particularly like the shift around the three and a half minute mark, and it’s hard to describe why music has that effect, like why did that moment grab me, it’s an emotional response, almost primal, do you find that with some of the songs?

Maynard:
Ummm I think if we’re doing a job properly we are kinda mapping out an emotional drain, but then, that’s almost with any song I’ve ever done, you’re trying to map out those ‘pay off’ moments that build up and release. Like any film, like any book, there’s gonna be an arc, and you’re trying to follow that arc and set that up for the listener, the viewer, the reader.

Higgo:
Was there a lot of time spent sequencing this album to get that story arc going?

Maynard:
Umm, not a lot, I think a lot of it was broad stroke, ya know, I have a general approach, ya know you’re listening to the songs as you’re writing and recording and mixing, and you kinda get a general sense for the feel and then, um, I kinda had a layout, and Billy had a different layout, I kinda explained my thing, he explained his thing and we met in the middle.

Higgo:
When I got to track 4, The Doomed, It’s a song that I’d like to see a film clip to, but not like a band performance film clip, more like a short film, which I think lends itself to what you were saying about the arc.

Maynard:
Yeah, I think if you look at the album as a whole piece there’s going to be moments like that, because you have to view it as a, as a whole piece, not just song by song, although I think most people, that’s how they listen to music, kinda song by song, ya know disconnected but, this is a whole piece, not by any stretch is it a concept album, but it is cohesive because it is us writing from today, right, so, it’s gonna be an over-arcing script in a way, so it is a soundscape, with all it’s different sections and chapters.

Higgo:
Yeah it ebbs and flows nicely, and when you get to the 2 minute instrumental, it’s like a transition from act two to act three.

Maynard:
Yeah, you could look at it that way, using the movie metaphor.

Higgo:
The closing track, Get The Lead Out, is hypnotic, without giving too much away, when you were presented with this idea, this sound, what were your thoughts on it.

Maynard:
Ummm, well it evolved quite quickly, it was something that didn’t start the way it ended. But ya know, as a bookend piece I think that it was kinda meant to be in that manner. What Billy had in mind initially, wasn’t the direction that I took it.

Higgo:
Did you find that was the case for anything else on the album when you would stop and think hang on a minute, the song is taking me in a different direction?

Maynard:
Oh yeah, I’d say that was the case with all of em, and with all the albums, ya know when it comes to when you’re in your room, messing around with your guitar, or your bass or your keyboard it’s one thing, but when you get it in front of other people it’s gonna evolve no matter what.

Higgo:
The lyrical content on this can be interpreted in many ways by many people, and I think we all hear what we want in some songs. Was it a deliberate thing, when you’re writing to keep things kind of ambiguous for that reason?

Maynard:
Well there’s only so many things in the world that can you write about, right? There’s only a very limited number of basic human experiences, love, hate anger etcetera. Those dynamics are pretty much present in all films if you’re a person who’s writing scripts that you’re going to attach actors to. There are certain motivations that you as an actor are going to have to explore, um, love or power, which is it? So you kinda start breaking those things down, you can almost apply those to songwriting too, just there’s gonna be a bracket of sorts, or an outline, where you take love and power and break it down even further. That’s just the nature of writing, so you associate these with some of the interactions you’ve had, and make them somehow, human. Make sure you connect them to human experience, then they’ll resonate. And they’ll resonate on multiple levels if you use words that resonate on multiple levels.

Eat The Elephant Vinyl
Pre-order Eat The Elephant now.

Higgo:
There’s a lot of shit that’s going on at the moment and I was just wondering if you’ve thought to yourself, this needs to come out, and people need to hear it, or do you just run your own course?

Maynard:
I say that every time, that’s the approach of every album. There’s things going on whether you see it or not, although nowadays you do see it more, there’s the social media and internet, all the pollution that goes on in between, um yeah it’s around, but yeah again these human interactions, these struggles they’re timeless, they’re just under our noses a little bit more. But ya know, when you start breaking all these things down, it really does come down to people being divided and, uh, when the fuck have you ever been able to trust the government, I mean, c’mon, people forget all those things and start fighting with each other and that’s when shit goes sideways and they forget that the puppeteers are the assholes.

Higgo:
We’ve recently had a cheating scandal with the Australian Cricket Team, and the Prime Minister was very vocal and outraged about it, in fact, I hadn’t seen him this outraged about anything in a while, but he sure was happy to show how furious he was about it.

Maynard:
(laughs) Well ya know, that’s pretty much the fate of things isn’t it, it’s all about the clickbait and the distractions and ‘the right hand’s over here doing one thing and the left hand is doing another and you’re so focused on the right, the magicians get away with, metaphorically and literally, murder.

Higgo:
Ah yes, the moving the foam ball from one cup to the other.

Maynard:
Except there are no foam balls, it’s just all empty cups! (laughs).

Higgo:
I’ve been posting about this album on social media, and my suggestion has been to wear headphones and immerse yourself in Eat The Elephant from start to finish, is that something you would tell people to do to get the most from it?

Maynard:
Uhh, I could suggest that. I would like to see that, but really, the songs are done now, and it’s not really up to me, I can’t tell you what to do. I can make a suggestion, you’ll probably enjoy this meal better if you don’t start with dessert.

Higgo:
I really like that analogy, thanks so much for your time, is there any chance we’ll see you down this way anytime soon?

Maynard:
You never know man.. you never know.

Eat The Elephant is due out Friday 20 April. Pre-order your copy now.

Listen to A Perfect Circle now.

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