A Perfect Union of Contrary Things

by Sarah Jensen with Maynard James Keenan

Backbeat Books  2016

Foreword: A Punk Psychopomp

“Behind every extraordinary person is a crisis overcome” (vii).

Chapter 1

He was born April 17, 1964 with the middle name of Herbert “after Mike’s father and older brother.” His name would be James. 3

“Divorce papers filed, Judith packed into the VW” with “Jim” when he was three years old.

“Every time I had to make an important decision, I could rely on my own instincts. I could rely on three voices: my head, my heart, and my gut. No outside noise can penetrate a solid sense of self-trust” (7).

His mother, Judith, ends up in the hospital with an aneurysm followed by “two more hemorrhagic strokes.” It was 1976.

Chapter 3

“Count Malcolm Gridley was the larger-than-life myth who allowed no sentimental self-pity, a man behind a mask who offered challenge and comfort. Jim named his alias for Malcolm Young, the AC/DC guitarist who, from the shadows just outside the spotlight, created the rhythms that unified the band’s words and music. He chose as his wizard’s last name Gridley, Judith’s family name” (33).

“Illustrating Jim’s poems were his pen-and-ink drawings of a small, wiry character he called Maynard” (36).

“And his four years in cross country, wrestling, and track meant an even more prestigious honor. In the spring, Jim became the first in the history of the school to earn 12 varsity letters” (41).

Chapter 4

“Jim and his roommates tuned their television to The Young and the Restless…” [Ha! I already knew I loved the guy…]

“…among the few whose scores qualified them to attend West Point’s preparatory school, the first step toward admittance to the military academy” (53).

Sarah Llaguno was on the same cross country team as Jim. She states, “He was always impatient with people who just followed the crowd. He had a name for people like that. He called them tools” (59).

“His roommate, Wayne, bright and personable, welcomed him, and he in turn extended his hand and introduced himself as Maynard” (61).

Chapter 5

Maynard had turned down the West Point invitation and was going to spend the summer with his friend Kjiirt and find old friends he hadn’t seen in three years.

“…Maynard–in his tight leather pants and jacket timed with bleached chicken bones and a coiled bass string–stood out and to everyone’s surprise, was named student council president in the fall” (69).

“‘Maynard was an advocate for justice at all levels,’ Kendall drawing instructor Deb Rickman would later recall. ‘He was all about creating the best possible experience for students'” (70).

It was during this time that he came up with the following lyrics well-known by Tool fans:

Waiting like a stalking butler

Who upon the finger rests.

Murder now the path of “must we”

Just because the son has come.

Chapter 6

During a California visit Maynard met “Adam Jones, a guitarist who spoke of one day forming a band of his own” (113).

Chapter 7

“…his hosts Tome Morello and Jack Olsen and their classmates who’d followed their passions to L.A.–accepted Maynard as one of their own” (117).

Maynard picked up his last check from Petland and left without a college degree.

“Had Maynard read Little, Big with a more analytical eye, he would have noticed in the final chapter Crowley’s hint of that inevitable sense of loss. ‘One of the central feelings of sophisticated modern people is that they somehow missed out on participating in a magical world,’ Crowley explained in a 2014 interview. ‘We only find traces of it in songs and stories and poetry. But we’re always disappointed, because we’re not really in it. And experiencing that magic through movies and books is worse than never having it, because we get exiled when the book’s over'” (121).

“Now that Lock Up had officially dissolved, Tom focused his energies on laying the groundwork for a new band he planned to call Rage Against the Machine, a group he envisioned would push the boundaries of metal and challenge political complacency. Determined that Rage would be a cut above the fledgling bands he and Maynard saw at Coconut Teaser and Raji’s, he set about learning all he could to avoid the missteps that had doomed Lock Up. ‘Maynard taught me drop D tuning,’ Morello would recall.”

Morello: “Brad and I had been jamming with both Maynard and Zach de la Rocha. We really liked playing with both of them, and Brad and I had this long phone call to discuss who we should ask to the dance” (133).

Chapter 8
“…his grandmother’s scorn over his punk attire. Maybe she’d been right all along. Had he accepted the West Point invitation, he wouldn’t be scrambling at week’s end for change to buy crickets for the iguanas.” Maynard: “It was that tipping point where you either become a serial killer or a rock star” (138).

Maynard: “Get rid of all the fluff, don’t worry about all that shit. Focus on the point of the story and the sounds and energy that drive it home. The primal scream was the key to making it sound sincere. This thing needed to punch you in the face, back up, extend a hand to hug you, and then punch you in the face again” (144).

Chapter 9

Maynard: “Our songs were telling people to wake up, stop living in hypocrisy, be true to themselves, but that message had to be tempered. There’s an element of humor in all the songs. A friend might say something really funny, and we’d include a verse based on what they’d said. Satire helps push through heartfelt emotions and serious issues. That’s how you punch the big ideas through.”

March 1992, Tool’s EP, Opiate

“The monotony of the highway was tolerable, he learned, if he took comedian Bill Hicks’s advice and embraced the journey. …Hick’s cassettes were in frequent rotation in the tape deck, his satirical monologues an echo of Maynard’s impatience with mediocrity and apathy–and belief in redemption” (162).

April 1993 Tool’s first full-length album Undertow

The band’s mentors were first and foremost the “American lachrymologist Ronald P. Vincent. Tool’s ideology was at last explained…a musical testament to Vincent’s principles: the imperative to fearlessly face both joy and sorrow in order to transform personal pain into healing and enlightenment” (166).

“‘Three Little Pigs’ was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America. ‘That was Maynard’s first hit song,’ Manspeaker explained…it all started with ‘not by the hair of my chin-chin-chin.'”

Maynard: “About a month later, I got a package from Bill Hicks. He was in the middle of editing his third album, and he sent me a cassette of the music. He had some questions for me about whether the music fit with the comedy or not. It was called Arizona Bay…my dream…was definitely Los Angeles getting its ass kicked” (169).

“Hicks, Duncan told him, had told only a few close friends about his diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.”

A “psychometry practitioner in the Valley” told Maynard the “Paul” was “done.” Could she possibly mean Tool’s bass player? She also mentioned something would be connected to London. “At 11:20 Little Rock time, he reported, Bill had died.” After the show that night, Maynard caught a plane to London.

“For a long time, Maynard had struggled to make sense of the hazy memories that returned sometimes when he least expected: the hours alone in the farmer’s house in Tallmadge, his distant and taciturn stepfather no one dared defy. Perhaps he’d only imagined the furtive glances between the otherwise stern church members when they’d come to the Ravenna house, the sudden silences that even as a small boy he’d known he must never question, the not quite covert touches passed between the adults gathered in the living room on a Saturday evening. The oddly uncomfortable memories might not have been real at all, but fantasies he’d created to cope with Mike’s departure, scenarios he’d dreamt to distract himself from Judith’s infirmities. But fabrication or fact, his narratives had left their trace, a vague sense of confusion and mistrust, of trespass and violation.

“His mother would remember more than he, he was sure, but drawing from her the details was no easy task, and their frequent phone calls that summer left him no more enlightened than before. ‘Judith was blocking things then,’ Maynard’s aunt Pam would recall. ‘She was trying to forget the painful things that had happened when he was a little boy.’

“His unresolved bitterness and fear had inevitably found their way into his lyrics, but Maynard had for a long time sensed an untold subplot, a backstory that would explain his confusion and anger. It would take gentle prodding to reveal the truths that had gone unspoken for decades, truths that once he understood them, could only bring a deeper dimension to his art.

“lEventually, the whole story came out in conversations with my mother and my aunt,’ he explained. ‘It turns out the family included a classic inappropriate uncle. My mother was raped when she was a little girl. That’s what the songs are really about, the cycle of denial and abuse–emotional and physical–that, for all I knew, had been going on for generations.’

“When you’re exposed to that kind of abuse as a young child, you carry it with you, especially when everybody else pretends it never happened. My mother buried the memory of what her uncle had done, and it came out in her own lack of boundaries. She invited people into her home who had questionable boundaries, because that’s what she knew, that’s what she attracted. Then I grew up seeing that, so I learned ‘no boundaries.’

“Having that moral ambiguity could be the makings of a sociopath, but on the positive side, it could be that I think outside the box because I was never confined in one. I’d done some inappropriate things that I wasn’t even aware were inappropriate. But that lack of conventional boundaries helped me push the envelope in other areas. It’s the way I was wired” (178-9).

“Maynard’s was a familiar face at the city’s premier comedy clubs…” (181).

Chapter 10

“Your intuition and your instinct tell you this is the one. When we got to Jerome [Arizona], I thought I was going to pass out, because it was the little town in my dreams” (194).

Chapter 11

Where is Maynard’s vineyard? Somewhere on the outskirts of Jerome, on a southwestern facing slope overlooking the valley and Mingus Mountain. Main Street has a Flatiron cafe and is an hour outside of Prescott.


“In the 27 years since her stroke, Judith’s condition had steadily worsened until she could no longer balance against the kitchen counter while she made dinner.

Chapter 12

Maynard is also drawn to acting. He has appeared in the low-budget movie Bikini Bandits  and a role opposite Ed Asner and RATM’s Brad Will in the indie murder mystery Sleeping Dogs Lie. He was given props for “his deadpan portrayal of bumbling Deputy Sheriff Lance” (242).

“By 2009, Caduceus Cellars was licensed and outfitted and operational” (244).




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I'm a doctor of philosophy in Literary and Cultural Studies which makes me interested in everything! I possess special training in text analysis, African American literature, Women and Gender Studies, American lit, World Lit and writing. I work as an assistant professor of English in Memphis.

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