Last week my copy of Maynard James Keenan’s biography – A Perfect Union of Contrary Things arrived from the US, and over the last few days I’ve read through it, and composed a few thoughts in a review of sorts. If you haven’t read the book, below contains a few minor spoilers of sorts, but nothing that should ruin your enjoyment of it.
The first half of the book covers Maynard’s life pre-Tool. It goes through his upbringing with his mother in Ohio, then father in Scottville, time in the military, Boston and eventually LA. It talks about his various pre-Tool bands such as texA.N.S., C.A.D. and adventures with Green Jelly. I found this section interesting and insightful, and painted a great picture of how Maynard evolved into the man he is today.
Moving onto Tool, it covers the beginnings of the band quite well, recounting stories with Tom Morello (and how he considered Maynard for the singing role in Rage Against The Machine) and the coming together of the band with Danny and Adam. It tells anecdotes of the first few Tool shows, as well as their dealings with record labels during the signing process. We also get some good insight into his work on the comedy scene including the famous Cuntry Boner performance with Laura Milligan with Adam joining in.
We get to hear the story of Maynard’s move to Arizona, as well as the tale behind his time and self discovery with some local Native Americans. It gives us a good feel for Maynard’s connection, not just with the land but with nature in general – it’s a theme that has been with him throughout his life.
From then on though the book becomes a bit of a blur – Lateralus and 10,000 Days don’t get much more than a couple of paragraphs each, same with A Perfect Circle post-Mer De Noms. Even Puscifer gets squeezed into a single chapter.
Hi wine making exploits get good coverage, but there is no mention of Blood Into Wine and some of the topics (and personalities) contained within. We don’t really get much insight into delays in Tool albums except that Maynard doesn’t write his lyrics until the music is done (which differs quite a bit from the Opiate and Undertow it would appear).
Overall I was both pleased and disappointed with the book. The first half I found quite interesting – surprisingly so since it really doesn’t cover much of what we Tool fans would expect. It is well written, and paints a great picture of Maynard’s upbringing, and as well for me insight into the difference between growing up in the USA vs Australia.
This was tempered with what I felt was a somewhat disappointing second half. Maynard’s “rockstar” career I felt was overly abbreviated, and was left craving more detail into almost everything. Touring really isn’t discussed in any depth, nor is recording. It wasn’t like he pushed one agenda over the other either – his recent work with Puscifer and wine making doesn’t get a whole lot more page space than his other projects. I feel like there is more to be told and would come as no surprise if there were to be some kind of Tool biography, or even an MJK book that focuses on his music career – I (and I expect many here) would read this.
Negatives aside, I come away from the book feeling like I know much more about Maynard the person – and I expect this was probably the goal behind this story being told. It’ll sound corny to some of you, but I do feel inspired by some of the words Maynard has had to say, and some of the philosophies behind how he works. This book won’t change your life, but may challenge you to reconsider how you consider some aspects of life.
A Perfect Union of Contrary Things is an authorised biography written by Sarah Jensen with Maynard offering frequent insights into her writing. You can grab a copy from Amazon!