Of all the endeavors that Maynard James Keenan has launched over the years — including Tool, A Perfect Circle and Caduceus Cellars, his winery in Jerome, Arizona — Puscifer has been the most consistently difficult to define. Electro-industrial rock project? Absurdist in-joke? Desert-fried collaborative collective? Raunchy repository for Maynard’s bawdier lyrical excursions? Party jams for the impending apocalypse?
Elements of all the above have certainly been in effect since 2007, when Puscifer made their recorded debut with the hilarious hoedown “Cuntry Boner” and released their first full-length, V is For Vagina. Subsequent Puscifer releases — including 2011’s Conditions of My Parole and several EPs and remix albums — have continued to defy expectations and easy classification; ditto for the band’s ever-evolving live shows, which (as captured in their 2013 DVD, What Is… Puscifer) typically meld music, sketch comedy and sardonic social commentary in a manner that’s both thought provoking and highly entertaining.
Money Shot — Puscifer’s latest album, out October 30th — takes a more refined approach to all the things that make Puscifer Puscifer. The raunchy sense of humor is still there (most notably in the lustily grinding title track), but the overall mood of melodically pulsing songs like “Grand Canyon,” “Galileo” and “The Remedy” is darker, more somber and more reflective. Concocted with co-producer–multi-instrumentalist Mat Mitchell and singer Carina Round over a three-year period — with help from a cast of musicians that includes keyboardist Juliette Commagere, Maynard’s son, Devo Keenan, on cello, and drummers Tim Alexander (Primus), Jon Theodore (Queens of the Stone Age) and Jeff Friedl (A Perfect Circle) — Money Shot feels like the most focused work the band has created to date, and maybe also the most personal. In advance of Puscifer’s upcoming U.S. tour, which kicks off November 1st, we’re premiering the album’s angular, aggressive title track.
“There was a little more schizophrenia with the first record,” Maynard tells Rolling Stone. “We were in hotel rooms, and we were recording in a different studio every day on the road, but the hardest part was, ‘Okay, you’ve got two other bands; how do we make this third thing not sound like the others?’ With the second [album], I felt we kind of settled into ourselves — and this one is more about me in that place, if that makes sense.”
It seems like Puscifer’s trademark sense of humor has taken something of a back seat to heavier themes on this record.
Yeah, I guess so. I can see how someone would think that, but I see the humor all the way through it, even in the heavier tracks. On our earlier stuff, we completely separated it — “Cuntry Boner” over here, and then “Indigo Children” over here. Here, they’ve been integrated more. It’s like a fine wine that’s been aging in a large cask for two years, instead of being right out of the press and into the bottle.
But with tracks like “Galileo,” “The Arsonist” and “Life of Brian,” you’re clearly taking a hard look at the current state of the human race.