Maynard James Keenan talked to Lars Ulrich about A Perfect Circle's new album, staying relevant and balancing his many projects in the latest episode of the Metallica drummer's It's Electric Beats 1 radio show.
The conversation opened with Ulrich noting that it took a Chinese Democracy-like wait – 14 years – for A Perfect Circle to deliver Eat the Elephant, the group's first LP since their 2004 covers album Emotive. (Incidentally, A Perfect Circle guitarist Billy Howerdel also appeared on that long-in-the-works Guns N' Roses album.)
Keenan said A Perfect Circle's return, like his other projects Tool and Puscifier, is dictated by timing. "There's a lot of timing issues with Tool getting to the studio, I always try to gage where they're at, how things are going, and if I see a window where 'Okay, doesn't seem like things are going to get done any time soon…' The window might expand based on me going 'I'm gonna go do something then.' That's why you had a lot of Puscifer for many years," the singer said.
"I felt like if I was to go back and I do another Puscifer record, someone was gonna sneak into my bedroom and slit my throat, so I figured I'd go and call Billy and see where he's at with music."
Keenan also talked about his collaborative process with Howerdel, who the singer said is equally "stubborn" when it comes to crafting the music. "Like anybody who's alone in their bedroom making songs, he adds and adds and adds and tweaks and adds and I'm the guy who comes in and goes, 'That's great, take all of that, mute it, play it on the piano, put a drum beat behind it, let's see what you got,'" he said.
Keenan and Ulrich, both 54 years old, touched on staying creatively fresh, even as they approach senior citizenry and move further away from the youth demographic. "Just be okay with not being part of the future, if you can get your head around the fact that you're not going to be part of the next generation's focus," Keenan said.
"It gets easier to get lazy, so the only way to really do that is to always try to figure out some way to take yourself outside of your comfort zone. If you can get outside your comfort zone, you can then tap into things that are in a way fresh. I guess you could chalk it up to staying relevant. At our age now, you see a lot of artists coming out of the woodwork trying to clearly desperately trying to remain relevant, that stinks. That's just stenchy."
Keenan admitted that creatively switching from A Perfect Circle to Puscifer to Tool is as easy as having a conversation with your parents, your best friend and someone you can't stand. "With that music coming at you, since the music comes first, that's an easy transition for me," he said. "I'm reacting to what I'm hearing."
Keenan and Ulrich also discussed how A Perfect Circle's covers LP Emotive, with Keenan revealing the band had recorded one track – a rendition of Elton John's "Border Song" – but were unable to make it work. "It was best left in the garbage," Keenan said of the rendition.
The first part of Ulrich's It's Electric episode with Keenan will air this Sunday on Beats 1.