Tool vs. A Perfect Circle vs. Puscifer

Maynard James Keenan is a fantastic singer for bands like Tool, A Perfect Circle, and Puscifer. But is Tool the best of the bunch? How do they compare? Let’s examine Tool vs. A Perfect Circle vs. Puscifer.

All of Maynard’s bands are good, but Tool remains the best one compared to A Perfect Circle and Puscifer. Tool is the originator of the genre-defying sound that blends hard and alternative rock and jazz with very introspective lyrics. And the other musicians in Tool are superior to his other collaborators.

I was curious to know how each band came about, especially the claim that A Perfect Circle originated from a legal feud.

I also wanted to find out whether Maynard made the right decision to risk his reputation by starting a solo project called Puscifer.

And let us explore if Keenan worked on any more projects in secret other than the ones his fans know about.

Is Tool Better Than A Perfect Circle?

Tool is better than A Perfect Circle although both bands are excellent. A Perfect Circle often sound similar to Tool, but without as much technical prowess from the musicians and without as much energy and power.

The battle between Tool and Maynard’s other projects isn’t new on the internet.

I found various magazines and websites attempting to conclude which of both bands is better? Here is what I found out:

According to 

“Tool has put its name to utmost artistic integrity, challenging the listener in ways no artist ever does. The band adopts a cerebral metal crunch on their recordings. Each body of work genuinely feels like one-of-its-kind. Their music stands tall of its own accord.”

However, A Perfect Circle is no less famous than Tool. And all of A Perfect Circle’s albums have gone top 5 on the charts.

A Perfect Circle’s newer songs sound bigger and fuller than their initial recordings back in the early 2000s.

But it’s worth pointing out that most of the musicians in A Perfect Circle come and go. Only Maynard and collaborator Billy Howerdel are the constants.

Another thing that makes both bands great, of course, is Maynard’s unique voice. 

But does Maynard rely on any studio trickery or autotune to get his unique vocal sound? And what about when you see Tool live and you hear Maynard’s backing vocals behind his main voice? Check out my recent article to find out all their secrets.

Just click on that link.

Why are they called A Perfect Circle?

Singer Maynard James Keenan says A Perfect Circle’s name signifies “a perfect circle of friendship” between the band members. Ironically, most of the band members from the original line-up have long since left.

But another version of the band name origin says the name is simply a line copied from a song. And that makes more sense and is pretty common with a lot of bands.

The alternative rock band APC (short for A Perfect Circle) was formed by guitarist Billy Howerdel who had worked as a guitar tech for bands such as The Smashing Pumpkins, Fishbone, Tool, and Nine Inch Nails.

He played demo songs to Tool’s Maynard James Keenan, who offered himself as vocalist if Howerdel ever formed a band. When Billy decided to start a band, he eventually hired Maynard. It was Billy who came up with the name.

Now there are two versions of the story about how the band’s name, A Perfect Circle, came about:

As per the first version, the band took the name from the line “Pull me into your perfect circle” on Orestes, a song on A Perfect Circle’s debut album, Mer de Noms.

But another interpretation says band vocalist Maynard James Keenan believes the band title represents the friendship between all the members, which resembles “A Perfect Circle.”

I will leave it up to you to decide which version of the story you want to believe.

Is Puscifer like Tool?

The American rock supergroup Puscifer sounds different from Tool. Puscifer is overall more mellow in sound, more often uses acoustic guitars, and also often uses synthesizers and electronics, whereas Tool focuses strictly on the technical abilities of the 4 musicians in the band.

And Tool is 4 guys. The 1st Puscifer album has 15 credited musicians.

The band emerged as an improvisational hardcore band that first appeared as a fictional band in the first episode of Mr. Show, including Keenan and Adam Jones as members. However, Jones isn’t associated with Puscifer.

Maynard James Keenan described Puscifer as:

“simply a playground for the various voices in his head….a space with no clear or discernible goals, where his Id, Ego, and Anima came together to exchange ideas.”

Additionally, according to Wikipedia listing, Puscifer is “as much a clothing line as it is a band.”

When Ultimate Guitar asked Maynard how he navigates between the three acts, he said: 

“That’s an easy transition for me because I’m reacting to what I’m hearing. I don’t have to bring a different me to this project, it’s just different, and I just have to react differently to it.”

Does any member of Tool other than Maynard play in A Perfect Circle or Puscifer?

No other member from Tool performs in either A Perfect Circle or Puscifer. Maynard James Keenan is the only member of Tool to work on his side projects.

After moving to Las Vegas, Keenan met Adam Jones, who was impressed by Keenan’s vocals.

Jones later suggested that they form a band. Keenan came onboard for a new band called Tool. The final line-up of Tool consisted of Jones, drummer Danny, and bassist Paul D’Amour.

But D’Amour (foolishly) left the band after their debut album, with Justin Chancellor stepping in to permanently replace him.

Before Tool’s Ænima album, a hiatus took place between Tool band members.

Keenan began working with Billy Howerdel on a different project, A Perfect Circle, to deal with the legal issues. APC’s latest line-up is Maynard James, Billy Howerdel, James Iha (from Smashing Pumpkins), Matt McJunkins, and Jeff Fried.

But don’t hold your breath as APC’s line-up changes frequently, although James Iha was on the band’s 2004 album Emotive.

Keenan also started up solo work under Puscifer’s band and collaborated with Mat Mitchell and Carina Round.

All three bands are incredibly meticulous and known for their fantastic precision but also for being a little genre-defying. And let’s face it. Maynard is kind of a weird guy, and he brings that to all of his projects.

But is Maynard weird due to excessive drug use?

Read my recent article to explore if any of Tool’s members used drugs. And I dealt with the rumor that Maynard uses meth to cope with the ongoing side effects of having COVID.

Just click on that link.

Which of Maynard’s bands sells the most records?

Tool, by far, sells more records than Maynard’s other bands, A Perfect Circle and Puscifer. On Spotify, Tool currently has 3.3 million listeners. By comparison, APC has 1.9 million, and Puscifer has 534,000. 

But let’s explore their actual record sales and chart history too.


Tool is Maynard’s most revered project.

Their latest album, Fear Inoculum, was released in 2019. As per Forbes, Tool’s ‘Fear Inoculum’ was The Third Biggest Digital Album of 2019 when it debuted at No.1, extending the prog-metal band’s chart-topping streak despite over a decade-long gap.

Fear Inoculum sold over 224,000 digital albums. Additionally, The Maynard James-fronted quartet outsold other blockbuster 2019 releases such as Kanye West’s Jesus Is King, Ariana Grande’s Thank U, etc.

Tool’s highly anticipated album also landed on the seventh-bestselling “pure” album of 2019, selling 388,000 copies comprising both digital and physical sales. 

A Perfect Circle

Led by guitarist Billy Howerdel and backed by powerful vocals of Maynard, APC released its latest album Eat the Elephant, in 2018.

It consists of 12 tracks and earned its first No. 1 album on a Billboard chart as the five-piece debuts at No. 1 on Top Rock Albums and Alternative Albums.

In addition, according to Nielsen, this was the band’s first full-length album since 2004 with 63,000 album sales.

I also looked up Billboard’s rankings of APC. According to Billboard, on the all-genre Billboard 200, Elephant became A Perfect Circle’s fourth top-five title, starting at No. 3.

Their overall best: Both eMOTIVe and 2003’s Thirteenth Step debuted and peaked at No. 2.


Mostly considered as Maynard’s pet project, Puscifer returned with the latest album, Existential Reckoning (2020), featuring 12 experimental tracks.

According to Wikipedia’s commercial performance section, the album debuted at number 7 on the US Billboard Top Alternative Albums chart with over 11,000 album-equivalent units, of which 9000 units were pure sales.

Maynard James Keenan: The Art of Work Pt. 1 (Tool, A Perfect Circle, Puscifer, Caduceus Cellars)


Music is one of the most subjective topics.

But when one person oversees three different bands simultaneously, comparisons are inevitably going to be made. This is undoubtedly true of rock band vocalist Maynard James Keenan.

Keenan is considered one of the most original and unique vocalists. He helped form Tool, A Perfect Circle, and Puscifer.

While all three are good bands, Tool captures dark, disturbing, angry sounds, APC Perfect Circle captures radio-friendly melodic alt-rock, and Puscifer captures mellower, more produced sound.

Photos that require attribution:

Tool – Live at the Orange stage, Roskilde Festival July 1st 2006 by Mattias Olsson, Maynard of Puscifer – Coachella 2013 by Scott Penner, and A Perfect Circle @ lollapalooza 2011 by swimfinfan are licensed under CC2.0 and were cropped, edited, merged, and had a text overlay added.

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