When you think about how a band’s singer usually stands at the front stage and sings their lungs out, it’s strange when a singer, such as Tool’s Maynard James Keenan, doesn’t do that. So, why does Maynard stand in the back?
Here is what I found out:
Maynard, from Tool, stands at the back of the stage to focus more on his singing and less on entertaining the audience visually. But also because he is an introvert. In addition, at the back of the stage, his microphone receives less noise from the stage equipment so he feels the overall sound is better.
He also enjoys being able to see his bandmates better.
Zane Lowe interviewed Maynard and asked him why he took the back position? Maynard replied:
“I couldn’t hear the music. The isolation wasn’t proper in the mic. I was having a harder time with the sound in the front.”
Let us explore if there was any other reason which made Maynard take up the back position, how long he’s been doing it, and if he does it with all the bands he sings with.
Let’s get into it!
#Tool concert from the nosebleeds, which is fine because Maynard doesn’t show his face anyway. #Nashville pic.twitter.com/Wj5166wGM9
— Amanda Rabinowitz (@WKSUAmanda) January 24, 2016
Why is Tool so weird?
Tool is weird because they don’t want to be pigeonholed into the limitations of one specific genre. That non-conformist view comes from band leader Maynard James Keenan who definitely enjoys not fitting into anyone’s preconceived notions of what an alternative hard rock band should be.
Fans believe that Tool is not a hard rock, alternative, or metal band. But Tool was also not part of grunge as it is often labeled due to being born out of the early 90s music scene. They were different enough to carve a niche of their own.
Let us take a look at Tool’s top weird songs:
- Forty-Six & 2
- Rosetta Stoned
- Hooker With A Penis
- Prison Sex
Despite being described as a weird band, fans go crazy when they hear Tool’s music. In an era of short-lived bands, Tool keeps getting better and better by the passing years.
But while they can be weird, they aren’t quirky or kitschy like Primus.
According to Riverfront Times, Tool was known for attracting an audience full of Busch-chugging, chain-necklace-wearing, violent-at-any-moment young men and women.
But it’s important to point out that the band doesn’t really identify with that audience, nor did they intentionally try to cultivate that audience. But that audience, to a degree, looked for drug-induced concerts where they could lose their sense of identity.
Curious to find out if any of the Tool members used drugs on live shows?
Luckily, I covered that in my recent article, where I have also discussed how Keenan used meth to release long-term side effects of Covid-19.
Just click that link to read it on my site.
Maynard being an Alpha Cat. I need to rethink my 🎃 costume now… 🤔 (this is cryptic btw) @mjkeenan @puscifer @ufc @Tool pic.twitter.com/foDjoBMSUb
— Alpha Cat Zingano (@CatZingano) October 31, 2016
Did Maynard ever stand at the front of the stage?
Maynard James Keenan did stand at the front of the stage through the release of Tool’s fourth album, Lateralus, in 2001. After their fourth album’s release, Maynard began to appear behind drummer Danny Carey.
Tool released their debut EP, Opiate, in 1992.
The debut was a great success. To promote the album, the band immediately went to the U.S. Club tour in 1992, with Maynard leading the stage in Canada and Mexico, and other cities.
As the success grew, the band was required to travel extensively.
Tool’s popularity motivated them to work on releasing their 2nd album, Undertow, in 1993. Soon, band members found themselves at various European festivals and the U.S. Lollapalooza festivals (1993).
For the media, it was obvious that Tool’s fanbase was growing partly because of the intense lyrics and partly because of Maynard’s unusual costumes and deranged dance moves.
Here are a few of Maynard’s top-rated performances that he delivered from the front stage:
- Tool Undertow Live Philadelphia
- Sober At Reading Festival
- Tool Aenima Live New Year’s Eve concert
- Aenima album U.K. Tour
- Aenima Full-length tour, Pomona, California
Just pull up some of those on YouTube to see just how electrifying those shows were.
For me, I saw Tool only once (so far) in 2006 at the Coachella Music Festival in Palm Springs, CA. And Maynard was indeed at the back of the stage.
But they were fantastic! My only regret was that they didn’t do their fantastic cover of Led Zeppelin’s “No Quarter”. You can see the setlist from the show I saw here.
I value this, the only picture I could take of Maynard at the Tool concert pic.twitter.com/ddJ7tVWNt8
— Cas ☠️✨ black lives always matter (@Headblabber) July 26, 2020
Is Maynard James Keenan shy?
Legendary Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan is introverted and media-shy and prefers shunning the limelight both on and off-stage to focus on work.
He answered a question by a reporter of Phoenix News if he would consider his nature to be shy and kind of grumpy.
“When we have a mission, and an idea of how to get something done, distractions kind of interrupt that process. You tend to maintain focus, which can be confused with being grumpy.”
Keenan’s close friends also revealed Maynard’s growing up. They mention, he was naturally shy growing up and a little nerdy, but music helped him connect with people.
Music gave him a sense of comfort, which can be noticed in his unique vocal sound. But does he use a lot of studio trickery to get his sound?
And can he still scream like he did in the 90s?
Luckily, I covered that part too in my recent article. I have also talked about Maynard’s singing abilities at length for you. What really surprised me was how his voice and vocal range has changed over the years.
Just click the above link.
Tool’s Maynard James Keenan Faces Serious Police Accusations In A Concert https://t.co/lRK4VXXw6S pic.twitter.com/puvRqFwhnH
— Metalhead Zone (@metalheadzone1) November 4, 2019
Does Maynard James Keenan stand in front of his other bands?
With Maynard’s project Puscifer, he does usually stand at the front of the stage, although he sometimes wears masks or disguises. With A Perfect Circle, Keenan usually appears sideways at the back of the stage as he does with Tool.
So it’s interesting that with Puscifer, he often stands at the front. But maybe those wrestling masks or wigs make him feel less exposed. Granted, that can’t be comfortable for a whole show.
But it’s also worth noting that at least so far, Puscifer plays far fewer shows than either Tool or A Perfect Circle.
According to setlist FM, Puscifer has, to date, played just over 200 shows.
Compare that to Tool’s over 1,200 shows and A Perfect Circle’s more than 500 shows. Clearly, Puscifer, while newer, is the least important of his many projects (which also include winemaking).
So maybe they play so infrequently that it’s not as important where he stands.
Born Apr. 17, 1964 #singersongwriter for Tool, Maynard James Keenan. #Music #Birthday pic.twitter.com/LolOOFYUws
— Music Beat (@MusicBeat5) April 17, 2021
Who are Maynard James Keenan’s influences?
Tool’s lead singer, Maynard James Keenan has a wide array of musical influences including Joni Mitchell, Black Sabbath, Devo, Pink Floyd, and Swans.
During an interview with BBC Radio 1 in 2018, Keenan mentioned some of the albums that had the greatest influences on his records:
Maynard was introduced to Joni’s music by his aunt. Keenan describes the introduction as:
“My aunt was able to convey to me, here’s a person who’s a woman, who is writing her songs, producing, and mixing, and is fighting this uphill struggle in arguably a man’s rock world. So that sunk in right away for me.”
Maynard became a fan of Black Sabbath when he was watching a movie, all jacked up on sugar, at his grandmother’s house.
He was watching a vampire movie where a soundtrack came on.
And it was Black Sabbath. And Maynard ended up being a Black Sabbath fan listening to their albums while watching monster movies.
Maynard liked listening to Devo primarily because he loved how the music pieces attempted to destroy classic rock with their melodies and approaches.
“If you listen to them, it’s like them trying to stipend up classic rock into this weird, digital quirky….nature. I love that. Again it took me outside of my conventional understanding of music as it goes”.
Fans often enjoy the traditional band setup where a singer stands at the front.
And we take for granted that any band that is supposed to deliver the message of their music with vocals does so by having the singer sing in the front of the stage.
Then there is Maynard James Keenan of Tool, who always stands at the back next to drummer Danny Carey.
His listeners were quick to make many assumptions when Keenan took the back position beginning in 2001. Some related his change of position to an eye condition, while some said he had a higher opinion of himself.
But the singer clarified his point of view in a conversation where he said he could hear his vocals better when he stood at the back. The microphone catches less noise coming from the cymbals and drums.
But one thing is certain. A Tool show will be unlike any you’ve ever seen and will blow you away, no matter where Maynard stands.
Photo which requires attribution:
Still image taken from video clip Tool Live at Voodoo Fest 2016 (Most of) by Furrball is licensed under CC2.0 and was cropped, edited, and had a text overlay added.