Monday, July 17, 2017

So What Does Puscifer Have to do With Jay and the Americans, You Ask...

Maynard James Keenan had enough to keep him busy as frontman for Tool and A Perfect Circle, but in 2007 he envisioned something even - odder: Puscifer. Described by Keenan as "the space where my Id, Ego, and Anima all come together to exchange cookie recipes," Puscifer first appeared as the name of a fictional band in a cameo on the HBO sketch comedy series Mr. Show in 1995. It wasn't until 2003 that Keenan recorded under the name, when he teamed up with Danny Lohner for a track called "Rev 22:20" on the Underworld soundtrack, and it would take four years to produce an LP. 

Organized as a musical collective in which Keenan could work with a rotating lineup of like-minded artists, picture Alan Parsons without the sap or King Crimson, Puscifer's early recording projects featured a large cast of noted musicians, including Tim Alexander from Primus, Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk from Audioslave and Rage Against the Machine, former Crimson member Trey Gunn, violinist Lisa Germano, pop singer/songwriter Jonny Polonsky, and even actress-vocalist Milla Jovovich, who performed with the collective for their debut performance. 

Puscifer's first single, "Cuntry Boner," released October 2007, was a gleefully offensive song originally recorded by Electric Sheep (a short-lived punk band featuring Adam Jones and Tom Morello years Tool and Rage Against the Machine), while the flipside was a cover of the Circle Jerks' "World Up My Ass." Later the same month, Puscifer's debut album, V Is for Vagina, was released by Keenan's new Puscifer label, featuring ten original songs dominated by slow but potent dance grooves rather than Tool's prog metal textures. 

In April of 2008, a remix album titled V Is for Viagra: The Remixes featured contributions from members of Nine Inch Nails, Telefon Tel Aviv, Ministry, and Slipknot. Keenan returned the following year with the EP "C" Is For (Please Insert Sophomoric Genitalia Reference Here) before releasing the full-length, Conditions of My Parole, in 2011. An EP, Donkey Punch in the Night, arrived in 2013 with a pair of new tracks, as well as covers of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" and Accept's "Balls to the Wall." Money $hot, the band's third studio LP, followed in 2015 and featured the single "Grand Canyon." A remix collection, Money $hot Your Re-Load, arrived the next year.

Puscifer is an unusual soundscape impossible to classify. Rich sonic landscapes crafted with minimalism justify repeated listens, rewarding the listener with subtle details. The music approaches spirituality at times, a departure from the hedonistic sexuality of previous incarnations, a thick ethereal obliquely American sound.

With an extensive use of female vocals, the later work is sensitive and even relaxing, with fewer high-energy tracks, though the meditative flow of the majority of tracks is never "boring." A copious use of synths blended with gritty but clear guitar work make for a cohesive experience, if one that, like Mr. Bungle or Faith No More, you have to work for.

And so, from my father's Jerome, Arizona, the ghost town with a sparse artistic collective, and a population of less than 300, grew the Jerome of today, a hipster and boho hotspot in the Arizona desert. My father's Jerome was a mess of ramshackle buildings, mostly from the early part of the last century, mostly crumbling down the mountainside. But there's an odd draw to a ghost town, and Jerome was destined for the unique character to which it has evolved. When my son and I emulated that road trip with my father 40 years ago, Jerome was a place, unlike the ruins of Tuzigoot or the native cliff dwellings, in which I didn't know what to expect. Tuzigoot hadn't changed, but the bustle of downtown Jerome wasn't something I could easily process. I could feel my father's presence there, but it wasn't his Jerome anymore, it was a wilder, eclectic place, familiar and yet odd. Aside from the stellar pizza we got at Grapes across the street, Jerome's most unusual shop is - you guessed it - Pucifer.

While there, you'll understand what MJK has been up to in his time between Puscifer remixes and wine making at Merkin/Caduceus. A visit to this artful store on the main street of idyllic Jerome tells us that the wait for the next Tool album will be longer than we all think. While some may find the kitschy retail on the expensive side (i.e. $40 t-shirts), fans will love the personal Puscifer touches and the fun staff. In the basement you can have clothing custom printed, find rare and classic vinyl and even have a hair cut. 

There was certainly nothing like Puscifer in my father's day, but there's an aura around the store and around the music that includes him in its pastiche and while MJK may not have the same direct and aggressive vent in his music, Puscifer, the store, proves he's aging well, his wine smooth and prize winning. The store's a great place to pour down some $$$ as an ode to  - choose between progressive rock and modern electronic remixes. Personally I filled my travel bag with a load of amazing junk that I didn't need.

Throughout the writing of Jay and the Americans, and for the past 40 years, I've had a vision of the Jerome that was my fathers. I loved that Jerome, but I sure loved this one as well.

If you like the website and the snippets, maybe it's time to read the book! R.J. Stowell's Jay and the Americans takes what we all love - the music - and frames it around his memoirs. Order your copy today from: