Maynard James Keenan celebrates 60 by rocking out family-style with all of his bands for "Sessanta"

If you’re attending Maynard James Keenan’s Sessanta 60th birthday celebration concert at Hollywood Bowl Saturday, the oft-perceived-to-be-enigmatic poet-lyricist and frontman of the bands Puscifer, A Perfect Circle, and Tool, has a straightforward public service announcement for you: “DO NOT BE LATE.”

“Don’t think that there’s an opener and you’re going to come 45 minutes late like f— L.A. douchebags do,” he said, succinctly, over the phone from local rehearsals in late March. “No, the show starts right away … because it’s all three bands starting the show.”

The format Keenan is referencing showcases three bands onstage from beginning to end trading off between catalogs, and sometimes switching up band members for unique performances of their best songs. The concept was originally conceived for a pair of 50th birthday “Cinquanta” shows, held on two nights in May 2014 at the Greek Theater, featuring Keenan’s Puscifer and A Perfect Circle with L.A.-based ethereal alt-rockers Failure.

The 2024 iteration features funky-fierce Bay Area rock stalwarts Primus in the third spot. The itinerary expands the concept nationwide, with a 21-date tour that started in early April in Boston, looping across the South to the West Coast, before heading back east with a final date in New York on May 4. To mark the occasion, a “Sessanta E.P.P.P.” was released March 29 with new songs from all three bands, including a first-ever collaboration with Primus.

Keenan is still extremely active between tours with Tool while on the Sessanta run. He recently opened a fried chicken and mead joint, is planning a wine harvest for his Caduceus Cellars & Merkin Vineyards projects in Arizona, and just trained jiu-jitsu with Mike Tyson as Tyson prepares for a fight against YouTuber-turned-boxer Jake Paul. It’s one of the busiest times ever for someone who’s known for staying busy.

The Times spoke with Keenan about his upcoming shows and creative process, how he manages it all, where he sees himself at 60 and more.

For your Sessanta 60th birthday show, when did you have the idea “let’s do this again,” and when did it start becoming real?

It became real about two years ago. We just started planting the seeds and looking around to see who’s available, who wanted to do it. You know, all the logistical issues of herding cats, a.k.a. musicians.

As it came together — of course — credit goes to Mat Mitchell (Puscifer producer and guitarist). He’s the music director and coordinator working with the (lighting director) and production team to pull this thing off. He’s the one that really has been at the helm of it for probably about a year. On top of working on music for the EP and everything. … They’ve been in individual rehearsals for a bit. And now we’re all coming together this last week to put it all together.

What is it about these birthday shows, that’s different from all the other shows that you’ve played?

It’s kind of fun to watch different sets of musicians have to navigate a completely different format. And the excitement — usually the excitement that you see in them because it’s like, “Oh, this is fun because it’s not what we’re used to.”

What was the (reason) to make this one a tour?

Well, a lot of people just wanted to see it and not everybody can afford to travel. So we figured we’d just bring it, you know, bring it around the country as much as we can. Couldn’t go everywhere because I’m sandwiched in between two Tool tours. So, just got off one and now I’m going back to Europe in (May and June). Right on the heels of this tour. So there’s just no time to go to all the places with Sessanta. But we went to as many as we could.

What was the approach you took with writing these three songs knowing that they’re going to bind together (on the “Sessanta E.P.P.P”)?

A lot of people ask, “How do you change gears … knowing what song is going to be for what band?” The obvious answer usually is that it’s different conversations with different people. And in the writing process in general, I step back and let the bands present music — generally, not always.

But then it kind of takes on that personality with me initiating some napkin sketches and presenting them to bands. All three of these pieces originated with me working on music. But as soon as you hand them to the other personalities, those personalities shine through. The Primus track sounds like a Primus track. The Perfect Circle track, the Puscifer track — they sound like those individual projects. And it’s because the personalities are so strong.

You don’t have that many prominent collaborations where you’re sharing vocals with other bands. And especially for Primus — a band that has been around with Tool for so long — how did it take this long?

I don’t know. It seems like it would have happened sooner, right? But I think with everything going on with (the) winery and restaurants, and three bands and life in general.

But I have done other things with other people. I have collaborated on albums. I just did a little collaboration with Night Club that just came out. I sang in one of the first tracks with Emily [Kavanaugh] and Mark [Brooks]. So you know, there are things out there. Some stuff with Deftones years ago, Rage Against the Machine. … I did work with [Primus drummer] Tim [Alexander], but I just haven’t actually worked with Les [Claypool, Primus’ singer-bassist]. So yeah, you’re right. It took a while and it doesn’t make any sense why it did.

Are there any other artists on your list that you want to collaborate with that you haven’t?

Dolly Parton. … Not gonna happen.

Tool is an L.A. band, but Tool is one very small part (of your persona). How do you see your attachment to L.A. at this point versus your attachment to Arizona?

Well, I’ve been in Arizona since ‘95. I have one foot squarely planted in Arizona. And the original foot still planted firmly in Michigan. I have a bunch of [food and winery] projects going on in Michigan as well. That’s where I went to high school. They’re still in the very infancy. But that’s happening.

I lived in L.A. exclusively, only for like, 4½ years. So I don’t really have any super ties. All our friends are here. And I do visit here. I get work done here. But my, you know, my heart and feet are in Arizona and Michigan.

Your bands can be inactive. It doesn’t mean you’re inactive. It seems like you’re working all the time. … You continue to push and evolve yourself. Why is that?

Because there’s time, you know. If you just have even a small inkling of how to organize your time, you’ll find that you have time to do a lot of things. If you want to do it, you can find the time to do it. … I organize my time mainly, but then, you know, you have to delegate. I couldn’t do all these things by myself, at all.

(With the winery) I have to go “Here’s my plan, here’s my idea. Tell me how logistically this works.” And then we have meetings about it. And then I go on tour.

As far as writing, it’s just a back-and-forth thing. It’s far more emotional and unpredictable than harvest.

I mean, harvest has its unpredictability, but it’s going to fall within a time frame — gonna be the last week of July, and it’s going to finish up somewhere in the middle of October, every year. Although, you know, weather shifts have been kind of pushing that back and forth a little bit, you can count on that happening during that period of time.

With writing, it all comes down to the emotional basket cases that are writing. Can we get our s— together and get it done?

Are you the kind of person who uses these big birthday milestones as points of reflection or is it just another number to you? How are you feeling as you approach 60?

It’s just an excuse to do the show. I just wanted to do this thing with these people. And you go, “Hey man, you only turn 60 once,” and that’s just the excuse to get them to show up. I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna do it one way or the other. But to get them to show up, I have to have a little hook — and your 60th birthday is one of them.

All of your bands are active right now, how do you feel about the activity?

I think it’s good. I wish we would have been a little more active earlier on. Now that I see how with a little bit of thought and a little bit of planning, you can actually … organize your time and get some things done. I wish I would have had a better grip on that 20 years ago. It’s always 20/20 hindsight, right?

Do you enjoy this version of yourself at 60 more than any other time in your life? Do you feel like you keep hitting the pinnacle?

Well, I know my back hurts. That’s not super new. That just kind of follows you around, right?

But as far as, like, this being the pinnacle, or some other time being a pinnacle, I know that I can kind of guess on it. But being in the middle of it, that’s hard to determine. Somebody else can look back once I’m gone and go, yeah, I think … these are the f— salad days right here.

It seems like a lot of the seeds that you plant are for people far off in the future. Do you look at the work that you do as some element of humanitarianism (creating art and jobs for others), or is this more of an individual process?

I would love to take credit for having some kind of 50-year, 100-year vision. That’d be great. Yeah, put that on my gravestone.

I’m just doing my best. And then, as you look back and go: “Oh, that was wise to plant that seed, maybe I should plant some more.” … I think it’s more about right now. Yes, plant seeds for the future. But you really have to enjoy “right now.” Because now is all you know.

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