Inspiration Through Music: Maynard James Keenan

At the end of last week’s Inspiration Through Music, I said that Maynard James Keenan was the musician that I had been waiting to do all year. The reason is that I find his songs so deeply inspiring. I’ve used several of his songs as inspirations for my Monstrum Chronicles series and other songs of his for my various mysteries, thrillers, and other dark fiction. There is a rawness and a depth to Keenan’s voice that really makes it easy for me to imagine my characters fighting their inner darkness’s. In the same way, I can also get into the heads of my antagonist’s better because I can empathize with them more. And the lyrics? They are some of the most fitting I’ve ever seen, holding descriptions of things that I’ve always found it hard to find words for.

Maynard James Keenan is an American rock singer who has formed and been a part of influential bands such as Tool, A Perfect Circle, and Puscifer. I first heard A Perfect Circle back in high school with the album “Thirteen” and was immediately a fan. More recently, I re-found Puscifer (earlier this year) and fell in love again. The new album, “Conditions of My Parole” was really quite spectacular and held a bevy of songs that I’ve now listened to many times over for inspiration. Today, I’ll be sharing 7 of Keenan’s songs with you and how they’ve inspired me.

The Outsider – A Perfect Circle: I see this being the theme of a very self-destructive character. There was a point where they were better and fought for good, until something happened that tipped the balance. Sometimes all it takes is one thing to throw things over. Deep inside, this person is still split. The part of them that doesn’t want to see this self-destruction is in utter awe and disgust at what they themselves are doing. Despite this, the darkness is in control and cannot stop on its path spiraling down. There is a desire in that darkness, that it will make things better if they stick with it. This works very well as an antagonist’s song for a story and it can give you an inside look into what is wrong with them, make you feel as if you are getting into their head a bit better.

The Package – A Perfect Circle: I used this song as the establishing song in a CSI fan-fiction I wrote several years ago. Yes, I said the dreaded word “fan-fiction”. It wasn’t a very good story… trust me. I do, however, like the dark tone that this song sets for the beginning of a story, whether it is paranormal fiction, a horror, or a thriller. Keenan’s voice is eerie and desperate in his pursuit of “the package”. Again, we see a character who goes through deception in order to possess what he wants. At first, he has a very clever plan that he uses to get what he wants. Soon though, it degenerates into a type of madness as he loses sight of everything else except for the thing he’s after. And eventually, the desperation is so high that he will do anything to get it, even if it is destructive and damaging for other people. I used this song for the main antagonist of Memento Mori: Book 3 of The Monstrum Chronicles. He has a very familiar face but isn’t the character you know and love at this point.

A Stranger – A Perfect Circle: This song is quieter and definitely more creepy. In my head, I see a character who is forced to rely on a stranger for some reason. They need to because the stranger appears to be wiser and can get them what they need. And while they take the stranger’s advice, the protagonist don’t trust him completely. He’s holding something back, and is being too mysterious. The growing worries and suspicion eventually trigger feelings of vulnerability, feelings of being younger and weaker. They are in a strange place and with a person they don’t know. They can’t predict that person’s behavior or what might happen in that place. To me, my ordinarily strong character is having a weak moment, which deepens our concern for him and helps us to empathize with him.

Momma Sed – Puscifer: A character, forced to grow up before it is there time to, ventures out to settle an old score. He’s grown up with ideas of vengeance in his head, with the idea that he can’t be weak and won’t allow himself to be weak again. Being weak got others killed; it broke his heart. He’s gone through years of isolation and training to get to the point where he is now, a diamond exterior that will not be chipped or broken. The person who ruined his life is either a father or mother-like figure which makes it all the more difficult to do this job. He’s willing himself to go through with it because if he doesn’t, there will always be someone out there who will open up the fear inside of him.

The Humbling River – Puscifer: One man has journeyed vast distances, faced creatures others can’t imagine, beaten armies all on his own. Now, he’s gotten to a place where he is helpless. One obstacle that seems easy but is in fact impossible for him to accomplish on his own. He’s confused, tormented, and feels beaten. He wonders why he went through all that he did, only to be stopped by something that appears so easy? He’s been under the impression that his strength and his courage are the only things necessary to overcome his trials. It turns out that he needs to let someone in, trust someone so that he can pass this last obstacle. But that might be the most difficult thing he has ever done… I’ve been listening to this song constantly as I work on Book 4 of The Monstrum Chronicles.

Horizons – Puscifer: This is a sadder and more reflective song for a character who is remembering someone who’s died. The person that died is nothing more but memories in the dust of the past. The memories of them are lessons to be learned and as the character walks alone toward an unknown destination, he/she reflects back on each one. The entire trip is silent behind these memories, each one painful but necessary to the character’s survival.

Green Valley – Puscifer: I listened to this song while writing a chapter of Aequitas. In it, Reid has just come to a new city that is unfamiliar to him and yet it’s just like all the others he’s been to at the same time. He’s at a new point in his existence where he feels as though he has no control over his destiny and he feels bitter about it. I don’t want to give away much more than that. The lyrics fit what he’s going through very accurately though. There’s a helplessness and a rebelliousness to this song that I really enjoy and I think that it goes with Reid’s personality.

Next week on Inspiration Through Music, we’ll be looking at a band who has become a newer favorite of mine, Wye Oak. Stay tuned!



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