Alchemical Alembics and Desert Wines – An Interview with James Maynard Keenan

From David Metcalfe, over at Modern Mythology:

Last year I had the opportunity to speak with James Maynard Keenan for a short Q & A that ran in Alarm Magazine. Keenan’s work with the bands Tool, A Perfect Circle, and Puscifer have penetrated deep into the cultural consciousness, but it was another passion of his that provided the impetus for the article. In the heart of the Verde Valley he is currently developing the Arizona Stronghold Wines partnership, which includes development of Merkin Vineyards, and creation of his own winery, Caduceus Cellars.

In researching for the interview I came to realize that there’s far more to what Keenan is doing with his wine craft than I’d first expected. A focus on community growth, desert permaculture, and sustainable, socially integrated business practices demonstrates a different side of Keenan’s genius, which in other applications has allowed him to become one of the most successful artists in the contemporary music industry. There is also an esoteric component to his wine making, which is hinted at in the title for the Blood into Wine documentary produced a few years ago to introduce people to his vineyard and winery.

Through understanding the place history of the Verde Valley, Keenan is working with bringing to his wines the sense that they are literally transmuting the blood of those who have lived and died in the area, and whose work has made the desert community possible. With an awareness of how specific climates, soil types and other environmental factors affect the development of the wine, he has added an additional layer of cultural understanding which brings out a more subtle sense of what happens during the fermenting process.

Aptly named after Hermes’ staff, Caduceus Cellars brings an alchemical approach to wine making that returns the craft back to its origins. Another way that Keenan stays true to this alchemical tradition is in his focus on renewing the society which supports his pursuits. One thinks of the legendary donations of Nicolas Flamel which are still remembered through street names and plaques in the areas in France where he was said to have provided for the community through his transmutations.  In a similar sense Keenan’s work with the local community to not only create business, but also to build an infrastructure that supports further development, is a beautiful example of integrating all aspects of one’s passion and craft into something that benefits everyone in the community.

Read the full interview over at Modern Mythology.

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  • symbiont

    Ugh….. Its Maynard James Keenan, not James Maynard Keenan.

    • http://www.facebook.com/agent139 Jamie Lee

      True. I noticed this after running but wanted to keep it the same as the original (though if you look there are a TON of interviews that list as James Maynard Keenan, which is I imagine how David wound up with that arrangement of the words.)

      • Adam’s Shadow

        It’s a stage name anyway; dude’s birthname was not Maynard.

        Slightly obsessive factoid from a slightly obsessive Maynard/Tool fanboy.

  • Monkey See Monkey Do

    Does anyone know if the wine is vegan? (Not strained through fish guts etc)

    • Heath

      Life feeds on life feeds on life feeds on life…..

      • Monkey See Monkey Do

        And the angel said unto me, “These are the cries of the carrots, the cries of the carrots! You see, Reverend Maynard, tomorrow is harvest day and to them it is the holocaust.” And I sprang from my slumber drenched in sweat like the tears of one million terrified brothers and roared, “Hear me now, I have seen the light! They have a consciousness, they have a life, they have a soul! Damn you! Let the rabbits wear glasses! Save our brothers!” Can I get an amen? Can I get a hallelujah? Thank you Jesus.

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