Maynard James Keenan Talks Traumatic Inspiration for Tool’s Lyrics

By Amanda Wicks

Maynard James Keenan’s biography A Perfect Union of Contrary Things will arrive in bookstores November 8, but ahead of that release date Tool’s frontman sat down with Rolling Stone to talk about working on such a personal narrative.

Related: Tool Address Fans’ Negative Attitudes Towards New Album

In the book, Keenan shares how his mother suffered from sexual abuse as a child, a trauma which impacted her throughout motherhood. Where his father was incredibly active, Keenan describes his mother as being incapacitated by her past. Growing up in that atmosphere, he channeled his family’s shadows into Tool’s lyrics. In the interview, he doesn’t go into what songs resulted, but he did detail how songwriting helped him.

“I think like most things – the rich girl in Beverly Hills who breaks a nail, and her entire universe it coming apart because of it – it’s all a matter of perspective,” Keenan said. “Those kind of tragedies, you know, everybody has them. People around the world have them far worse than we will ever have. So what you can do is you can apply those things and build on them and learn from them rather than carrying them around at a torch for ‘woe is me.’ There’s just things that happen. You just have to build on them and move past them and use them as a lesson because we do not have it bad. We haven’t had it bad. So any of those things are just things that happen, and you just … you gotta build on them.”

Keenan’s mother never talked about what she had experienced, but when asked if she knew that her experience and the impact it had on her family had informed some of Tool’s lyrics, Keenan answered, “No. No, not really. She just liked the sound of a voice, and she was very happy that she could have been a part of it.”


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