Mon, Dec. 09

A Look Inside Maynard's Brain (with video)
Jerome's unique Puscifer - the Store dedicated to rock band of same name

Puscifer – the Store at 140 Main Street in Jerome. (VVN/Vyto Starinskas)

Puscifer – the Store at 140 Main Street in Jerome. (VVN/Vyto Starinskas)

JEROME -- Walking into Puscifer - the Store is like walking into Maynard Keenan's brain.

Or at least his thought process.

Sandwiched between other historic brick buildings at 140 Main Street in Jerome, Puscifer's may be one of the few stores dedicated to a rock band.

Maybe the only one in the United States, says Jen Keenan, Puscifer's manager and Maynard's wife.

Jen is soft spoken, confident, polite and relaxed as she talks about her store in the basement level of the Jerome building.

If you haven't heard of Puscifer, it's one of three successful bands conceptualized by Grammy-award winning musician Maynard Keenan of Jerome. The other two bands being Tool and A Perfect Circle.

Puscifer, which has put out three albums, is of course a musical experience. But it's also a visual, theatrical and artistic experience all oozing out of Maynard's imagination.

Tool, Maynard's most famous band, is described as "progressive rock," and smacks you in the face.

Puscifer, the band, takes you home where the buffalo roam, kind of.

"Puscifer is a multi-media project, it's a little bit more than just music, it actually started in comedy in the early 90s," according to Jen. "It's Maynard's chance to be more personal, have more fun."

Why a Puscifer store in tiny Jerome?

"The store in Jerome? Because that is where we live, and he wanted to start it because, like I said, it's a multi-media project, so it was able to expand into a brand very easily," she continued. "We were the only band to have a store."

Puscifer - the Store has huge open spaces with its historic high ceilings and wonderful views of the Verde Valley while you look out the huge rear windows.

But entering the store can seem strange for those who don't know Puscifer - the band. The store seems unlike any of the other stores that cater to tourists in Arizona.

I asked about the reaction from unsuspecting tourists who have not heard of the band and walk in looking for the usual Jerome knickknacks?

"A lot of confusion," Jen responded with a smile.

"But a lot of people turn into fans by the time they leave, and I mean that's all ages," she added. "That's always nice to see."

Jen explained that about 60 percent of the customers who come in the store are aware of the band.

Puscifer - the Store was actually at another location in Jerome, but after a good response from customers, they moved it just doors down from the famous Spirit Room and the Jerome Post Office. They now carry some other brand items because of the traffic, Jen explained.

On the store's first floor, neatly packed away in little boxes under the glass counter, are Maynard's musical expressions. Puscifer albums, CDs and vinyl. Some are autographed.

There's an autographed Tool stadium shirt and a Tool's Oakley leather sunglasses (both worn on-stage, but not much from Maynard's band Tool. Collectable art and posters from concerts hang on the wall and you can also get Puscifer pillows, blankets, beanies, bandanas, belt buckles, stickers, coffee and candy.

T-shirts, jackets and sweatshirts hang along the walls, and Puscifer thongs, panties and socks are neatly laid on a table.

And for the baby in your family, there are Puscifer bibs, baby shirts, little knit hats, and for the mutt, Puscifer dog toys and a dog bed made from a wine barrel.

On the wall, a projector plays a video of Puscifer performing the song Mamma Sed. Maynard is silhouetted and wearing a cowboy hat on the stage with a streamline camper behind him, a campfire burns, stage lights resemble a setting sun. The song is calm. Soothing. Someone appears to be sipping a glass of wine.

A walk down a long wooden stairway at Puscifer's reveals Maynard's other business in the building: Barbifer, a Puscifer barbershop.

"It turns out this store actually was a barber shop back in the early 1900s," Jen pointed out, adding that Maynard did the same thing at the Caduceus Cellars building two doors down the street in Jerome where he tried to recreate the original bar using old pictures and blueprints.

Barbifer mustache wax and other shaving and hair products are available for purchase.

At Barbifer's, first you can get a haircut are served in a traditional barber's chair and a straight-razor shave is an option not always found in the Verde Valley.

The barber lathers you up three times and lets a warm towel settle your face before she finally returns with a sharp straight razor.

I thought of the miners who lived in Jerome decades ago, who labored and died to grind copper out of mine shaft below me. It's where the new wave meets the old wave and mixes with the Old West.

Behind the barber's chair, I glance at another muse for store customers: a growing new and used vinyl record store section. Everything from the Ramones vinyl to Bob Dylan to GG Allin to Michael Jackson vinyl. On the other side of the basement room, Puscifer T-shirts are being printed on a silkscreen machine by another employee.

Jen said all the Puscifer shirts are printed at the Jerome building. Another space in the basement is used to sell items on the Internet as well as items.

Dare I say it? The scene looks like a Puscifer musical set? People all in motion all moving to Maynard's beat. Building a tempo to a common goal.

Will the real Maynard Keenan stand up?

Jen and Maynard have a daughter named Lei Li and call the Verde Valley their home.

It's difficult to tell if Maynard is having an impact on the Verde Valley or the Verde Valley is having an impact on Maynard? Jen did say he schedules his music and tours around his winery schedule.

If you listen to his Puscifer song Green Valley, one can picture Maynard in his cowboy hat strumming his acoustic guitar in the shade of a sycamore tree, sipping wine along the Verde River, sun setting, a campfire simmering, a woman sings along ...

"Come the sunrise,

We'll descend through Judgement Valley

And weigh your worth

Before her majesty, the Verde River

-- Puscifer's song Green Valley

Quite the contrast from the famous lead singer of Tool.

This mohawked Maynard takes his screaming arena rock fans on a primal screaming, heart-thumping journey unique to any other rock bands. The visuals seem like fireworks on acid. His deep voice then rises out of the relentless bombardment of music and visuals. (Don't go to a Tool concert if you have a heart problem.)

Then there's Maynard Keenan, the Verde Valley winemaker.

Maynard has four vineyards in the Verde Valley. His largest one is in Cornville and has smaller ones also in Cornville, Jerome and Clarkdale and another vineyard in Southeast Arizona, according to Jen.

The fruit for the Caduceus label will consist mainly of Northern Arizona grapes now that the 37-acre vineyard block known as Eliphante in Cornville is coming online.

Maynard also owns the Four Eight Works and Caduceus Cellars tasting rooms in Clarkdale and Jerome where customers can sample and buy bottles of his wine which is made at his Four Eights winemaking co-op facility in Camp Verde. Some wine is also produced in Jerome.

Maynard's other vineyard in the Verde Valley is a one-acre block at Yavapai College in Clarkdale.

Maynard has been involved in winemaking in the Verde Valley for more than a decade and has worked closely with Yavapai College, according to Nikky Bagley, Director of Viticulture Program, Yavapai College, in Clarkdale.

Maynard sponsored the first acre at the college, all the materials and provided the incentive for the college to move ahead and plant its own 11-acre vineyard for the school's Viticulture/Enology program at the college, Bagley said. The Viticulture/Enology program has now grown to 100 students, Bagley said.

The Clarkdale one-acre vineyard is great place for the students to study the standards that private industry hold for winemakers, she said. Maynard has also hired one of the Yavapai graduate students, and the students help harvest the acre, she added.

The grapes from the Clarkdale vineyard are used as the wine for a Four Eight label, and for wine at the Yavapai College's new tasting room, Bagley said.

Where is Maynard?

Jen says some of the customers ask about the famous rock star and whether he comes in the store. They even ask where he lives, she said.

"He's very hard working. He can't sit still. He's got the creative energy and he has to do something with it," explained Jen. "He also believes in supporting your community and not just sitting there and taking, but giving back."

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