Rock Solid: Wilson Combat Recon SR

Tool's Maynard James Keenan goes full Wilson Combat Recon at Gunsite!

In an age when the celebrity spotlight pardons increasingly higher levels of absurdity and self-absorption, Maynard James Keenan, the multiple Grammy-Award-winning frontman of Tool, A Perfect Circle and Puscifer, stands in stark contrast. Behind the driving music and unconventional stage presence is a man of focused intelligence and a sometimes-perverse sense of humor, who bats fame and pop-culture about like a cat with a mouse.

While his more loosely tethered contemporaries burned out and broke up, Keenan cultivated a balance of back-sore, trial-and-error grape farming with an evolving musical creativity. His philosophy of living purposefully brought him in 1995 to northern Arizona to escape the madness that was Los Angeles and to, in his own words, build a bunker.  Shortly after his arrival, Keenan pioneered in the rocky sediment of a region better known for spiritual vortexes and copper mines, the art of wine grape growing. The result has been a series of platinum albums, a hat trick of successful bands and a winemaking business that sells nearly 50,000 bottles per year, with some vintages selling for as much as $250 per bottle.

Meet Maynard

Keenan, 48, grew up in Ohio and Michigan, where he ran cross-country and wrestled in high school. Upon graduating, he enlisted in the Army and initially trained to be a surveyor preparing sites for artillery emplacements. Shortly after basic training, Keenanâ’s performance on an aptitude test led to an offer to attend the U.S. Military Academy Prepatory School. After one year, Keenan was offered an appointment to West Point, which he declined, whereupon the Army sent him to Fort Hood to think about my decision for the remainder of his enlistment. His duty to country served, Keenan got off the bus in his Class A greens and with his Army duffle in hand and instructed his hometown JC Penny barber to give him a mohawk. And with that, the die was cast. Keenan used his GI Bill to attend Kendall College of Art and Design. The rest is rock music history.

Self-Reliant Soul

So how and, more importantly, why does a rock star at the top of his game mold a large part of his life around winemaking? The process started in the mid-90s, says Keenan.  Winemaking is part of my survival mindset. I think too many people have lost the ability to find food and water, but I don’t think  living off the grid is truly practicable. Pardon the pun, but there is truth in it ”it takes a village to sustain a village. There are rural communities around the world that are able to support themselves when they are focused around a single sustainable industry (wine, olive oil, wool, etc). Each person or family plays a role and sustains an element of the whole. Each contributes and trades his specialty with others. As a result, the diversely supplied community thrives.

This isn’t a Utopian concept, Keenan said.  On the contrary, each group perfects its respective element and trades upon its relative value. My contribution is wine. One of the first things Noah did after the flood was plant grapes. The grapes provided food, and the fermentation gave the people a naturally purified water source. In our modern application, it serves much of the same purpose. Here in northern Arizona, we now have dozens of vineyards, a winemaking incubator and a winemaking study program underway at our local community college.

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