This article was written by Samuel Phineas Upham
James Keenan, known affectionately by fans as “Maynard” or “MJK,” was born in Ohio in April of 1964. His parents divorced, and Keenan was forced into a childhood that stifled his creativity. His mother suffered a cerebral aneurysm, and used the illness as an excuse to persuade Maynard to move back with his father.
MJK considers that move one of the defining moments of his life, and certainly the best possible move he could have made for himself. He enrolled in the army, with the goal of using the proceeds from the GI Bill to fund his musical exploits. He was inspired by Bill Murray’s performance in Stripes, which would lead him to become a forward observer for artillery.
Maynard was a dedicated student. He attended the US Military prep school known as West Point, where he studied English and Math rigorously while he honed his singing skills in the glee club.
Keenan had had some experience singing in bands by the time he moved to Los Angeles. He’d already performed with Children of the Anachronistic Dynasty, and played bass guitar with the band TexA.N.S.
In LA he met Adam Jones, who had heard a demo of Keenan and enjoyed his vocals. He suggested the two form a band, and though Keenan was reluctant, they started Tool in 1990. They signed to the label Zoo Entertainment within a year, and they had debuted their first album by ’93. Undertow would be certified as a gold record within eight months, platinum less than a year later.