Last night I watched the movie Blood into Wine. It’s the story of Maynard James Keenan and his partner-in-wine Eric Glomski and their journey into vinting. The movie itself is excellent, and tells quite the story. For those that don’t know, Maynard is the front man of the legendary rock band Tool, as well as A Perfect Circle, and the Ringmaster of his current solo project Puscifer. A quick read of his wiki pages lets you know that he also went to art school (paid for by his time in the Armed Forces) and tried his hand at stand-up comedy, inspired by Bill Hicks, someone he admired greatly. Truly a jack-of-all trades. At first mention, you might think that this was just another rock star putting his name on something he thought was cool in order to promote himself and earn a few more bucks. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Maynard fell in love with wine and then wanted to know more. Discover more. Put himself into it fully. For Maynard, this led to starting his own vineyard and winery.
For those of you that are familiar with Tool and Maynard, you know the air of mystery that surround his projects. Tool has gone out of their way to avoid the media side of the rock-industry. Rarely posing for photos, making interviews rare if any. At some shows they won’t even address the crowd. They simply come up on stage, play their asses off, and leave. A friend of mine went to see them in Michigan, and told me that Maynard spent almost the entire show behind the drum set, facing the back of the stage. But with the lighting and music and the entire experience, he said it really didn’t matter. If anything, it made the experience of the show even better.
This movie not only gives you a close look at two guys that are crazy about wine, but it provides a rare look at Maynard himself, with the mask he usually wears taken off. What we see is a man that is uncomfortable around people in so much that he really isn’t a people person. He seems to keep his circle close (even when that circle includes Patton Oswaltd and Milla Jovovich) and even when interacting with those, he lets others direct the conversation, mostly appearing that he’d rather be somewhere else. And if this movie is any indication, that somewhere else is digging in the dirt on his vineyard, picking grapes, planting vines and keeping animals from eating his crops.
Maynard does draw a couple of comparisons between his music and his vinting. He tells us that the process is very much the same in that with his music. It is an authentic process, one that is involved with discovering the medium fully (be it music or wine) while at the same time, leads him to a higher plane of self discovery. When you listen to Tool’s music, you can hear their jam-band element come across, and it almost seems as if the band is there just to support the music as it happens naturally; that they are just as much a part of the music as they are its creators. Maynard takes the same approach to his wine in that he isn’t out to please critics or change the world of wine, but rather to give life to something he put his whole being into.
There is something rather Zen Master about Maynard’s whole approach. He refuses to perpetuate his own celebrity status. Rather than appear on reality TV shows or VHI, he only feeds his fans a tiny morsel of himself, and lets them use their own magic to come up with the rest. He rarely answers questions directly; instead his answers come from the relative way in which he engulfs himself and his work. He seems much more interested in the process than he does the final product. This just reminds me that the principles at work in Buddhism can be found anywhere, and are indeed universal, no matter what their context.
Anyway, if you enjoy documentaries at all, you should see this movie. It’s a great introspective into one man’s life and passion, and regardless if you are a Maynard fan or not, you will appreciate the way this story plays out.