Tool Singer Says Wearing Drag Onstage ‘Had Nothing to Do with Florida’

"I've been cross-dressing since long before these clickbait-junkie dupes were out of diapers," Maynard James Keenan exclusively tells The Messenger


Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan attracted wide notice over the weekend for his choice of stage attire at Welcome to Rockville, a festival held in Daytona Beach, Florida.

Some viewed the blond wig, smeared red lipstick and prosthetic breasts the famously costume-prone singer wore during the progressive-metal outfit's headlining set on Sunday as an overt condemnation of legislation recently passed by Governor Ron DeSantis — specifically a bill that restricts minors from attending drag shows. But as Keenan told The Messenger on Monday, his presentation was not intended as an overt act of protest.

Amy Harris

"I've been cross-dressing since long before these clickbait-junkie dupes were out of diapers," said the singer. Keenan, who also wore prosthetic breasts onstage in the late '90s, further revealed he was recently browsing online for a new set.

"It's pretty crazy the technology and the prosthetics nowadays, how they've come along, and I just was considering bringing the look back," he explained. "And that's really all there is to it. I'm not a political fella — had nothing to do with Florida."

The singer went on to add that "It's amazing to me how every single thing you say or do is twisted and conformed into some fundamentalist far-right or far-left agenda."

Keenan — who is playing select U.S. festivals with Tool for the rest of the year, including this weekend's Sonic Temple in Columbus, Ohio, and is also currently touring the States with his art-pop collective Puscifer, which heads to Europe in June — has long taken the stage sporting various unorthodox looks. Past Keenan get-ups have included riot-police gear, body paint, various mohawk hairstyles, lucha libre-style wrestling attire and an outfit riffing on the Captain America costume. Prosthetic breasts were a feature of his presentation circa 1997. 

Though he resists political pigeonholing, he does feel that legal restrictions restricting attendance to drag shows are wrongheaded.

"I think limiting people's access to anything is absurd," said the father of two. "Good parenting allows you to teach your kids how to be reasonable and reason and puzzle things out and decide for themselves what the f—k they wanna see or not wanna see."

Technically, Keenan's sporting of drag was a violation of Florida law, since Welcome to Rockville was an all-ages event, but he's yet to receive any kind of summons. "Nobody's enforcing it," Keenan claimed. "They just do that and they throw it out there to shore up their base for an election year."

Keenan acknowledged that the limiting of access to drag shows could be seen as part of a larger wave of anti-LGBTQ sentiment, but noted, "This is not new. I remember listening to my aunt tell me about all the s—t that went on with her elders with human rights and the days of Martin Luther King Jr. That's not that long ago. That was yesterday to me. So this violence is not going away... It's still here. It's not like these laws are going to lead to some kind of new violence. The violence never left."

So does Keenan himself claim membership in the drag community? "I guess so, yeah," he shared. "On occasion, I am a drag queen; I've been a drag queen. I'm casual, so the hardcore people are going to dismiss me as being a tourist." (He's also worried he might be showing his age: "Let's be honest, I'm 59. So last night's performance looked more like Brienne of Tarth on her worst day," he said, referring to the Game of Thrones character.)

He revealed he does feel a certain kinship with those who practice drag as a form of self-expression. "Solidarity with people who are not afraid to express themselves? Absolutely," he affirmed. "People that want to express themselves in whatever f—king way they want to express themselves, as long as they're not physically directly hurting someone? Yeah, go for it. I'm all for ya."

"If there's any takeaway, it's be yourself," Keenan reiterated. "Don't be afraid to be yourself."

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