Carina Round may be best known as co-lead vocalist, with Tool's Maynard James Keenan, in the band Puscifer, but the British singer-songwriter is also an accomplished artist in her own right.
She's released four solo albums to date — the most recent being a collaboration with Billy Corgan, Dave Stewart and Brian Eno — and two more with her band Early Winters. Her Slow Motion Addict album, released in 2007 by Interscope, was accompanied by a full-length film about a woman whose soul is slowing dying, one day at a time. She joined Puscifer in 2009, and also served double-duty as their opening act on several tours. (This time, a Mexican wrestling troupe is opening for the band, who'll be playing the Pikes Peak Center Sunday.)
Round can also boast one of pop music's great near-misses, having flown to Berlin for a series of meetings with Lou Reed, who was planning to photograph one of her album covers. The shoot never happened, but Reed did invite her to dinner with the legendary filmmaker Wim Wenders, and also left her to pay the bill for a €35 bottle of sparkling water.
"It was a surreal couple of days," she fondly recalls. "And sometimes, when I think about it, I can't believe it happened. But I couldn't have made it up, because I definitely remember eating purple asparagus with Wim Wenders and Lou Reed."
Puscifer, meanwhile, has successfully transitioned from Keenan's "side project," a term Round truly dislikes, to an indisputably full-fledged band. The surrealistic rock group has released five albums, including last October's Money Shot, over the course of the past eight years.
By contrast, Tool performed a handful of recent live dates, but haven't put out a new album in 10 years. "I've heard Maynard talk about new Tool material," says Round, "but as to whether there's a recording coming out, I really have no idea."
In the following interview, the singer talks about Mexican wrestling, Keenan's controversial lyrics, and Puscifer's improbable joie de vivre.
Indy: You'd already established a career of your own before joining Puscifer. How would you say working with the band has affected your music?
Carina Round: It certainly has made an impression on my creative process. As a solo artist from the beginning, I didn't really have a chance to do a lot of collaboration. So my preconception of what that's supposed to be was very different to what I experienced when I walked into the studio with them.
What were you expecting?
I wasn't really expecting anything. But maybe subconsciously I was expecting it to be similar to my own, which is basically poring over details. And, you know, sitting down, listening to something, getting up, drinking some coffee, walking around, reading books, sitting down, working on something. It was just very personal, very private and very insular. Incredibly precious. It's like pulling teeth.
That sounds kind of awful.
I don't mean for it to sound that awful, but it's a heavy experience, at least for me. And I wasn't aware that there was supposed to be any kind of lightheartedness or joy about anything to do with the world of creativity. It was a real eye-opening experience, just to see the way Maynard and Mat [Mitchell] work. On the surface, it could be considered kind of haphazard, but it's not at all. It's just a very well-oiled system of trust, and it was great to see that and just experience the joy of collaboration.
The band's music is so intense, and most of it's pretty dark. But what you're describing almost sounds like fun. Is that even possible?
Well, it IS possible! I think it's very important, for Maynard, to connect the sensitivity and intensity of whatever he's saying with that part of yourself that will laugh for 10 minutes without realizing why. And then, when you come to see the show, there's this weird performance thing that is, I don't know, confusing, almost a juvenile sense of humor.
Does he know it's almost juvenile?
Of course! He loves that shit. But, you know, he's a smart man, he knows exactly what's going on all the time. I just think it's a thrill for him to connect those things, for the comedy to be the vehicle for this meaningful, sensitive, intense music.
And I think that all of us in the band are, in a way, very shy people. So there's an element of security in having something that makes you feel vulnerable be driven by comedy or silliness. That's just me, you know, I'm not speaking for him. It's just kind of, you know, who wants to be fucking miserable all the time?
What's the Mexican wrestling thing all about, and will you be bringing them along for your Colorado Springs date?
I don't know if anyone knows what it's really about. But yes, there'll be some of them there. It's fun as shit to watch them.
I once saw a Lucha Libre match in L.A., and it was really acrobatic. It was like the Cirque du Soleil of wrestling.
It really takes a lot of training and a lot of talent. If you watch closely enough, these people are doing some really fucked-up shit.
What's your favorite song on Money Shot, and why?
I think, just for personal reasons, "Agostina" [a song Keenan wrote about his daughter] is my favorite. I grew up without a father, so it's been very healing for me to watch my male friends have relationships with their daughters. And to be a part of that, and somehow voyeuristically heal through that, is very moving. When I first heard the song, I was sitting alone eating in a restaurant and just crying and crying.
I can see some of Maynard's other lyrics being offensive to feminists. Do they ever make you uncomfortable? And what does your mom think of them?
My mom thinks they're funny. Which ones are you talking about in particular?
Well, on the new album, there's the song ["The Remedy"] about bitches being smacked in the mouth. I know that "bitches" could theoretically be a term for male or female, but...
Oh, you mean [sings sweetly] "You speak like someone who's never been smacked in the fucking mouth." I mean, that's really just an antagonistic, sarcastic reference to someone who spouts off their mouth without knowing what they're talking about.
It sounds nicer when you sing it.
[Laughs.] I don't know if it's supposed to sound nice. I can't really speak to Maynard's history as a feminist or a lack of one. But I know him well enough to know that, if it sounds like he's joking or being sarcastic, he is. Or maybe he was just really fucking mad at somebody. But that's what art is; it's a vehicle of expression. And I feel like if you're going to be too careful about that kind of thing, you're going to restrict yourself too much as an artist. And, to me, that's more important.
I don't know, maybe I'm just desensitized because I'm in this industry where you're basically fucking surrounded by men all the time. But I can safely say that the women that Maynard is surround by are incredibly strong, all of them. Also, I feel a growing strength in myself as a human. I'm not fully there yet, but I wouldn't consider myself a weak female. And I feel comfortable enough in that body to be able to sing the shit that he writes, and feel okay about it.