Puscifer and Steven Drozd – Rocket Mantastic

“Officially credited to Puscifer & Steven Drozd (Flaming Lips’ lead guitarist) and dubbed Rocket Mantastic, the cover is a beautiful rendition of the 1972 classic.”
X 107.5 Las Vegas, July 7, 2010

“Puscifer featuring Steven Drozd”??????? Steven did everything on that track except for the lead vocal.”
-Kliph Scurlock on Flaming Lips message board, July 07, 2010 06:57 PM

“I recorded the entire song with Maynard James Keenan virtually via iChat & e-mail. I recently heard that Elton John & his camp loved it which is so great.”
– Steven Drozd to themusicslut.com, April 2010.

As previously noted on this blog and elsewhere, Steven Drozd scored Christopher Pomerenke’s probing music documentary The Heart is a Drum Machine (more on the film – here).  Most of the score is instrumental electronic ambient music (much more on the score – here), with one stand-out exception: a cover of Elton’s John’s “Rocket Man” with Tool/ A Perfect Circle’s Maynard James Keenan (under his solo projects alias, Puscifer).  The combination of these two figures, their two fanbases and their two sounds (focus on the vocals and it could be A Perfect Circle, but listen closely to the music and it could be a Yoshimi B-side) made for a very buzz-worthy release.  Maynard James Keenan also appears in The Heart is a Drum Machine, and the same film company that produced the documentary is currently promoting Blood into Wine, a film about Maynard’s interest in winemaking. 

Although live recordings by Puscifer of “Rocket Man” have circulated since 2009, such as the one at the bottom of the page, the studio recording with Drozd was kept under the lid until early July 2010, when it started streaming at puscifer.com’s store and quickly circled the web.  Three months later it became available on iTunes.

Steven recalled how he came to score the film and work with Maynard to phoenixnewtimes.com in January 2011: “They were interviewing Maynard for the music documentary but they then they were also doing…I think they did a documentary about him and his wine making. And they were out at his ranch in Arizona and they told him that I was doing the music for the film and he said, “oh, you know, Tool and the Flaming Lips toured years and years ago and me and Steven use to do a version of “Border Song” by Elton John. We should do that for the film.” But he was wrong it wasn’t “Border Song,” we never played “Border Song,”

I love Elton John but I don’t really like that song, it was “Rocket Man.” If we were playing somewhere and they had a grand piano there in the auditorium or in the concert hall I was always dicking around on them back then and then Maynard would come over and we’d sing a couple of songs of Elton John and other soft-rock ’70s stuff.

So the other interesting part was that through e-mails and ichats and everything we communicated. We literally never got together once, we literally never spoke on the phone, it was literally through e-mail and iChat and all virtual. I did the basic tracks, I sent him a basic mix of it, he imported it into his home studio, did all the vocals and he shipped all the vocals back to me individually and then I put ’em back in the mix and mixed the track and sent him a rough of it to see what he thought of it and we just back and forth over the course of six weeks. So eventually we came to a mix we all liked and Ryan and Christopher liked it and that’s definitely one of the highlights for the whole thing for me. I really like that version a lot.”

As noted by Steven in the above interview, Tool and The Flaming Lips have a long history, going back to when they toured together in 1994.  Coincidentally, Steven tweeted about that tour right as the “Rocket Man” collaboration hit the web:

Steven also talks about the tour in this video, citing the intensity created by Tool fans that hated The Flaming Lips as the reason he liked it so much: their hatred made him play better…

Apparently playing shows with The Flaming Lips influenced Tool’s Paul D’Amour, who left to pursue  his own music shortly afterwards.  According to Tool’s Adam Jones, Paul’s solo music spanned from alt-metal to classic rocking sounds with a ’90s twist, ala The Flaming Lips – a notion documented in this excerpt from the December 1996 issue of Chart Magazine (issue 78), “Tool- Barium For The Brain” by Robin Genovese:
“[Aenima] started out differently for Tool, undoubtedly because of the not entirely unexpected departure of founder bassist Paul D’Amour a few songs into everything. Five songs were already written with D’Amour when he decided to jump ship (“Stinkfist”, “Eulogy”, “H.”, “Pushit” and “Aenema”).
“Paul’s always been a creative force in the band,” Keenan explains. “But when you hear his new album, you’ll hear exactly why Paul’s not with us anymore.”
The bassist’s stint with The Replicants seems to have inspired him to experiment further afield. “He really did want to do his own thing,” Jones qualifies. “It’s good, it’s just different from Tool.”
“It’s beyond The Replicants,” continues Keenan. “If you were to take avid Bowie, Syd Barrett, Flaming Lips, Steely Dan, and The Beatles – and mix it up – you’d have what Paul is doing right now. Which is not what we’re doing.”
Likewise, Tool affected the Flaming Lips whose 1995 cult classic Clouds Taste Metallic borrows its name from a comment made by Tool while they were touring with the Lips.


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