Tool & A Perfect Circle lead singer and songwriter Maynard James Keenan once said, “I always knew I wanted to be creative, that I wanted to create something.” Funny enough, one of his most brilliant creations, “3 Libras” is also his most cryptic. Keenan said this in the liner notes about his most famous song, “Up until the mid twentieth century the mountain gorilla was considered a myth. Oddly enough, a legend not unlike Bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster. The chance of actually seeing/experiencing this elusive shadow was as likely as finding one’s soulmate. Rare. Precious. Even once discovered they seemed unapproachable. The only way to get close to this magnificent creature was to become empathetic. Abandon all pretense and preconceptions. To bare an open throat. To collapse into the arms of vulnerability. All but extinct, these beings/moments are threatened by the black hearted. The cold and oblivious. The empty eyed profit seekers that overlook these Rare. Precious.”
Keenan description reminds me of Daniel Quinn’s celebrated novel Ishmael. Ishmael is about a nameless narrator who answers an ad that reads, “Teacher seeks pupil. Must have an earnest desire to save the world. Apply in person.” The narrator is schooled by an actual intelligent Gorilla, who communicates telepathically, and teaches him about the secrets and mysteries of the world. What if Keenan is the nameless narrator and he’s trying to share the same wonders he learned from this magical gorilla?
Is “3 Libras” really about nature, man and mythical gorilla? One of Quinn’s most famous lines from Ishmael has to be: “There are times when having too much to say can be as dumbfounding as having too little.” Maybe that’s why Keenan is so cryptic with his lyrics. Could it be that Maynard has a sense of humor and truly wrote “3 Libras” for his nine friends born under the same sign, he wanted them to battle out between them who this song was actually written for? Did you know Quinn actually revealed, in My Ishmael, that the narrator is Alan Lomax, one of the great American Folk collectors of the 20th Century? Lomax archived so many classic American and British Folk artists because he wanted this music to endure. So maybe there is a musical link between Ishmael, Daniel Quinn and Maynard James Keenan and “3 Libras.”
Maybe “3 Libras” is just like singer Maynard James Keenan said, “it’s about not wanting to be overlooked.” Sometimes you just have to listen to the signs around you. You really have to open your ears. If it wasn’t for the birds outside my window I would have never written about Nine Inch Nails “Sin” and this A Perfect Circle song is no different. For days it was like the universe wanted me to write about “3 Libras.” I kept hearing a bird whistle the opening sounds from one of my favorite Massive Attack remixes, “3 Libras.” Every time I would hear it, I would say, hey that’s “tres Libras,” just the way I like to say it. Thank You, universe, for bringing this All Main Courses mix back in my life. I so love the remix. Maybe 3 Libras wasn’t inspired by Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael? Quinn’s main Gorilla speaking protagonist told the nameless narrator, “Teach a hundred what I’ve taught you, and inspire each of them to teach a hundred.” Maybe Maynard James Keenan is following his own advice, “Music is about listening, the more you play, the more the magic spreads” and is just trying to get his Perfect Circle fans to finally sing along?