Photographed on February 11th 2014
Keenan’s basement smelled like old basements tend to. Dirt and lazy mold, too inhibited to grow fully but lingering in the cracks waiting for an old pipe to burst or someone to fail to clean the toilet. It’s the scent of workspace's or game rooms, those things that typically don’t fit into the house proper, but make a building feel more lived in. More real.
I hadn’t seen Keenan in years. I found him underground, surrounded by sketches of art in the same style that he was perfecting back in high school. It was comforting. As if it was telling me that no matter what changed in our lives, that there is always something in us that calls to our truth.
Under the watchful eyes of honey bear bongs and sketches of social icons he sat at his workbench burning that art into wood. We chatted about life and caught up like old friends can do when they are not burdened by youth.
“Through everything that I’ve been through, love is usually my main motivator in life”
Keenan tells me this once we move to the living room of his home. The personality of Keenan and his wife, Venus, seeps out of every corner of this place. I feel like I’m in a temple devoted to them, and could spend all day long looking at their personal iconography.
“My love for my wife is what brought me back here, and I feel really lucky because a lot of people don’t get that.”
Keenan and Venus were married in 2011. In that same year Keenan came down with Bell’s Palsy. It is a form of facial paralysis.
“It fucking hurt. It was probably the most excruciating pain I’ve ever been in, in my life. I mean there was a couple of days where I just laid on the floor here, like a, like a screaming mute.”
Keenan doesn’t believe in taking hard core medications so he relies on marijuana for pain control. While he took control, we sat and chatted about the history of the honey bear bong, Brad Pit and Missouri.
Listen to an except from that conversation in this video clip:
His clipped laugh and occassional goofy expressions when he was poking fun at something, were time machines for me, that couldn’t be contain by the changes that have occured to him because of the disorder.
Guitar and Keenan were almost the same word in my head in the glowing chaotic years that we were good friends.
He was always one step ahead of everyone when it came to rock and roll.
“My favorite music is just dirty rock and roll music. From there on out, that’s what changed. Guitar was really the first place where I felt like.. this is...this is really interesting to me, and this is what I want to do, and the possibilities are endless.”
I met Venus briefly at the house. She arrived while we were going through drafts of art Keenan had been working on. What he had said about their relationship was abundantly clear from how they interacted.
I left Keenan that night at a bar. One of a couple that he spins records at every week. The place had very few patrons but he didn’t seem to mind. He told me about how if only one person hears something they might not have heard before then he did his job.
A job he describes loosely as a music historian.
I asked him what his goal in life is and he responded in a way that I would nothave expected at the beginning of the day, but after being with him for hours and having my expectations scrubbed from me, it only makes the most perfect sense.
He said this about life, Kansas City and his wife,
“My goal in life is to have love, and be happy, and this is what makes me happy, and where I find love.”
This story is an expansion on a multimedia film I created about Keenan. What the full film below:
Photography and Words by Brandon Parigo