A Perfect Circle started as a side project between Maynard James Keenan of Tool and Billy Howerdel who spent years guitar teching for artists like Nine Inch Nails, Guns and Roses, Smashing Pumpkins and David Bowie. Howerdel met Keenan while serving as guitar tech on the recording of the band’s 1996 album AEnima. Howerdel played Keenan some of his compositions during this time and Keenan offered to sing for him. Howerdel took him up on the offer in 1999. The band quickly escaped the “side project” label as their debut Mer de Noms rocketed up the charts. The band released The 13th Step as a follow up with continued success. In November 2004, the band released Emotive a set of anti-war cover songs timed for the presidential election. It’s the last studio recording the band released. The Alt spoke to Howerdel from the studio a day before the band released their first single in over a decade called “The Doomed.” It’s a string-driven tirade with Keenan condemning the world: “Blessed are the envious/ Bless the slothful, the wrathful, the vain/ Blessed are the gluttonous/ May they feast us to famine and war.”
DK: The tour has been announced. There’s a lot of anticipation to see you guys again but when can we expect new material? Do you expect to have something soon?
BH: Yes sir. We’re fully in the throes making a record. I’d say we’re at the halfway mark. I’m in the studio right now and we’re all a bit sleep deprived, working 14 hour days to get this done.
DK: The band was quite politically outspoken in the early 2000s. Does the current political climate have anything to do with your return? Should we expect a political tone to the album?
BH: I do the music and Maynard writes the lyrics so I can’t really speak to what he has planned.
DK: It’s been quite some time since we’ve heard new original material from the band. What direction is the music headed in? You’ve done a solo project and Maynard James Keenan certainly has other outlets, so I’m wondering if you actually have older material you’ve been stockpiling for this release.
BH: With most records Maynard and I write songs separately but together and then I record them. This time we hired a producer. I’ve usually played the role but this time we have Dave Sardy as a producer and he has a whole team. So this is a bigger record than we’ve done before.There’s a lot of material. There is one quite old song–its sort of dog eared that we’ve decided to massage for this record. Musically, it is a more sophisticated record. Although I use that term loosely. I just scored my first feature film so it’s more nuanced. I’m using a new set of tools and in some ways it’s like speaking a new language.
DK: I recall seeing you guys in 1999 opening for Nine Inch Nails. Maynard spent most of the set singing while laying on the floor–it was fairly crazy. What should we expect from a headlining arena tour?
BH: Our spring tour was one of best tours ever. We’ve been playing bigger places, really interesting places and having a lot of people showing up. Our last tour was completely sold out in the last run, [in] big arenas. It was really nice. We have a really interesting stage production and I don’t think we’ve ever looked or sounded better.
DK: How do you want fans to support your music? Should they buy an album? Is streaming enough? What lets you know that you’re being supported as an artist?
BH: I do want to make something that is worth putting money down. I don’t need more than knowing that I’ve done that. But people write and tell us, “This album changed my life.” You don’t need to buy the album these days so I see it as the ultimate compliment. It’s like leaving a tip for good service at a restaurant.”