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This article was originally published in issue #63
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From 1994 to 2004 APC produced three records, Mer de Noms (2000), Thirteenth Step (2003), and Emotive (2004), which all topped charts and quickly became highly acclaimed.
Last April, after 14 years of silence, alt-metal supergroup A Perfect Circle returned with the triumphant 'Eat the Elephant.' During the band's UK run in support of the new album, Guitar Interactive Magazine speaks with the band's co-founder and guitarist Billy Howerdel about the new record, future plans for A Perfect Circle and we take a closer look at Billy's live rig for the current tour.
Billy Howerdel, music composer and guitarist for the Alt-Metal supergroup A Perfect Circle (APC) and frontman for Ashes Divide, is highly commended for his style regarding both his guitar playing and music composition. His influences include quite a vast, eclectic combination of artists such as Elvis Costello, Ozzy Osbourne, and The Cure. One of the most interesting aspects of Howerdel’s composition is displayed in his guitar parts, with which he leaves a surprising amount of space for other instruments.
On this subject, he states, “I attribute it all to the fact that I didn’t want to play blues guitar. Everyone starts with blues and I wasn’t very rebellious but rebellion to me was liking non-guitar music… The guitar parts were just one colour amongst many but didn’t stand on their own.” This specific mindset provides a more striking atmosphere and distinctive sound that clearly separated APC from other metal bands.
Since the conception of APC, Howerdel has remained in charge of writing the music while Maynard James Keenan (vocalist for Tool) handles the lyrics. This process began even before the band was ever formed. After their meeting in 1992, Howerdel shared some of the music he had been working on at the time with which Keenan was highly impressed and offered to provide lyrics and vocals for, if he was ever interested in starting a band. Despite Howerdel’s initial vision of having a female vocalist sing over his music he accepted this offer and concluded that Keenan’s voice was a perfect fit for his music.
From 1994 to 2004 APC produced three records, Mer de Noms (2000), Thirteenth Step (2003), and Emotive (2004), which all topped charts and quickly became highly acclaimed. Shortly after the release of their third album, the band decided to take a break which allowed Keenan and Howerdel to focus on their own separate projects. During this break Howerdel was able to pursue his solo project, Ashes Divide.
While APC was recording Thirteenth Step Howerdel already had several ideas sketched for his solo project including the song “Stripped Away”. APC’s “Army” demo was reworked and renamed as “The Stone” which became the radio single and first track on Ashes Divide’s debut album Keep Telling Myself It’s Alright. Howerdel initially intended for his songs to carry a faster, more up-tempo feel than the music he wrote for APC so that they would each stand distinguished and separated.
However, this process felt too unnatural for Howerdel; to which he states, “When I started writing this stuff, I set out to do something very different. But if this is going to be my main focus, I want it to be what feels really right to me, and not just a side project or whatever you want to call it.” The fact that Howerdel wrote all of the music and lyrics and even recorded majority of the instruments on this album resolved to be more than enough to separate it as unique to his style. Several years after the release of Howerdel’s debut solo album there was only some slight on and off activity with APC until 2017 when they announced they would be releasing a new album.
And so after an extensive fourteen-year-long hiatus, A Perfect Circle’s most recent album Eat the Elephant, released April 20, 2018, surfaces with many unexpected turns. This latest record abandons most of the grit and power that is found within the previous three albums. Rather than stay captive to one single sound throughout their career APC takes their time on this and produces a work that is completely unique for them.
With fourteen years having gone by all of the band members find themselves in a new place and this clearly shows on this record. Howerdel’s entire process evolved and led to many creative decisions that greatly attributed to the new sound found on this record.
Having just scored his first feature film Howerdel commented on the impact that had on the album by stating in a Noisey article, “So with this record, I just freshly came off of that movie, and I think it was very helpful to get into this with a more orchestral approach. It's very different from the other records in that way.” Another unique approach for Howerdel with this record is that he wrote all of the songs on piano rather than guitar, which ultimately led to the album being mostly piano-based and centred around textures rather than guitar parts.
The process that APC took to make this record allows more room for growth to which Howerdel states, “I think this record adds to an already strong foundation for the band and will allow us to step forward. I think Maynard feels the same. We will move forward for sure.”
A Perfect Circle's 'Eat the Elephant' is out now, via BMG Records.
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