Q&A: Billy Howerdel of A Perfect Circle

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A Perfect Circle,  the rock supergroup formed in 1999 by guitarist Billy Howerdel and Tool vocalist Maynard James Keenan, is set to play the Event Center in San Jose next week. The band will be promoting their first new album in 14 years entitled, Eat The Elephant, which is set to drop on April 20. We wanted to check in Billy to ask him about why it took so long to come out with a new release, what the writing process was like between him and Maynard, and what fans can expect from the tour this time around.

Being that it’s been 14 years since your last release, how, why did you decide to release a new album now? How do you explain the gap between albums?

This is something both Maynard and I had been wanting to do for a while but we’ve both been working on other projects and life has intervened. With Maynard, it’s always a matter of timing, he’s often scheduled more than a year out. There was a window we both had open and we were able to get working.

What was the writing process between you and Maynard James Keenan this time around?

We traded ideas while I was in Los Angeles and he was in Arizona. Maynard made visits out to LA where we’d work in tandem on the songs.

The sound seems to be a little different on this one, especially with the vocals. Was that a conscious effort or did it just happen organically?

That’s really more of a question for Maynard but obviously, he’s a tremendous singer and his vocal range has continued to evolve. He’s commented on how many people think some of the vocals on Puscifer’s recent releases are Carina Round’s but they are actually him.

What were some inspirations for this album?

The world around us, the times we’re living in right now, how volatile it is. The need for accountability. I go into my studio and write, it’s influenced by what’s happening in my life and what I see around me.

You’re coming back to the Bay Area in April but performed in San Francisco at around this time last year. What do you think of the city?

I love it, I’ve always loved the Bay Area, it’s a very special place.

What can fans expect from the tour this time around?

The main thing is we’re playing a lot of new material. We’ll also have Greg Andrews from Failure/Autolux joining us as James Iha is touring with the Smashing Pumpkins. The line-up is Maynard, myself, Jeff Friedl (drums), Matt McJunkins (bass) and Greg (guitar).

You’ve come out with a couple of videos for “Eat the Elephant” that has a strong political message. What do you think of the current political climate in the United States?

It’s a volatile, sad state of affairs but I’m hoping this is the precursor to change. As we’ve seen in the past, like the ’60s with the civil rights movement, there are often challenging periods ahead of true change.

A Perfect Circle plays the Event Center at San Jose State University on Wed 4/18 @ 8 pm

Photo by Tim Cadiente

An avid drummer whose discography includes albums on Digital Nations (a Steve Vai imprint), music critic Louis Raphael has always kept a pulse on the San Francisco music scene. After many years as the San Francisco Music Examiner for Examiner.com and AXS.com, he decided to start Music in SF® as a way to showcase what the San Francisco music scene really has to offer.

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