By Bill Adams
Time is a funny, most inspiring thing. If one trips through the volumes of history, it is possible to find discussions about time and the passage of it in the discourses of the greatest thinkers in human history and each one of them has a slightly different take on the subject – but the one constant that everyone is able to agree on is that time passes, and it passes at a rate greater than one with which anyone is comfortable. It’s easy to understand why no one is really comfortable with the rate at which time passes too; often, time seems to accelerate exponentially as soon as one drops his head to concentrate on an endeavor and, when that job is completed and the worker looks up to check the time, the whole world will seem to have changed. Then the rush revolves around trying to catch up. Such is the situation that A Perfect Circle finds itself in now; recently, the band decided that it was a good time to reconvene after a six-year absence which means it has to get itself, its’ songs and its’ sound whipped back into fighting shape – and do it at an accelerated pace. “I’m in rehearsals right now and, between interviews, I’ve been working on making guitar and bass sounds for the upcoming tour,” explains guitarist Billy Howerdel of the recent activity in the A Perfect Circle camp. “It’s pretty exciting and overwhelming. We’re redesigning our guitar rigs and going from these physically massive assemblies down to something a little more manageable. It’s all just in the spirit of technology; things get better and smaller in the guitar world just as they do with cellphones but to redo all the sounds from scratch is a really daunting task – I think I’m at hour one hundred at this point and not close to being done. Atmosphere is very important to the sound of A Perfect Circle, and getting that right is just taking a while.”
Needless to say, given the guitarist’s toils, A Perfect Circle’s upcoming West Coast tour has been quite a time-consuming preparation thus far, and no one plans on phoning the shows in for a grab at nostalgia. Still, one has to ask where the band and its’ members have kept themselves for the last half decade; a question that Howerdel answers easily and fluidly, with an almost surprising ease – now was the time the band members had, so this was the time they took. “Well, the time was right,” says the guitarist, almost seeming to shrug through the phone. “At the end of the last tour in support of Thirteenth Step, we decided that we were going to go and do some solo projects and figure out what we were going to do and what came out was that Maynard was going to keep doing Tool and start his winery,” explains the guitarist of the events that led to what would eventually become A Perfect Circle’s six-year hiatus from regular active duty. “Things like that take a while to germinate and get together and, all of a sudden we discovered that here we were, six years later and this seemed like the right window to get started again. The time made sense and, really, we were just waiting for a hole to appear in Maynard’s schedule so, when one did appear as it has now, we wanted to take advantage of it.”
…And, within that hole, things have started to get interesting once again for A Perfect Circle. This coming November, the band has confirmed a series of fourteen dates which will stop in Tempe, AZ, Los Angeles, CA, San Francisco, CA, Seattle, WA and Las Vegas, NV. Each of those stops will feature a series of three-night residencies where the band will perform one album from its’ songbook from front to back per night, thereby offering those fans who attend all of the shows in any given city a full course of A Perfect Circle – running the guantlet to bring everyone up to speed. “The spirit of the tour is going to be – Night 1: Mer De Noms, front-to-back, in order, then Thirteenth Step the next night and eMOTIVE the third night,” explains the guitarist of A Perfect Circle’s plan of attack for these shows. “That’s going to be how it works everywhere except for Las Vegas because we’re only doing two nights in Vegas.
“The reason we decided to do the shows this way was because we felt it might be an excellent way to get to know each other again and go out and re-introduce ourselves to the world,” continues Howerdel. “Happily, the set lists won’t be hard to write and that takes one hurdle out of the way [chuckling], but it shouldn’t be too taxing because when we were making those records, there was forethought put into how the songs were going to blend with each other in the live realm. So now that the set list has been determined by the order of the record, there will definitely have to be a few things that are adjusted to make work for a great live performance. We’re working on that and we have had two rehearsals so far which sounded great so we’re really looking forward to it, and we’re really looking forward to that third night when we do eMOTIVe because we haven’t played any of those songs live before. That should be interesting too because of the way it was recorded; a lot of liberties were taken in the studio so some of it will be pretty significantly different. Because of that, I’m thinking that the tracks will breathe a little more and probably be a heavier offering, and some changes may show up in the way that some of the songs get presented, but they won’t be drastic. Over the years, there were some different versions of the songs as far as length and extended sections and things like that and we may incorporate some of those into how it’s going to be presented.”
As exciting as this news might be for fans who have waited patiently for A Perfect Circle to return, Howerdel excitedly points out that this brief tour will likely not be the only action that the band makes. Because the guitarist has been responsible for much of the songwriting that has gone into A Perfect Circle’s music, and because of the way the guitarist writes, there may be new music forthcoming from the band than anyone expects. According to Howerdel, this coming tour may feature the first new songs from A Perfect Circle that fans will have heard in six years and, if not now, then perhaps they’ll manifest on one of the other tours that the band is already considering. “Exactly nothing is set in stone just yet, I’ve written some sketches, so to speak, and I’ve sent them off to Maynard,” betrays Howerdel as he offers a progress report on A Perfect Circle’s songwriting. “He’s kind of working on them right now but I have no idea how they’ll sound when he’s done. What those sketches become after he’s put his vocals down may be something else completely and then, after he’s done.
“The way it has always worked is sort of like this,” explains the guitarist, for clarification’s sake. “I write for both my other band, Ashes Divide, and A Perfect Circle – but the songs are fairly non-descript in the early writing stages; they could go anywhere and I’m not writing with intentions for one project or the other because I feel like anything I’ve written could sit very well in both realms so it really just depends on, uhm, the spur of the moment [chuckling]. I mean, the two songs that we’re working on in A Perfect Circle right now could have been Ashes Divide songs. I did sing a bit on them and tried not to give Maynard those vocals just so it wouldn’t influence where he would go with it, because I can always bring that up as a suggestion later, and try to let it be that musical conversation that Maynard and I have which I think is the foundation of what the band is.”
“All of the songs I write are just so open and porous that I never know where they’re going to go until they’re done; it’s a matter of when either Maynard and I or the members of Ashes Divide and I are working at them and, when they get to be at that ‘sixty or seventy percent done’ stage, that’s when it becomes clear which band will keep them. At that point, I’ll re-address the song and then we’ll take it to the guys and we’ll play it in a room and flesh it out in a more human way, and then we’ll decide whether we want to record it – or not. As I say though, I’ve handed a couple of those really basic sketches to Maynard and, if they’re ready in time I’d definitely want to play them on this upcoming run but, if they’re not ready by the time we’d need them to be for this tour, perhaps we’ll get into them when we get back and maybe record them. At the same time, maybe they’ll be ready for a tour we’re thinking about doing in the new year. We do hope to get out next year and do some more shows possibly, but there are a lot of logistics involved so nothing has been locked down or confirmed yet. It would be fantastic to get out next Spring or Summer or something like that and do some shows that aren’t just on the West Coast. As far as new songs go, I would hope that we have some more but, again, I’m just letting what is set up be what it is and go with the flow. This tour is first; I’m a bit at the mercy of the full schedule that Maynard keeps and this was the window that opened up for him, so I’m making myself fully available for it. After that, we’ll see what happens – but we don’t plan on letting it just drop off after this or anything.”
Bill Adams is editor-in-chief of groundcontrolmag.com