- Art rockers A Perfect Circle
To read some articles about the making of the current A Perfect Circle CD, Thirteenth Step, one might think battles were raging in the studio throughout the recording of the CD.
An article on the VH-1 Web site (titled "A Perfect Circle Agree To Disagree About Single, Art, Everything Else") described guitarist Billy Howerdel and singer Maynard James Keenan as arguing vigorously over changes Keenan wanted to make to music Howerdel had already written for the CD. The article also said that if bassist Jeordie White (formerly known as Twiggy Ramirez when he was in the band Marilyn Manson) had not played the role of peacemaker between the two band mates, A Perfect Circle might have split up.
In a recent interview, though, Howerdel said the Thirteenth Step project wasn't so fraught with conflict. But he acknowledged that there were differences in the studio -- something the band had never before experienced.
"The tensions that we had [were greater], especially in contrast to the first time ... I threw out about 12 songs and he [Keenan] sung on them," Howerdel said, referring to the band's 2000 debut CD, Mer de Noms. "We quickly recorded the [first] record and then put it out. There wasn't much conflict at all."
That first CD took shape after Howerdel met Keenan -- the lead vocalist for Tool -- when he worked as a guitar technician for Tool during the recording of that band's 1996 CD, Aenima. During those sessions, Keenan heard music Howerdel had written and volunteered to be the singer.
Keenan wrote lyrics to Howerdel's music, and guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen, bassist Paz Lenchantin and drummer Josh Freese were recruited to complete a band lineup. Thus, A Perfect Circle was formed and they quickly recorded Mer de Noms.
Just as he did with that first CD, Howerdel also got the ball rolling on the Thirteenth Step project. While Keenan returned to Tool to write, record and then tour to support that band's most recent CD, Lateralus, Howerdel began writing new music, sometimes getting together with Freese, Van Leeuwen and Lenchantin to hash out ideas. (Van Leeuwen has since left the group and joined Queens of The Stone Age, and Lenchantin is reported to be working on a solo CD. Former Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha and bassist White joined A Perfect Circle in their places.)
Howerdel said once the Thirteenth Step project moved toward recording, Keenan began to lobby to reshape some songs to fit vocal and lyrical ideas he had. Howerdel said he and Keenan weren't consistently at odds, but they disagreed over specific aspects of several songs.
"At the end of the day when I counted it up, there were only two or three songs that didn't make the record and two of them that are on the record now that maybe got changed like 30 percent," Howerdel said.
The Thirteenth Step CD doesn't seem musically conflicted. If anything, it is generally stronger and more dynamic than Mer de Noms. Where that first CD leaned toward hard-rocking material with an arty edge, Thirteenth Step is more varied musically, with greater contrasts between hard-hitting songs like "The Outsider" and "Weak And Powerless" and softer songs like "The Noose" and "Vanishing," while retaining the art rock edge of the first CD.
Howerdel said he's pleased with Thirteenth Step despite the conflicts that surfaced during the making of the CD.
"At the end of the day everything did work out," Howerdel said. "I love the record. I'm proud of it. And you know, the struggle was there, but it wasn't something that [disrupted the band]. I think everyone is happy with it."
-- Alan Sculley
A Perfect Circle
Colorado Springs City Auditorium, 221 E. Kiowa St.
Saturday, June 12
Doors open at 7 p.m.
$35; 520-SHOW or www.ticketmaster.com