This November, beloved “supergroup” of sorts A Perfect Circle will be finally returning to the stage after a hiatus of over five years. Their last performance was on June 13, 2004 at Red Rocks in Colorado. We were there as fans, but Antiquiet didn’t exist… Nor YouTube. Or Twitter. Facebook was just a baby being raised by Justin Timberlake and that guy who isn’t Michael Cera, and MySpace was really cool. We’ve got a lot of catching up to do.
As some of you know, we’ve got a bit of history with this band, and to make a long self-indulgent story short, we wouldn’t be here without them. They were the first great band that Johnny and I discovered together and got behind with all our strength. We’re delighted to have them back, to say the least.
Mastermind Billy Howerdel called in yesterday to give us what might be the most in-depth interview on record to date, discussing the prospect of new music from APC, what we can all expect on this upcoming tour, and their controversial third album eMOTIVe, released after that final tour date, before the 2004 US Presidential election, and just before the band dropped out of sight.
I won’t ask you to pick a favorite lineup, that would just be wrong. But over the years, how have the lineup changes affected the overall personality of the group?
There’s definitely a different chemistry and a different emotional conversation that goes on throughout the tours… It’s mostly on the road, because that’s when you really get into… you know, you’re living in a sardine can with a bunch of other humans and you’re trying to figure out how to survive that.
It’s always been pretty easy, as far as I’m concerned, as far as the lineups we’ve had, we’ve always been lucky to have great players but good friends who are not just there for business but because they want to be. And so you’re picking the people just as much for their personality as for their playing abilities.
It seemed like on the tours with James and Jeordie, there were a lot more shenanigans going on, with the crazy covers after the shows and toy helicopter accidents…
I don’t know if you’d call that fun (laughs)…
Was it Jeordie and James, were they the dynamic comedic duo?
No, it was Josh and Jeordie, they were like Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-dum, total pranksters running around.
James and I would usually be out doing boring stuff in town, sightseeing. We both toured for so many years and never did the stuff you’re supposed to do in those towns. Like, ‘you know what, let’s go to…’
The pretzel museum?
We called everything “shady square.” Like the place where everyone’s trying to sell you drugs but there’s actually like the monument you’re supposed to go see in the middle of the Eastern Bloc country.
It was fun though, it was an awesome tour in 2004. Our longest tour, for sure. I don’t know if you looked back, but in 2000 and 2001, we toured for a total of eight months. In 2003 and ’04 we toured for almost a straight year. So we got to find ourselves, so to speak, a little bit more, and we definitely evolved a lot as a live touring band. I think it helped in a lot of ways, not just as players but in figuring out who you know, who you are and what your tolerances are. When you’re on the road for that long, it’s kind of like going into a monastery and becoming a monk or something… Except you get to have sex, that’s the difference.
So what are you guys doing right now? I figure you’re somewhere rehearsing, well, every song you’ve ever recorded.
Yeah. Josh and Matt McJunkins (our new bass player) and I, I think we’ve played together three times, Josh and Matt have gotten together once or twice by themselves to run through it. They’ve gotten through both the first and second record, they’ve gone through Mer De Noms and Thirteenth Step.
I’m still working on… this really ridiculous, daunting task of re-doing every guitar sound I’ve ever had, mine and James’ and the bass sound. I’m concentrating on mine right now, like taking my old guitar rig, and getting rid of it, and starting from scratch with this new effects processor I got. It’s smaller, and doesn’t break every 20 to 30 minutes while playing. My rig was so complicated and flaky. I always had really good techs that would know how to deal with it as it went down, but you know, it was a pain in the ass. I never knew if every night would be the same, and so I’m looking forward to it working every night.
It looked like NASA Mission Control.
Yeah, it was ridiculous. But it was to make it easier. And honestly, it would be a lot easier if I just [used it] now, but I’m just like, ‘I’m taking the task…’ With Ashes Divide I started using this new thing, and I just said, ‘OK, I’m just going to go there and take the time.’
But in doing that… It’s been interesting because now I’m going back to the stems and the original files from the recordings, and hearing everything in its raw form, unmixed, all separated out. And it gave me a new-found appreciation for the stuff, and honestly I’m pretty proud of it.
After you make a record, you release it, you let it go, and it becomes… Whatever, the Universe’s. It doesn’t quite belong to you anymore, so to speak. But going back and looking at the outtakes and the fuck-ups, and all the things that you do in the recording process, it’s like this audible time machine, where you can go back and it’s like ‘wow, I can still smell the coffee brewing as I fucked up this line in this song.’ It just has that kind of cool… rummaging through your high school yearbook kind of feel to it.
This tour means a lot to us in a lot of different ways, but in that kind of way, having to dig everything up again and feel it, is getting me back into the mood of A Perfect Circle.
What are the chances that we’ll hear a new song?
If you asked me last week, I would have said 70%… If you ask me this week, I’m going to say 60%.
I don’t know. I’ve given stuff to Maynard, he’s writing to it. When he gives me something back, I’ll write to it more. And here we are, we’re getting close to a month away from the first show.
So I mean, if it’s going to be irresponsibly terrible, then we won’t. But if it’s somewhat doable, then we’ll premiere it… I doubt it’s going to be recorded or released, but maybe it is, I don’t know.
We have every intention of playing a [new] song or two on this tour, but the reason for doing this tour is to revisit these old records, kind of exercise them, and remind everybody, like ‘remember us?’ And we don’t even know what to expect from the fan reaction. Will people even remember on a large scale, who we were? But the appetite seems… awesome.
I feel like there are a lot of new fans that have collected during the downtime in the past five years.
Maybe we underestimate the power of the internet.
To go back, and just to grill you a little bit more… Over the past five years I know you guys have been passing music back and forth, and you’ve said we may or may not hear something new on this tour, but are there any songs that ever got completed or even close to completed that might be lying around somewhere?
Not in the past few years… There are some things I’ve been working on… Some become Ashes Divide songs, and some are kind of held tight in hopes to become A Perfect Circle. I don’t have some great formula for as to what’s going to go where other than… Like I had one pinned for APC that I thought for sure Maynard would go for, and then he responded to the one that I thought for sure that he wouldn’t, that I wasn’t even going to give him. You just never know.
So we’ll see. Out of what I’ve recorded as demos and scratchings from the past four years or so or three years, I’m as curious as you are to see what becomes APC songs. (laughs)
You see yourself throwing in any new covers? Or old covers even?
If we’ve played it live, we plan on playing it. If we have played it live in the past, we plan on playing it now, that’s part of the deal with this tour.
Are you bringing any support acts out with you?
No. It’s just going to be ‘an evening with’ us.
Has Maynard unpacked his wigs yet?
I don’t know. You’ll know when I know, probably.
I think we’ll all know. When we smell them, after five years… Right?
I think they’ve been in a hermetically sealed trophy case.
Your last tour dates, back in 2004, were months before YouTube even appeared on the internet. Which completely bottles my mind. But has the band talked about your collective stance on bootlegging? Back then, Todd would run around tackling tapers and smashing tapes…
You mean, as far as now, it’s unstoppable?
Well, I don’t know, is it? I mean how does Maynard feel about it, and how do you feel?
Honestly, I haven’t thought that much about it. I mean I think that the bootleg recordings that get out are only going to be at a certain level, and we have every intention of releasing something, hopefully as an official release pretty soon. So that will… We’ll be in competition with the bootleggers I guess. (laughs)
I don’t know… Whatever. Today is today, and you’ve gotta deal with what it is. You’ve been to shows, right? The reason you go to shows is for that experience, but if you hear a recording of it, sometimes it’s easy to dismiss it. Even someone like me, who cares, and I go to a show, and I’m re-reminded of why I go and love live music and why I support it. And then I get out there and play, and same thing, I get psyched that people come…
But I’ll find myself hearing something [bootlegged] from somebody and go, ‘eh, I don’t know if that sounds that great, I don’t know if I need to go see ‘em, I’ve maybe heard enough…’ And it sucks, because here I am, cutting myself from possibly the greatest live experience I’ve ever heard. Maybe they just had a bad night or maybe it’s just some dude’s shitty Nokia phone wasn’t good enough to pick up the nuance in what you worked so hard to put out there.
So we’ve struggled with it back and forth, but you can only drive yourself so crazy. So I’ve decided to drive myself crazy by reprogramming sounds, rather than worrying about bootlegs.
To get back to that idea of an official release, back in 2004, there was this idea of a full-length live DVD on the table, aside from aMOTION. Did you mean you’re going to go through with that in the near future?
Possibly. It almost came about. But I want to see what goes on with this tour first. We’d like to see if maybe a show or two or more could be something that’s interesting enough to release. So we’ll see. We might have it where it’s an exclusive thing you can walk out with from the show that night. Or maybe not, I don’t know. We’ve got to see how it feels in late October.
But yeah, we have some really great recordings from the past, audio and video, and there were some HD video shoots that we did that would be great to release someday. Maybe it’s now, maybe it’s later on, I don’t know.
And you’re taping these upcoming shows?
Yeah. The plans are definitely to record them in some kind of way. Even if it’s just for our archive- it always seems like it’s just for our archival purposes, but yeah, there might be something with that a little bit later.
When you guys started playing Passive [originally created through the abandoned “Tapeworm” project] live, as Vacant, Trent Reznor said “I have to admit I find it mildly irritating for [it] to debut in this fashion before feeling it has been properly realized…” Did you guys ever straighten that out?
I don’t know, that was under my… Over or under my radar, whichever way you want to look at that. (audibly shrugging) No? I don’t know. (laughs)
Was that just between him and Maynard, or something that the people made more of, or what?
I don’t know, I don’t hang out with Trent, I’ve seen him socially only two or three or four times since that tour, but if it’s never come up. If it came up to somebody else, I don’t know about it.
That song started out, I believe as Danny Lohner’s brainchild and it went from there. I could be wrong, but that’s what I’ve been told.
So okay, it wasn’t a big South Coast vs. West Coast thing.
Nah. I mean shit. Or maybe it’s bigger. Maybe he’s really pissed and he’s sabotaging me. Maybe that’s why Ashes Divide didn’t sell as much. (laughs)