Music News & Reviews

Time apart helped A Perfect Circle grow, create ‘best live production’ it has ever had

Perfect Circle members are, left to right, Jeff Friedl, Billy Howerdel, Maynard James Keenan, Greg Edwards, Matt McJunkins. The Los Angeles rock troupe founded in 1999 performs at Rupp Arena Saturday.
Perfect Circle members are, left to right, Jeff Friedl, Billy Howerdel, Maynard James Keenan, Greg Edwards, Matt McJunkins. The Los Angeles rock troupe founded in 1999 performs at Rupp Arena Saturday. Paul Harries

Billy Howerdel admits he is not much of a salesman.

While he is more than eager to reveal his pride over the first album from A Perfect Circle in 14 years as well as a current tour that brings the band to Lexington for the first time, he isn’t into what is commonly viewed as promotion.

“I’m terrible at sales and a terrible marketer,” admitted the guitarist and multi-instrumentalist who co-founded the Los Angeles rock troupe in 1999 with vocalist and frontman Maynard James Keenan. “I’m just excited for people to see this show because I think this is the best live production we’ve ever had. That I can say that with confidence.”

That there is a pathway at all for A Perfect Circle in 2018 is somewhat astounding.

Having devoted much of the past decade and a half to separate projects — Howerdel with the alternative pop unit Ashes Divide and Keenan with the Grammy winning prog/metal band Tool as well as the looser, industrial-esque Puscifer — A Perfect Circle slowly emerged from its hiatus with songs that possessed a more varied, ambient and brooding sound that the guitar driven music fortifying the band’s 2000 debut album “Mer de Noms.”

The new compositions coalesced into the comeback album “Eat the Elephant,” which was released in April.

“Our only agenda with ‘Eat the Elephant’ was not repeating ourselves,” Howerdel said. “We met our influences and our life experiences there in the studio, in the notes, and tried not to revisit what we had done before. We were certainly not afraid to tap into all of that, but we also didn’t want to do ‘Mer de Noms, Part Two.’”

While A Perfect Circle operates as a five-man ensemble in performance, “Eat the Elephant” was largely a two-man operation with Keenan handling the vocals and, with minimal exceptions, Howerdel taking on all of the instrumentation.

“We cut this record over the last couple of years. I gave Maynard ideas for the songs. He asked me to strip them down to a much more broken down place — to maybe just a piano and a click track. Then he would find his best melody and then I would start working the track back up. We would send the music back and forth online.

“It was a bit disconnected from the way we used to work with both of us in a room together. But this gave a lot of space and creative license to not be waiting on another creative type. There is something to be said about that. When you’re sitting in a room, you know the pressure is on and you’re going to do great work. But you can also say, ‘Let me go marinate in my own space, wherever that is.’ It could be sitting on top on a mountain saying words into an iPhone.

“Everybody’s got their way. I would have liked to have had a little more face time. But the results are what they are, which are great.”

Did spending so much time apart on their own bands freshen the prospect and perspective for Howerdel and Keenan on working together again in A Perfect Circle?

“This kind of situation informs whatever you do, whether it’s in your personal life or business. It’s always going to inform what you’re going to do next. I mean, I can hear Maynard’s growth vocally from what he’s done in Puscifer in what he brings to us. He takes more liberties and gets into a more orchestrated vocal approach. I think what I’ve done with Ashes Divide has found its way into this band, as well. It’s just the nature of how this all works.”

With the Rupp concert part of the final touring cycle to promote “Eat the Elephant,” Howerdel sees Keenan returning to Tool as the guitarist heads back to Ashes Divide. But A Perfect Circle, he said, will not be reverting back to dormancy.

“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.”

If you go:

A Perfect Circle/Night Club/Tricky

When: 8 p.m. Nov. 3

Where: Rupp Arena, 430 W. Vine

Tickets: $49.50, $59.50

Call: 859-233-3535 online:,