It’s been six years since A Perfect Circle’s last proper U.S. tour and 13 years since the alt-metal mainstays released a studio album, but the band has “every intention” of ending both droughts in 2017, says 46-year-old guitarist Billy Howerdel. Last week’s spring tour announcement was coupled with the news that the band has begun work on its first album since 2004’s eMOTIVe, and Howerdel says that the group, led by Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan, sees the 21-date live trek — kicking off April 7 in Las Vegas — as a springboard to new studio ideas.
“We’re not promising anything, but I have every intention of doing my best to have us playing some new tracks during this run — with the idea that new music is coming very soon after,” Howerdel tells Billboard. “It felt similar to me to the very first thing we ever did. When Maynard and I first started talking about working together in 1999, we collaborated on two songs, and the idea hatched to, ‘Let’s do a live show,’ and let that fire under our ass be what’s going to propel us to finish this music. … And we approached it the same way this year. I said, ‘We’re gonna do shows,’ and with those shows there’s the hope of having some new music to go along with the shows. So let’s let that be the thing that puts us in a panic mode.”
The reason for the prolonged gap in A Perfect Circle activity? Packed schedules, Howerdel says. After all, Keenan has been playing with Tool (confirmed to headline festivals like Governors Ball and Boston Calling this year) and Puscifer (which has released three albums since 2007) following eMOTIVe’s release. Meanwhile, Howerdel has worked with Ashes Divide, guitarist James Iha has dabbled in the film world following his time in Smashing Pumpkins and bassist Matt McJunkins has toured with Eagles of Death Metal. A Perfect Circle toured the U.S. in 2011 and played a handful of international shows in 2013, but a fourth album has long been elusive.
“To be honest, I thought it would be a few years earlier,” Howerdel says of A Perfect Circle coming back together. “There’s so many scheduling things between all of us. Maynard’s got a lot of projects going on, and it felt like a few years ago it was going to happen, but this is just the way the schedules lined up. But I’m always excited to get the machine back up and going.”
Howerdel says that talks of a reunion had been taking place since last spring, and that it always made more sense to schedule a live run prior to finalizing A Perfect Circle’s new music. After all, the propulsive, heavy art rock of 2000’s Mer de Noms, 2003’s Thirteenth Step and 2004’s eMOTIVe — which have sold over 4 million copies combined, according to Nielsen Music — will largely influence the group’s long-awaited next installment.
“Having these shows lined up, I know I can close my mind and meditate for a moment on, ‘Oh, I’m going to be back on stage, playing these things that are important songs to me from the past,’” Howerdel says. “I go, ‘What can I do to complement those? What can I do to add to it, but not replace it?’ And that puts me into a position of power — a creative position of power. With that you can go back to your paranoid brain of, ‘Oh shit. It’s been a long time. Everyone’s waiting. This has to be as good or better.’ It’s good to have that balance.”
Although it’s been more than a decade since A Perfect Circle last released new music, the Jan. 9 tour announcement and Jan. 13 on-sale were met with enough fan enthusiasm to get Howerdel even more excited about the upcoming shows.
“To have that happen now is shocking, and I’m still humbled by it all the time,” he says. “Years go by, and people still care and pay attention. There’s always a little bit of, ‘Oh, I hope people still remember.’ I’m older. I have kids. I know a lot of my peers listen to more talk radio than they do music — and I’m probably no different. But there’s certain things that stick with me from years ago, and I guess some people feel the same.”