On their first full-length since 2004’s eMOTIVe, A Perfect Circle have created an artistically nimble missile of rock. We asked co-founder, songwriter, guitarist and occasional backing vocalist Billy Howerdel about Eat The Elephant.
I want to see the expansion of the story of your successful reanimation from a cryogenically frozen state [“Fourteen years after being cryogenically frozen as part of an experimental partnership between the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame and Dairy Queen, guitarist Billy Howerdel has been successfully reanimated” – Eat The Elephant press release]. Possibly into a film. Are there any plans for a venture like this?
The script is in its final stages of completion, but it’s eight years in the future.
Did your own and James Iha’s playing styles slot straight back into whatever symbiotic league they were previously in, or was there some feeling out which had to happen?
James is the ultimate team player. He’s completely egoless and he plays with beautiful simplicity; it’s that combination that makes James so special. Now with Greg Edwards (Failure/Autolux), who is filling in while James is touring with the Smashing Pumpkins, we just had our first rehearsal together and I said to the room, “Am I being less picky or did that sound like we could almost do a show tomorrow?”
So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish is absolutely beautiful, with its touches of timpani and glock. Its lyrics mourn these artistic icons of our world, and lament the Light Leaves-like “ticker-tape parade.” Did you know these lyrics (and the Douglas Adams-referencing title) were going to be a part of the song as you were writing that poignant lead guitar line?
No, the music came first. With A Perfect Circle, the music always comes first and the melody/lyrics that Maynard [James Keenan, vocalist] creates are a reaction to the music.
I’m incredibly lucky to be in a band with a person whose lyrics never cease to inspire me to make the music better.
There’s some awesome piano across the album, notably on Eat The Elephant and The Contrarian, but also the instrumental DLB – what made you decide to leave this last piece as a sort of interlude, instead of beefing it out?
When we’re making a record, we have cornerstone songs with a general idea of what you are trying to get set down, and then you start filling in around those songs. Sometimes the songs that are added during that process end up being the best songs on the record. Sometimes you just need to take a breath between two different thoughts, with thoughts, in this case, being songs.
I did not want Get The Lead Out to end. The piano is out of tune; whose is it, and who’s playing it? Why did you decide the wonkiness of that instrument fit this track?
I’m playing the piano in Get The Lead Out and it is actually my new/old piano. I just purchased a 1909 Steinway upright and when it was delivered to the house, I tracked the first pass while it was out of tune, and then took a second pass after it had been tuned. I used both tracks. The piano was added after the body of the song had been finished, so the intro was written after most of the meat of the song was complete. It seemed to need a different colour from the precision of the col legno [perfect strike].
It’s also got probably the longest fade-out I’ve ever heard. Is there sort of an accepted fade-out length in the production biz, and you decided to throw that convention in the bin?
Yes, we passed the typical fade-out norm.
Delicious features an excellent groove, and a fun switch-up of time signatures. Is it one of the most enjoyable on the album to play?
Funny enough, yes it is.
The industrial Hourglass contains the line “Tickle tickle tickle, all your neck-hairs prickle.” Will you get to double this excellent lyric with Maynard live?
Eat The Elephant is out April 20 via Warner.