Interview: Guitar Talk with A Perfect Circle’s Billy Howerdel, Part 2
Last week, we ran Part 1 of our interview with A Perfect Circle guitarist Billy Howerdel. This week, we continue with Part 2, offering a look at Howerdel’s affinity for Les Pauls and how he acquired his prized 1960 reissue. For Part 1 of the chat, go here.
Did you use any Gibsons for recording “By and Down?”
Always! (Laughs) It’s all I really play. My main guitar is a 1960 reissue that is actually a happy accident. I was a guitar tech for Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails on their Downward Spiral Tour in 1994 or 1995. I went through a ton of guitars; let’s say 137 Les Pauls I had gone through. This was, by far, the best-sounding and playing one. I usually repaired all the guitars coming through. This guitar, the headstock got ripped off when it was thrown into the crowd, so I was trying to find a donor headstock for it. So, I got to put it back together, and it got put back together at the wrong angle for some reason, and the two woods didn’t match up. But, it was definitely a happy accident, and it lent itself to being more playable. It’s my favorite guitar. Anyone who has ever played it knows it’s something special.
Why are you drawn to the Les Paul guitar?
Really because of that Nails tour. We went through so many guitars. So many guitars were presented. The sky was the limit. We could play whatever. There were some other guitars that were brought in from other brands, and if my two cents meant anything, I pushed to continue using Les Pauls. They’re solid. They do well when you throw them 30 feet in the air. Plus, there’s the beefiness of the sound, the playability, the scale. I prefer the Gibson scale. It really comes down to the sound for me. To me, there is no other guitar I go towards.
You also use the Gibson ES-175s, correct?
Yes, I believe it’s the Steve Howe model. I got it from Gibson. I’m not a big guitar buff. I don’t know much about vintage guitars and what’s different about it, but I love this guitar. I really like it acoustically. I’ve recorded with it acoustically quite a bit. The top has a plastic-y sound when you mic it that’s really pleasing to me. It has a softness to it that doesn’t sound like a typical acoustic. It has something different.
Do you have any plans for a new studio album coming up?
I’m always writing music. When an A Perfect Circle-sounding song comes along, I’ll put it in that file. A lot of times, I just write and not know where it’s going to go. I’m getting a better sense of in what direction I’d like the next A Perfect Circle record to go. I think (A Perfect Circle’s new single) “By and Down” is a good indicator of that. My time is focused on ASHES dIVIDE, my other band, and I’m concentrating my musical energies towards getting that record done. The A Perfect Circle record could very well be what the ASHES dIVIDE album started out as. The more I worked on it, the more I was fighting it, and the reason I was fighting it is that it was an A Perfect Circle record. But, Maynard could hear it and think something different; only time will tell. But, I’m taking a much different direction with the ASHES record, which is the reason for the hold up.
Will the ASHES dIVIDE record be out before A Perfect Circle album?
Most definitely. That record is much further along because I’m singing on it, so the vocals are something I have control over. In reworking these songs, I’ve rewritten most of these songs over the past few months. I’m going to hopefully have that thing out in the early spring of 2014. For the ASHES record, Danny Lohner is always instrumental in helping. He always helps me push through and not get content. He’s a great producer.
What’s next for you with both A Perfect Circle and ASHES dIVIDE?
Nothing right now for A Perfect Circle. I hope we can do some shows in 2014. We’ll have to see what Maynard’s schedule is like. I know he’s working on a new Tool record. As far as ASHES, I have every intention of being out either later this year or certainly by 2014 and to have a new ASHES tour.
Live photo credit: Anne Erickson.