Interview: A Perfect Circle’s Billy Howerdel Talks ‘By and Down,’ Part 1
A Perfect Circle brings together Maynard James Keenan’s yearning voice and Billy Howerdel’s imaginative guitars, and the result is a masterpiece of moody art-rock. Howerdel’s guitar work is a focal point of A Perfect Circle. His sensitivity to sound makes for ambient and textured songs, brimming with beauty and theatrical sonics.
Although A Perfect Circle haven’t released a full studio album since 2004, the band has stayed active on the touring circuit. The guys released their first studio single in years, “By and Down,” last month, and the song is part of a greatest hits package, Three Sixty, out Nov. 19.
Howerdel spoke with Gibson.com about “By and Down” (one of his favorite A Perfect Circle songs), his friendship with Keenan and what’s ahead for both A Perfect Circle and his other project, ASHES dIVIDE.
Check back next week for Part 2 of our interview, featuring guitar talk with Howerdel.
Congratulations on your live CD/DVD box set, A Perfect Circle Live: Featuring Stone and Echo, and the greatest hits album coming out in November. Why was now the right time for A Perfect Circle to release these pieces?
It was really getting this box set together and getting the video edited for Stone and Echo. It was a multi-camera shoot we did at Red Rocks in 2011, and we mixed all three records to be in that box set, as well. Even though there wasn’t a lot of new material recorded, there were a lot of moving parts to make this all happen. It just became that this was the time to do it. The best of stuff kind of coincided with the album, which was cool, and we got to release the studio version of “By and Down,” one of our new songs.
Were you surprised the box set sold out so quickly?
Yeah! It’s a pricier piece, but in the spirit of trying to give people the value for their money, it’s a high-cost piece to make. We did a very unique resin picture frame that’s going to house all of the content. It’s not something you’re just going to put in the shelf and never see again; it’s something hopefully people will be proud to hang on the wall. So, it took time to considerer what was going to be the vehicle for this thing—what was going to house this and make it different from other things we had seen.
(Note: After selling out of all 2,500 copies of the box set, the band announced it will release the audio and video components in digital format on Nov. 26.)
Do you have any plans to press more?
I think there is something that will come. It might not be the same exact thing. It might not all be signed, because we signed every one of the 2,500 of the limited-edition box set. So, that was a bigger undertaking to do. There might be a modified version that comes out at some point in the near future.
Tell me about the new song on the album, “By and Down.”
It was in a batch of songs I had given to Maynard back in 2010 or 2011. It was the one he found the inspiration to do the lyrics for. We got it together, played it in rehearsal and played it on our 2011 tour. So, we had been playing it live for a long time, and it was unique in that we had to go back into the studio and record this thing. When you’ve been playing it live for so long, you kind of get married to how you’re doing it live, and usually it’s the opposite way: You’re in the studio, you record something and then you figure out how you’re going to do it live. So, that was unique. I just finished mixing it less than two months ago, so it was definitely a bit of a scramble.
You have a greatest hits package coming out, too: Three Sixty. Is it odd to think of A Perfect Circle being a greatest hits band?
Well, not every song we’re releasing was a hit on the radio. It’s more a compilation favorite songs. It’s, I think, a revisiting of our body of work. It was nice to be able to go in and re-master all of these songs, so they’re kind of up-to-date from a technical standard, and gave them a little refresh in that way. Then, to have “By and Down” on there, it’s nice, because I do truly consider “By and Down” one of my favorite A Perfect Circle songs. It’s top three. I feel it fits in there quite well.
What are your other two favorite A Perfect Circle songs?
I would say “Orestes” and “Gravity.” “Orestes” was one of first songs we ever did, so for me, it had a little history. It’s got that origination of APC, bringing me back to that time. I find that if I had to tell someone what we’re about or someone had never heard of the band and wanted to hear what it was about, I would probably play “Orestes” first, to give an overall sense of what the band is about. I think “By and Down” fits within that, as well. It’s a different song. And, “Gravity,” I think it’s the marriage of the lyrics and the music together is really powerful. It’s a really powerful song.