As the saying goes, “Leap, and the net will appear.”
Alt-rock supergroup A Perfect Circle tweaked that saying slightly when working on its upcoming fourth album:
“Go on tour, and the songs will finish themselves.”
As guitarist Billy Howerdel (Ashes Divide) put it in an interview with Billboard, the band – Howerdel, vocalist Maynard James Keenan (Tool, Puscifer), guitarist James Iha (Tinted Windows, ex-Smashing Pumpkins), drummer Jeff Friedl (Puscifer, The Beta Machine) and bassist Matt McJunkins (Eagles of Death Metal, the Beta Machine) – hoped scheduling a spring tour would put them into “panic mode” and force them to finish new music.
“Mission accomplished,” Howerdel said in a recent phone interview.
A Perfect Circle played a few new songs on that tour and debuted “The Doomed,” its first new release since 2004’s “eMOTIVe,” in October.
“If you give yourself too much time, things never happen,” he said. “I think paralyzed by choices or paralyzed by comfort is a real thing, so we try and just go ‘We’re pretty much ready. Let’s do it.’ Then you’ll rise to the occasion.”
A Perfect Circle will share the results of “panic mode” with Spokane fans when the band performs at the Spokane Arena on Tuesday.
Many of the songs Howerdel is working on were intended for the next Ashes Divide record, but re-familiarizing himself with the band’s older material during its first North American tour in six years inspired him to rework them to fit A Perfect Circle.
“We’ll bring all those new ideas and fit them into the mold of APC,” he said. “Inevitably, the mold is going to drip over with all the new ideas, and you’re going to have an evolution and the mold disappears and you have this new product, this new thing.”
One of those products, a song called “The Doomed,” isn’t exactly new, having existed in part since about 2015.
It was originally intended to be part of a movie Howerdel scored called “D-Love,” but the orchestral cue didn’t make the cut so Howerdel sent it to Keenan.
“The way it went down was it was presented to him as a color that he could draw from, not necessarily thinking it might be a song,” Howerdel said.
But Keenan suggested Howerdel expand the snippet into a full song, and just a day and a half later, “The Doomed” was complete.
Just as quickly, Keenan wrote the lyrics.
“Doomed are the poor/Doomed are the peaceful/Doomed are the meek/Doomed are the merciful,” he sings in the song’s outro. “For the word is now death/And the word is now without light/The new beatitude: (Expletive) the doomed, you’re on your own.”
Howerdel said this was the fastest turnaround of a vocal Keenan has ever presented.
“For him and for me too, you have to be inspired, something has to click in that moment,” he said. “Whatever was happening in his life, the energy found him and always the best ones come like that. I mean, there’s ones that have taken years to go that I’m really psyched with how they’ve come out, but that one was quick.”
When the band entered the studio in the past, Howerdel typically acted as engineer, producer and composer, tweaking songs based on Keenan’s suggestions.
This time around, wanting help with the “heavy lifting” that comes with recording an album, he’s splitting duties with producer Dave Sardy (Oasis, LCD Soundsystem, Death from Above 1979).
“He’s got a crew with him, so he’s sitting back on the couch as it were with me and then we can look at the 20,000-foot view of the song instead of being so close inside it …,” he said. “I have someone else that can deal with the file management and hitting record and then combing through takes, and it’s allowed this record to be a much bigger record.”
Howerdel said the band has passed the halfway mark of the recording process and is looking at releasing its fourth album in the second quarter of 2018.
So far, he’s only played a few songs for friends and family, but he’s excited to share the record with the masses because it contains what he considers some of the best work Keenan has ever done.
But for now, it’s back to the studio to finish the record, while fans replay “The Doomed,” which Howerdel sees as a glimpse of “one of the colors that’s coming on this record,” until the band releases another new song.
Here’s to round two of “panic mode.”
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