A Perfect Circle
Origin: Los Angeles, CA.
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A Perfect Circle is an American rock supergroup formed in 1999 by guitarist Billy Howerdel and Tool vocalist Maynard James Keenan. The band has released four studio albums, the first three in the early 2000s. A Perfect Circle performed sporadically after 2004 before reforming in 2017 to record their fourth album, Eat the Elephant, which saw release in 2018.
The band has featured a variety of musicians in other roles throughout its history. A Perfect Circle’s current lineup features Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha, bassist Matt McJunkins, and drummer Jeff Friedl. Despite numerous lineup changes the stylistic content of A Perfect Circle’s songs have remained consistent with Howerdel as music composer and Keenan writing lyrics and vocal melodies. The band’s studio albums have been generally well received commercially and critically, with their three studio albums selling more than four million copies collectively.
A Perfect Circle’s music encompasses a variety of genres including Alternative rock, Alternative metal, Hard rock and Art rock. Howerdel cites among his influences Adam Ant, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Randy Rhoads era Ozzy Osbourne and The Cure.
Keenan, already well known for his work as Tools’ frontman has always striven to keep the sound of the two bands different. While similar to Tool in intensity and melancholy, A Perfect Circle is less dark and more melodic incorporating occasional strings. While the band’s first album Mer de Noms veered more towards hard rock subsequent albums pushed for more of a mellow atmospheric sound. Both A Perfect Circle and Tool have been widely hailed as major influences on Modern rock.
A Perfect Circle’s debut album, Mer de Noms (French for “Sea of Names”) dropped in 2000 and was a critical and commercial success going on to sell more than one million copies. The album earned the band the “Best Debut Album award from the California Music Awards. Continuing efforts to keep A Perfect Circle separate from his well-known Tool frontman persona Keenan would often wear long wigs on his otherwise bald head when performing.
Bouncing back and forth between Tool and A Perfect Circle Keenan collaborated with Howerdel long distance to work on the band’s second album a process both difficult and time consuming. By the time Keenan rejoined the sessions in 2003 tensions flared in the band with Keenan suggesting mellower hard rock arrangements versus Howerdel’s determination to make another hard rock album. Finally finding common ground the band released their second album, Thirteenth Step in 2003. The album met even more critical and commercial success as its predecessor. After wrapping the tour supporting the album in 2004 the band announced a long hiatus with Keenan returning to Tool and Howerdel pursuing a solo career.
During the touring cycle for Thirteenth Step, Howerdel and Keenan discussed potential ideas for a third studio album. One idea was to record an album of cover songs. Without any real justification for doing so that idea was put on the back-burner. Not until the September 11th attacks and the subsequent Iraq invasion was the idea revived to record an album of politically-charged cover songs. A Perfect Circle recorded a wide variety of songs ranging from Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” to Led Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks.” Most songs were radical reinterpretations of the originals and sometimes barely recognizable. Released on Election Day 2004 A Perfect Circle’s third album Emotive polarized some fans with its move into political content. While the album generally received positive critical acclaim it sold far less that its predecessors.
A Perfect Circle played sporadically between 2005 and 2017 including three night residencies in several cities for shows containing complete, in-order performances of one of each of their three albums – Mer de Noms, Thirteenth Step, and Emotive – notably being the first time most of the material from the latter had ever been performed live.
A Perfect Circle regrouped in 2017 for a North American tour and released their fourth studio album Eat the Elephant in 2018. Using an outside producer for the first time helped Keenan and Howerdel find common musical ground and put them on the path to finishing the album. Eat the Elephant the band’s first new album in fourteen years is a moody, sensitive portrait of a band reflecting the artists on where they are today rather than trying to recapture the past.
A Perfect Circle toured extensively in 2018 including an appearance at the Coachella music festival. While Keenan and Howerdel are optimistic about keeping the band going future activity has historically been dependent to Keenan’s limited availability and commitment to his other projects.
A Perfect Circle discography
Mer de Noms (2000)
Thirteenth Step (2003)
Eat the Elephant (2018)
Sacramento’s K-ZAP 93.3 FM plays A Perfect Circle. All part of 50 years of Rock, Blues and More, 24-7 on our station’s stream at K-ZAP.ORG/LISTEN/
Check out A Perfect Circle’s latest single “So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish.”