A Perfect Circle Biography
A Perfect Circle is an American rock supergroup formed in 1999 by guitarist Billy Howerdel and Tool vocalist Maynard James Keenan. A Perfect Circle has released three albums: their debut Mer de Noms in 2000, a follow up, Thirteenth Step in 2003, and an album of radically re-worked cover songs titled Emotive in 2004. Shortly after Emotive’s release, the band went into hiatus while Keenan returned to Tool and starting up solo work in the form of the band Puscifer, and Howerdel releasing a solo album, Keep Telling Myself It’s Alright, under the moniker Ashes Divide.
Band activity was sporadic in the coming years; the band reformed in 2010, and played live shows on and off between 2010 and 2013, but fell into inactivity after the release of their greatest hits album, Three Sixty, and a live album box set, A Perfect Circle Live: Featuring Stone and Echo in late 2013. However, in 2017, the band returned to touring and announced plans to record and release a fourth studio album under a new record label, BMG Rights Management, tentatively sometime in 2018. A single from the album, “The Doomed”, was released in advance in October 2017.
Prone to downtime due to Keenan’s other musical commitments, the band has featured a variety of musicians in the rest of the band’s role throughout its alternating periods of activity and inactivity. The original incarnation of the band included Paz Lenchantin on bass, Troy Van Leeuwen on guitar, and Josh Freese on drums, though Primus drummer Tim Alexander had briefly stood in as a drummer prior to Freese in the band’s initial live shows prior to releasing any material. Band collaborator and producer Danny Lohner and Marilyn Manson bassist Jeordie White were also members for a short period in the early 2000s. The band’s current lineup features former Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha, bassist Matt McJunkins, and drummer Jeff Friedl, the latter two also being contributors to the related Puscifer and Ashes Divide projects. Despite the varied cast and numerous lineup changes, the stylistic content of the songs has remained consistent with Howerdel as music composer, and Keenan penning the lyrics and vocal melodies. The band’s studio albums have been generally well received critically and commercially, with their three studio albums selling 4 million copies collectively as of 2005.
The band’s music has been described as a number of different genre, though despite the sound changes and lineup changes, the writing process has remained the same for the band; Howerdel primarily writes the band’s instrumental music, while Keenan contributes the lyrics and vocal melodies. Keenan, already very well known for his work with fronting the band Tool through the 1990s, always strove to keep the sound of two bands different.
Howerdel has cited amongst his influences, several albums that had a strong impact on his way of playing: Adam Ant’s Kings of the Wild Frontier, for its “weird hybrid of pirate music and American Indian influence”, Siouxsie and the Banshees’ Tinderbox as “one of the spookiest records I’ve ever heard” and for its “dense atmosphere”, Ozzy Osbourne’s Diary of a Madman as “Randy Rhodes has been a huge influence for me, especially when I was starting out” and finally the Cure’s Pornography, which he described as “another spooky atmospheric record” and “one of the scariest albums I’ve ever heard”.
Both A Perfect Circle and Tool have been widely hailed as major influences on modern rock. In a 2015 retrospective, VH1 noted that, “at some point sounding like Tool became a subgenre of rock. Although that is a little misleading as many of these bands were actually ripping off A Perfect Circle, because of its easier-to-grasp melody and simpler rhythms. Reviewers from outlets such as AllMusic and Rolling Stone cited Mer de Noms and Thirteenth Step as rare examples of relevance and quality in contemporary rock music. Music OMH asserted the band had “literally defined alternative rock as we know it.”
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