A PERFECT CIRCLE's BILLY HOWERDEL: 'Being A Musician Is About Listening More Than Even Doing'

July 7, 2018

A PERFECT CIRCLE guitarist Billy Howerdel participated in a question-and-answer session at this year's edition of Hellfest, which was held last month in Clisson, France. Video footage can be seen below, courtesy of Loud TV. A few excerpts follow (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).

On the material on the group's new album, "Eat The Elephant":

Billy: "It feels great to be done with it. Our full focus now is being on the road, representing it live. That's where the songs start to grow — they start to evolve and move on from what they are on the recorded form. It's funny, because I don't think of the record now — I think of the record live. But it's really nice to be able to play most of these songs... 'The Contrarian', on the record, is probably one of my favorites, if not my favorite right now, but live, it's kind of different. The way the vocals are layered and the way things are tame and put into place, I think there's more breadth to that song now. I think there's more openness; I think it's bigger. It's something we don't even talk about too much. I think each layer will kind of start to evolve and find its way, and we kind of listen. Being a musician is about listening more than even doing — it's listening to inspiration; it's listening to collaboration; it's going back and listening to what you did, and I think every night, it just gets a little better and a little more evolved. It's just a growing process."

On whether outside projects like PUSCIFER and ASHES DIVIDE influenced the album:

Billy: "Yeah, of course. I think everything we do, whether it's music or cooking or being a parent, influences and informs where the music's going to go. For me, with ASHES DIVIDE, being a lead singer is a whole different take for me, and it feels very different on stage. The responsibility is different. I have to sleep more when I'm a lead singer. I can kind of get away with six hours here; I can't get away with that there. It helps, but I don't try to lock in too much of why we're going to do something now. I kind of, like, let all those influences be a melting pot, don't think about it too much, let it slip away and then just move forward. I think if you overthink things, you just stay stuck, and nothing gets done."

On how he's changed since the group released their previous album, "eMOTIVe", in 2004:

Billy: "I guess mostly being 14 years older, and quite different. Musically, at least for me, I mostly play guitar, but I tried to put it down, pick up the keyboard this time and kind of shoot in the dark and fumble through the notes in that form to get out of habits of writing the same thing on guitar. I wanted to work with someone else. I've always produced and engineered all the PERFECT CIRCLE records and wanted to bring in an outside producer, and that was a very different experience to sit back on the couch and be able to play and not have to stress so much about the files and how things sound and things like that. It was a different experience, but all in all, it was the same kind of thing where Maynard [James Keenan] and I collaborate – I would give him loose ideas of songs; he would put lyrics to it; I'd build upon that; and then we wind up with a finished song. Easy as that."

On working with Keenan:

Billy: "Where I come from and where he comes from are two different things. I usually name the demos of songs something that's almost ludicrous, so it doesn't influence him in any way, so he's coming with his own deep meaning. The song has a lot of meaning for me, but I never tell him. He doesn't need that, so I just kind of let it go that way and let the music communicate that instead of forcing an issue to him."

On whether their methods have changed over the years:

Billy: "At this point, we don't see each other as much as we did when we were younger. He lives somewhere else, so we get together for music once in a while, but I think less has to be said to get things done. I think we have an understanding of a working process, and that's kind of the way it's been for a while."

On who chooses the band's set list:

Billy: "Maynard and I used to kind of bounce back and forth with writing the set. He's been doing it now; I just wait for something to show up in my inbox [to] see what he's thinking that night. When you're singing, it really is what you're feeling up to that day or what works good in the flow of the set. I could kind of pick my perfect set of how it would flow, but it might not be appropriate to what's good for him. At the end of the day, I respect where he wants to go with the set."

"Eat The Elephant" was released on April 20. The disc debuted atop numerous Billboard charts, grabbing the No. 1 spot on the Rock, Independent and Alternative Albums charts, a No. 2 entry on the Top Current Albums chart (for pure album sales) and a No. 3 album debut on the Top 200. This is the band's fourth consecutive Top 5 debut on the Billboard 200.

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