Circle of the Stars

Think A Perfect Circle is Maynard's band? Think again.

In person Howerdel comes across as an unlikely candidate to thrive amid NIN's theatrical gloom; he seems like a shy guy who would rather read technical manuals on effects processors than drink absinthe with the leather-pants crowd. But he remembers his NIN days fondly. Little wonder that Trent Reznor personally invited APC to open his band's recent tour.

Other people for whom Howerdel worked recognized something special in him as well. Fishbone bassist Norwood Fisher remembers Howerdel writing a lot of songs while he was working for the band. "They ended up becoming the Perfect Circle album," Fisher says. "I knew he was a genius before he even started writing those songs. He's out of his motherfucking mind!"

After leaving the Fishbone camp, Howerdel went to work for Tool and Guns N' Roses, among others. Meanwhile, he was still writing and recording his own music. When then-roommate Keenan heard what Howerdel was working on, he offered to sing on it. But Howerdel was writing with a female voice in mind, so he turned down Keenan.

Hanging around with A Perfect Circle
Hanging around with A Perfect Circle

"I didn't put a lot of weight into it," Howerdel explains. "It wasn't like this one day where he joined up; it was over a couple of conversations that it really sunk in."

Once Keenan became involved, however, things skyrocketed. His name alone meant a record deal was a slam-dunk. A bidding war ensued, and APC eventually signed a multi-album deal with Virgin, even though Tool's label, Volcano, had the right to match any offer.

A Perfect Circle is a record label's dream, only better, because its members came together on their own. Lenchantin is a former piano teacher who has never played in a rock band, but both Keenan and Howerdel claim she's the purest musician in the group. Contrast that with Freese's and Van Leeuwen's poise and experience -- the kind of x factors that give APC a wide musical base. And while Keenan's involvement helped get the attention of record labels, his star power is also the element that makes APC more than the studio obsession of a music freak.

As for the music freak himself, Howerdel admits to obsessive-compulsive tendencies--a trait that meshed well with his first career but sometimes interferes with his creative side. "There's a very fine line between tweaking something forever and releasing something that you're really proud of that you efficiently got done," he says. "You use your right and left brain at the same time. It's nerve-racking. There's nothing I regret on the record. There are only two or three things that I hoped I could add, but they're very small -- they're not important."

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