Fourteen years between two albums - these are dimensions that a band first has to be able to afford. They require a healthy self-confidence, but also devoted fans who have the patience of an angel. As with the duo Billy Howerdel and Maynard James Keenan, who form the creative nucleus of A Perfect Circle, where the time factor doesn't seem to matter: songs are only released when they are really perfect. When the artistic vision has been exhausted to the last and the press has once again been properly presented. An exhausting prelude for a big album called "Eat The Elephant". That's just part of A Perfect Circle..
The Soho House in Berlin on the last afternoon of February. Outside there is an icy wind and temperatures in the double-digit minus range. The heating in Billy Howerdel's interview suite is broken. The native New Yorker, who has lived in Los Angeles since the early nineties, is visibly shivering. He is also irritated by the numerous people who attend this conversation: a representative of the management in his back, a representative of the label who hammers on his laptop, and a free promoter whose mobile phone rings at full volume. Howerdel, already a shy representative of his guild, who speaks quietly and thoughtfully, twists his eyes. So he did not imagine his first press dates since 2004 - at that time for the album "Emotive" - guaranteed. "I would never have thought that this time-out would be so long," he says, and with his bald skull, his haggard figure and his sad face, he seems downright pitiful. "Actually, we just wanted to take care of our other projects - Tool, Puscifer and Ashes Divide - and get on with them as quickly as possible. But that was delayed until 2010, and then it was another seven years until the new pieces finally stood."
Howerdel has worked long and hard on the new material, which he makes no secret of. Once again he did everything on his own: he composed all the music and reworked it several times. Also the engagement of Dave Sardy as the first external producer in the band's history was no big help. "It all just took longer," moans the 47-year-old.
After all, the effort was worth it. The twelve pieces - and this is always a good sign - are very different from what the public expected. Be it because A Perfect Circle primarily rely on piano, strings and rather enigmatic guitars instead of dominating everything. Because they also sometimes advance into jazz and trip-hop and have something equally adult, mature and manic intensive. "I'm not the best guitar player in the world. In addition, I've been doing a lot of film music lately. That's why I approached the new tracks with keyboards as my main instrument and was inspired by bands like Massive Attack or Portishead. So it's a different approach, but it's still A Perfect Circle because they're the same two people working together here."
The rest of the band - guitarist/keyboarder James Iha (ex-The Smashing Pumpkins), drummer Jeff Friedl (Puscifer) and bassist Matt McJunkins (Eagles Of Death Metal) - is only the executive organ. The distribution of roles is clear: Howerdel delivers the music and takes over the production, Keenan contributes the lyrics and the visuals - record cover, videos etc. Consequently, Howerdel vehemently refuses to provide an explanation for the strange album title "Eat The Elephant", which is not colloquial, but a personal invention, a pure fantasy term. There he waves off just like with the Gothic/Cyborg version of Riff Raff, which adorns the cover and does not hold an elephant in his hands, but a slimy red-blue octopus. "We've got a deal that says everyone's in their area and doesn't question what each other's doing. This is the only way to have an equal partnership based on mutual trust. That's what I'm sticking to. I never ask him what this or that could mean. I'll just let him do it. That's why our cooperation works. That's why we're still here. Everything about that, you have to ask Maynard."