Every A Perfect Circle album in their own words

(Image credit: Tim Cadiente)

Over the course of their almost 20-year career, A Perfect Circle have released albums sparingly, but the quality of their output rarely dips below the very highest watermark. We spoke to guitarist and band leader Billy Howerdel about each record in APC's impressive back catalogue.

Mer De Noms (2000)

“It all happened so fast; when something takes off like that did, then it’s the thing you really remember. I was working for Guns N' Roses as a studio engineer then jumped into leaving my day job in the summer of 1999, and suddenly I was doing a club tour, recording the record and touring with Nine Inch Nails. It happened in three months, by design, but I’m a realist and thought that it could easily not happen. There wasn’t really much time to enjoy the success of the album, because it was always about what was next. Photoshoot, video record, tour, press, B-sides... it was a whirlwind. 

"The biggest thing was that Maynard was so gracious about all of it, he was very quick to protect me and tell people that it was my band. He came from a place with so little ego, it meant I didn’t have to reach so much, I could just answer questions. I have listened to the record in the last year, and it’s such a diary of what was going on in that year. It definitely brings back a lot of good memories. 

"I look at the music industry now and, even though we’re on tour and playing a lot of huge places, there was something very special about that time in music. It was the beginning of the end of the record business, and we felt like we were fighting the good fight of good people playing good music. It felt special to be in that last hurrah.”

Thirteenth Step (2003)

“We wanted to branch out and find a little bit more depth and space. It was a bit more of an eclectic record. Going in to record there were ideas that weren’t so flushed out like they were on Mer De Noms, that had a very solid idea of what the record was. A few things on Thirteenth Step, like Weak And Powerless, The Vanishing, I thought didn’t really fit on Mer De Noms. A lot of those songs were around at the time of the first record but they needed to be placed on a record that delved a little deeper. Mer De Noms was so easy to make, and I said in an interview that it was harder comparatively, and people kind of ran with that. 

"Our friend Danny Lohner, who is basically our honorary sixth member at this point, came with a lot of ideas for the record – stuff that me or Maynard wouldn’t have brought, and it may just have been about my inability to let go. That’s what growing up is, but then again you do have to stand your ground and do what you believe. It’s messy, there’s no two ways about it. And it was incredible to get (Swans vocalist) Jarboe on the record; you make an album and you tour and you get access to different people. We were lucky enough to get her to come down to my studio and... it was scary, but it was inspiring too. She was in there riffing on the song and it was like a demonic, otherworldly séance going on in there with one person.”

Emotive (2004)

“It came about at a time when our country was at war and I think there was a lot of confusion and apathy, it was us trying to raise awareness but not in any set direction. Just trying to get people to get their heads out of the sand, but it's hard because you don’t want to be too heavy handed. It was meant to be a nostalgic look at the songs that inspired us in that way from over a long period of time. The list of artists wasn’t that much bigger, a few names got tossed about, but not too many didn’t make it. We don’t have a lot of B-sides and extras floating around, we tend to make a choice and run with it, so the track list came together very easily. 

"Unlike the actual composition, I think it does the song justice to not do it verbatim, otherwise you’re just listening to yourself sing a song. There is a time and a place for that, I guess, but we really wanted to do a reimagining. As a kid, Elvis Costello was a god to me, and so getting to do What’s So Funny About Peace, Love And Understanding was amazing. And it wasn’t a typical anti-war record, and I don’t know what a typical anti-war record is these days, but it felt really good to let it get onto that record and give it a melancholic massage. And that was the aim for that record.”

Eat The Elephant (2018)

“There wasn't as much pressure to return with something great as you think, because it wasn’t 14 years of sitting around. Maynard and I sat down and talked about schedules, I looked at the songs that I had and wanted to make, and we started working on it in late 2016. I tried not to freak out, and be the best Buddhist that I could be, and wonder about what it could be and just accept it for what it was, accept who I am as a person and let it be a representation of that. I think it’s a really accurate representation of that as well. 

"I did have moments where I thought we needed an X or Y song in there, but that soon passed. I didn’t accept the success we’ve had, we got back on the road last year and were very happy that people hadn’t forgotten us. We’re on our second date of the Eat The Elephant tour as I speak to you now and it couldn’t really be going much better. I’m really proud of the record but I think it’s better live, and I don’t always say that. I don’t know what else to say about it at this point with so little space since it came out, but it’s definitely the record that we needed and wanted to make.”

A Perfect Circle 2018 UK tour

Dec 02: Glasgow O2 Academy, UK
Dec 03: Manchester Victoria Warehouse, UK
Dec 05: London SSE Arena Wembley, UK

Stephen Hill

Since blagging his way onto the Hammer team a decade ago, Stephen has written countless features and reviews for the magazine, usually specialising in punk, hardcore and 90s metal, and still holds out the faint hope of one day getting his beloved U2 into the pages of the mag. He also regularly spouts his opinions on the Metal Hammer Podcast.