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Group Members: Josh Freese
All Music Guide:
Formed by Tool vocalist Maynard James Keenan and former Tool guitar tech Billy Howerdel, A Perfect Circle is an extension of the alt-metal-fused-with-art rock style popularized by Tool in the early to mid-'90s. While similar to Tool in intensity and melancholy, A Perfect Circle is less dark and more melodic, with a theatrical, ambient quality that incorporates occasional strings and unusual instrumentation.
After the release of Ænima in 1996, Tool found themselves in the midst of an extended legal battle with former label Freeworld Entertainment. When the dust settled two years later, the band reached a 50/50 joint venture agreement for future recordings and, feeling a little burned out, decided to take some time off. It was at this point that Keenan joined up with Howerdel and Paz Lenchantin to form A Perfect Circle. Keenan had met Howerdel in 1992 when Tool opened for Fishbone. Howerdel had been Fishbone's tech at the time and had played Keenan a few of his songs. Keenan was impressed and the two talked of collaborating in the future. However, the opportunity didn't present itself until after the Freeworld settlement. With Keenan on vocals, Howerdel on guitar, and Lenchantin on bass, the trio recruited ex-Failure and Enemy member Troy Van Leeuwen on guitar and ex-Vandals and Guns N' Roses member Josh Freese on drums.
The quintet rehearsed together but didn't announce the formation of a new band until performing for the first time on August 15, 1999, at a benefit concert at the Viper Room in Los Angeles. Howerdel, who had been composing songs for years, as well as working with bands such as the Smashing Pumpkins and Nine Inch Nails, became the band's chief songwriter and producer. A Perfect Circle released their debut album, Mer de Noms, in 2000. Thirteenth Step followed in 2003, and the covers album Emotive appeared in 2004.
A Perfect Circle is an American rock supergroup formed in 1999 by guitarist Billy Howerdel and Tool vocalist Maynard James Keenan. The original incarnation of the band also included Paz Lenchantin on bass, Troy Van Leeuwen on guitar, and Tim Alexander on drums, with Josh Freese being the band primary drummer after the band initial round of touring prior to their first album. The latest lineup features Puscifer and Ashes Divide bassist Matt McJunkins, former guitarist for The Smashing Pumpkins, James Iha. Despite having a varied cast since inception, the stylistic content of the songs has remained consistent with Howerdel as composer, and Keenan penning the lyrics and melodies.
A Perfect Circle has released three albums: Mer de Noms, Thirteenth Step and eMOTIVe. A CD-DVD set, aMOTION, has also been released and contains thirteen music videos in addition to a number of song remixes created by Danny Lohner, Robert Del Naja and other artists.
The band went into hiatus in 2004. Since then band members have worked on other projects, the most notable being Keenan's work on Tool's 2006 album 10,000 Days and Howerdel's founding of the band Ashes Divide. In a September 2008 interview, Keenan announced that he and Howerdel have been working on new material, officially ending the group's hiatus. However, the band did not start to really become active until almost two years later, in September 2010, when the band announced touring and the release of new music which may or may not be in the form of a new album." While the band has toured and worked on new music on and off, future plans on releasing new music are unclear, and no new studio recordings have been released since the band's hiatus.
Mer de Noms (1999–2001) 
A Perfect Circle was conceived by Billy Howerdel, a former guitar technician for Nine Inch Nails, The Smashing Pumpkins, Fishbone and Tool. Howerdel met singer Maynard James Keenan in 1992 when Tool was opening for Fishbone, and the two became friends. Three years later, Keenan offered Howerdel, who was looking for lodging, a room in his North Hollywood home. This provided Howerdel the opportunity to play demos of his music for Keenan. Pleased with what he heard, Keenan remarked, "I can hear myself singing [those songs]." Although he originally desired a female vocalist, Howerdel agreed that Keenan would be a good fit, and A Perfect Circle was formed a short time later. They were then joined by bassist and violinist Paz Lenchantin, former Failure guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen, and the previous drummer for Primus, Tim Alexander. The band played their first show at LA's Viper Club Reception on August 15, 1999. After playing shows in L.A., the band entered the studio to begin work on their first album. Alexander was soon replaced with session drummer and member of The Vandals, Josh Freese, but Alexander's performance can still be heard on the album version of the song "The Hollow".
The band's debut album, Mer de Noms (French for "Sea of Names"), was released on May 23, 2000. The album is distinctive in that it is the highest ever debut for a rock band, selling over 188,000 copies in its first week, and appearing at number four on the Billboard 200. Howerdel had been working on some of the music, including tracks "The Hollow" and "Breña", as far back as 1988. Soon after recording for the album was finished, the band began touring. Initially, they served as the opening act for Nine Inch Nails on the 2000 Fragility v2.0 tour, but they then embarked on a number of headlining tours all over the world, including the Canadian festival, Summersault. As Keenan was well known through his other band, he would often wear long wigs on his otherwise bald head when performing, to distinguish himself from his Tool persona. Mer de Noms went certified platinum by the RIAA on October 31, 2000, while the band was on tour.
The album produced three singles: "Judith", "3 Libras", and "The Hollow". "Judith" is named after and is about Keenan's mother, who suffered a stroke and was left paralyzed when he was 11. The song "Renholdër" is a reference to guitarist and sound engineer Danny Lohner and reads Re:D.Lohner backwards. Lohner did not know the song was about him despite his first name being sung—albeit in a distorted fashion—in the song.
In the album review by Rolling Stone, Pat Blashill wrote that Keenan "added an almost operatic angst to Howerdel's songs" and concluded that "A Perfect Circle sound like a desperate dream of what rock used to be. Maybe that's the point." Allmusic's review expressed that "there's little question that the addicting combination of Keenan's aching voice and Howerdel's accomplished songs and production skills made for one of 2000's best splashes in whatever was left of 'modern rock'."
Thirteenth Step (2002–2003) 
During the recording, release and tour for Tool's album Lateralus, from 2000 to 2002 the band experienced a considerable amount of downtime. This made the band extremely dynamic in terms of its members. During the recording of Thirteenth Step, A Perfect Circle lost two of its members, Paz Lenchantin & Troy Van Leeuwen. Lenchantin left to join Billy Corgan's new band Zwan in April 2002, while Van Leeuwen left to handle touring duties as the new guitarist for Queens of the Stone Age. Ex-Marilyn Manson bassist Jeordie White, formerly known as Twiggy Ramirez, replaced Lenchantin on bass in January 2003, with Danny Lohner taking the reins on guitar. However, Lohner did not quite fit as a second guitarist, and former Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha eventually replaced him.
The band released their second album, Thirteenth Step, on September 16, 2003. With the new album came a new sound. While Mer de Noms had a heavier, deeper sound, Thirteenth Step was more melodic and straightforward. After the release of the album, John Lappen from The Hollywood Reporter wrote, "They were never a band who beat the listener over the head with metal brutality, but now they're even more song-oriented than before—a move that illustrates that the band has a knack for writing instrumental hooks that show off a melodic talent that was not as apparent on the first album." This different sound can be heard in the three singles that came off the album: "Weak and Powerless", "The Outsider" and "Blue". Following the release of the album, the band toured throughout the U.S. until the year's end. Then, in January 2004, the group left the country to play shows in Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. They headed home in mid-March and finished touring in mid-June.
The album received mostly positive reviews. Allmusic's review stated the album "is the sound of a musical and lyrical maturity that normally doesn't occur until a band's third or fourth albums". The review by Yahoo! Music expressed that the album "has its share of anthemic moments, but the real passion spills over in the moody overtures where menacing danger feels seconds away". Rolling Stone wrote in an attempt to summarize the album that it "sounds more like the dusky thrum of Disintegration-era Cure than it does any of the members' previous bands", and continued "Thirteenth Step doesn't bludgeon listeners into submission—it lulls them with droning guitars, dub-deep bass and simmering vocals."
eMOTIVe and aMOTION (2004) 
A third album, Emotive, was released on November 2, 2004 (election day in the United States), and contains covers of anti-war songs by artists such as John Lennon ("Imagine") and Joni Mitchell ("Fiddle and the Drum"). Emotive was recorded with current and former members of the band, but is mostly the work of Keenan and Howerdel. The single "Passive" was adapted from the defunct band Tapeworm, a project composed mainly of Keenan, Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, and Danny Lohner. "Passive" first appeared under the title "Vacant" at a show played by A Perfect Circle in Portland, Oregon on January 31, 2001, notably, without the blessing of Reznor to play the song. The song remained unreleased by any artist until it appeared on Emotive as the song "Passive". The single "Passive" can also be heard in the 2005 movie Constantine when John Constantine (Keanu Reeves) enters Papa Midnite's office in his club in the second half of the movie. The song "Counting Bodies like Sheep to the Rhythm of the War Drums" is used in the teaser trailer for The Fantastic Four as well as the trailer for The Taking of Pelham 123.
The album received mixed reviews. An Allmusic review stated the album "falls flat and fails to raise the bar set so high by the quality of their previous two releases". Rolling Stone praised half the album while criticizing the other, as did The Guardian which stated "cover versions are often hobbled by the artist's inability to step outside the original and find a fresh perspective, but some of these treatments verge on the visionary." Ken Micallef of Yahoo! Music wrote "the band builds on the power of the previous Thirteenth Step, applying hypnotic arrangements, brooding melodies, and droning rhythms to a collection that sounds absurd on its surface, but is woven together by A Perfect Circle's heavy and dark-lidded instrumental approach."
On November 16, 2004, the CD-DVD set entitled Amotion was released. The DVD contains music videos for six singles; previously unreleased videos for other songs, including three contest runner-up videos and the winning video for "Blue"; and three trailers for Bikini Bandits. The CD is composed entirely of remixes of the singles from Mer de Noms and Thirteenth Step. The songs were retooled by Danny Lohner, Joshua Eustis, Massive Attack, and James Iha among others.
Hiatus (2005–2009) 
The future of A Perfect Circle remained uncertain and wobbled between "done for now" and "alive and well." The band became inactive after they played their last show in Denver, Colorado on June 13, 2004. Keenan left to work on Tool's album 10,000 Days while Howerdel began work on a side-project with Josh Freese that flourished into Ashes Divide. In addition to Keenan's work with Tool, his side-project Puscifer released its first album, V is for Vagina on October 30, 2007. The rest of the band also went their separate ways. Freese once again took up the reins as drummer for Nine Inch Nails. White moved on to rejoin Marilyn Manson at guitar under his pseudonym Twiggy Ramirez, and while there was talk of Iha joining Billy Corgan for the Smashing Pumpkins reunion tour in 2007, this idea was rebuffed and he instead began work on a solo record.
Both Howerdel and Keenan discussed the future of the band in various mediums from 2006 through 2008. During a February 2006 interview with Rock Hard, Keenan remarked, "I think [APC] is over. ... We pushed this project as far as it could go, and I see ourselves playing again together only in a few years to make one or two songs, nothing more." Howerdel's thoughts on the reunion of the band were similar to those of Keenan in a May 2006 interview with MTV. In a November 2007 issue of Spin featuring Keenan, when asked "Will there ever be another APC album," he reiterated his comments from 2006 replying, "Um, no. Maybe, someday, a song on a soundtrack. But an album? No." Despite these comments, in an interview with Revolver the following month, Keenan discussed the other members of A Perfect Circle's recent activities and also hinted at the possibility of a reunion. During the interview, Keenan stated:The real problem with running Tool and A Perfect Circle at the same time was they both operate the same way. They're both live touring bands with a label, still working under the old contract mentality. So I thought it was time to let A Perfect Circle go for now and let Billy explore himself. It's tough for a guy who went from being a guitar tech [for Tool] to being in a band with a pretentious, famous singer and having to live in that shadow. It was important for Billy to go and do his own thing and really explore his own sound and let people hear what he has to say and how he would do it on his own, and then we'll get back and do some A Perfect Circle stuff.—Maynard James Keenan, Revolver, December 2007
Although the band's official website had offered no insight as to whether or not the group would reunite, news continued to arrive through Keenan about the existence of the band. In Puscifer's May 2008 newsletter, Keenan remarked on the status of A Perfect Circle: "As many of you may have heard, Billy and I are engaged in our own little projects for the moment. His is called ASHES DIVIDE and mine is called PUSCIFER...Please be advised that A PERFECT CIRCLE and TOOL are still alive and well. This is simply MORE."
Return (2010–present) 
As early as December 9, 2008, Keenan had announced that he and Howerdel had been writing new music for A Perfect Circle. However, Keenan also said that the band has no plans to resume full-scale touring, or even to write and record a new album. Instead, they will focus on "one or two songs at a time", which will most likely be released via the Internet, rather than on compact disc. Keenan jokingly mentioned that CDs have become "plastic discs that no one cares about anymore." Additionally, it wasn't until over year and a half later, mid-2010, when various band members began teasing a return on respective Twitter accounts, that the band actually became active. This led up to a September announcement of tour dates in which they would be playing the entirety of each of their three albums at each concert, with one album being played per night. The new touring lineup was announced Maynard James Keenan, Billy Howerdel, Josh Freese, Matt McJunkins, and James Iha.
There have been conflicting reports as to what degree the band will be releasing new material. In June 2010, Keenan stated that he was working on a fourth LP for A Perfect Circle. However, when asked again in August, his answer was "Maybe. Personally I’m not really into albums anymore. Might be more going back to the singles. The days of the singles market makes a lot more sense at this point. We have no label, so neither Billy nor I are really into kicking down hundreds of thousands of dollars to record a record and put it out."
Howerdel, in a September 2010 interview, said that he had been working on demos for the last three to four years, and that it was up to Keenan as to which songs would be A Perfect Circle songs, and which ones may end up being Ashes Divide songs. No new songs were played at the initial reunion concerts, as no songs were finished yet, and the band was still trying to "remind everybody" who they are at these concerts. The possibility of a live concert DVD was mentioned, but have not yet been released.
On October 27, 2010, the band made their first television appearance since their reunion on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, with a mini concert set. Their performances of "Weak and Powerless" and "Imagine" aired on the show's broadcast. The band also performed on Last Call with Carson Daly on November 12, with Keenan as one of the guests.
The band continued touring into 2011. In late March 2011 on their website news page A Perfect Circle announced a North American Tour stopping in 24 cities. The band performed at Rock on the Range Festival in Columbus, Ohio on May 21 and 22, 2011, Boonstock Music Festival in Edmonton, Alberta on July 2, 2011, Edgefest in Toronto, Canada on July 9, 2011, and Bluesfest in Ottawa, Canada on July 10, 2011.
On April 8, 2011 A Perfect Circle posted on their Twitter page, "Working on new music. Slow but steady." Billy Howerdel also said that the band will be road testing new songs on the North American Tour and that ultimately these new songs could be placed on a future album.
On June 29, 2011 the band revealed a new song called "By and Down" live in Portland, Oregon. After this, Howerdel clarified the band's current stance on a future album, stating "Right now the intention is not to put out a (full album) but just to release some songs along the way, and then they might be re-imagined and put together in some collection...If you need to have an album then there will be something more like a photo album where you collect these things and you put them in."
Josh Freese was unavailable for the 2011 touring due to a scheduling conflict with Weezer. Jeff Friedl, drummer for Ashes Divide, filled in for him.
The band performed at the Kanrocksas Music Festival in Kansas City, KS on August 6, 2011. and at the Lollapalooza Music Festival in Chicago, IL, which ran from August 5–7, 2011.
In October 2011, Keenan said in response to questions of new material, "We’ve been kicking around some stuff. Nothing’s ready. Until it’s really solid it doesn’t make any sense to present it, and right now he’s [Howerdel] busy with Ashes Divide and I’m doing Puscifer."
In August 2012, the band was confirmed to be touring Australia in early 2013 as part of the Soundwave Festival lineup. In October 2012, the band also was confirmed for Lollapalooza Chile 2013, touring Southamerica in early 2013.
In October 2012, Josh Freese announced he had left the band, without any intentions of returning.
On December 29, the band played their only concert of 2012 at PH Live, the concert venue at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas, NV.
In a February 2013 interview, Keenan said that a new album was "currently off the table", due to his continued work with Puscifer, and Howerdel's commitment to working on a second Ashes Divide album.