Circle of Stars

You only think A Perfect Circle is Tool singer Maynard James Keenan's band

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 he was working on, he offered to sing on it. But Howerdel was writing with a female voice in mind, so he turned down Keenan.

"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."

"Billy really is the main songwriter in this band," says Maynard James Keenan, far left, of Howerdel, center. "It's his band."
"Billy really is the main songwriter in this band," says Maynard James Keenan, far left, of Howerdel, center. "It's his band."

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, since 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 best pure 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 Keenan's involvement helped get the attention of record labels, but 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 that 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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