Billy Howerdel The Exclaim! Questionnaire

Billy Howerdel The Exclaim! Questionnaire
What are your current fixations?
Comedy movies have been our fixations for the past few months. Office Space has been a big part of our diet for awhile. I haven't listened to music in awhile, I'm just starting to a little bit. I just brought my iPod out on the road, but while we're getting ready for tour, it's tough to find time.

Why do you live where you do?
Los Angeles is a unique city, unlike any I've ever seen. I like being that close to nature that quickly, it's a nice combination.

Name something you consider a mind-altering work of art:
Six Feet Under. It's touching in a human way more than I've seen a piece of media be. It can touch you in a lot of different ways with great affect. It can be extremely sad and touching and extremely funny within five seconds. I haven't found a movie or TV show that can switch your gears so quickly.

What has been your most memorable or inspirational gig and why?
Seeing Pink Floyd back in 1988, maybe 1987. It was kind of the catalyst that made me a musician. Seeing that in a giant stadium, it was bigger than life. It made me feel like all the people that complain about their jobs and what they do day in and day out, spending the majority of their life doing something they don't want to, I thought to be a part of something that makes me feel like I do right now every day would be something that would, I hope, enrich my sense of being.

What have been your career highs and lows?
Highs: just getting the band off the ground last time, when it all came together. That whole beginning momentum process was very exciting.
Lows: The time in between this record and the last one, the uncertainty. You just don't know if it's really going to happen. I was really starting to lose faith — maybe we might not put out a record, you just never know — just trying to be more realistic about things.

What's the meanest thing ever said to you before, during or after a gig?
I'm sure there have been bad reviews but I don't remember. Someone said something funny once that stuck out. I came off-stage and they said, "God, you're a lot shorter than I thought." I'm six-foot-three, I'm pretty tall.

What should everyone shut up about?
I don't know. I got a lot of things going through my mind that I might regret.

What traits do you most like and most dislike about yourself?
I hate that I can't spell well. I like that I am grey on issues. I guess you could look at that as both good and bad. I usually get picked on for it.

What advice should you have taken, but did not?
Always save your money.

What would make you kick someone out of your band and/or bed, and have you?
Making a racist comment and meaning it. I haven't.

What do you think of when you think of Canada?
That's funny — I'm just looking at a picture of British Columbia right now. Honestly, and this is not bullshit: smart people. People usually get humour there. So smart, funny people.

What is your vital daily ritual?

What are your feelings on piracy, internet or otherwise?
Like anyone else that works hard on their art, I'm against it, as I would be against any kind of stealing.

What was your most memorable day job?
Cutting grass at a golf course.

How do you spoil yourself?
If I work out for two weeks, I buy myself a piece of clothing. Usually just pants, I never buy shirts.

If I wasn't playing music I would be:
I don't know. Something close to the water. I'd work on a charter yacht.

What do you fear most?
That technology progresses past our ability to be responsible with it.

What has been your strangest celebrity encounter?
Fiona Apple. I saw her backstage at a U2 concert, she was there with her [then] boyfriend, P.T. Anderson, the director, who I'm also really into. I wound up going up to her and spewing out a full sentence of "hey, I've got a band that you've probably never heard of and you've been a big inspiration to me and I just want to say good luck" and walked away before she could say anything because I was too embarrassed to get her reaction.

Who would be your ideal dinner guest, living or dead, and what would you serve them?
Probably my dead father and London broil.

What does your mom wish you were doing instead?
She's been supportive since the first day I picked up a guitar.

Given the opportunity to choose, how would you like to die?
So you never know what hits you.

It's a stacked line-up for A Perfect Circle's sophomore release, The Thirteenth Step. It includes Tool's Maynard James Keenan, Josh Freese of the Vandals (both on board for the debut, Mer De Noms), plus new recruits Jeordie White and ex-Smashing Pumpkin guitarist James Iha. You might expect A Perfect Circle's founder, guitarist and musical mastermind Billy Howerdel to feel a little overshadowed by his band members' pedigree — perhaps even frustrated with not getting the credit as the driving force behind the band's dark, sombre metallic rock, which seems to go to front-man Maynard James Keenan, the band's most identifiable member. But that's not the case for the former Tool guitar tech. "Not at all, it's great, it makes it easier," Billy says. "They know the score. They've been there, done that. It makes it easier for sure. They're all professionals, it's when they're not professional, when they have something to prove, that's when the trouble happens. I've seen that in the past." While Billy and company struck sonic gold with Mer De Noms, obviously helped by a ravenous Tool fan-base, with The Thirteenth Step and a Canadian tour in September, Billy and A Perfect Circle are out to smash the misconceptions that they're just a side-project for people who think Tool are too arty. "It's completely not a side-project and everyone is giving it their all," Billy says. "Maynard is 100 percent here and Josh is and I am and Jeordie and James, and the previous guys too, they're 100 percent focused." And while separating Tool and APC has proven difficult, mainly due to Maynard's distinct vocal histrionics, Billy takes offence to the Tool-lite tag. "I never heard that perception before. It would never be intentionally, it's never on our radar. Honestly, I had been writing this music since before Tool was a band. A lot of the songs were influenced by Tool and Nine Inch Nails and by Fiona Apple and by the Cure and every other band I've been close to or hold dear artistically. It's just the best you can do. I just put it out there as the music that's coming out of me without trying to do anything specifically."
Chris Gramlich