'A Perfect Circle Is Done For Now,' Says Billy Howerdel

Band's principal songwriter focusing on new project.

About a month ago, Maynard James Keenan told a French magazine that A Perfect Circle — the wildly successful side project he fronted between Tool LPs — was, if not dead, on life support.

The band, he added, "pushed [it] as far as it could go," and he said he sees the group "playing again together only in a few years to make one or two songs, nothing more." But Keenan stopped short of saying the group had officially called it quits.

Guitarist Billy Howerdel's not so sure what's happening with A Perfect Circle. The creative strength behind the band has been working on his own material. He's also in the throes of assembling a fresh outfit he'd like to record and tour with. But when it comes to A Perfect Circle, he'd rather not think about it.

"We don't know what's happening," said Howerdel, one of Keenan's best friends. "[Maynard and I have] talked about it lightly. A few months ago, it was like, 'If we did A Perfect Circle again, I'd want to do this or that.' It was a benign conversation. I think we both entertain the fact that it could happen again, but for right now we don't have any plans to do it again. We're focusing on what we're doing now. A Perfect Circle is done for now."

Not long after the release of 2004's Emotive, Howerdel began sculpting and recording material on his own, bouncing ideas off session drummer Josh Freese. He's written 14 tracks, nine of which he's content with.

"I'm doing the same thing I've always done, which is writing songs from the heart, doing what comes naturally to me and writing songs that wouldn't be hard to fit into the A Perfect Circle mold," he explained. "In the beginning, when I started writing this stuff, I set out to do something very different. But if this is going to be my main focus, I want it to be what feels really right to me, and not just a side project or whatever you want to call it. It's not a huge departure. It just feels like I'm working on music the way I always have, with the difference being I don't have my partner Maynard coming in and singing lyrics over it; I'll be doing all the singing. It feels a bit lonely right now, because you get used to something and you want to go back to that comfort space. This is making me look at music in a different way."

Two weeks ago, Howerdel — who hasn't found a record label for his forthcoming, yet-untitled project — teamed up with Freese, Jonny Polanski ("The first bass player we had try out for A Perfect Circle"), ex-APC guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen, and Freese's brother, keyboardist Jason Freese, "to flush them out in a live rehearsal situation." Of course, Howerdel's not sure his next band's going to feature any of these players.

"I have some people in mind," he said. "There's a couple of people I've heard are looking to put a band together. I have a list of people I'm thinking about using as soon as it's ready."

Howerdel hopes to have his band in place by late summer so he can get back out on the road. He'd like to be able to release the record before year's end. But first he needs to make sure everything about these songs is just right.

"I could probably finish the album in five days, but I want it to be at least as good or better than anything I've done before," Howerdel said.