A Perfect Circle have an unusual discography. They put out three wildly successful albums in the early 2000s, a covers record in 2004, and then didn't release anything else for almost 15 years, returning with 2018's Eat the Elephant. For someone who's never heard the alt-metal group helmed by guitarist-songwriter Billy Howerdel and TOOL frontman Maynard James Keenan, where should they begin?
Keenan already gave his answer, so we asked Howerdel to weigh in with his own choice. Below, the guitarist picks the one song he'd play for someone who's never heard A Perfect Circle before.
I think "Orestes" from Mer de Noms is a good intro to get a feel as to what the project is. It might not sonically touch on everything, but I think as an overture to the whole band... I think musically and quality of writing, Maynard's lyrics and melodies and things… it's a good intro.
That [main] riff is really the intro guitar, which I did loop and I played over top of it. I had that just as a two-bar loop and I actually wound up using it on the record, which is pretty rare. I'll typically always replace something like that, but I could never get exactly the vibe on the record I wanted with it. So I went over top of it and overdubbed with it.
It was this generic-named, easy-to-lose loop within a bunch of other little ideas I had. It was from the era of when I just got my first computer and just started getting into that. Well, getting out of the four-track cassette and getting into a computer recording in the mid-Nineties.
But that song for me — and I don't know if it's a one-to-one relationship for the listener — but I was a big Blue Öyster Cult fan when I was really little, like sub-10 years old. And there're many different kinds of sounds to that band.
Like [if we were] talking about TV shows, you could focus on the special effects, the characters, the story or some other kind of sub-interest. With Blue Öyster Cult, there was Donald Roeser [a.k.a. Buck Dharma], the singer who sings many of the songs you probably have heard. There's two singers, but he's, like, the minor singer. He's got this great ethereal sound, and I think I really tried to tap into that.
So to me, "Orestes" is a lot of that Blue Öyster Cult kind of ethereal thing that I was chasing… You try and recapture things that drove you to be a musician in the first place as a kid, and "Orestes" kind of came from that.