JEORDIE WHITE | BASE TENDENCIES
When art-rock powerhouse A Perfect Circle reemerged this summer from a nearly two-and-a-half-year hiatus, fans heard a new sound of the band and saw a revamped lineup.
When the band breezes through New England for their five tour dates this week, starting on Nov. 21 in New Hampshire, fans who saw A Perfect Circle this summer will get another chance to see the new band, and those who missed the intimate club shows will get their first glance at the musicians currently comprising one of today's most exciting bands.
A Perfect Circle originated as the brainchild of former Tool guitar tech Billy Howerdel. He convinced enigmatic and incredibly talented Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan to sing and help write for his project and bassist Paz Lenchantin, Vandals drummer Josh Freese, and former Failure guitarist, Troy Van Leeuwen, later rounded out the band.
Their 2000 debut "Mer de Noms", which translates into English as "sea of names," was a critical and commercial success. The album garnered the greatest first-week sales for a debut album ever, with the help of Keenan's large, established, and rabid fan base, as well as the strength of the industrial-tinged first single "Judith." Following extensive touring, the band took a break. While Howerdel wrote more songs, and the rest of the band went to work on other projects.
When the band reconvened to begin work on their sophomore album released in September, "Thirteenth Step," A Perfect Circle found themselves with many holes in the lineup. Lenchanten left the band to join Billy Corgan's new group, Zwan, and Van Leeuwen dedicated himself to playing with Queens Of the Stone Age.
With vacancies in APC, Jeordie White, formerly known as Marilyn Manson bassist Twiggy Rameriez, was the first person to join the group. White is, despite what one might expect from Marilyn Manson's former right-hand man, a decidedly soft-spoken guy.
"I left Manson in May of 2002," he quietly said -- almost mumbling -- in a phone interview last week, "and I joined A Perfect Circle in January."
During that time period White wasn't slacking by any means. He played on a few tracks on "The Desert Sessions 9 & 10" a side project headed by Josh Homme the singer/guitarist from Queens Of The Stone Age, wrote songs of his own that he hopes to record during the next A Perfect Circle hiatus and searched for a new band.
"I auditioned for Metallica a couple weeks before [I joined] A Perfect Circle. I've known them for ages, I was supposed to go back [for another audition], but I was already in A Perfect Circle."
While he stayed with the band and played on the entire album, the band was not so lucky in finding a replacement for Van Leeuwen.
"I think some of the guys thought that Troy was gonna be done with Queens Of The Stone Age at the time ... so we never really looked for a guitar player," said White.
While Howerdel played most of the guitar tracks on the record, Van Leeuwen did record a few parts. Danny Lohner, a multi-talented musician/producer who has worked with Nine Inch Nails and Tool amongst many others, rounded out other parts. Rumors began to circulate on the Internet that Lohner was going to be a full-time member of the band but, White insists that was never the plan.
"Danny was just working on the record, he was filling in for guitar. He was never really in the band," he said.
After the recording sessions for the album were finished the band finally found their new guitarist in James Iha, formerly of the Smashing Pumpkins. While fans were delighted with his playing on the bands summer tour, Iha had actually barely had any practice time with the band.
"We just found James a week before we went on tour. He had to learn [the songs] really quick," said White.
Both Iha and White found themselves playing songs not only in front of devoted fans who were attached to the previous lineup, but alongside some of the most talented musicians in modern music.
"[I didn't feel] pressure because they're an established band, pressure just to, you know, learn the material, making sure it was up to par with the rest of the band," White said. "At first it was a little difficult but it ended up making me a better player."
White also had to make a transition from his role in Marilyn Manson -- he wrote the music for the majority of the songs -- to a role in A Perfect Circle where he is, at this point, mostly playing other people's music.
"[Howerdel] had written mostly everything, except for 'The Package' which I wrote on and 'Crimes,'" said White. "It was kind of challenging to play someone else's music. It was something I wasn't really used to, I was used to pretty much playing my own stuff."
White also saw a different experience in working with the notoriously flamboyant Manson to the more subdued Keenan who, despite literally staying in the shadows of the stage, is still the centerpiece of the band. White, however, doesn't care who is front-and-center and how they act at all, he honestly just cares about making the music.
"It was important to [Manson] to be on the cover of every magazine, to get all the attention; that's why it was called Marilyn Manson," White said. " ... It wasn't really important to me, what's important is playing music to people. In the long run everyone knows who did what. The music lasts forever, the celebrity -- it dies out eventually."
As for the exact differences between Manson and Keenan, White already has developed a stock answer.
"With Manson it is kinda like a pornographic movie meets a slasher, in-your-face kind of thing," White said. "[Keenan's stage presence] is more like a movie like the first 'Alien' movie where you don't really see the monster. It's a little more mysterious. Manson likes to be in the front and Maynard likes to stay in the back. That kind of describes their personalities. They're both probably eccentric egomaniacs, just in two different ways. They're very artistic and smart. One's a little more artistic and one can sing a little better."
White transitioned seamlessly from this analogy to his description of A Perfect Circle's live set.
"There are a lot of heavy songs in the set," he said, "but there's also a lot of stuff that's kind of laid back. Just because it's not heavy and in your face all the time doesn't mean its not good."
It would appear White has found himself an ideal home in A Perfect Circle.
"I've learned a lot having worked with someone like Manson for a long time," he said. "When you're working with a frontman, as a musician, you feed off their energy. You, you know, adapt to it and learn from it. With Manson it's all about press photos and videos and just image in everything and I don't think it's that bad of a thing."
White stopped and corrected himself.
"I think it's better to have the music take a front seat to everything," he said. "[The experience with Manson] kind of made me appreciate music a little more [rather] than just trying to look crazy and be a rock star."
New England fans will have many chances to see the newly transformed Jeordie White as well as fellow new-guy James Iha play with A Perfect Circle this week. Nov. 21 the band will be in Durham, NH, followed by shows on Nov. 22 in Portland, ME, on Nov. 24 in Providence, and finally a show on Nov. 25 in Wallingford, CT.
Year Of The Rabbit, the new band from ex-Failure frontman Ken Andrews will be opening all the shows. The band's spacey art/alt-rock should be a big hit amongst APC fans as "Thirteenth Step" is unabashedly Failure influenced -- in fact the album's stand-out track is a beautiful, heart-stopping string-based rendition of Failure's track "The Nurse Who Loved Me" which APC performs live as a faithful, and amazing, cover.