By Jessica Toliver

With the release of their much-anticipated new album, Thirteenth Step, A Perfect Circle has risen above lineup changes, scheduling conflicts and the sophomore slump to emerge a stronger, more resilient band.

Tired of waiting for vocalist Maynard James Kennan's schedule to allow recording time, guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen left for Queens of the Stone Age, and bassist Paz Lenchantin went to Zwan. When it was time to record, Nine Inch Nails' bassist, Danny Lohner, joined founding members Billy Howerdel (guitar/composer), Josh Freese (drummer) and Keenan.

Last January, Jeordie White (formerly known as Twiggy Ramirez of Marilyn Manson and a good friend of Freese's), joined the band, and Lohner moved to guitar duties. After the album was completed, Lohner stated he wasn't interested in touring or permanently being in the band and final member, James Iha (Smashing Pumpkins) joined the band.

With the new lineup finalized and an intensely artistic and honest album, APC began touring.

"This band kinda came together on the road now, and it's really strong," White comments. "Unfortunately we didn't have that band, while we were making the record. So I'm interested to see what the next record will sound like, because this is definitely a strong lineup."

With an all-star lineup, the supergroup term is frequently getting tossed around, much to the band's dismay.

"I think it's playing devil's advocate," White relates. "It's doing the opposite of what people say. I mean, we didn't set out to do a supergroup, but we knew it would make things more interesting to have veteran players. I don't really see any objection to it. It's just that you don't want to be labeled like "Oh, they're just a supergroup, like the Damn Yankees or something really shitty from the 80s," he laughs. "But it depends on how you look at it."

A Perfect Circle has once again redefined the musical landscape with Thirteenth Step, which White says they intended to be a little more challenging, a little more of a record you can listen to from beginning to end. "It's got hills and valleys and is a little more dynamic (than Mer de Noms)."

The album has a natural flow and dark overtone that's present in every song. Though he wasn't yet in the band during the writing process, Jeordie believes that, it's probably about recovery from something. "I guess it really depends on the listener, what they get from it. What experience they had in their life that they can relate to when they listen to this music."

From conflict comes great art, and this record is definitely a testament to that. Billy and Maynard spent a lot of time butting heads on the artistic direction of the album, which erupted into one of their most enigmatic songs, "The Noose".

"This is his (Billy's) first band, so he probably holds it close to his heart. He's really sensitive about it. Whereas Maynard looks at it as an outlet to express himself a little differently than he does in Tool. Sometimes butting heads in the studio is good, because it's gonna make a great record. It's that pull and tug thing that makes it interesting."

"There was a moment when we were recording "The Package," when we were like, 'Oh, this is really good.' Cause on that song in particular, we were all in the same room together playing, and it just kinda came out of nowhere. We pretty much did it in a day - recording that song as opposed to the other ones where we spent a lot more time."

Hailing from such a notoriously popular band, there were undoubtedly a lot of changes for White.

"I was definitely into the persona I used in Marilyn Manson. I meant what I was doing, except towards the end. That's kinda one of the reasons why we fell out.

"[In APC] I really didn't change my name, I just started using my real name. I thought it was inappropriate to use the name Twiggy on A Perfect Circle record. It wouldn't make any sense. That's something that I left with Marilyn Manson. It's kind of refreshing just to completely be myself on stage. It s like having a whole new career. It worked out well for me.

"I definitely feel fans of my old band could be fans of this band. They're two completely different bands, different ways of going about doing things for sure. But I look at it as dating somebody new, getting in a different relationship. It's hard to compare the two, but it just feels right on stage now. I must be doing something right."