A Perfect Circle's Lineup Takes On New Shape
By Mark Krzos

When A Perfect Circle formed in 2000, it was viewed as a side project for Tool's lyricist and vocalist James Maynard Keenan.

Four years later, the band has become a present-day supergroup.

Keenan still sings and writes the words to the band's songs. Guitarist and former Nine Inch Nails roadie Billy Howerdel still writes the music, and Josh Freese still keeps the rhythm section tight with his solid drumming. But guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen and bassist Paz Lenchantin went separate ways and have been replaced by two new members who are no strangers to rock fans: The Smashing Pumpkins' James Iha on guitar, and Jeordie White - known to most as Marilyn Manson's Twiggy Ramirez - on bass.

The band, which released its sophomore CD "Thirteenth Step" last year, will play TECO Arena on Saturday.

During a tour stop in Virginia Beach, Ramirez, er, White, (far left in photo), took some time away from the groupies to talk about his split with longtime friend and bandmate Marilyn Manson, the negative press that surrounded rock's demonic band, his fresh start and the differences between the two groups.

White, a Fort Lauderdale native, joined A Perfect Circle two years ago and said playing in Manson and A Perfect Circle couldn't be more different.

"It's apples and oranges," White said. "They're both great bands. I'm proud of what I did in (Marilyn) Manson and I'm really enjoying playing in A Perfect Circle."

White's induction into A Perfect Circle wasn't a difficult transition, he claims.

"The chemistry's been great from the start," he said.

A Perfect Circle isn't anything like Marilyn Manson. In fact the band is more in line with progressive '70s rockers Rush and Emerson, Lake and Palmer - a sound that suits White just fine.

White insists his split with Manson wasn't the result of endless controversy over the band's appearance, songs or protests from religious groups.

"We all thought it was pretty funny," White said of the band's tendencies to make headlines wherever they performed. "Journalists need something to write about. We were all about attention."

When White left Manson, the shock rocker said the Marilyn Manson lifestyle "is not where Twiggy is."

"That (lifestyle) means making creepy music," White said. "We were putting out the same music over and over. That's not what I wanted to do."

While White also insists there were no bitter feelings over his split with Manson, he said he and Marilyn rarely speak anymore.

"What it all came down to was that I didn't want to do songs that sound the same," he said. "It gets old doing the same thing again and again - that's why this band is so exciting."

Songs featured on the band's latest, "Thirteenth Step," aren't three-minute Slayer-style skull smashers. They don't delve into demons, either - except maybe inner ones.

"Thirteenth Step" is a concept album about recovery. The themes and droning guitars are more in line with "The Wall"-era Pink Floyd than perhaps anything else.

It's this type of experiment that suits White. He wants to keep making interesting music and says he would eventually like to do some acoustic work and one day hook up with The Flaming Lips. "They're really making some interesting music."

Just don't ask White to sit still or join a jam band.

"I don't like to improvise," he said. "It's good and all, but seems to be a bit self-indulgent."