A Perfect Supergroup: Turnover In Band Doesn't Affect Power, Focus Of Second Album
By Chris Casey

“The Package,” the opening cut on A Perfect Circle’s latest album, is an entrancing slow burner that explodes into pummeling guitar licks and Maynard James Keenan’s menacing vocals-“to get what’s mine, mine, mine/to see what’s mine, mine, mine.”

What A Perfect Circle has seized is a leap in maturity on “Thirteenth Step,” a sophomore album that’s taut, adventurous and focused. It’s a cohesive piece that expands on instrumental textures and mood, yet remains rooted in the hard-edged foundation of “Mer De Noms,’’ the band’s platinum-selling 2000 debut.

Bass player Jeordie Orsborne White, who joined the band two years ago from Marilyn Manson, says a A Perfect Circle made a strong stride with their second album. He talked about the album and the band’s tour in a recent phone interview from Las Vegas.

“First records are always a collection of songs you’ve been writing your whole life,” White says. “But on your second one you can kind of sit down and decide and learn from your mistakes-learn what worked and put out a solid message.”

Most of the songs were co-written by band founders Keenan, who also fronts Tool, and guitarist Billy Howerdel, a guitar tech for Tool and former roadie for Nine Inch Nails.

White joins guitarist James Iha, of Smashing Pumpkins fame, as newcomers in the supergroup. The band’s year-long tour in support of “Thirteenth Step” wraps up with Saturday’s date in the Colorado Springs City Auditorium and Sunday’s show at Red Rocks.

White and Iha replace Paz Lenchantin and Troy Van Leeuwen, who left the group after the first record. Drummer Josh Freese, formerly of the Vandals and Guns N’ Roses, has held down the rhythm section from the start.

White says the chemistry in the reconstituted band “has been great.”

The new band has required some changes of White, starting with his name. He went by Twiggy Ramirez in Marilyn Manson.

But he thinks the new band is a step in a better direction one that’s “a little more democratic than in the past.”

“I’d say it’s just kind of a benefit that everyone’s an experienced musician and it’s easier to get along with everyone.”

That alchemy and solid musicianship supports the yin-yang balance of sonic thunder and ambient nuance on “Thirteenth Step’ which has sold more than a million copies since its September release. The album has produced the hit singles “The Outsider” and “ Weak and Powerless,” but more subdued tracks such as “A Stranger and “The Noose” draw frequent fan raves in concert reviews posted to the band’s website.

Most of the songs were written before White and Iha’s arrival, White says, but “some songs we did collaborate on.”

A thematic thread of dealing with addiction and other personal ordeals and coming out the other side-a step beyond a 12-step program runs through the album.

Keenan suffuses the harmonies in “Weak and Powerless,” a song about succumbing, apparently to drugs, with harrowing edge. You can picture a devilish grin as he goes darkly comic on a cover of the Failure ballad “The Nurse Who Loved Me:” I’m taking her home with me, all dressed in white/She’s got everything, I need, pharmacy keys.”

A Perfect Circle builds on these moods with its live shows, which feature Keenan eerily singing in the shadows.

The band’s material “calls for a more dark, subdued show, “White says.

Audiences don’t always fully embrace that vibe, however. On the band’s website, fans have occasionally vented about moshers.

“Sometimes Maynard will say something about it (during shows), but I’m not really paying attention to the crowd, “White says.

Still, he’s caught glimpses of people holding up Twiggy banners during the tour.

“That’s as much a part of me as it always was, “ White says. “The only difference on a A Perfect Circle is that it has my real name on it.”

When the band’s tour ends Sunday, the members will head to other projects. The co-founders Keenan and Howerdel, plan to return to Tool and embark on a solo project, respectively. It’s uncertain when A Perfect Circle will regroup for a third album.

White may have a solo album in his future as well. “I’ll go back to a collection of music I was writing before I joined the band.” He says he’ll go the solo route “or join another band and work those songs.”