A Perfect Circle – Maynard James Keenan Interview


The void that’s been left in the heavy music world since Tool’s disappearing act in 1998 has been a big one. It’s safe to say that Maynard James Keenan’s new project, A Perfect Circle , can fill that void and do even more with a versatile sound and grainy Brit-pop textures. The band also includes co-founder Billy Howerdel on guitars, Paz Lenchantin on bass, Josh Freese on drums, and Troy van Leeuwen, also on guitar. We had a chance to chat with Troy before their show in Lakeland, Florida about the recent collaboration, his bandmates, David Fincher (director of Fight Club, Seven , and The Game ), and the state of rock music today.

When did you officially become a part of A Perfect Circle ?

I started playing with the band about a year ago and it was just a couple of rehearsals a month. We were just getting together, getting acquainted, and learning the songs together, just having fun with it, then around the fall time we did a couple of shows. That’s when things really started to roll as far as the band developing and people getting interested in it.

Did you offer yourself or were you approached by Billy and Maynard?

Initially Billy gave me a call. Since I had toured with my old band, Failure, with Tool so much, we sort of got acquainted out there. I guess I was the last resort, which is fine with me.

Did you have any difficulties picking up the music?

Not at all. I basically learned how to be a musician by listening, so it was always easy for me to listen to records, hear notes, where they’re played and how to play them. It was always easy for me to jump right in and be a part of anything really. It took a couple of weeks of just listening, playing along.

Were you involved with the recording process?

The majority of the record was already done, but I played on a couple of songs on the record, featured solos.

Which ones?

Thinking of You and Sleeping Beauty. Those were songs were written as the band was developing. I came up with a couple of parts that just fit the way they wanted.

Are you involved with anything else besides A Perfect Circle ?

Yeah, I have a band called Enemy that I’m trying to finish up, but everybody in this band has something else going on. It’s kind of cool that we all made this a priority to make it happen. It’s been a really pleasant experience.

What do you think you bring to the table as far as musical abilities go?

I like to think I add a certain element of ambiance, color. A lot of times I’ll do a session where a friend will have called me up looking for something specific, but don’t know what it is. I’ll just come down and fill in the gaps. But I definitely think color and ambiance is big as far as I go.

This isn’t supposed to be a side project. Do you hope to remain active in the future in A Perfect Circle?

It’s going really well. I enjoy playing the music. It’s really a professional outfit. Everybody knows their place and we don’t step on each other’s toes. It just works, musically.

You’ve toured with Tool, but as a supporting act. What’s it like to actually share the stage with Maynard?

It’s definitely inspiring. I’ve always liked Tool and had admiration for what he can do. It’s very cool. I can’t really explain how it feels. There’s a lot going on. It’s definitely inspiring.

You’ve been on the road for a month now. Has your live show evolved?

The live show keeps evolving, as well as this unit. Not only are the lights getting more intense, the performance is getting better. We’re all more comfortable and at ease with each other. It just adds for good vibes and good music.

Have you incorporated any Tool or Failure songs into the sets?

No. This is just a completely different idea. It all goes back to this being a certain group of people making a certain style of music. A Perfect Circle is what we’re here to do and that’s it.

What are your thoughts on where you fit in among the glorified grunge scene and the rap-n-rock genres?

I don’t think we fit in at all. We prefer it that way. Being different works.

I agree. There’s this upper echelon of musicians that includes A Perfect Circle , Queens Of The Stone Age, even Fu Manchu, that just seem to play above everything else.

Yeah, they both fill spaces that are missing. I think musically the people who like to have more substance in their music enjoy them. I think that’s the kind of following we’re shooting for as well. It’s more diehard.

Definitely. And on your album there seems to be so much variation. A British-pop feel with a lot of atmosphere was my initial take. It just naturally separates itself from anything that has come out recently with the exception of those two bands.

Yeah, a lot of guitar tones and general ideas for the songs started out as a song by The Cure or any of that early alternative music, but when everyone jumps into the picture, it kind of changes. It makes it what we do.

Do you anticipate this blowing up like Limp Bizkit or Korn?

I’ve learned to not expect too much, but it would be cool. I’d be very happy, not only to be in that position, but to see the change take place.

What kind of plans do you have after the Nine Inch Nails tour?

We’re touring Europe , Japan , Australia , Canada . We’re going to go out for quite a while.

Sounds grueling. Is the video for Judith done?

Yeah, it’s getting a lot of airtime on The Box. That’s just as important to us, that we’re big there, not so much MTV.

I know with Tool, Maynard enjoyed creating some weird stuff. Was any of that incorporated into this one?

Nope. The director was David Fincher. He did Seven, Fight Club , and The Game . It was mostly his idea. It’s really a great rehearsal performance video, but with his sensibilities of lighting and contrast and editing, it just came out really cool. It’s really edgy, borderline aggro, but still tastefully done.

Sounds pretty cool. He’s done some amazing stuff in the last few years.

Yeah, it was definitely fun.

Well, I’ve run out of questions, so do you have anything to add, to our readers?

Sure, work hard and stay in school!

+ Charlie Craine


  1. […] A Perfect Circle’s Troy van Leeuwen recently took part in a Q&A with HipOnline.com. Asked if he had any troubles picking up the music being a late arriver to the group, Troy responded, “Not at all. I basically learned how to be a musician by listening, so it was always easy for me to listen to records, hear notes, where they’re played and how to play them. It was always easy for me to jump right in and be a part of anything really. It took a couple of weeks of just listening, playing along.” Check out the entire interview here. […]

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