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Maynard James Keenan and Billy Howerdel
A Perfect Circle On Influences, Collaboration & Building 'Eat The Elephant'
The influential rock group stopped by the GRAMMY Museum to discuss the impetus for their new music, their early influences and the creative process behind their big 2018 return
A Perfect Circleis the kind of band fans wait with bated breath to hear new music from, no matter how long they are away. In the case of Eat The Elephant, the band's fourth album, the wait was a full 14 years. Still, the new material was met with much anticipation, a testament to the art.
Back in October, we premiered a video for the title track from the album-length film the band made for Eat The Elephant. In the song, lead singer and songwriter Maynard James Keenan’s stark, haunting vocals creek and soar over lead composer and guitarist Billy Howerdel's dynamic backdrop. During a recent visit to the GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles,as Keenan and Howerdel shared how they came to revisit the project after all these years away.
"I think it was just time," said Keenan. "I was really busy with Puscifer for quite a while. Then I was gonna get back into doing some Tool music, and they weren't ready, so I was like [to Howerdel], "Hey, what's up?"
The time passed since their previous album, 2004's Emotive, manifests itself on Eat The Elephant in the space within and around its songs, creating a new sonic environment from the band's previous work. This had everything to do with how the songs' foundations were built.
"A lot of times on this record we had the song kind of almost complete, and then he put the vocals on top. It was pretty amazing," explained Howerdel. "Maynard had a lot more input into the music this time, just to, you know, try to some things, because he knew where he was gonna go vocally. He wasn't in the room when I was working on the music, so we'd kind of lightly steer in that direction. And I think it worked out because he just had something in mind and then was able to throw the solid final performance on top of it."
When it comes to architecting a vocal, Keenan does it like no one else. The genesis of his genius instincts begin with responding to the music, as he revealed during the conversation. "First and foremost, it's a reaction to the melodies and structures and time signatures that the group of musicians are presenting me, whether it's Mat Mitchell, or Billy, or Tool," he said. "It's all a reaction melodically to those rhythms, constructing it in a way that feels like an actual conversation. And I of course react better when they're not in 4/4. I don't speak in 4/4."
"Then [I] figure out where that emotion is going, and then just look at your life experiences, what you're experiencing at the moment, and attach a set of words or a circumstance to that set of rhythms and melodies to see if it opens up a whole story, because you know, human interaction, human experience from birth to death, there's an infinite number of flavors and colors and bandwidths and emotions that come with those experiences."
Keenan also named an intriguing roster of early influences, providing a glimpse into his stylistic DNA. His early exposure to everything from Roberta Flack to Black Sabbath to Joni Mitchell led to an appreciation of Minor Threat, Killing Joke, Swans and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, which in turn led him to Gillian Welch and PJ Harvey.
"To me, there's a sadness that's captivating in that writing that's essential," Keenan says of Welch, Harvey and his tastes as they've evolved over the course of his life.
A Perfect Circle has evolved, too. At its core, it's a dynamic collaboration, which means Keenan and Howerdel cannot say what will come next.
"It's a marriage of sorts," says Howerdel. "You have to make this more than just the sum of its parts, more than the sum of the two of us. That comes from the unknown of collaboration… Having collaboration is the magic of never knowing what's coming next."
Allen Hughes' "The Defiant Ones" Wins Best Music Film | 2018 GRAMMY
Director Allen Hughes' four-part documentary takes home Best Music Film honors for its portrayal of the unlikely partnership that changed the music business
The team behind The Defiant Ones celebrated a big win for Best Music Film at the 60th GRAMMY Awards. The crew awarded include director Allen Hughes and producers Sarah Anthony, Fritzi Horstman, Broderick Johnson, Gene Kirkwood, Andrew Kosove, Laura Lancaster, Michael Lombardo, Jerry Longarzo, Doug Pray & Steven Williams.
In a year rife with quality music documentaries and series, the bar has been set high for this dynamic category. The Defiant Ones is a four-part HBO documentary telling the story of an unlikely duo taking the music business by storm seems better suited for fantastical pages of a comic book, but for engineer-turned-mogul Jimmy Iovine and super-producer Dr. Dre, it's all truth.The Defiant Ones recounts their histories, their tribulations and their wild success. These include first-hand accounts from those who were there in Iovine's early days, such as Bruce Springsteen and U2's Bono, as well as those on board when Dre and Iovine joined forces, such as Snoop Dogg and Eminem.
The competition was stiff as the category was filled with compelling films such as One More Time With Feeling, Two Trains Runnin', Soundbreaking, and Long Strange Trip.
Portugal. The Man To Aida Cuevas: Backstage At The 2018 GRAMMYs
Also see James Fauntleroy, Reba McIntire, Latroit, and more after they stepped off the GRAMMY stage
What do artists do the moment they walk off the GRAMMY stage from presenting, accepting an award or performing? Now, you can find out.
Also see Best Pop Duo/Group Performance GRAMMY winners Portugal. The Man posing with their first career GRAMMY Award, Best Roots Gospel Album GRAMMY winner Reba McIntire right after she walked offstage, Best R&B Song GRAMMY winner James Fauntleroy, Best Remixed Recording GRAMMY winner Latroit, and many more, with these photos from backstage during the 60th GRAMMY Awards.
Photo: Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images
Original Misfits Unleash One Night Only L.A. Reunion Show
Dark punk legends to play first show with Glenn Danzig and Jerry Only since last year's Riot Fest reunion
There's big news today for punk-rock fans aware that the Misfits made much more than just T-shirts.
The massively influential punk band announced a special show touted as the "only 2017 performance in this world… or any world" and billed as "The Original Misfits" in Los Angeles at the Forum on Dec. 30.
This will be the first Misfits show featuring original singer Glenn Danzig and original bassist Jerry Only with long-time guitarist Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein since the band reunited for a pair of Riot Fest appearances in Chicago and Denver in 2016. Last year's Riot Fest gigs, which featured drummer Dave Lombardo, marked the first time in 33 years the original Misfits members played together.
"OK Los Angeles, you've waited almost 35 years for this, here's your chance to see the "Original Misfits" in this Exclusive L.A. only performance." said Glenn Danzig. "No Tour, No BS, just one night of dark metal-punk hardcore brutality that will go down in the history books. See you there."
Tickets for this "one night only" show go on sale Friday, August 25.
Bruno Mars Wins Song Of The Year | 2018 GRAMMYs
The Hawaiian native takes home Song Of The Year for "That's What I Like" at the 60th GRAMMY Awards
Feeling the 24K Magic, Bruno Mars' successful progress through the categories he's been nominated in at the 60th GRAMMY Awards picked up another one at Song Of The Year for "That's What I Like."
Christopher Brody Brown and Philip Lawrence co-write with Mars under the name Shampoo Press & Curl. The other winning songwriters for Mars' hit tonight in this category are James Fauntleroy and production team "The Sterotypes" — Ray Charles McCullough II, Jeremy Reeves, Ray Romulus and Jonathan Yip.
The Album Of The Year GRAMMY Award wrapped up the night and wrapped up Bruno Mars' complete rampage through his six nominated categories — now six wins.