Billy Howerdell is best known as the guitarist & mastermind behind the band A Perfect Circle, although the spotlight is often on Maynard from Tool, more so than Billy, Billy is the man responsible for the music & brilliant concepts that A Perfect Circle created, & now Mr. Howerdell has a new project entitled Ashes Divide, & the band is a moody, artistic expression of Billy’s feelings, attitude & personality! Billy recorded the entire Ashes Divide record with a band that consisted of basically just Billy playing all instruments, with the exception of drums, & there are a few guests on the new cd, but the bulk of it is ALL Billy’s work. I had the opportunity to chat with Billy about all things pertaining to Ashes Divide, as well as some off topics subjects & I have to tell you, Billy was such a pleasure to interview..he was super lax, really down to earth, friendly, & mellow.
Billy Howerdell: The true meaning of it, I never really publicly disclosed because it’s probably ridiculous to anyone else but me...you can leave it at that, some people have kinda touched on the duality or a secondary meaning, which I thought would be good enough for a generic...the whole phoenix thing, is that a bland & generic enough answer (laughs)
Rock N Roll Experience: How come you spelled dIVIDE with a lowercase “d”?
Billy Howerdell: For no other reason than just to have it stick out in the muck that you have to sift through.
Rock N Roll Experience: What is that picture supposed to represent on the cover of the new Ashes Divide cd?
Billy Howerdell: Kinda the same, like, the birth & cycle of life kinda thing, there’s that androgynous kinda figure pushing & pulling 2 different people in & out of whatever that is, whatever the fabric that we are is coming in & out of & I guess that was the (laughs)...one of the things that the artist & I talked about over a drink.
Rock N Roll Experience: I also love how every song has it’s own piece of art to go along with it, who came up with that concept?
Billy Howerdell: Kevin Mallone, him & I kinda went over each song, we were going to do it with a sketch pad & just do it quick right like on the spot, like in 2 days, but it took a little longer, we sat down for a night & talked about the concepts & what they were gonna be, some of them are more literal, some are loose based on, not ever lyric in a song, but maybe a particular line & I just tried to see what Kevin could come up with that & it’s nice when you don’t have to shove a concept down someone’s throat & they can kinda just run with something that went in a different direction than you did in the first place
Rock N Roll Experience: The picture used for “The Stone” is supposed to be you, right?
Billy Howerdell: Uhmmm, yeah, I mean, again, he kinda just ran with things & it was supposed to be someone working through this thing & there it was.
Rock N Roll Experience: There’s a great line in one of the new songs that says, “Forever is something to Bleed for”, can you elaborate on that line?
Billy Howerdell: That song, “Forever Can Be” is really about a few people in my life that have..I’ve kinda merged the stories together with alot of these songs & they kinda lack a linear thing & therefore allowed me to kinda disconnect myself from something very personal specifically...that one is certainly about somebody close to me passing away & the permanence of loss of someone in a way that you knew them in your living life or however you wanna phrase that.
Rock N Roll Experience: So how come you chose to tour with Linkin Park this Summer as opposed to doing a headlining Ashes Divide tour?
Billy Howerdell: We are starting off doing some radio shows which I’ve never done..with A Perfect Circle, I don’t know that we ever really did a radio show before where you are kinda put on..I guess they are the same thing as going on a festival of sorts, but then we are doing our own club headlining stuff intermingled with that with some radio shows & then onto the Linkin Park thing...it just, you know, the opportunity got presented to us & I thought it was a great opportunity, I mean, I don’t know a ton about Linkin Park, I’ve heard they are really cool guys, but I thought it was very cool of them to take the band out & put us on the main stage without..they got an advance copy of the record & that’s it, they’d never seen how things come together live, nor has anyone, so I thought it spoke alot for their trust & I appreciate it..those guys believed in us enough to do that..I think it’ll be a fun Summer thing to be involved in.
Rock N Roll Experience: I love the new cd btw, it’s dark & moody, there’s elements of new wave, there’s elements of dark rock, goth & everything...what were some of your influences while making the new Ashes Divide cd?
Billy Howerdell: Probably nothing that makes sense as to how it came about...I don’t know, I mean, I’m sure that’s more the typical situation with people creating, I mean, things you get influenced by just directly relate, but, I mean, I think I’m heavily most influenced by this past year or 2 or 3 is Cat Power & Band of Horses...I think the first Band of Horses record is one of the best records I’ve ever heard in my life...the first one is a 10 to me & the next one is a 9.5..I’m terrible with titles of records & such so I forget which one is which, but, Cat Power, “You Are Free” has been, for the past 7 years, like one of the most important musical records for me, just in the way that it’s just so honest & haunting & I guess honest..let’s just leave it at that, but, you know, with this, I guess the fabric of who I am, musically, it comes from things I’ve always listened to since I was a kid & throughout, & even if I don’t listen to them actively, they are still ingrained in my muscle memory which is where you go to on the guitar, keyboard or wherever..The Cure, Echo & the Bunnymen, Dead Kennedy's, Elvis Costello, Ozzy Osbourne’s first 2 records, Killing Joke....
Rock N Roll Experience: “Diary of a Madman”
Billy Howerdell: “Diary of a Madman” & “Blizzard of Ozz” are like..well, Randy Rhoads.. I was just a huge Randy Rhoads fan when I started playing guitar
Rock N Roll Experience: Maynard has said in an interview that A Perfect Circle was over with & done...is that true?
Billy Howerdell: No, I don’t think so. I mean, I’ve heard that 2nd hand, but he’s never told me that, but I think I read something that said something about “life support”, when we talk about A Perfect Circle, & we have, very recently, we don’t talk alot about it by any means, but you know, we had dinner recently & just said, you know, if we did something it might be in this form, or maybe we’ll do a couple of songs, but, we don’t have any plans to do anything soon, I mean he’s (Maynard) still working on Puscifer, he just put out that record recently, he’s talking about getting with the Tool guys & writing at some point, he’s got a vineyard, so he’s busy with that & obviously, all I can see is Ashes Divide right now, so I would love to do something in the APC for again, but I’m really the most excited to focus on this for the for seeable future & I think that this will be my main focus from now on.
Rock N Roll Experience: You did some work on the new Guns N Roses, “Chinese Democracy”..can you tell me how it sounds?
Billy Howerdell: I worked on it a decade ago & back then, it sounded great, it sounded like a record that I thought would have come out back then
Rock N Roll Experience: What kind of guitar amps are you using?
Billy Howerdell: It’s a 1978 Marshall super lead 100 watt head with a modified pre-amp that this guy Dave Freeman @ Rack Systems did for me & I just had him rack mount it so I have the real version I have & I have 2 & he’s building me a 3rd rack mount version & both Andy Gerald the guitar player & I are playing through those, but Andy is really taking more of the lead stuff live because it’s just impossible to play lead & sing some of these things.
Rock N Roll Experience: Are you doing any covers in the Ashes Divide live show?
Billy Howerdell: We probably will, we haven't decided & I think we need to, quick, because we are about to start headlining some club shows & we have a 44 minute album to headline with & some of these songs we are kinda stretching our legs out on already, so...but we need to still do that & I want to too! I just literally haven't had time to sit down & decide what that’s gonna be
Rock N Roll Experience: Do you like being the lead singer for Ashes Divide?
Billy Howerdell: Yeah, I do...it’s scary, because it takes much more, physically of you to do it, if you’re not a physically consistent person, I don’t know..I’m about to find out (laughs)
Rock N Roll Experience: The A Perfect Circle concert dvd never came out..will that ever be released?
Billy Howerdell: It was shot & we never edited it, “The Noose” was like one piece of that shoot & it was done in Texas, it might have been 3 cities we shot that in, but I mean, maybe some day we might do it, but again, we don’t have plans to do it right now.
Rock N Roll Experience: Where do you stand with the current US Presidential election?
Billy Howerdell: I’ve been a supporter of Obama for a while, but, embarrassingly, right now I haven't been focusing on it for a few weeks, I’ve had other stuff to focus on, but I’ll be diving back into that soon.
Rock N Roll Experience: What, musically, was the difference between playing with Paz as opposed to Twiggy in A Perfect Circle?
Billy Howerdell: I’m on my 3rd bass player now, Matt, & between the 3 of them, I mean, they are very different players, Paz is, I mean she does play guitar & it’s almost like, Paz is more of a guitar player kinda bass player, & that she’s very creative...she’s not musically fluctual, I don’t know how to explain this well, I’m not very good at talking about these sorta things, where Jeordie was like less is more kinda solid in that even more so, Matt is probably one of the most solid bass players I’ve ever played with & Paz is really creative & really alot of style & I don’t know, they are just 3 different players...
Rock N Roll Experience: Is there anything else I haven't asked you that you’d like to add?
Billy Howerdell: Just who the live band is..it’s Jeff on drums, I was definitely nervous about filling the drum position in this band because Josh has big shoes to fill, playing with Jeff is great..I played with him & Matt at the same time & on the first day that I was looking for people & I thought, god, this is a little too easy! I said, I could probably hire these guys, get a guitar player & it would be ok to go on tour in a week & that was who I wound up with..those 2 guys & then, Andy Gerald, the guitar player, was a little harder for me to find & it’s not even that challenging of stuff to play, but that was an important position to me & the last member of the band who just joined is Adam Monroe..we just brought him on this week