A Perfect Circle – Eat The Elephant
“We're 14 years older, so it's gonna be different no matter what,” A Perfect Circle frontman Maynard James Keenan tells Zan Rowe about Eat The Elephant, the band’s first record since 2004’s Emotive.
The way in which artists can work together has changed a lot in the past decade and a half, which meant the process of making this record was vastly different to how the band – particularly the creative core of Kennan and guitarist Billy Howerdel.
We do it because we need to, we have to. we're compelled to.Maynard James Keenan — Double J, 2018
“Technology has caught up,” Keenan says. “Having to be in the same room at the same time in a studio that may or may not be expensive - there was always those factors you had to look at 15 years ago.
“Now, with internet connections being faster and FTP sites and those kinda things, we could get a lot more done in a shorter period of time and not necessarily have to be in the same room. We could kind of work in tandem.”
And it is a deeply collaborative process, with Howerdel usually getting the ball rolling and Keenan unpicking the work he’s presented.
“It's all about conversations, where we are and what we're doing,” he says. “They're puzzles, really. Whatever little puzzles he's got for me, I spend time solving the ones that make sense.
“He'll have a lot of things that he's worked on for a while. I'll go through and see if anything resonates. I might see some potential in something.
“Something might be obvious, maybe not as obvious on others, so I'll give him a little direction. Like, let's change the key, let's change the tempo, let's change it from 4/4 to 3/4, change a time signature. Relook at it and see what's there. See if it sparks anything.”
Keenan is a busy man. He writes, records and tours with Puscifer, he’s reportedly working on a long-awaited Tool album, and he’s got an enormous vineyard to take care of as well.
“It's just time management, really,” he says of balancing his tasks. “It's just focusing on things when you have time to focus on them.
“The grapes pretty much tell you what to do, they're in charge, so I have to work around that schedule. But those creative juices kind of go in phases and flows anyway. So, taking time off to make wine kinda makes you wanna get back into writing.”
‘So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish’ on the new album sees Keenan reminiscing on a few big figures in pop culture we’ve lost in recent years.
‘Willy Wonka, Major Tom, Ali and Leia have moved on,’ he sings, as he laments the time so many of us waste on useless, overly vain endeavours.
“I think it's more remembering why it is that I get more done in a year than most of my friends,” Keenan says. “Reminding them why. Because life's short. All these people who are around me - my friends, family, extended family, peers - they're probably fans of these people that I mentioned. That was just a little wake up call. They're gone.”
Another track, ‘Delicious’, is a good example of the band’s modus operandi when it came to the arrangements on the album. Often, less is more.
“That track came together like most of them; the process of erasing,” Keenan says.
“There were a lot of things going on on all of the tracks. We went through and went, 'Okay, how about we mute all of these things and see if there's more air or space.' That was definitely one of those tracks.”
As far as how he feels about the fan reaction to the new record, and the likelihood of winning new fans with it, Keenan is pretty frank. He doesn’t make these records for anyone but himself and the people he creates with.
“For the most part, most of the people I work with, we do it because we need to, we have to. we're compelled to,” he says.
“New audience, old audience, that's absolutely what keeps the lights on, but without the primary goal of getting done this thing that we need to get out of us, that's the satisfying part.
“Being able to start, see it all the way through and present it. That's the payoff for us. If people respect it or like it, that's a bonus.”