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Billy Howerdel on the Time Maynard James Keenan Met Trent Reznor

The A Perfect Circle guitarist recalls introducing the Tool frontman to the NIN mastermind in the '90s

Maynard James Keenan (photo by Raymond Ahner), Billy Howerdel (photo by Tim Cadiente) and Trent Reznor (photo by Raymond Ahner)
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    Before forming A Perfect Circle, Billy Howerdel cut his teeth working as a sound engineer and guitar tech for the likes of Tool, Nine Inch Nails, David Bowie, Fishbone, Guns N’ Roses and more acts. Among his many interesting experiences was introducing Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan to NIN mastermind Trent Reznor.

    Heavy Consequence recently caught up with Howerdel via Zoom to discuss his new solo album, What Normal Was, as seen in Part 1 of our video interview. In Part 2 (watch above), the conversation turned to A Perfect Circle, as well as Howerdel’s musical partnership with Keenan, and how his pre-APC career helped influence him as a musician.

    Regarding his friendship and working relationship with Keenan, Howerdel told us, “I always feel like my game is elevated around him — regardless whether it’s in conversation or in the studio with him or on the stage rehearsing or playing. He’s got an energy and he obviously loves the craft and the business part of it, too. I feel like Maynard has his bearings more solid than most people I know in music. He knows his lane. He knows what he can and can’t do, and he’s great at what he does do.”

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    As for his jump from guitar tech to recording artist, Howerdel credited Fishbone guitarist Kendall Jones with motivating him to make the leap. “[He] sat me down and squared me up, and said, ‘Why are you working for me? I’ve heard your demos. What are you doing here?'”

    In terms of work ethic, Howerdel recounted working with Trent Reznor as a true inspiration. “In working for Nine Inch Nails, Sean Beavan was the front of house sound guy, but also sort of like a musical director, and very close with Trent. … He’s like, ‘Look, Trent doesn’t expect anything from you that he wouldn’t do himself, and he can do a fuck of a lot.'”

    Furthering his point on Reznor’s commitment to his craft, Howerdel recalled the time he introduced Keenan to Reznor. “I brought Maynard to the New Orleans studio to meet Trent. I mean, they obviously knew who each other were, but they’d never met.”

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    He continued, “The first day I brought him in there, I remember Trent was literally on the floor with a PC spread out, putting circuit boards together and things like that. And I think it was the moment when Maynard goes, Oh, OK, this guy’s for real. This isn’t just some guy phoning it in with a pretty face and a couple of lucky songs. This is a guy who’s doing the work. That’s me imagining [what Maynard was thinking], ’cause I l know Maynard’s work ethic, and I know what things he values.”

    Howerdel concluded, “Trent was and still is a big inspiration, and kind of North Star, for what it is to be a writer, [as well as] a person looking at technology and how it incorporates into your world. … I think it’s inspiring.”

    As for A Perfect Circle, Howerdel said he’s constantly “writing things,” but has no set plan for a new album as of yet. “I kind of just, at this point, make music and then I’ll present a lot to Maynard and see what’s turning him on. He has to be engaged.”

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    Watch our interview with Billy Howerdel in the video above, and pick up his new solo album, What Normal Was, at this location.

    Trouble viewing the video interview above? Watch on YouTube.

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