For Billy Howerdel, A Perfect Circle's upcoming best-of collection and live box set has been "a nice, nostalgic walk down memory lane, for sure."
The group -- currently inactive while frontman Maynard James Keenan focuses on the next Tool album and guitarist Howerdel makes a new Ashes Divide album -- rolled out a "Three Sixty" retrospective on Nov. 19 in a 13-track standard edition and a two-disc deluxe edition, both featuring a new recording, "By and Down," and the latter including four live tracks. Howerdel says that project was an outgrowth of "A Perfect Circle Live: Featuring Stone and Echo," the box set of concert recordings that came out Nov. 26.
"To be honest, I wasn't involved in the picking of the songs or even the idea to do ('Three Sixty')," he tells Billboard. "We originally set out to put out this live record box set. It was a lot of work putting all that together, putting out basically four records in one release, and then someone came up with the idea to do the best-of at the same time. So we put them all together and it happened to work timing-wise and here we are."
"By and Down" is actually a song the band performed during its last couple of tours and appears on the live box, though Howerdel says the studio recording of it proved to be a challenge, especially since A Perfect Circle hadn't recorded any new material since 2004's "eMOTIVe."
"I kind of underestimated what it would take to do it because we had played it live so many times," the guitarist says. "The song was pretty realized, and I knew what it was gonna be. But just like anything else in the studio, just because you know the notes doesn't mean you know how the production's gonna go down. It took awhile to craft it into a proper studio recording that you were gonna be proud enough to release. Once I was in the middle of it, it did feel like familiar ground again to do that, but it definitely takes a little while to get back on the horse."
"By and Down" can also be found on the "Stone and Echo" volume of the live box, recorded during an Aug. 11, 2011, show at Red Rocks Amphitheater near Denver (and also filmed for a DVD). The rest of the box, whose limited physical editions have already sold out, includes performances of each of the band's three albums in their entirety that were done during a tour of just five West Coast cities in 2010.
"In 2010 Maynard called me and said, `I`ve got some time, what do you think about doing a tour?'" Howerdel recalls. "It was this really ambitious idea to take every song we had ever played live and do that. It was difficult, challenging in a technical way to re-figure out how to do every song we`ve ever played, plus the songs we`d never played which were from 'eMOTIVe,' trying to figure out how to do those studio recordings which weren't set up, they weren't crafted in a way that we had done songs in the past."
Looking towards APC's future, Howerdel says "there's more material right now" but doesn't expect to be getting to it any time soon. "Tool is in full recording mode, writing mode, at least writing mode," he notes, "so when the schedule allows, when (Keenan's) schedule allows, I'm ready. I'm ready to go. I've got, I feel, a good foundation of material to come into the studio with when we`re ready to concentrate on these things that could be the foundation for the next APC release. When he's ready, I'm ready. That's all I can say."
Meanwhile, Howerdel is immersed in making a second Ashes Divide album, the follow-up to 2008's "Keep Telling Myself It's Alright." Danny Lohner is assisting along with bassist Matt McJunkins and drummer Jeff Friedl, and Howerdel is hoping for a spring 2014 release, with a tour to follow.
"I"ve got a really solid collection of songs together," Howerdel reports. "It's really what I want the second record to be; I don't know how to really explain it in adjectives, but it's completely fresh. So I'm going to convene those guys very soon, probably in the next two months, and go in and play these things through as, like, a whole album and see how they feel in a live sense. That might affect some of the recordings, too. "