by Stefan Wyeth | 3,3 / 5,0 | Approximate reading time: 5 Minutes
How To Sound Like A Perfect Circle

How To Sound Like A Perfect Circle  ·  Source: A Perfect Circle / Virgin Records

ADVERTISEMENT

We look at the production behind A Perfect Circle and how they developed their unique sound as well as some of the key instruments used in the process.

ADVERTISEMENT

Although often referred to as an all-star band or supergroup, A Perfect Circle began as the personal project of Billy Howerdel, who wrote the songs for Mer De Noms (2000) over the course of the 1990s while working as a guitar tech with bands like Nine Inch Nails and Tool.

Over this time, Howerdel became friends with vocalist Maynard James Keenan and rented a room in his house in North Hollywood, and it is here that Maynard first heard the Perfect Circle demos.

Howerdel had initially envisioned having a female vocalist on the tracks, but as Maynard expressed an interest, the creative side of the project began to take shape.

Initially, the band’s touring lineup also consisted of Paz Lenchantin, Troy Van Leeuwen (QOTSA), and Primus drummer Tim Alexander who was replaced by Josh Freese.

The Sound Of A Perfect Circle

The sound of the music and the themes reflected within contrasted against the musical backdrop of the turn of the millennium. In fact, Mer De Noms still stands out to this day as one of the fastest-selling rock debut albums ever released.

GRM Tools

Most of the production and recording on Mer De Noms was done using Digidesign hardware on Emagic Logic Audio. Howerdel then opted to mix the album onto tape with engineer, Alan Moulder, on the SSL J-series at Extasy Recording.

As an engineer, Howerdel was well-versed in DAW production and favoured its flexibility over other recording mediums. He also used GRM Tools plug-ins which gave the music a unique edge, offering a completely different sound to typical studio effects.

The INA GRM Tools electroacoustic sound design software is still available in various bundles, each selected to cater to different applications.

INA GRM Tools

INA GRM Tools

Ina-GRM GRM Tools Complete II Download

Ina-GRM GRM Tools Complete II Download

Customer rating:
(10)

Gibson Les Paul Custom Classic Reissue

Trent Reznor gave Billie Howerdel 3 Gibsons which he saved from the decimation of a Nine Inch Nails tour during which over 130 guitars were trashed. Of these 3, Howerdel developed a particular feel for a 1991 Les Paul 1960 Reissue which he played on most of the recordings.

ADVERTISEMENT

Guitars are tuned to C#, which creates the signature heaviness we associate with Howerdel’s production style, even without distortion. As a self-confessed “effects guy, rather than an amps guy”, Howerdel also used Line 6 Amp Farm to create the atmospheric sounds of A Perfect Circle.

Luckily, you can still pick up a Les Paul Reissue these days, whether it sounds as good as Howerdel’s is, of course, entirely up to you.

Gibson Les Paul 1960 Reissue

Gibson Les Paul 1960 Reissue

Gibson Les Paul 68 Custom Reissue EB

Gibson Les Paul 68 Custom Reissue EB

Customer rating:
(3)

Warwick Thumb Bass

Howerdell played most of the bass on the early APC records, initially using a Warwick Thumb Bass before adding a Fender Deluxe P-Bass in on certain tracks during the Thirteenth Step (2003) sessions.

Prior to that, his recording chain for bass consisted solely of the Avalon VT-737 preamp and then additional processing was done with the Waves R-Comp and Amp Farm.

Warwick basses are known for their incredible tuning stability. So, besides the tone and playing feel, this would have influenced Howerdel’s preference for the instrument.

Warwick Teambuilt Thumb BO 4-String

Warwick Teambuilt Thumb BO 4-String

Warwick Masterbuilt Thumb Bass NT 4

Warwick Masterbuilt Thumb Bass NT 4

No customer rating available yet

DW Drums

Besides Tim Alexander’s drums on The Hollow, Josh Freese tracked most of Mer De Noms at Scott Humphrey’s Chop Shop studio in Los Angeles.

The live room was a 3-car garage that had been converted into a drum recording space, with a combination of Coles ribbon room mics and B & K overhead condensers.

At the time, the studio used a Euphonix CS2000 console for its instant recall ability and a combination of Neve 1081 and 1073 outboard preamps. Meanwhile, Josh Freese preferred a DW Collecters Series Maple kit for session work.

Josh Freese's drum setup.

Josh Freese’s drum setup.                                                                                                                                                                       Image: Francis’ Drumming Blog

DW Lacquer Custom Studio Egg Blue

DW Lacquer Custom Studio Egg Blue

No customer rating available yet

Avalon VT-737

Maynard’s vocals were recorded with a tube condenser microphone and the Avalon VT-737, which is still the industry standard in many commercial studios due to its amazing dynamic range.

The 737 is also a great tool for sculpting the high frequencies on vocal tracks, with an extensive parametric EQ section and an Opto compressor that can be bypassed or placed pre-EQ in the signal path.

Along with the famous Sony C-800G tube condenser microphone, the Avalon VT-737 has been used for vocal tracking on some of the biggest Pop records of all time.

Avalon VT-737sp

Avalon VT-737sp

Avalon VT-737SP

Avalon VT-737SP

Customer rating:
(22)

Which of your favourite artists would you like to see in our Sound-alike series? Please let us know in the comments below!

More about A Perfect Circle:

Videos:

YouTube

By loading the video, you agree to YouTube’s privacy policy.
Learn more

Load video

YouTube

By loading the video, you agree to YouTube’s privacy policy.
Learn more

Load video

YouTube

By loading the video, you agree to YouTube’s privacy policy.
Learn more

Load video

YouTube

By loading the video, you agree to YouTube’s privacy policy.
Learn more

Load video

YouTube

By loading the video, you agree to YouTube’s privacy policy.
Learn more

Load video

*Note: This article contains affiliate links that help us fund our site. Don’t worry: the price for you always stays the same! If you buy something through these links, we will receive a small commission. Thank you for your support!

Image Sources:
  • INA GRM Tools: INA
  • Gibson Les Paul 1960 Reissue: Gibson
  • Warwick Teambuilt Thumb BO 4-String: Warwick
  • Josh Freese's drum setup. Image: Francis' Drumming Blog: Francis' Drumming Blog
  • Avalon VT-737sp: Avalon
How To Sound Like A Perfect Circle

How do you like this post?

Rating: Yours: | ø:
ADVERTISEMENT

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *