PICTURED: Billy Howerdel comes to the Ventura Music Hall on July 24. Photo submitted
by Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
With What Normal Was, Billy Howerdel has made the record of his career.
“This is me stepping back into my early teen self and making the record I would’ve made if I had the means and the knowledge when I first picked up a guitar — just in 2022,” Howerdel explains.
“It’s that moment as a kid when you hear a record, close your eyes, and go somewhere else. That was the time I found my lane, so to speak.”
His moody, atmospheric debut album was released June 10 via Alchemy Recordings/Rise Records/BMG. The founding member of A Perfect Circle and Ashes Divide will support What Normal Was on a tour that includes a stop at the Ventura Music Hall on July 24.
“There won’t be any cartwheels, no flips, no fire,” he says. “I just want a disclaimer, so nobody’s heart is broken.”
Howerdel kicked things off in Phoenix on July 20, with a show that he described as “ our very first official show of this album under this name with a new band.”
New Jersey-born and Los Angeles-based vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, producer and composer Howerdel has devoted his life to music after seeing a Pink Floyd concert.
Until this point, he’s worked as a touring musician and studio tech for the likes of David Bowie, Guns N’ Roses and Nine Inch Nails.
He met Maynard James Keenan when Tool opened for Fishbone, for whom Howerdel served as a tech. Living together in a North Hollywood cottage with Keenan, the two of them co-founded A Perfect Circle in 1999. The group’s full-length debut, Mer de Noms, went platinum and was the “highest Billboard Top 200 bow for a rock band’s debut.”
They followed it with the platinum Thirteenth Step in 2003, 2004’s gold Emotive and 2018’s Eat the Elephant.
In between, Howerdel’s music has also appeared in video games and on the big screen. During 2008, he made his first solo statement under the moniker Ashes Divide with Keep Telling Myself It’s Alright. He stopped using the Ashes Divide name earlier this year.
As for What Normal Was,, Howerdel notes that once he started writing the album, it came about quickly.
“A lot of times I slept only three to four hours,” he says. “I was definitely a nightmare to be around during that time.
“People endured it. When I was on a roll, I just wanted to keep going. Everything kept sounding better and that makes me really excited. To make a record in six months is ambitious and we almost did it.”
On the record, Howerdel is joined by drummer Josh Freese.
The music was finished in May 2020, but the wait to release it was troubling. “We’ve been sitting on it and waiting. There were a lot of false starts.”
After the pandemic delays, he’s happy to be on the road and having the record out.
“It’s going to be even more about the music than the visuals at this point,” Howerdel says, comparing his band to A Perfect Circle. “As it grows, I think it’ll bring back more of the visual elements within the packaging of the album. It’s an evolution.”
Billy Howerdel performs on Sunday, July 24, at 9 p.m. at the Ventura Music Hall, 1888 E. Thompson Blvd., Ventura. For tickets and more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.venturamusichall.com.