By: Robert Cavuoto
Alter Bridge was formed out the fires of Creed in 2004 by Mark Tremonti and Scott Phillips, after their relationship with singer Scott Stapp had gone array. The new band hooked up with then ex-Creed bassist Brian Marshall and former Mayfield Four frontman Myles Kennedy and together recorded their first CD; One Day Remains. <p>
It went gold in the United States and spawned three singles. In 2007 the band released the critically acclaimed second album, Blackbird, which included the hit singles “Rise Today” and “Watch Over You.”
Lyrically, the first two albums are based on themes immersed in hope and perseverance in the face of adversity. On AB III, (released November 2010) the theme has shifted to a slightly darker and moodier tone. While it’s a record with a consistent theme, there are songs both musically and thematically that breaks away and touches on different human emotions.
From the CD’s opening track, “Slip to the Void” to the metallic, “Isolation,” the CD showcases Alter Bridge’s ability to play and write aggressively while maintaining their signature melodic component. Their latest single “Ghost of Days Gone By” is the #1 Most Added at rock radio and continues to climb the rock radio charts.
Alter Bridge is currently on your with Theory of a Deadman in support of ABIII for this year’s Carnival of Madness Tour. I caught up with Mark Tremonti on a day off to chat about the bands, his friendship with Eddie and Wolfgang Van Halen and his upcoming solo CD.
Rob Cavuoto: I get the sense that Alter Bridge is getting darker on each CD. Where do you see the band going on the next album?
Mark Tremonti: It’s all up in the air right now. We’re trying to attack it from a different angle, get a different sound somehow, but who knows what that sound will be. Me and Myles were just talking about doing a little more experimentation on the next album, not enough to alienate our fans, but something to keep it interesting.
Rob: The big hit on ABIIIis “The Ghost of Days Gone By,” which is haunting and definitely darker than what you have done in the past. Is that kind of what we can expect?
Mark Tremonti: Yeah, I think we always like that haunting kind of vibe in our songs, but I don’t see the whole next record being a haunting record, I think we’re just gonna try and reinvent ourselves a little bit. I just don’t know how were gonna do that. I’m trying to get inspired with playing to different loops and which I don’t usually do but we’ll see what happens.
Read GI’s 2010 Interview with Mark Tremonti
Rob: When can we expect the fourth CD?
Mark Tremonti: I see it coming out in the spring of ’13, spring or early summer.
Rob: You mentioned on your site that when you’re writing, you’re not really expecting radio singles. Are you surprised when you get radio hits?
Mark Tremonti: Yeah, this record especially, we were definitely going for an artistic, no compromise attitude with the writing, and that seems to work. We’d put out a record and there’d be three songs that played it safe and we’d release one of the songs as a single.
I think we tired of doing that, and we wanted to release the song that’s our favorite or the most fun to play, and that’s what we did on this record. We got our best reaction so far, so I think that approach works.
Rob: How does it feel to have lightning strike twice, once with Creed and once with Alter Bridge? A lot of bands are lucky if they just get one big shot.
Mark Tremonti: We’re still really waiting for that huge push with Alter Bridge. It’s been a struggle since day one. We’ve really put a lot of time and work into Alter Bridge these past seven and a half years.
It’s definitely been a hard, uphill battle, but artistically, we’ve loved it so much that it’s kept us in the game. I think finally were getting out from underneath that Creed shadow, and the word is spreading. We’re finally starting to see very real success, which makes us very happy.
Rob: To what do you attribute the bands success thus far?
Mark Tremonti: I just think we’ve got a core fan base that’s been there since day one, and they constantly spread the word. It’s just people hearing the music, giving it a chance, and when they become fans we never lose them. Whether they see us at a shows or listen to the records, once they’re a fan they’re not going away.
Rob: How important is it to have contact with the fans on MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, etc.?
Mark Tremonti: Since day one, we’ve had what we call our “fan liaison,” which is my brother Mike. He’s been online every day for the past seven years, keeping everybody in the loop as to what we’re doing every day, and he’s our go-between between us and our fans. I think our fans appreciate that. They’re always kept in the know and get updated info as soon as we can get it to them.
Read GI’s Interview with Guitar Legend Slash
Rob: What’s the tour plans? I know you have a bunch of dates already scheduled, but what’s the plan of attack?
Mark Tremonti: We’re going out on the 13th for the Carnival of Madness Tour, which lasts for just over a month. Then we come home for a few weeks, head out to Australia and do some shows and festivals with Van Halen, which we’re really looking forward to. I think we’re gonna do some one-offs with Steel Panther, which should be a blast. They’re one of the most fun bands I’ve ever watched.
Then we get home and do a six-week run in Europe which will be our first headlining arena shows this November in the UK, which we’re real excited about. After that, we might be getting some offers to do some shows in London around the Olympics maybe, which would be great, but our schedules are pretty much booked between us and Myles with Slash.
We get these opportunities to do some that sometimes we just don’t have the time because our schedules. It’s hard to tell what we’ll do next year, but the bulk will be more on the Creed front for us and more on the Slash front for Myles and hopefully we can fit in a few months to get some Alter Bridge touring in as well.
Rob: With Myles working with Slash, I imagine it could be a double-edged sword. There’s the positives of the attention it brings to Alter Bridge, and the other side people constantly asking “Is Myles gonna be leaving?” What’s your take on it?
Mark Tremonti: We haven’t seen any cons yet; it’s all been positive. Myles is not the guy to say one thing and do another. He says he’s completely committed to Alter Bridge just like we told him with this Creed reunion stuff. We’re all very open with one another, there are no secrets.
We’re having a great time and Alter Bridge is doing better than we ever have, and nobody’s going anywhere. I think Slash just brings more credibility to who Myles is as a singer and a frontman and gets some of the respect that he deserves.
Rob: Do you guys ever bust Myles’ chops about being in the movie Rock Star?
Mark Tremonti: I think that’s hilarious. I think that’s pretty cool, a lot of people have seen that and it’s a pretty cool thing he’s done. It’s funny and cool at the same time.
Rob: You have been in the music news a lot regarding you being one of the few people who heard the new Van Halen CD and now you will be going to do a few dates with them. How did you form a relationship with them?
Mark Tremonti: Yeah, well we first did shows with them back in the Creed days. Eddie actually gave me one of his guitars, and then years went by. It’s funny, at one of those old shows; I think at Madison Square Garden, he ran through a crowd of fans and press just to tell me how to set up the guitar with the springs on the guitar when he had Valerie and Wolfgang with him. And it meant a lot to me that he’d leave his family to come tell the young guitar player what to do.
I remember Wolfgang was six or seven years old then, and now, eleven years later, he has become a fan of Alter Bridge. He came out to some shows, and we’ve become friends. We invited him to Alter Bridge sound checks, and we hang out with him every time we go to LA.
He’s also played with Alter Bridge at the House of Blues the last time I was out there. He brought his dad to our show that was a crazy night. You had Slash and Eddie and Wolfgang Van Halen at the show!
The last time we went to LA, Wolfgang came and hung out with me and my buddy and asked if we wanted to go see practice the next day and I said “Of course!” so he picked me up and got me into the studios at his dad’s house, where they played every song on the new record for me. It was just amazing.
Rob: Wow. From what I read it sounds like old school Van Halen.
Mark Tremonti: Yeah, it does. I haven’t heard a single vocal on it yet, but it definitely had the juice, it was great.
Rob: Was it like Van Halen 1, Van Halen 2, Fair Warning era?
Mark Tremonti: I think it was a mixture of it all. It wasn’t all edgy and dark like Fair Warning; it was a mixture, somewhere in the middle.
Rob: Do you ever get nervous playing around Eddie? I imagine that would be a problem for some guitarists.
Mark Tremonti: Nah. You know, I was very comfortable. He’s such a nice guy; it was very comfortable for me. One moment I’ll never forget is being at the House of Blues when I was warming up for our show and I was doing some left-handed legato exercises to get my hands ready.
I knew all these guys were gonna be there so I wanted to be on my A game, so I’m sitting there working on my left hand, and I notice somebody standing a few feet behind me. I turn around and look and it was Eddie. He looks at me and he goes, “You don’t pick too much, do ya?” I’m like “Aaaah, I do! But I’m working on my left hand!” [Laughs] So that was one of those crazy moments.
Read GI’s Interview with Eddie Van Halen
Rob: Tell me a little bit about the new solo record you’re working on. When is it coming out, who’s gonna be on it?
Mark Tremonti: It’s going great. I had three months off while Myles was touring with Slash, and I put together 14 tunes with Eric Friedman and Garrett Whitlock [of Submersed]. Garrett plays drums, and Eric plays rhythm guitar. Me and Eric were just gonna tackle bass. So far he’s tracked 7 songs on bass, and he might track all the bass if I’m not in town, but we were also talking about maybe seeing if Wolfgang would track some bass on there as well, ’cause he’s an awesome bass player.
It’s turning out great. I’m tracking guitar the beginning of August for about eight or nine days and I should be done with my rhythm guitars and into my vocals by then.
Rob: When you head out on the road, how many guitars do you typically take with you? Do you take your favorites with you? I hear a lot of guys leave their favorites at home and take the “road warriors” out with them.
Mark Tremonti: My favorite ones are the ones I take out on the road. I’ve got some of my more valuable ones that never leave the house, but they’re not my favorites because they don’t get played all the time. I have to wear a guitar in a little before it becomes my favorite, and those are all out on the road.
I also have a couple of guitars coming that I’m gonna send out to a company called Tronical who put on tuners that have like 18 tunings with the push of a button and it’ll tune it automatically for you. That’ll be a perfect writing and touring tool. Now I wouldn’t have to take ten guitars out on tour, I could take two or four of them. I can’t wait to get that.
I don’t think it’s terribly expensive anymore because it’s a simpler system that you just put on your headstock. It’s probably like $400 or $500. I saw it at NAMM a few years ago and it was incredible how quick it worked and how precise it was.
Rob: You talked about your more expensive guitars at home. What’s your ultimate guitar that you have at home?
Mark Tremonti: I have a 2002 PRS Dragon that was one of my models. I went into the factory and Paul [Reed Smith] showed me one of the Dragons, and it was the first one where the dragon was on the body and not the neck, it goes into the neck as well. He said, “What do you think of this guitar?” and I was like, “Amazing, it’s one of the coolest guitars I’ve ever seen!” He said, “Well I made you one,” and I was like “Wow!”
What happened was one of the guys making the neck of one of my guitars by accident started putting the dragon inlays on it, so Paul’s like “Go ahead and finish it, and I’ll give it to Mark.” So that one’s up in my showcase. I also have a Stadivarius violin guitar by Paul Reed Smith that they just gave me this year. It’s made from the same wood as the Stradivarius family, and they said you can’t get your hands on this kind of wood. I think they made about 50 guitars, and that’s all they could make from those. He gave me one of them and it’s just beautiful.
Read GI’s Interview with Paul Reed Smith
Rob: How about the guitar that Eddie Van Halen guitar gave you?
Mark Tremonti: Yeah, that one’s locked away in a secret vault in my house. I actually have three Van Halen guitars. I have one that he gave me personally; I have one that I bought at an auction, a snakeskin Music Man that he signed. Then I have another one that a buddy gave me that he somehow acquired years ago that he had played on.
Rob: Do you have any funny road stories or Spinal tap moments?
Mark Tremonti: I don’t know how funny it is, but I remember one of the worst moments was when we were doing a festival in Austria for probably 50,000 people. It was one of those shows where all the other hotshot guitar players were playing and I really wanted to have a good show.
My tech came up as we were walking up to the stage and said that all the fuses in all my amps except for one amp that I did not like had blown. I just used that amp to power the 15” subs for the monitors and I had to use that amp for my main amp, playing this show in front of 50,000 people and all these other great bands. And it didn’t go down very well. [Laughs]