Alter Bridge

author PP date 22/01/12

As I was interviewing Chris from Black Stone Cherry prior to my session with Alter Bridge's lead guitarist Mark Tremonti, I could hear faint guitar soloing from the next room pretty much non-stop throughout the session. It turns out that on Alter Bridge tours, Tremonti has a designated 'guitar room' where he practices his playing skill and writes new solos, in order to avoid disturbing the other members. No wonder their albums are so full of intricate guitar riffs, eh? Anyway, read on to find out, among other things, how Tremonti is able to keep Creed and Alter Bridge from sounding like each other, what he thought of the new album, and much more. Hi Mark, how's the tour going?
Mark: It's going very well. Other than the darkness all day long. It gets dark here early. The crowd's been great. We've been out about three weeks now, and it just keeps getting bigger and better. When I was interviewing Chris from Black Stone Cherry earlier in the next room, I could hear lots of guitar playing here. What exactly are you doing in this room?
Mark: Oh, just trying to become a better musician. So you're actually practicing even before the show, every day?

Mark: All day, yeah. Alright, so tell me a little bit about a regular day on tour with Alter Bridge
Mark: You know, this is it. I'll have my own room usually, so I don't bother everybody with my noodling on the guitar. And I'll just wake up, eat, practice the guitar, do interviews, eat, practice the guitar, and go on stage. So what kind of songs are you doing as a practice, or are you just simply playing original material the whole time here?

Mark: Lately I've been working on solos for my solo record that's coming out next year. So I've been trying to learn as much as I can, and then applying that to whatever solos I'm writing. You're on tour in support of your latest album "AB III". How do you think it turned out?
Mark: We're happy with it, it was kind of a fire drill, we had to get it done quickly, because we only had a small amount of time, so we're happy with the way it turned out. It's a little bit heavier and more intricate than the previous two albums. Was that a conscious decision or natural progression?
Mark: No I think "Blackbird" is about as heavy. I think that it's just a little bit moodier than "Blackbird", maybe, but...just going through battles with record labels, it was pretty much a "us against the world" at the time, we didn't have a deal. It was just kind of the mood we were in at the time. I noticed that it's slightly more progressive than the one before. So is Alter Bridge moving more and more into the world of progressive metal or progressive rock, would you say?

Mark: Not unless it helps the song. We don't want to hurt the song by making it too complex. I just think that the more knowledge we gain musically, the more we wanna put into our music. So if it helps the song to add some progressive stuff... we don't want to be just self-indulgent just for the purpose of being self-indulgent. It's still a melody driven band. So the title, "AB III", did you guys just run out of ideas for snappy titles?
Mark: The fans were calling it AB III for like two years. They were asking "when's AB III gonna get done", and everybody's talking about AB III. So when we came up for the time to name the album, what else could we name it? We've been calling it AB III, everybody's been calling it AB III. We thought it would be cool to use our AB logo on there. It named itself. The album lyrically is loosely a concept album. There are darker themes of struggling with faith. Is that something you guys are experiencing as a unit, personally, because if we compare to your time with Creed, at least lyrically that band is a very Christian band.
Mark: Well, in both cases when we write, I'll write a lot of the music, and I'll write melodies with Myles, and we'll work together, and then he'll go and finish the lyrics. So he'll write the bulk of the lyrics. So it's his struggle with faith that he's singing about, not the whole band's. And with Creed, it's the same thing. I'll write with Scott, and I'll have some lyrics, but then he'll go and make them his own, and finish them. He grew up in a very religious family, and he's very well versed in the bible, and all this. I don't really know too much about it. But when people read it, they read it like they're reading the verses out of the bible sometimes, because he'll quote stuff out of there. But it's not something that all of us are very privy to. My parents weren't very religious. I haven't been to church in a few years, but on the other hand, Scott's very religious, Myles is not religious. I'm somewhere in the middle. What's the difference between working with Myles as opposed to working with Scott?
Mark: Different views, different tastes in music. Scott likes more direct style of stuff. Myles is more like a jazzy kind of guy, bluesy, and metal. The band's just have two different vibes to them. So speaking of Creed, you obviously being a part of the band, you guys reunited a couple of years ago. So Alter Bridge and Creed, both really huge bands. What kind of effect does Creed's resurrection have on Alter Bridge, or vice versa, if any? Is it difficult to balance the two together?
Mark: The only difficulty is that some of the fans get really obnoxious with one another. That gets really old. We're just trying to have fun and have our career, and do what's best for everybody. But you can't please everybody, so that's the biggest problem. The battles whenever we switch to Creed or switch to Alter Bridge, both camps seem to fight one another. But keeping the music separate, we really want to make sure that the bands sound completely different. It was our biggest obstacle starting Alter Bridge, was to not sound like Creed. I think that by our "Blackbird" record we accomplished that. Now going back to Creed, it's hard not to bring in all the experiences we've had, and to keep the progressive side of Alter Bridge out of Creed as much as we can. I noticed that on the latest Creed album, the sound was slightly different from the old Creed?

Mark: Yeah, it's hard to completely just switch one thing off, and turn another on. So the new album is released on Roadrunner, that's your third album in as many albums. How come the label switching?
Mark: We had to use Wind-Up for Alter Bridge, because we were signed to Wind-Up through Creed. And as we're trying to push Alter Bridge, it was very apparent that they wanted Creed the whole time. they weren't very interested in Alter Bridge. Once they saw that Alter Bridge wasn't selling millions and millions of records, they wanted Creed back. We had heard rumours that that's what they wanted, so we had to buy off the label so we could do well. We felt like we were being held back on purpose. So then we signed with Universal, and if we thought that Wind Up was bad, Universal was ten times worse. They did a launch party, and after that, they pretty much didn't do much for us at all. It was very frustrating, and again, we had to buy out of that record deal. So now we're with Roadrunner and EMI, and just when we thought all record labels were evil, these guys are the greatest. The look for the longevity of a band, they don't need to sell a million records right off the bat to support you. A lot of record labels will put you record out, it doesn't do well, they shelve you. But these guys are fans of the band, and work hard and do the right things for us. So you'd say you definitely have a couple of major label horror stories, like those you hear rumours about on the internet?

Mark: Oh yes, they are real. But then EMI and Roadrunner, it's obviously also a major label?

Mark: But they are different than those. Universal's very pragmatic. If you're selling records, they put money into you. If you're not selling records, you're cut off. With Roadrunner, they hear the music, they say 'I'm a fan of this band, I want to make it work. Okay they didn't sell a million records...' but they think outside the box and try and get it to work. They see the excitement level on our websites. Our online fans are die-hard, so they'll bombard Roadrunner sites, EMI sites. I think that at the end of the day, both those record labels are fans of the band, they want to see it work. The record labels aren't losing a bunch of money, but they're not making a ton of money. They're enjoying the process, which is all that we can ask for. The new album received overwhelming critical acclaim, did that surprise you at all?
Mark: It's funny. Early in our career, we had tons of success, and bad critical...the critics liked to bash Creed. With Alter Bridge, it's the opposite. We don't have huge record sales, but we have critics who say that they enjoy the records. You can't have both, it seems like. Some bands do, you get bands like Tool, who are huge, multi-platinum and have great critical acclaim. But with us it's one or the other. Do you think that your music is becoming too complex for the average Joe, so to say?

Mark: I don't think it's as commercial and accessible as Creed was. That's not what we wanted with it, we wanted to do something different. It's good to see at Alter Bridge shows, we have a lot of people that are like us. People that are fans of all kinds of music, and real dedicated music people that come to our shows. They know every word. They're not just exposed to what they hear on the radio. They're seasoned music listeners, it seems like. That's nice. It's also nice to have the every day soccer moms and casual listeners coming to your shows. But pound for pound, the people that are the diehards are really the special ones. I read that you guys are going to do some stuff with Creed next year before writing a new album for Alter Bridge. So what should we expect from both?
Mark: Well, we're starting our tour in April with Creed. We started writing new Creed material. And again, we're just trying to switch, make it not sound like Alter Bridge. And then we'll probably get together at the end of the year to get some new Alter Bridge stuff done. But the material that's there so far for Alter Bridge is exciting. We haven't gotten together officially to put it together yet, though. The last question. How does your mindset differ from when you're writing songs for Alter Bridge, as opposed to when you're writing songs for Creed?
Mark: They don't. I just write whatever comes out, put it on my computer, and then I'll go back through after a week or so, and listen to everything I've done. I'll throw out the stuff that doesn't move me, and then I'll label parts. If they're a Creed idea, Alter Bridge idea, solo project idea. If they sound like a chorus, a bridge, a pre-chorus, an outro...what kind of feel it has. I try to narrow it down as much as I can so when it comes time to do a record, I can pull from all my files and know what they mean. But I have kind of an intuition to know what sounds like Creed, and what sounds like Alter Bridge. It sounds like you're really organized in your writing process.

Mark: If you looked at my stuff, it doesn't look organized, it looks like it's all over the place. I'm like the only one who'd understand it.

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