Coming Home with Alter Bridge

Following up touring runs in Japan and Australia, Mark Tremonti and Alter Bridge are finally returning home

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Phone call. HM’s contributing writer, Jordan Gonzalez. Alter Bridge’s guitarist, Mark Tremonti. March 24. 12:57 p.m.

How are you doing?
I’m doing great. How about yourself?

I’m good. I’m busy but good. Let’s get started. Alter Bridge is currently about to tour, right? You’re going on the U.S. spring tour soon?
Yeah. Our first show is on April 12, but we leave home…

April 12?
Yeah, April 12 will be our first show. We just got home about a week and half, two weeks ago from our last tour, so it’s a month-long break.

Let’s talk about the last tour, then. Would the previous one be the European Tour?
No. We just went to Japan, Australia, Indonesia, and Singapore.

So that was more of a Pacific tour. How did that go?
It was great in Japan with Alter Bridge, and, also, it was our first time in Indonesia and Singapore as well. I think it was our second or third time in Australia. It was our third time, actually. It’s been great.

How are the fans over there? Are they different than Americans and European fans?
The Japanese crowds in between songs get very quiet and they get very loud during the songs. Before the shows, they’re very quiet and once you get up there they go wild. And then Jakarta is just wild the whole time. Singapore was amazing. Every crowd we came across is great.

In the States, it’s the same thing. One state will be completely different than the next with what you get. Texan crowds have more of a South American vibe to them versus an L.A. crowd or a New York crowd, but we love them all.

I bet that’s fun seeing how all the different cultures react to your music too. Who were you touring with in that previous tour?
We were doing the Soundwave Festival, so there must have been a hundred bands on there, but we did the side shows with Living Colour. They were phenomenal.

We did Singapore with Alice in Chains. We did Japan by ourselves. It was just a night with Alter Bridge and a part we did with a local band.

How was that?
It was great. We actually played with them the last time we went through Indonesia with Creed. They’re a great band.

Are they hard rock? Are they a band like that too or what style are they?
Hard rock singing in a different language, which is a cool thing.

About the upcoming tour, if I remember right, it starts off in the US and then you’re going to be moving on to Europe. Is that correct?
Yes. We head over to Europe for all of the big festivals; we’re going to do some big shows with Aerosmith over there. We’re looking forward to it.

Do you have anything planned specifically for that or is it just festivals?
We’re touring with Monster Truck here in the States and then we’re doing festivals as well, then we’re just heading over to Europe to do as many festivals as we can and then we turn around and come back home.

Are there any comparisons or contrasts between the European festivals and the American ones? Any difference in size or response?
Europe is really our stronghold. That’s where we first got our foot in the door, and that’s where our biggest fan base is. We’ll do Wembley Arena in London. We’ve done that twice now. We do arenas throughout the U.K. and we’re getting there in Italy. We’re trying to bump up to arenas in the rest of Europe at this point. We’ve probably been there over 10 times now, so it’s been great.

Let’s talk about your latest album, Fortress. It has received some pretty good critical acclaim and I know a lot of fans like it as well. What went into that? Let’s kind of like go from the beginning. What sparked it, and what was the main inspiration behind that? If you want to talk a little bit about that.
(Vocalist Myles Kennedy) and I would get together and break out all of our favorite ideas from the last couple of years. We put together the meat and potatoes of the record within a week. (T)he big difference on this record, compared to our last few, has been the length of time we spent in pre-production. I think we spent almost three weeks really picking songs apart and tearing them apart and putting them back together. Time and time again — until we felt like it was unique and different and we really tried to challenge ourselves, make it a unique experience for us and our fans.

Yeah, absolutely. What about like the lyrical content? What inspired that?
This record… It was less personal and more of an “other peoples’ lives” story lines on this album. There are a couple of apocalyptic songs on there. There are a couple of songs about toxic relationships, and there’s betrayal, there’s all kinds of stuff.

Yeah, but like you say, it wasn’t so much personal like some of the previous albums. It’s more of a third person view into other peoples’ lives and other peoples’ problems.
That was this album, yeah. This album was more of that third person view. It’s hard to continuously come out with records and only have your one point of view because you’ve got to live life enough to have enough things to sing and write about. I think you have to get creative and either write songs about books or movies or other peoples’ lives, your lives and mix it all up.

Did you anticipate this album might be more of a successful album?
(With each) album, you always hope it’s going to be your best work yet, because we are constantly writing, constantly learning new tricks and, at least until we get complacent, we’ll continue to widen our dynamic range for the band and, hopefully, get better and improve. … If you look at the first album versus the last one we just did, I think they almost sound like two completely different bands. I like to hear that each record has an individual style and approach, and I really feel like we’ve done that. From this album forth, we’ll just keep on trying to get more experimental with what we do and less and less predictable. (We’ll) add in progressive elements that aren’t self-indulgent, that work within our core sound and keep ourselves excited about what we’re doing. Keep challenging ourselves.

Another question about success. How much weight do you — and also as a band — put into critical acclaim?
I think that it depends on where it comes from. If it’s people you’ve been dealing with for years and years and years and you trust their opinions and you’ve done it and speak with them for every album cycle, you know…

If someone really dug your last album — really got into it — and they say this one is that much better, your hard work has paid off. If it’s just a rolling stone saying, “I don’t like that album,” I really don’t care.

But, if it’s, like, Total Guitar Magazine or a classic rock magazine or these people that you’ve developed relationships with over the years and they see your improvement, it really makes you feel good about all the hard work you’ve done.

Let’s talk about your style, too. I know you just said that there’s a big difference between the first album and this album, but how much evolution has gone on (with) your sound?
We’ve always kept melody at the core of what we do. I think that’s the most important part of all of our songs. But from the first record to the second record, we’ve added Myles on the guitar, which I think has really broadened our sound and defined how we were going to go forward (musically).

With AB III, we got more experimental with what we were doing and that record got really moody and dark. With this record, we tried to add more progressive elements and tried to take our arrangements and twist them around and make them not predictable. With every record we try and make it sound different than the last, not let anybody say, “Oh, this sounds like the last record they did, just with different songs.”

I think we want to keep adding different elements than what we added before and make it work for a melodic approach. We don’t want it to be self-indulgent; we want it to be something that people can really enjoy and just keep it interesting.

So you’re already starting to write the next album, your next solo album?
Yeah, we’ve already written about five songs. We’re getting together again (soon) for about a week, so hopefully we’ll get another five or so done. A ton of songs just come around — and I really sing two different kinds of sounds — for the next project; (it’s) heavier, metal stuff and the other has the more melodic, atmosphere stuff.

You’re going to kind of feature both of those on the next one?
Yeah, and I don’t know if it’s going to be two separate releases or what. It’s going to be a different kind of structure. It’s not going to be like your normal kind of an album. I think we’re going to do a monthly couple of songs.

Does Alter Bridge have anything in the studio coming up in the next two months or will you just be kind of focusing on the tour this year?
Yeah, it will be a while until we get back into songwriting for Alter Bridge. (I’m) here in Orlando, and I’m writing my solo stuff. After those two cycles are done with, we’ll get back to Alter Bridge.

We do three years. It gives us enough time to get new skill sets, experience life and come back fresh; we can be more excited about it when we’ve taken more time.

Do you enjoy the live show, or do you like more of the studio stuff?
I like them both. To me, they’re completely different, but the more and more I do this… When I write an album, I try and have a focus on how it’s going to translate live. Sometimes, songs don’t make the cut because they’re not going to be fun to perform night after night.

I have a couple more questions I wanted to get to, but then we can wrap things up. About two years ago, there was talk of a fifth Creed album. Any word on that, or is that in limbo right now?
It’s in limbo. Since the last tour, we really haven’t spoken with (former Creed vocalist) Scott. We really don’t have anything planned at all.

Is it just that no one’s talking right now?
We kind of just haven’t. Since the last tour, we haven’t spoken. He’s out doing his solo stuff. We’re doing our Alter Bridge stuff. It keeps us busy. I think times are different now. Everybody has families and busy schedules. It’s just the way it is

I’ve noticed there haven’t been any lineup changes since Alter Bridge began, correct?
Nope. We’re the same four guys.

What do you think contributes that? Are you guys just good friends that have good chemistry?
Me, Scott and Brian have worked together for 15-to-20 years at this point. We’re easygoing. Nobody fights with each other. Then Miles is Mr. Nice Guy. He’s not the typical frontman you meet out on the road. He’s very quiet and proper. He’s just a hardworking, very intelligent person. He’s just a good friend. We all get along. If there are any kinds of disagreements, we just talk them through. Everything works out. … There is also a very big difference between it being your first band than being in your second, third or fourth band. When you’re in your first band, I think members get very protective of what everybody is doing, and if somebody wants to go work with another artist, they get their feelings hurt.

And once we heard that “Creed Part Two” nonsense — “It’s Creed with a different singer,” and all of that — that’s when we really tried to change what we were doing and really make it a unique band.

When you’re in your second or third band, everybody is just more open minded. We’re all artists. We all want to do our own thing every now and then and nobody is going to get their feelings hurt about it.

When Alter Bridge was a little newer, some critics were saying it was still an alternate Creed. How did you guys take that back then?
I’m cool. I wasn’t glad to hear it then, but I’m glad it happened. When we came out with our very first record, I put a lot of the stuff together in my home studio and I think we played it a little bit safe.

We had three of the four members and a very different singer, but I think the structures and whatnot were still similar to what we had done in the past. And once we heard that “Creed Part Two” nonsense — “It’s Creed with a different singer,” and all of that — that’s when we really tried to change what we were doing and really make it a unique band.

When we came out with “Blackbird,” I think what fueled that record was trying to do everything we could to stand out, to get out from under the shadow of what we had done in the past. That’s when we really started going over to Europe a lot. We didn’t have those comparisons going on. We were just a new band because Creed really didn’t do much in Europe. Looking back on it, it made us work harder.

Now, with every album, we try and sound different and sound like ourselves. We have this really nice European fan base and we’re trying to build America as well, so we’re fighting the good fight.

You mentioned something like, “Creed wasn’t as big in Europe”?
We never toured much in Europe, so it was good for all of us. In many cases, people were hearing us for the first time. There have been a lot of bands who have broken up and their members form other side projects and other bands. Not all of them have had too much success. I’ve noticed a pattern, but it’s obviously different with Alter Bridge.

What do you think contributed to that success?
I think everything comes down to the songs. If people like your songs, they’re going to continue to support you. When Creed was breaking up, I worked nonstop putting together ideas for the next album, and ever since then, Miles and I have worked together playing “Survival Mode” and the first couple of albums.

Once we got maybe three under our belt, that’s when we started feeling comfortable with what we’ve done with the band. Beginning with Fortress, I think we’ve finally settled in. I feel like we’ve got a solid fan base and we can be as experimental as we want and our fans will always support us.

Do you have any specific goals for Alter Bridge or are you just going to ride it out and see where it takes you?
Our goal is to continue to write songs. You’re always chasing that perfect song, so we’re constantly chasing those songs, chasing new, bigger and better albums and new, bigger and better tours. We want to do it until we want to retire. I’m not ready to quite retire, though (laughs).

Alter Bridge was posted on April 4, 2014 for HM Magazine and authored by .