Interview: Myles Kennedy of Alter Bridge
Mon, 15 Dec 2014 11:14:59
Alter Bridge crafted one of the decade's best hard rock records with Fortress. A year on from its release, and it still slays the senses like any great album should. Fortress has everything from towering vocals to total guitar immersion, and it begs to be listened to from front to back over and over again. It set the stage for Alter Bridge's biggest year yet and also hints at some even bigger and better things for the future.
Given the album's power, ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino spoke to Alter Bridge singer and guitarist Myles Kennedy about Fortress and so much more.
How did everything expand lyrically? Fortress is your most cinematic record.
With each record, you try to grow and learn and take that to the next one. I've been a good position lately because I'm constantly making records and touring. It helps flex those muscles and keeps the atrophy from setting in. At the same time, you're always afraid, "Will I run out of new ideas?" Every time I go into a new record, I'm a little nervous there. Fortunately, with Fortress, there was still plenty to draw from. A lot of it came from looking at what was going on in the world around me with people I knew. There was plenty of inspiration.
What's the story behind "Cry of Achilles"?
That's kind of where it came from. It's something I stumbled across while I was touring with Slash last year. I was in the dressing room, and I recorded it. I didn't think much of it. It was fun to play, but I didn't know where it would fit. I remember playing it for Mark, and he really liked it. He said, "We've got to transfer that into a song somehow!" What was fun about that song is it all came from that and the riff once the band kicks in. We just built it from there. I remember sitting in a room together and really trying to push the envelope from an arrangement perspective and not be afraid to veer away from the verse-chorus-bridge approach and tell a sonic story. That's definitely a pivotal moment on the record. It lets listeners know we weren't afraid to take chances musically.
What's it about lyrically?
In a way, it's a carryover from AB III. It's coming at it from a disillusioned angle, but the chorus is that optimistic feeling of, "Don't forget there's still beauty left in this world". Given how dark the rest of the content is lyrically on the record, it's good to have moments of that optimism. Another song on the record that has that is "All Ends Well" where it's not as dark and angry. It just helps balance out the record.
Where did "Fortress" come from?
Actually, I remember Mark sent me that intro as a phone memo, and I really gravitated towards that part. I thought it was really cool. Like "Cry of Achilles", we weren't afraid to experiment with the arrangement and take it into different vibes on the bridge and not simply maintain the same feel throughout. Lyrically, that song looks at life from the standpoint of when you're younger you have all of these things around you, these institutions, and structures that seem like they're invincible and will be there forever. That can apply to anything from government to religion to marriage. They're put in place to make you feel safe. What you realize as time goes on is so much of that is fragile and will eventually crumble. That song deals with the emotions you feel when you come to that realization. It's heavy in that sense.
You have to listen to the album from start-to-finish to go on that journey.
I appreciate that. Hopefully, people will take the time to do that. Lately, I've been doing that a lot myself with different records because I started getting into vinyl again. When you sit and listen to an album that way, it really changes the entire experience. If you can allow yourself and commit to taking an hour out of your life to listen to records and absorb the story like that, it can be a pretty fun journey.
If you were to compare the album to a movie or a combination of movies, what would you compare it to?
Wow, that's such a hard question, but a good one at that! Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure [Laughs]. It's a great question, and the only time anyone has ever asked me that is you! It's very creative.
Who is Bill and who is Ted?
I think Keanu's character would be Mark [Laughs].
What have you been listening to?
So many different things! There's actually a fellow who originally came from a place not far from Spokane. His name is Allen Stone, and a friend turned me on to him. He's just a brilliant soul singer. He's unbelievably talented, and I'm really proud he's originally from the Pacific Northwest. I'm listening to a lot of Steely Dan lately. I've been listening to a lot of Asia. Every time I get off the road, the first thing I do is turn on my turntables and listen to Asia. I've been obsessed with Steely Dan. The last Karnivool record has some cool things. It's cool. Clint Lowery's Hello Demons Meet Skeletons is great. He's a mega-talented songwriter.
Where are you at on the solo record?
It's funny. I was in New York last week, and I went to see the guy who engineered and co-produced the record with me. We listened to the hard drive to see where we were. After listening to it, there were some great moments, but I definitely want to change some things here or there and maybe add a song or two. It's definitely a work in progress. There's still room for improvement. When it's up to par, we'll get it out there. People always ask about it! There's no way it's going to live up to the expectations because it's been so many years. It's not a last minute thing.
It's like a mythical creature...
Living in Upstate New York somewhere [Laughs].
It feels like Alter Bridge is finally getting their due in the United States on this album.
We definitely have diehard fans in the U.S. We just don't have as many as we do in the UK. It would be great to get as many as possible here because this is home. We'll see what happens. It's a matter of getting out there and playing. As they say, if you build it, they will come—hopefully.
What's your favorite song from Fortress?