Mark Tremonti of Alter Bridge Talks "AB III", Favorite Sci-fi Books, Chemistry with Myles Kennedy and More
Thu, 30 Dec 2010 09:48:17
Alter Bridge shredder Mark Tremonti could've been an orchestra conductor.
His guitar playing on AB III mirrors a symphony. Often within one song, Tremonti can shift from abrasive thrash riffing into refined, immaculate soloing. During "Slip to the Void" and "Ghost of Days Gone By," the guitarist slides through moody textures with a deft note-perfect delivery, stirring up a gamut of emotions in the process. Tremonti only sharpens his skills with every album, and AB III stands out as his masterpiece to date. That says a lot considering how many Creed hits the man has written and performed, yet Alter Bridge sees him pushing the limits of his own axe-slinging and those or hard rock itself.
Mark Tremonti of Alter Bridge sat down with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino for an exclusive interview about AB III, his favorite sci-fi books, working with singer Myles Kennedy, his solo album and so much more.
Did you have one overarching vision for AB III or did it come together track by track?
When we started putting AB III together, I thought I was pretty well-organized and prepared for a record. I felt there was a lot of good material there, and Myles came into it feeling the same way. When we put all of our best ideas out there, the album took on a form of its own. I don't think we had anything really preconceived about it. The album just turned out the way it did. We went through a change in record labels. There's always some kind of drama going on when we're creating an Alter Bridge record—either a management split or record label change. The records tend to take out a moodier quality when that happens.
Do songs typically begin between you and Myles?
That's how we work. Myles and I will sit down, pull out our laptops and throw our best ideas at one another. We piece the music together as a puzzle. I think both of us write the same way. When I write, I don't try to complete an entire song in one sitting. I try to leave parts loose so when I work with Myles we can work together by using each other's ideas.
Has the band's chemistry morphed over the years?
Yeah! Once you play with one another for this amount of time, you start to really know how to work together. It gets easier and easier. In our case, it's been about six or seven years.
What's the story behind "Slip to the Void?"
I originally wrote that song when we were on tour for Blackbird. Myles opened his laptop and showed me the intro to that song. I really liked it, and I remember writing the main riff after hearing his ideas for the intro. Then, we didn't work on that song for years. When it came to doing this record, we started to work on it through a bunch of ideas, and nothing really ever knocked us out. It almost didn't make the record. By the end of the process, when we were looking at our final chart of what songs were going to make it, that actually wasn't going to make it. I said, "If it was up to me, we'd put all our efforts into finishing this song because it's a special song." We went for it. The chorus was really the part that was holding us up. We threw that chorus in there, and it was probably the last song done. I think the intro is what makes that song special. The part Myles came up with really draws you in. It's a great way to start the record and grab your attention.
How did you construct "Words Darker Than Their Wings?"
When we were in the studio doing Blackbird, Myles and I were sharing an apartment. I started messing around with a new guitar tuning, and I'd come up with all kinds of ideas. However, this one idea sat there until I dusted it off for AB III. I remember Myles and I had a conversation in a car one day. He was just really down about not having faith in anything anymore. His dad was a Christian Scientist and he lost him when he was very young. He doesn't believe in any kind of god, heaven and hell or anything you can't see in the world here. I was telling him that I can't believe we're born to merely grow, die and rot in the dust and have nothing mean anything. So we decided to make the lyrical content of "Words Darker Than Their Wings" about the conversation we were having in the car that day. He'd say his part, and I'd say my part. The song is our views and conversation with one another.
Is the struggle to believe a prevalent theme across the record?
The main lyrical content of the album is definitely that struggle with faith and that depression that comes with it. Nobody knows for sure. Everybody's got to question it.
Do you have any favorite books?
The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe is one of my favorites. I have tons and tons of books. I could go on for days about them [Laughs]. I'm a sci-fi/fantasy dork. Sometimes, I'll read a biography or history book. Old Man's War is probably my favorite. Joe Haldeman's Forever War was probably one of the first sci-fi books I ever read that I loved. Book of the New Sun is one of the greatest sci-fi/fantasy books of all time. It's a four-part series. Game of Thrones by George R. Martin is probably my favorite book of all time. HBO just picked that up and they're making a series about it. I'm really excited about that. Way back in the day, there's a power struggle between families and different areas. You have the big powerful evil family that's trying to take everybody over, and you have the good family from the north trying to fight the good fight and getting murdered along the way. It's a great series.
If you were to compare AB III to a movie or combination of movies what would you compare it to?
This is a tough one! Since I've gotten into reading, I read much more than I watch movies. I'd say it was along the lines of The Book of the New Sun. It's just a dark moody book with a lot of imagination. It's something you could really dive into.
How do you look at your journey as a guitar player?
I see it as a constant quest to be the best I can be. The day we put something out that's not as good as the last record we put out is the time we've got to start to worrying. As long as you have a lot of passion, word hard and try and get better, everything will get better. Myles and I are very alike. We love what we do and we work as hard as we possibly can at it. I'm glad that we've partnered up because there are only a couple people out there that have that same kind of drive for music.
What are you listening to right now?
I just spent a few weeks devouring a Robin Ford song, "Up the Line." Usually when I'm listening to music, I'll concentrate on a guitar player or one song. Right now, I'm trying to absorb blues guitarist Matt Scofield's stuff from his DVD. So that's what I've been listening to lately.
When Myles goes out with Slash, I'm doing a solo record where I'll actually attempt singing and writing everything. Being a songwriter, having all this stuff sitting around, I know I'll never have the spare time. I think the easiest way to get it out is to do a solo thing and cut out all the time it takes for these brains to finalize a song. When it's just you saying, "Here's the song." It's a much quicker process.
Have you heard AB III yet?
Check out our interviews with Alter Bridge singer Myles Kennedy here and here!