Myles Kennedy of Alter Bridge Talks "AB III," Slash and John Irving
Mon, 11 Oct 2010 07:06:00
It's been a monumental year for Alter Bridge frontman Myles Kennedy.
He's been on the road with Slash for the better part of 2010, and his voice has captivated crowds worldwide alongside the legendary guitarist's ripping. However, everything has merely set the stage for the release of Alter Bridge's third album, AB III.
Alter Bridge—Kennedy, Mark Tremonti, Brian Marshall and Scott Phillips—have built one of the best rock records of the year. AB III conjures a classic rock sense of scope, while brandishing a modern fire that could only come from these four musicians. "Slip to the Void" segues from an ethereal hum into an epic chorus, while "Isolation" rolls from a thrash breakdown into one of the catchiest refrains that the band has committed to tape. This is everything 21st century rock music should be.
Alter Bridge conjure a chemistry that leads to the timeless pop of "Wonderful Life" and the progressive prowess of "Words Darker than their Wings." AB III is essential listening for all music fans, and it's going to establish this band among the most important in the genre. It's one of the best rock records of the decade, and you'll hear it loud and clear November 9th.
However, Kennedy hasn't changed at all. Friendly, accommodating and intelligent, Kennedy's easy to talk to. He was also happy to share some insight into Alter Bridge's masterpiece with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino.
Myles Kennedy tells us all about AB III, his favorite books, playing with Slash and so much more in this exclusive interview.
Did you approach AB III with one complete vision?
Because it was arranged and recorded as fast as it was, I think that's part of why the album has that flow to it. We didn't have a tremendous amount of time like we did with our sophomore record, Blackbird. We spent quite a bit of time putting that together. I think that there are a few more peaks and valleys on Blackbird as opposed to AB III. This album definitely captures a moment in time for us. It's certainly a snapshot of where we were earlier in this year.
There's an urgency to the record, but at the same time, the deliberation is palpable.
Lyrically, there's definitely more of a common theme that runs throughout the record because the lyrics, on most of the songs, were written last. That thought kept coming up.
What exactly is that theme?
It deals with the idea that everything you held as absolute truth might not really be. It deals with a lot of doubt, disbelief, disillusion and things of that nature.
Where does that visual element of your lyrics come from?
That's a good question! I try to read. I love a good book. I think reading does help you out lyrically. It's like music. When you listen to a certain artist a lot, it tends to come back through your music. It's the same thing with literature or poems. If you're reading something, it will influence you in a certain way. I might have gathered some of those images from somewhere else at a certain point.
What's the story behind "Slip to the Void?"
Lyrically, it's definitely the introduction. You're stepping across the line into this new world, and you never really admitted to yourself that you're there. It's a bit of a dark place. Musically, it actually was one of the first ideas that had been around for this album. It came up about two years ago—at least the spooky keyboard intro did. I was messing around in the basement one day, and I stumbled on to that so I brought it to the guys. They liked it, and we built the rest of the song as a band. That really helped set the tone for the record.
How different has the process been for you on this album? It's a heavier record.
It's definitely got some aggression in there. You basically just spit out what's going on in your life at that time, whether it's cathartic or a manifestation of where you are. Sometimes, those things are hard to describe. That's just what we came up with.
At the same time, you're comfortable doing songs like "Wonderful Life."
"Wonderful Life" is lyrically a little bit of a departure. The whole record is not a constant struggle with lack of faith. There are definitely some moments we step away from that. "Wonderful Life" is a last goodbye in a sense. That was actually a really tough one to write. It took a really long time. That was certainly a challenge to extract some of that stuff.
Do you feel like you've changed as a lyricist?
It's something that hopefully evolves the more you do it. It's just like singing. I'm really lucky that I get to do it as much as I do. Touring with Slash and Alter Bridge, it's a muscle I keep working and learning how to manipulate. I think it's similar to creating. It's a muscle; and the more you flex it, the more you figure out you're way of doing it the best.
If you were to compare AB III to a movie or a combination of movies, what would you compare it to?
Toy Story III! I don't know [Laughs].
Well, there are some similarities off the bat. It's the third in a series. It's uplifting and dramatic…
Are you Woody or Buzz Lightyear?
I'll be Buzz; Mark can be Woody [Laughs].
What are some of your favorite books?
I love John Irving. A Prayer for Owen Meany is one of my favorite books. There was actually a movie made awhile ago called Simon Birch that was basically based off that book. I like the book better though. There's something about John Irving's writing style that I always liked a lot. Then there's The Prophet. Mark is also an avid reader. He just started it two years ago. Now, if he's not shredding, he's reading. So we're definitely a bunch of bookworms [Laughs].
Has playing with Slash influenced your material at all? Has it impacted your solo work or any of the Alter Bridge music?
The solo record was pretty much finished by the time the whole Slash opportunity came about. In fact, the solo record's sitting on a hard drive waiting to be released. I just have to finish some vocals. Playing with Slash has been an extremely rewarding musical experience for me because I think there is a certain chemistry. There's the fact that we're both influenced by a lot of blues-based music, and there's a funky element to the whole thing. I really enjoy doing that night after night. I'm sure that's going to rub off on me. I'm sure playing some of these songs on a consistent basis is bound to regurgitate itself on future material with other projects.
What are you listening to right now?
I'm going through a Big Bill Broonzy phase again. He's a blues guy from earlier in the last century. I go through these waves with these guys where I'll really dive in, especially as a guitar player. I'll try to get a better grasp of that. I've always been fascinated with that approach to playing. There's a band we toured with a few weeks ago called Taddy Porter. They're a great young band, and the singer's amazing. He sounds just like Paul Rodgers. I keep going back to Mastodon's Crack the Skye. I've been listening to that forever. Whenever I'm feeling a little angry, I put that in [Laughs].
Are you excited for AB III?
Read our review of the album here!