Myles Kennedy of Alter Bridge Talks "Live at Wembley", Solo Record, Working With Slash, and More
Wed, 21 Mar 2012 09:40:10
"It really was a special night," Alter Bridge singer Myles Kennedy reminisces about his band's historic headline set at Wembley Arena last November.
Fans will be able to share that experience with the band on Live at Wembley, the group's new DVD and Blu-ray available March 27, 2012. Shot in pristine high definition, the concert film puts fans right on stage with Alter Bridge during a triumphant set spanning their three masterpieces One Day Remains, Blackbird, and AB III. Most importantly, Live at Wembley unequivocally shows the world's premier modern rock band firing on all cylinders.
Every element converges for pure live magic. Mark Tremonti's fretwork is both astounding and infectious. Not only can he shred with the best of them, but he can churn out riffs you'll never forget. Brian Marshall's bass and Scott Phillips's drums comprise one of the genre's tightest and toughest rhythm sections. Kennedy stands at the center of everything. His voice resounds with poignant power, echoing a myriad of emotions in each track. Plus, he's a formidable axeman in his own right, and he's the perfect foil to Tremonti. Alter Bridge remain everything that a proper rock band should be, and Live at Wembley is proof.
Kennedy continues, "It wasn't only a special night because of where we were but because the people who came to the show helped to make it special. When you're playing to that many people, you never know how they're going to react. They gave us the gift of helping make a night that was to be remembered."
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Myles Kennedy of Alter Bridge brings is deep inside the Wembley gig. Kennedy also discusses Apocalyptic Love with Slash, his solo record, and so much more…
Alter Bridge set out with an initial goal of playing Wembley. How does it feel to have the Live at Wembley DVD in your hands?
It's still kind of overwhelming to think about it. When you ask the question way, I start to think, "I guess we did play Wembley." [Laughs] It's really great that it was captured, and the DVD is there to document the whole event. I'm grateful that happened. For me personally, I initially was like, "We just played Wembley. That's huge." That's a lot of pressure too. When I found out we were going to record it, I thought, "That's a lot in one night!" I'm really grateful it worked out how it did. You never know. That could be the one magic night that's hard to recapture. It's there.
What was the general vibe of the show? Was there any trepidation?
There was a little bit of trepidation. In terms of everything leading up to it, you've got all of these thoughts in your head. You can derail yourself by putting out worst case scenarios like, "What if something happens with production or I forget a lyric?" That's a really easy thing to do as an artist. It's really a matter of turning your brain off and trying to embrace the moment that's coming up and savor it. That could get lost really quickly if your perfectionist tendencies tend to override the day. I've learned my lesson in the past. With any really cool thing you get to be part of, you have to immerse yourself in the moment and be grateful for it.
Was it matter of letting go and allowing the show to take over?
Absolutely! To be honest with you, it took a little bit of time. There's kind of a funny story. When I first got up there, for some strange reason a few minutes before we were supposed to go on, my shirt wouldn't button. My wife was back there like, "Why can't you get your shirt to button? Your shirt's not going on right!" It's the craziest thing. I was all stressed out thinking, "What the heck is wrong with this shirt malfunction?" I remember being flustered once I got out there. I had to calm down a little. About four songs in, I started to settle in. It's funny because when I watch the DVD, I can totally see it in my face. I'm still trying to calm down and get to that happy place [Laughs].
Was it only one button?
It was two on the cuff! For some reason, I couldn't get them to stay shut. It's a minor, silly little thing. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn't mean anything. It was a diversion right before we went on. I should've been focusing on the first few moments of "Slip to the Void," which is how we start the set. I've never told that story before to be honest with you [Laughs]. I just remembered it right now.
Was there a defining moment of that Wembley show?
Probably about the fifth song in, "Come to Life," it started to feel like we were settling in. The adrenaline began slowing down. That was it for me.
Had you done a show with pyro before?
Out of the four guys on the stage, I was the one guy who never really had been a part of that sort of production. At one point, people thought the pyro was going to get me. There was one particular explosion. I forget which song it was, but I just missed being blown up apparently [Laughs]. It was hard to be cognizant of that at all times because I was so caught up in the moment. At first, I wasn't sure what to think about explosions and that sort of thing. We talked about it and thought it might be cool to give the fans more production that night and see how it comes out. Hopefully people liked it and it was a good balance between music and a full-on monster truck show [Laughs].
What does "Blackbird" mean to you? Did you always envision that thriving on stage?
For me, that's always a highlight of the set. As much as I love playing it, it can be hard emotionally sometimes because of the subject matter. It's not always an easy song to play, but there's something we get from seeing the crowd and their reaction to the song. It means something to them. That's the payoff. It's awesome. You see people out there really getting into it or showing you their "Blackbird" tattoo. They have the lyrics tattooed on their bodies or the emblem tattooed on their arm. It's pretty overwhelming. They'll make it known during that song. "Blackbird" was inspired lyrically by a friend of mine named Mark Morse. He sold me my first guitar when I was a kid, and we stayed friends for years and years. He actually passed away right as that song was being completed so it was dedicated to him and his memory. It's really about seeing the suffering he was going through and hoping he would find his solace soon and be free from all of that.
Do fans come to you with their own stories about "Blackbird"?
All the time! That song and the song Mark wrote for his mom, "In Loving Memory", are songs that revolve around the subject of loss. They tend to resonate with people so they'll come and share their stories about how the songs were played at funerals. It's really heavy, man. To be honest with you, it's very flattering to know those songs mean something. At the same time, it's sad because it illustrates how many people still suffer and lose loved ones. It's part of life.
Where did "Ties That Bind" come from?
That one is fun. Live, we play it really fast. We play a lot of the songs really fast. For me to keep up on that one vocally and guitar-wise is super challenging. It's a fan favorite, and it gets the headbanging faction going. It was actually written during the Blackbird sessions. We were struggling at the time with a lot of business things that were holding us down so the song is really about liberating ourselves from all that and trying to come out on the other side unscathed and break free from the ties that bind.
Are you really in the groove by the time you do the dueling guitar solos a la at Wembley?
I'm glad it's where it's at in the set. You're at the home stretch at that point. For me, I love to play the guitar. Every night, I do something different. I'm never sure what I'm going to play. It's the one part of the night where improvisation comes into play. It can be exciting. It keeps it fresh because you don't know what's going to happen. We have set arrangements. We're not like a jam band that will extend arrangements and do crazy things from night to night. That's a time both Mark and I look forward to. We get to see what happens. Sometimes we land on our feet and sometimes we don't [Laughs].
Do you feel like the songs generally get heavier live?
Sometimes that happens! One of the challenges when you're making records is to try to capture the aggression that you get live. That's definitely a common thing with a lot of songs. They feel like they're heavier and bigger. I don't know if it's the volume or the size of the room we're in. More often than not, that's the case.
Being that you're all American, why was Wembley the target arena from the beginning?
I think because it rolls off the tongue [Laughs]. It's a venue you hear about over and over from different artists playing there so it becomes synonymous with reaching a certain milestone in your career. I think our booking agent may have said it years ago—"I see you guys at Wembley." We were like, "No way!" It sounded so out of reach and hard to grasp that was a possibility, especially for me. It was hard to fathom. When it finally came to fruition, it was tangible and real.
What's going on with your solo record?
That's still sitting on a hard drive. It's pretty much where it's been for almost three years, which is hard to believe. It's all recorded. I just need to track the vocals and get it mixed. I hope to get it done because I spent a lot of time working on it and it's a different side of me as far as the creative aspect goes. I want to get it out there and give it a chance to be heard. I'm proud of that record. I think it's an honest representation of where I was at that point in my life and how I felt musically and emotionally. Hopefully, I'll get it out there one day.
What are those different sides?
I tried to incorporate things I hadn't done in a while as a writer and things that wouldn't necessarily find a place with Alter Bridge. At that point, I didn't know where everything would end up with Slash so it was just things I knew weren't going to have a home in AB. I sit around so much with an acoustic guitar and noodle around. The noodling leads to a song idea. I had so much of that sitting around that I wanted to go ahead and record some of the songs I felt were the strongest of the bunch. It's certainly not something you're going to put in your car and crank to 11 when you're feeling angry. It's not that kind of a record. It's very singer-songwriter based. It's a different approach to everything I've done in the last ten years. Hopefully, folks will enjoy it. I really enjoyed putting it together.
What's your take on Apocalyptic Love? Did it come together relatively quickly?
As far as recording goes, it was a pretty fast process. Slash and I had been writing for all of last year. It was a lot of work, and it was really challenging because we were all touring at the time. I toured with Slash and the guys, and then I toured with Alter Bridge. Most of it was written on the road. That was really challenging, but in a good way. I'd go to a different hotel room every night, set up a studio, and get to work. It's good to have it done. We're really happy with it.
Did the bond live carry over to the studio?
We do feel like there's a certain chemistry between all of us. We all really enjoy playing music with each other. When we came together and actually started to arrange the songs as a band, it was exciting. I think we all had the same vision. We were shooting for a very organic, straight-up rock 'n' roll record recorded straight to tape. We took that approach and were able to create something we're all really proud of.
Will you be picking up Live at Wembley March 27, 2012?
See a clip here!