I had the great opportunity to interview Mark Tremonti, the accomplished guitarist for Creed, Alter Bridge, and lead vocalist/guitarist for his solo project. We discussed Alter Bridge’s upcoming release, Fortress, as well as his thoughts on Myles Kennedy, live shows, his experience on That Metal Show, and more.
Alex Obert: So getting back into the studio three years after AB III, what do you feel that you brought to the table after last year’s solo album and that recording process?
Mark Tremonti: I think if you go out and tackle anything different than the band you’re working on, you’re getting no experience. I don’t know specifically what it was, but I know that when we got together to do this record, we wanted to have a high energy record that was exciting to play live. That’s what we came up with.
AO: What influenced the decision for Cry of Achilles as the opening track? It’s very powerful.
MT: Well at first, Calm The Fire was looking like it was going to be the opening track. But, as we started to see the album take shape, Cry of Achilles really kind of stood out as one of the favorites. We thought that and Fortress would be good bookends for the whole album.
AO: What are some of the bands that influenced the heavier sound of the album, with the album’s single, Addicted to Pain?
MT: I think we like to try and stay in our own little songwriting bubble when it comes to writing our stuff, not to be too heavily influenced by outside influences, to sound like Alter Bridge and not too much like any particular other bands.
AO: So for people who have yet to hear the album, how would you describe it?
MT: I think it’s just a hard rock record with a lot of classic rock influences.
AO: And who influenced you growing up?
MT: I’m the metalhead in the band for sure. Early Metallica and Slayer records and Celtic Frost. And some punk stuff, Black Flag and Minor Threat and Bad Brains. Anything heavy.
AO: How has Myles influenced and inspired you as a musician by having worked with him for nearly ten years?
MT: Well he can tackle anything. So it’s great to know that whatever we put out, you can always count on him to be a great singer, along with he’s a great lyricist as well. And a great guitar player. He’s great to work with, a guy with as much talent as Myles.
AO: Back to the album, what’s the inspiration for the album title, Fortress?
MT: Well the song itself is about how things seem fast in your life, they have a shelf life, nothing lasts forever. No matter how strong or permanent it seems to be. And that’s kind of why we put that little shack on the front of the album to be the proper imagery for the name of the song.
AO: What are some of your top favorite songs off the album? Which ones have the most significance to you?
MT: I think the title track and Cry of Achilles, Bleed It Dry. Those are probably three of my favorites.
AO: You sang vocals on one of the tracks. About your vocals, who would you compare yourself to?
MT: Gosh, I’m not sure. I don’t really think I sound too much like anybody. Not that I know of. I guess I just sound like myself. Trying to sing as good as I can.
AO: Would you consider singing more on a future release?
MT: Yeah. I’m still the lead guitar player in the band and Myles is doing lead solos as well now. And the back up singer is doing lead vocals. We’re kind of sharing the duties and I just think it keeps it fresh for the fans.
AO: When you tour within the year, do you think there will ever be a possibility that your solo band will open up for Alter Bridge?
MT: No. I mean, I think that might be a festival situation or something where that can happen, where the bands are separated. I think when a band is on stage, you should be seeing those guys for the very first time. The excitement level really builds up.
AO: Speaking of live shows, who are some of the most memorable bands that you’ve toured with and opened for over the years?
MT: I think the best live band I’ve ever seen was Rage Against the Machine. We were doing a few festivals and they just had the best crowd response I’ve ever seen and they had probably the smallest stage set. They just had a few lights, a little simple flag drop, and they just killed it. So they’re definitely one the best I’ve ever seen.
AO: When you tour live with this new album, which songs are you most excited to play live?
MT: I think Cry of Achilles will be a real great one to play live. I think the single, Addicted To Pain, will be definitely a highlight. Fortress will be fun. I think the whole album, I think we wrote this album around the live performance side of things, so every song will be a good time live.
AO: How do you feel you’ll split up the setlist with the new album and the songs from all four albums?
MT: We’ll start bringing them in slowly. I think the first show we do, we’ll pick about five songs off the new album. The album won’t be released yet when we do our first show, so I kind of want the folks to have the record before we start playing it all. But, we’ll eventually open the door for each and every song, at one point or another.
AO: When the album comes out and people buy it, what do you want them to take away from the album?
MT: Hopefully they can just see that we’re trying to evolve and trying to reinvent ourselves with each record and not just do the same thing and we challenge ourselves.
AO: Off all four albums, what are some of your favorite tracks?
MT: I think everybody’s favorite track is Blackbird from our second album. I think that might always be our favorite song. Hopefully, we’ll write something that we like more. I think it’s the song that defines us as a band. Other than that, my second favorite is probably In Loving Memory off of our first record. Cry of Achilles is up there as well. But I guess it just depends on what mood I’m in.
AO: Back to the live shows, do you have any particular memories playing in Connecticut?
MT: I remember playing pretty much everywhere in the states and it becomes a big blur. (laughs) Until I step into a venue, I don’t really remember it. Unless it’s like in Wembley or if something terrible happens at a show, I’ll remember. (laughs)
AO: I fondly recall Alter Bridge several years ago playing with Sevendust at the Webster Theater in Connecticut.
MT: Yeah, yeah, I remember that. It was a brutal crowd, I remember that.
AO: So you’re a fan of Sevendust?
MT: Oh yeah, they’re some of our best friends. John is one of my great friends. He lives real close to me and our kids grew up together.
AO: Who are some other musicians outside of your band that you’re close friends with?
MT: I’m friendly with everybody out on tour. Everybody we tour with, we become friendly with. A lot of guitar players like Rusty Cooley and Michael Angelo I keep in contact with and we just got to spend some time with the Dream Theater guys over in Europe on the last run. It’s hard, unless you live in the same town, like John from Sevendust, it’s hard to hang out all the time. But we run into everybody on the road. The Halestorm folks we’re touring with over in Europe crashed at my house one night. They’re friendly with the guitar player in my solo band. So I’m friendly with everybody, but it’s hard to spend too much time with everybody.
AO: Before we wrap up, I just also wanted to discuss something you did within the past year, your time on That Metal Show. What did that mean to you?
MT: That was awesome. I was nervous as hell to get on there. It’s one thing to have your guitar on a show, to sit there and share it. To be interviewed on a TV show with King DIamond, one of my childhood heroes, it was a great experience. I’m glad I did it. I think we’re gonna try and get back on the next season with me and Myles.
AO: What was your reaction when you found out that you’d be on the show?
MT: They had asked before for me to do the guest guitar thing where they have the guest guitar player, but I was touring or whatnot. They asked me again to be on the show when I was in LA at the time and I was very happy.
AO: So I’d like to thank you for your time.
MT: Thank you.
AO: And what’s up for the rest of the year for Alter Bridge? Where can fans see you?
MT: There’s one show in Orlando on the fourth of October, and then we head over to Europe until late November. And then we’ll probably get back on tour here in the states in January.
AO: Alright. Well thank you very much for your time and I wish you the best with the new album.
MT: Thank you.